Jutland battle and death of Lord Kitchener concentrated minds Porthcawl June 1916

Friday, 3 June 2016

By GEM Community Correspondent

in Community News

“Is there a war on? The streets of Porthcawl on Whit-Monday did not give the impression that such was the case.” (Porthcawl News, June 16 1916.)

On June 12, trains arriving at the new station were packed, hotels and boarding houses were full and “large numbers came by car, horse conveyances and cycle”.

Such was the appeal of Porthcawl for Whitsun visitors that Baronet Sir WJ Tatem, a Cardiff ship-owner, arrived stating that he intended to remain for several weeks, as “he was a great believer in Porthcawl and its splendid golf course”.

Aside from the fact that there definitely was a war on, this holidaying in Porthcawl was in fact very odd, as the Government had on May 31, proclaimed that the Whit-Monday bank holiday was to be postponed until Tuesday, August 8.

Perhaps, as there had been little heard from the front; and news that Britain had curtailed the German fleet at Jutland, may have instilled in people a sense of impending victory and an end to the conflict. Or maybe the death of Lord Kitchener, Minister of War, evoked the opposite and made people nervous, and yearn for times past.

Lord Herbert Kitchener was on his way to Russia when, on June 5, HMS Hampshire struck a German mine and sank west of the Orkney Islands, Scotland. He was one of 600 people who drowned that day.

Apart from the news of Jutland and Lord Kitchener, June was mainly a quiet month. Articles in local newspapers related largely to local issues.

For instance, on June 3 Lewis Jenkins, licensee of The General Picton, was the first case to be brought before the Bridgend magistrates for infringing the new licensing laws relating to Sunday drinking.

During the hearing it transpired that it was in fact Mrs Margaret Jenkins, Lewis’ wife, who had taken pity on a gentleman from Maesteg who had asked for a drink with his Sunday lunch. Lewis had not been on the premises at the time.

Interestingly, had the gentleman not been observed to be in a drunken state some hours later, the case may not have been heard. However an example had to be made. Consequently, the magistrate accepted that Lewis Jenkins was not to blame, otherwise he would have lost his license; but he fined Mrs Jenkins £3.

It also appears that there were a number of stories of visitors the worse for drink that Whitsun Monday who, forgetting that the railway station had moved, were seen making haste to catch the last train home from the old station at the top of Station Hill. There is evidence that quite a few ended up passing the night in a cell at the police station, John Street (Porthcawl Museum and Art Gallery, today).

On June 3, a company of the Grand Lodge and Freemasonry officers assembled to consecrate the Venables Llewelyn Lodge at New Road, Porthcawl. Among the officers installed that day was Frederick Vaughan Cleves, 39 Fenton Place, as treasurer. His son, Reginald Vaughan Cleves, Lieutenant Royal Naval Voluntary Reserve, Hood Battalion was initiated at the first meeting on July 1. Sadly, he did not live to further his career in the Freemasons as he was killed on April 23, 1917, aged 21.

Captain William Leslie Morgan, the son of member Leonard Oscar Morgan, was to serve with the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment at Mametz Wood a month later. He survived, whereas 2nd Lieutenant Reginald Nicholls, same battalion and son of member Frederick Nicholls of the Pier Hotel, was to be killed by shellfire on July 18, 1916 aged 31yrs.

As previously mentioned, the horrors of the Somme were yet to intrude into Porthcawl lives. Conversely, townsfolk were more concerned that Hope Welsh Congregational Chapel was to be converted into an English Congregational Chapel, when there already existed an English Congregational Chapel on New Road. The basis of such concern was fuelled by the fact that Gilgal Welsh Baptist Chapel and Bethel Calvinist Chapel, years before, had suffered the same fate.

Apparently, it was the result of influence brought to bear in certain quarters to accommodate the growing number of visitors and tourists to the town.

Following the establishment of The British Board of Film Censors (BBFC) in 1913, in June of 1916 Glamorgan County Council was beginning to consider the introduction of film censorship. The BBFC had no legal powers to censor films but advised local authorities that “No film should be passed that was not clean and wholesome and absolutely above suspicion”. Films were given either ‘U’ (for universal exhibition) or ‘A’ (more suitable for adults) certificates.

Also this month, the Porthcawl Council was appealing to the Welsh Regiment garrisons at Cardiff and Chester for soldiers to be sent to the Porthcawl during the summer months. This again was evidence that it appeared to most residents that little was happening on the war front.

Toward the end of the month, Major John L Lambert, Army Service Corps and past chairman of the Porthcawl Council, was home on leave for a few days ‘looking remarkably well’ (Porthcawl News 30th June 1916). He returned to the front on June 27, never again to see his home at 8, Newton Villas, Porthcawl as he died of peritonitis at a base hospital in Amiens, on October 20.

One mother, who constantly appealed to the military authorities for news of her son, was Mrs Chambers of 5, Railway Terrace (Hillsboro Place today).

On June 12 she finally heard from the authorities: “As there had been no news of your son, Private Charles Chambers 1st Battalion, Dorset Regiment, since the Battle of Mons, October 22, 1914 the Army Council are regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead.” (Porthcawl News 16th June 1916.)

Finally, as the comparatively quiet month came to a close, on the Western Front on June 24, 1,500 British guns began firing two million shells onto the German lines, near the Somme river. The Battle of the Somme was originally meant to be a French-led offensive with the British in support and was, also, initially planned for August 1916. However, the German attack on Verdun in February necessitated an early Allied diversionary attack away from Verdun, to relieve the pressure on the French army. Thus began the Battle of the Somme.

For the next four months, the Western Front would be anything but quiet.

Ceri Joseph

As a result of readers’ and The GEM’s support, I have collated the first 22 articles into a booklet, plus photographs. ‘Porthcawl A Garrison Town Part 1 – July 1914 – April 1916’, is now available from Porthcawl Museum, price £10.

All proceeds to Porthcawl Museum.

Email –porthcawlmuseum@hotmail.co.uk Phone: 01656 788853.

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