Cardiff and the Blitz

January 2nd 1941. Cardiff. 6.37pm. The dull sound of an air-aid siren echoes across the city.

When the all clear came 10 hours later, 150 people lay dead, with a further 427 injured and nearly 350 homes demolished. The Luftwaffe had done their worst. 71 years on it is still remembered.

Click on this image to view the BBC video

Click on this image to view the BBC video

Last year BBC Wales ran a series of stories commemorating the events not only of that one fateful night, but of all the air attacks on Cardiff during the Second World War. In nearly four years 355 people were killed as more than 2,100 bombs caused havoc.

No part of the city escaped unscathed with Grangetown, Riverside, Llandaf, Cathays and Roath all badly affected. You can see the devastation in these pictures.

BBC News correspondent Steve Duffy spoke to three men who survived the ordeal. John Williams aged 14, Ken Lloyd aged 12 and Trevor Tucker who was 6 tell their account of the night of the 2nd. Read their stories here.

Keith Matheson was 13 years old on that night. He remembers being taken by his father to the air raid raid shelter at 73 Wyndham Street, Riverside.

“Bombs continued to fall and later my father had just popped down into the shelter to check on us when we heard a flapping sound and then a dull thud. “Sounds like a dud,” said my father. Immediately after, there was a massive explosion – it was a land mine which had landed yards from our shelter.”

Click here to read his full account.

Click on the image to hear the accounts of three men who lived the Cardiff Blitz

Click on the image to hear the accounts of three men who lived the Cardiff Blitz

World War II TodayThe story of Leonard Attwell, a schoolboy in the city at the time is told  by BBC People’s War and is re-told by World War II Today.

“I remember vividly the night in January 1941 when Cardiff was bombed. I lived in Jubilee Street, Grangetown, which was adjacent to the Canton Loco Sheds the target sought by the bombers. It was the early hours of January 3rd (my brother’s birthday) that bombs and Landmines rained down on us. I was eight years old.”

World War II Today lets you follow the war as it happened seventy years ago. It has a post for virtually everyday of the War and focuses on individual incidents and experiences of those who lived it.

“We were in the Anderson Shelter which my father had built half submerged in the back garden, with several feet of soil over the top. He had also built bunks in the shelter and fitted a sand-bag shielded door to the front of the shelter. It was a bitterly cold January night that my mother, father, brother and I huddled together in the shelter. Just thinking of that night brings back the whistle of the bombs falling and the terrible explosions that followed.”

But Cardiff wasn’t the only place in Wales to be bombed from above.

Air Raid Casualties in Wales

Air Raid Casualties in Wales

Over a 1,000 people lost their lives across Wales. Newport, Pembrokeshire and Flintshire among others were all targeted, with Swansea bearing the brunt of the attacks. In the last episode of the series, the BBC’s Story of Wales traced the history of the Swansea Blitz.

Click on the image to view the clip

Click on the image to view the clip

“This is where I lived during the blitz, 41 Gwynfair Road. It was completely lit up like fairyland with incendiaries and bombs. I’ll never forget it. It’s a thing that somebody would never forget if you experienced it. It was terrible” – Brian Legg.

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If you want to discover more about Wales during the Second World War visit the Swansea Bay 1940s Museum.

 

#ONTHISDAYINWALES

Everyday from today onwards (including yesterday…and the day before) Discover the Past will post a historical fact about Wales. So look out for the hashtag ONTHISDAYINWALES on the top right hand side of our homepage, or on the twitter page @discoverthepast. It’s the perfect way to learn something you might not have known about Wales, everyday.

Today’s fact is a certainly a timely one. Had the Mayans been correct  in their prophecy today would have been a hellish winter’s day in Wales. But the weather today is rather mild compared to past winters.

On this day in 1890, a a 3-week period of severe winter weather began causing deaths and widespread disruption in many parts of the country. It was, according to BBC weatherman Paul Hudson, the coldest winter for over thirty years. According to one web-based source 20cm of snow fell in Llanfrechfa Grange, Gwent.

Accurate?

Yet that particular source claims the heavy snowfall actually began on the 18th, pointing the finger towards the historical accuracy of Discover the Past’s fact.

So let’s do some shovelling (excuse the pun) and try to uncover a little more about the winter of 1890. And what about other particularly cold or snowy winters in Wales? What about the winter of 1962/63 which saw 20 feet deep?!

See how its done! ‘We Beat the All Blacks’ tonight on BBC One Wales at 10.35pm

Me proudly stood in front of the iconic  scoreboard

This weekend the mighty All Blacks come to the city and anyone who’s worried about the Welsh team’s prospects should fear not, because tonight you’ll get the chance to see how its done.

