Swansea Family History
Swansea Family History 

UPDATE FROM LAST MONTH’S ARTICLE

In my last article, Swansea Blitz, I wrote about the first house in Swansea to be hit by a German bomb on June 26th 1940. The South Wales Evening Post reported the next day, June 27th, a story entitled ‘where many bombs fall in the sea: Welsh town has its first raid’. The story had a quote from Mr Rees “We were asleep in the middle bedroom but were awakened by a heavy thud and a noise as if a wall had collapsed. I found the front room full of dust. Our little boy [Neville] had slept through it all, and we had to wake him up. There was no explosion”.

In my article I featured a photograph from the newspaper of the Rees family. To my amazement a few days later I received an email from Mr Peter Rees, the son of Neville. Peter informed me that it was a relative living in Swansea who brought the attention of my article to him.

Peter, kindly got his father’s memories of what happened on that night in June 1940 and sent me the following:

Here is Neville’s account

My father’s brother Bert and his wife were worried that the war might go on for some time, so they travelled from London to Swansea to stay with us at our house in Danygraig Road. They slept in what was normally my bedroom in the upstairs front room of the house. As luck would have it they left the afternoon before the bombing. My mother decided that I should return to my bedroom. However for some reason I didn’t want to go back, so after some discussion, my parents decided to let me stay another night in the middle bedroom where I had been sleeping while my uncle and aunt were with us.

If they had stayed another night, or I had returned to my usual bedroom, they or I would have been killed when the bomb landed, since it went right through the bed. What’s more, if it had not been a time-bomb and its mechanism had not jammed, all of us in the house would have been killed! There would also have been many other deaths in the street.

My first memory of the event was being woken up by my mother at about 3.30am. The lights in the room were on but the room was full of dust.  Lath and plaster were hanging out from the ceiling. My mother told me that something terrible had happened but not to be afraid. She wrapped me in my blanket and picked me up to take me downstairs but I told her that I wouldn’t leave until we found the large box of Cadbury’s chocolates that my uncle had given me before he left.

Having found the chocolates, my mother then carried me downstairs. Dust was everywhere and I could see my father and two ARP men trying to find the gas tap under the stove to turn the gas off. I was then taken around to Osterley Street where my aunt lived. First thing the next morning, my cousin was sent into town to buy me some clothes. In the afternoon of the next day, we returned to Danygraig Road and stayed in the house of some friends higher up the street. Much of the street was closed off and residents had been evacuated.

We were told that the bomb had been taken out of the house and would soon be exploded on Kilvey Hill, by a group of Indian bomb disposal experts. A little later, we heard a big bang and sometime after, a man came and told us all was now safe and he gave us two parts of the bomb as souvenirs. I still have these parts and, as arranged by TheBAY, will be sending them to Swansea Museum. After the bomb, we went to live at 532 Gower Road, Killay.

My father, Will Rees was a school teacher at St. Thomas school. He died in 1961, some months after I had gone to live in London. In London, I met my Australian wife. We then lived in California for 6 years before settling in Australia in 1972. We have two sons and two grandsons, and we all live in Sydney. In 1979, my mother came from Swansea to live with me in Australia. She died in 1981 and is buried with my father in Danygraig cemetery. We still have relatives in Swansea who have regular contact with us. We are all fans of Swansea City FC and wait anxiously for their match results. I saw my first Swans match in 1948.”

Photos from left to right: 

Neville pointing to front window outside of his childhood house, Danygraig Road, 2010. Neville Rees holding two parts of the bomb, 2016. Close up image of the Nazi Eagle and Swastika, 2016

 If the houses that we live in could speak, they could tell a story or two. This story is certainly one of those coincidences. When I wrote my article on the Blitz of Swansea in the February edition, I certainly didn’t expect so many responses. One of the last emails that I received was from Peter Rees’s cousin, Rob Jenkins. Rob informed me that it was his mother, Mrs Binnie Jenkins (nee Hale), who had made the family aware of the article. Rob, added another twist to the story. At the outbreak of the war, the Hale family lived at James Street, Sandfields, but after the bombs started dropping they moved to relative safety of 1 Cae Banc, Sketty – the address of Lesley, editor of TheBAY.

It is truly amazing how a story can develop. I would like to thank all those who contacted me it certainly added colour to the story.

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© Charles Wilson-Watkins