In 1939 Britain went to war with Germany in World War II and the village of Treoes did not escape its impact.
Gwen David and her husband Bill both served in the tank regiment, Bill being a Sergeant and Gwen working in the Sergeants mess.
Cyril Jenkins was in the Navy and had the hazardous task of sailing from Plymouth to deliver petrol to the Troops, whilst his wife Connie Jenkins served in the Land Army in Caersws.
Jack Jenkins is reputed to have been awarded the Burma Star.
Gwyn Vaughan son of Alfred and Ada Vaughan and brother of Victor and Barbara of Ty- Ellis and Ted Flint also served in WW11. Sadly, Gwyn Vaughan lost his life when he went down with the Prince of Wales and the Repulse. They were sunk by land-based bomber aircraft of the Imperial Japanese Navy on the 10th December 1941 in a naval engagement that took place north of Singapore off the east coast of Malaya.
Natalie Llewellyn remembers vividly the day she saw the only Land Army Girl, in her uniform, who came to the village, get off the 2 o’clock bus from Bridgend. Her name was Eva and she had travelled from Grimsby to help at Treoes Farm. She liked it so much here that she stayed and married Idris Llewellyn.
Young men from the village were also conscripted to the mines, one was Hopkin Llewellyn and another was Alan Llewellyn who both worked in Llanharan. They were called Bevin Boys, so named after the Wartime Minister of Labour and National Service, Ernest Bevin.
The Royal Ordnance factory was situated in nearby Waterton, as well as an underground munitions storage in Brackla. There were up to 40,000 people working there, with many being transported by bus and train from the surrounding valleys. The work was dangerous and five people were killed in accidents there, with many more suffering lifelong illnesses.
The local area was often shrouded in mist rising from the wetlands and an air pocket, which made bombing hazardous for incoming aeroplanes, gave some protection from the German bombs. There was one close shave when a land mine was dropped in a nearby field opposite Molchenydd.
Gwyneth Lee (now Jones) recalls:
“It blew the glass out of the windows, but because we had wooden shutters we didn’t know anything about it until William Llewellyn, who was the local Air Raid Warden and George Miles Jenkins woke us up”.
Shirley LLewellyn (now Callaghan) then living in New House next door to the Star recalls:
“my mother pushed me under the bed on hearing the sound of the glass shattering. My father said ‘that’s Tom James’ (the landlord of the Star at the time) glass house gone.’ But he was wrong, it wasn’t the glasshouse, it was the windows of New House that had shattered.”
Jean Thomas recalls seeing the crater caused by the land mine as she rode the bus with her mother, through Treoes to Bridgend town the following morning.
William Llewellyn would have policed the village regularly to ensure that there was no infringement of the Black Out. After dark not a chink of light could be shown, all windows had to be Blacked Out, and if you had to walk the roads you did so with your torch pointed downwards. The Air Raid Wardens would enforce these rules stringently as failure could mean a direct hit from the enemy bombs. The local Home Guard met in Moor Mill. The following was published in the Glamorgan Gazette of January 19th 1940:
What if the Black Out blots us out
we ain’t a-going to moan and pout!
We’ll stick it out, just for the fun
Of seeing Hitler on the run.
Several bombs and landmines were dropped in surrounding areas and Cardiff and Swansea were severely blitzed. The Royal Ordnance Factory and Munitions store had been well placed, as their destruction surely would have changed the course of the war and the future of this country, as well as the tragedy it would have been for this area.
Food rationing was introduced early in 1940 and Ration books were issued, the Ministry of Food notice in the Glamorgan Gazette (reproduced in the section on the Post War period) stated that half the meat and most of the bacon, butter and sugar consumed came from overseas. It was considered that the use of ships that could be utilised to strengthen the war effort and the added risk to our sailors’ lives carrying unnecessary food could not be justified. Rationing would ensure that the food available would be divided equally and fairly and ironically it states “Rationing means that there will be no uncertainty – and no queues”. There were queues, particularly when the rumour went about that the Greengrocer had Bananas or something other than that which was grown here. If you saw a queue you would join it because you just might be lucky to get a share of whatever was on offer. Spam and powdered egg were wartime favourites.
Clothes were also rationed and the young ladies of the village would save on silk stockings by painting their legs with tea or gravy browning and drawing a line at the back of their legs with an eyebrow pencil. Luckily it didn’t rain then as much as it does nowadays as a good shower of rain would leave the best legs well streaked!!! Skirts again became shorter due to the scarcity of material.