We haven’t beaten New Zealand in nearly sixty years but on a damp October afternoon in 1972, Llanelli RFC did just that – a victory which made history.

In a one hour special made by Green Bay Media for BBC Wales, players and fans look back and reminisce about the famous win and reveal why it has become such an important part of Welsh rugby history.

And who can forget Max Boyce’s famous song ‘9-3’? And that iconic last verse:
‘And when I grow old, my hair turns grey and they put me in a chair,
I’ll tell my great grandchildren that their Datcu was there.
And they’ll ask to hear the story of that dark October day,
When I went down to Stradey park and I saw the Scarlets play.’

So remember to tune in to BBC One Wales at 10.35 tonight to witness one of the great Welsh rugby moments.

Want to know about Cardiff? Meet Huw Clarke

The man behind the walking tours

Huw Clarke

This is Huw Clarke. He’s 25 and from Cardigan, West Wales. He’s quite the character.
As you can see from the picture, Huw likes playing his guitar and reading little tiny books about Wales. But what you can’t see is that he is somewhat of a Cardiff geek – he loves the place. So you should join him, as I did, on his walking tour of the city. You won’t regret it.

I first met Huw at Mansion House on Richmond Road – the setting of Discover the Past’s first story – at a lecture on the Marquess of Bute. We got chatting and soon learned that he runs a walking tour of Cardiff. He gave me a leaflet which read ‘Explore 2000 Years of Hidden and Historical Cardiff’ – I couldn’t miss out.

Meeting Huw for that first time he didn’t really strike me as a workaholic, so when I discovered his tours ran twice a day from Tuesday to Sunday I was quite shocked. A thick beard, bracelets around his wrists, a worn brown leather jacket (which he bought from Hawkes Essentials, the city’s iconic menswear shop in Morgan Arcade) he came across as a sort of urban bohemian, a free spirit in a city. I wasn’t at all surprised when he later told me his first love was travelling. He’s just come back from a three month tour of South Africa. “Just my guitar and me” he told me.

Travelling is a big part of Huw’s life and one of the reasons why he started these tours. He told me about it when I met up with him (after going on one of the tours). I asked him where the idea had come from.

“It’s Interesting really, it basically snowballed from something tiny. In my halls of residence in Treforest (He attended Glamorgan University) I had loads of French, German, Polish, Indian and Chinese friends, and being from Cardigan it was a new experience for me. People started asking me about Wales and I started to become more self-conscious and self-aware about Wales than ever before. I was learning more about people from Germany, Poland etc. and they were asking about my country and I realised I didn’t know that much about it and I felt a little embarrassed. So I did more reading etc and through my world travelling it made me more interested in the history of Wales. There’s a famous Welsh saying, ‘Gorau Cymro, Cymro oddi cartref’ (Best Welshman, Welshman from home), meaning the longer you spend away from Wales the more you come to appreciate the country.

“I started working for a backpacker’s hostel (Nos Da Hostel) in Riverside the year I graduated, and I was there for three years. I became more interested in local tourism and what was going on in South Wales, and began suggesting places to visit. In 2007 I went to Latvia of all places, and went on a walking tour of Riga, the capital, led by a young, enthusiastic girl who worked at the hostel I was staying at. After that, I thought what a great idea. Like Cardiff, Riga has a small centre, and being so walkable I thought I could do the same. I did some more background reading on the city and visited placed like Cardiff Castle. I started in the summer of 2010 three times a week for about a year, then stopped due to other work commitments and have just started doing them again more recently.”

The Sunday after meeting Huw for the first time I attended one of his tours. I don’t want to give too much away because I want you to go on it yourself, but what I will say is there’s no way better to spend two hours of your day.

Spillers Records – The world’s oldest record shop

Although the past is the tour’s main focus it isn’t all about the traditional history of Cardiff. We were taken to Riverside Market as well as Cardiff Castle, the Millennium Stadium as well as National Museum Cardiff These are places which are only beginning their journey but are already a part of the city’s rich tapestry.  We were taken to the world’s oldest record shop, Spillers Records also in Morgan Arcade, which was established in 1894. We were told where the best places to eat and drink are, the best post night out curry, even the best pub for atmosphere during a rugby international. Its as much about Cardiff today as it is about the city’s history.

2000 years of Cardiff history in one picture – Castle, Church and Stadium

Huw doesn’t charge a penny for his tours, but I’ll challenge you to try not tipping him – I guarantee you won’t be able to resist. The man’s an asset to this great city.

The tours leave Tuesday – Sunday at 10.00 and 14.00 from NosDa Hostel, Riverside. For more information call Huw on 07896532968.