When Porthcawl council really did bring home the bacon …

Thursday, 1 February 2018

By Contributed Item
in Local People

Ceri Joseph of Porthcawl Museum continues her fascination series on life in Porthcawl 100 years ago. This month, she looks at February 1918.

On February 6, 1918 after many years of ‘Deeds Not Words’ and helping to win a war, women of 30 years who owned property were finally granted the right to vote.

Naturally it would have been assumed that, before the war, it was the meetings, demonstrations and sacrifices by women that influenced the passing of the Act.

In 1913, Porthcawl women’s Suffragist meetings were held at the National School, Lias Road (Co-op today) and postboxes were targeted with ink.

Yet what many people may not know is that 5.6 million men over 21 years were granted the vote that same day. The 1918 Representation Act abolished the property qualification, so men who were non-householders finally attained the vote, which included soldiers who lived in barracks and who were fighting for their country.

Actually, the vote was extended to men of 19 years who were fighting or had fought in the war. The first General Election held under the new system took place on December 14, 1918.

However, it was not until July 2, 1928 that all British women of 21 years would be granted the same universal suffrage.

In 1918 Porthcawlians voted in the Aberavon Constituency from which MP Jack Edwards, Liberal Coalition, was returned to Parliament.

Interestingly Mr Ramsay Macdonald, who was to become Britain’s First Labour Prime Minister in 1924, contested and won the Aberavon seat in the 1922 election.

Previously on March 4, 1920 Ramsay Macdonald had addressed a crowd from the balcony of the Coliseum (Spar today) John Street.

The majority of the news that February centred on the home front. Quite a few Porthcawlians were home on leave.

Since the formation of the ‘Porthcawl Own Heroes Fund’ early in 1917, while on leave Porthcawlians would be invited to arranged functions at various venues, in order to receive a gift from a proud town in recognition of the service to their country.

In the Council Chamber above The Coliseum that month Mr RE Jones JP presented Lieutenant Norman Younge with a silver cigarette case; Captain Harry F Lambert with a silver tankard; Corporal Morgan Rowlands with a clock; Private Fred Coles with a watch, and a silver medal to Private Waldo Parry.

Each man was also handed a scroll outlining a short account of his service record in the war, to date.

“The recipients thanked the committee for their thoughtfulness and said that they were determined to ‘carry on’ until victory was assured.” The singing of the National Anthem brought the evening to a close.

Incidentally, they all survived the war. Lt Younge, of ‘Wellville” Newton, was serving with the Royal Flying Corps over Arras in April 1917 when he suffered a severe wound to his leg resulting in its amputation and the fitting of a metal prosthetic limb.

On return to duty in February 1918 he was transferred to the Observer Corps, as a Flight Lieutenant. After the war, Lt Yonge moved to Kenya, probably on an ex-service man’s re-settlement scheme and ran a coffee farm, where he died in the early 1950s.

Captain Harry Fenton Lambert, of ‘Elmbank’ Park Street, Bridgend, had joined the Army Service Corps in Porthcawl in 1914 and had been posted to France in December 1915.

In June 1918, Captain Lambert was awarded the Military Cross for bravery against the enemy, during which action he was wounded.

Before the war, Harry had established an estate agency with T Elwood Deere in Porthcawl called Lambert Deere and Partners, to which he returned after the war. Harry Lambert died in October 1930. Fenton Place, Porthcawl was named after him.

Corporal Morgan Rowlands, Northumberland Fusiliers, of Vintern Terrace, Porthcawl, had enlisted in July 1915 and was the brother of boxer Billy Rowlands, of whom I have written in past issues.

Within a month of returning to duty, Cpl Rowlands was hit in the face by shell splinters which severely affected his eyesight. He did not return to war.

Private Waldo Emerson Parry, Motor Transport had been born on July 30, 1896 in Wick, Glamorgan; one of four children to William and Sarah Parry.

William was a Unitarian Minister and before Waldo was five years old, he had moved the family to Maesygraes, Newton, Porthcawl. In 1928 Waldo married Mary Phillips and they settled in Porthcawl.

At the time of his death in 1975 Waldo, who was widowed, was living at 22 Danygraig Avenue, Newton, Porthcawl.

Finally, Private Fred Coles from the West Country, whose family had moved to Porthcawl a few years before the war, had been a regular in the Somerset Infantry. As a result he had served with the British Expeditionary Force, landing in Belgium on August 21, 1914. In April 1916 he had been transferred to the Hampshire Regiment.

During the presentation night in February 1918, Fred had commented that “he was the first Porthcawlian to fire a shot against the enemy and he hoped that he would have the honour of firing the last!” Whether he did or not is not known, but Fred did survive the war.

As in previous months, the Food Control Committee was continuing to enforce new initiatives. This month the fat allowance was reduced from 10oz to 4oz a week; and with the agreement of local butchers, Wednesday became a meatless day.

Also, the price of local sausages was fixed at 1s/5d lb, whereas Palethorpe’s sausages remained at 1/8 lb.

Preparations were also being made to appoint a town food inspector to guarantee that all schemes would be adhered to; and all foodstuffs would be distributed equally among the town’s residents.

Yet it was the decision by the Porthcawl Town Council to establish piggeries in the town that attracted a lot of interest. Although Lord Rhondda had introduced the idea of municipal piggeries in 1917, the Board of Agriculture was very keen to establish municipal piggeries in coastal towns.

They felt that not only would the meat quota improve but that food waste from coastal hotels in the summer months would help feed the pigs.

In response to this scheme, the PTC invited Mr Evan Lewis from Llwynypia to speak on Llwynypia’s pig breeding venture. On hearing of its financial success, Mr George Blundell of Nottage Court expressed his delight.

Almost immediately, the motion to establish piggeries in the town was passed with shares of 10s to be offered to residents.

Although there was little news from the fronts, the German U-Boat attacks on British ships continued. Again, a hospital ship was torpedoed off Hartland Point in the Bristol Channel. U-Boat 56 sank his Majesty’s Hospital Ship Glenart Castle.

The ship, with 200 crew and staff on board, left Newport on the evening of Monday, February 25 bound for Brest to pick up the wounded.

At 4 am the following morning a torpedo hit the starboard side and the ship sank within seven minutes.

There were only 38 survivors, who were picked up by a French coaster and taken to Swansea. One of those who perished was Private Reuben Underhill from Newcastle Hill, Bridgend.

A collier before the war, Reuben (20) was called up to the Royal Medical Army Corps in April 1917. This was his first voyage aboard a hospital ship.

There was no mistaking the Glenart Castle as a hospital ship as she had the distinguishing red cross painted on her sides; and as night fell she carried the prescribed red and green lights.

In every way she conformed to the rules laid down for hospital ships by the Geneva Conventions. Thus it was, after the war, that the British Government sought the U-Boat Captains responsible for sinking hospital ships, to charge them with war crimes.

Kapitanleutnant Wilhelm Kiesewetter of U-Boat 56 was arrested and brought to the Tower of London. However, he had to be released as it was agreed that during the Armistice, Britain had no right to hold a detainee.

Ceri Joseph,

Porthcawl Museum.

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