The children were measured in school, if they were over a certain height and had feet over a certain size they would qualify for extra coupons. Natalie recalls them all stretching up as high as possible and trying to push their toes over the line to qualify!
Mr A Price became the Headmaster of the school. Mr Doug and Mrs Del James became Landlords of the Star.
An Ack Ack regiment was stationed in Nissan huts on Treoes Moors, where there was a searchlight located for spotting enemy planes. An American regiment was stationed in St Mary Hill. The service men were made welcome by the village folk, and many friendships were formed with both the British and American troops. Dances were held at the American camp at weekends. Many friendships were made between the locals and the servicemen, but none of our young ladies are known to have left with them. The youngsters of the time were drawn to the Americans because they always had plenty of chewing gum and chocolate, which was rationed here. They were invariably greeted with a chorus of “Got any Gum Chum”, which usually achieved the desired result, and bubble-gum could be heard “popping” around the village.
In case of bombing Air Raid Shelters were built. Gwyneth Jones recalls:
” Aunty Em Jenkins and George Miles Jenkins, who worked as a farmhand for Henry Mordecai and was then living in Pen-yr-Heol , had made an Air Raid shelter by putting bunk beds in a Chicken Shed and burying it underground, with steps to go down. When the siren sounded we would all rush to get to the Air Raid Shelter. We children Cyril, Sid, Jack, Betty and I would be put to bed in the bunks in the chicken shed and the adults had seats to sit on. My mother would not get into the shelter and she used to just go to bed. As it happened on the very night that bombs were dropped we didn’t hear the siren, my father was in work at the Royal Ordnance Factory, and we didn’t hear a warning and were all asleep in our beds”.
The Ollosson family living in Star Cottage converted their old pig-sty into an Air Raid shelter by covering it with earth and turfing it with grass so that it looked like a natural mound. It was furnished with lanterns and camp beds. Joan (Ollosson) recalls the Air Raid Shelter in Pen-yr-Heol as having an old Gypsy Caravan on the ground above it, it had been painted and decorated and was a pretty feature in the garden.
Evacuees also began arriving in 1940. They came from London and other cities because of the bombs. Nancy Davidge ‘s niece from Cardiff and her cousins from Bristol attended Llangan School when they came to live with the Chard family in 1940 due to the wartime bombing taking place in Cardiff and Bristol.
Some children went to school in the mornings only, others went in the afternoon, as that was the only way the evacuees could be accommodated. This meant that although buses had been provided to take the Treoes children to school, they were not provided mid-day, so when attendance was half day only the children had to walk one way. Dinners were provided in School and for those that qualified they were free; the nursery children also had a bottle of milk each morning. Later the Education Authority found a hall in Fferm Goch in which to teach the evacuee children separately. There were three evacuees in the village one was Charlie Crays who was with Mrs Hannah Llewellyn at Poplar Fach and one of the others was Lennard Ward who was with Mrs Lee at Parc Newydd.
The children would have to carry their gasmasks everywhere in little cardboard boxes with string attached to go over their shoulders. Gwyneth Lee (Jones) recalls carrying their gasmasks to school and one day when walking home the air raid siren went they quickly put on their Mickey Mouse Gas masks ran home as fast as their legs could carry them. Gwyneth tried her scholarship in 1940 a year after WWII broke out, she said:
” Maud Lewis and I passed but were unable to go to Bridgend Grammar School because of the high number of evacuees taking up places in the school, the children from Penlline who had also passed were able to go to Cowbridge Grammar School as there were not so many evacuees taking places up there. Both Maud and I had higher marks than the pupils from Penlline but the catchment area for Treoes, Llangan and St Mary Hill was Bridgend and for Penlline was Cowbridge, so we both missed out. “
As a very young girl just having started school Joan Ollosson couldn’t find her coat, so went back to look for it, by the time she had found it and went back outside, everyone had gone. Her older sister Jean, who should have accompanied her, had forgotten her. Joan ran as quickly as she could, knowing her mother would be anxious. As she ran past Ty-Newydd, Llangan, this seemingly huge figure of a man with long flowing white hair and beard appeared. It was just as she envisaged the Jesus Christ she had learned of in Chapel. Not sure of what was happening she ran faster still, just then her mother appeared on her bike looking for Joan. On seeing her mother Joan began to cry noisily and ran to her mother crying “Mam, Mam I’ve just seen Jesus Christ”. Mrs Ollosson of course realised that what Joan had seen was Mr Chard now older and whose golden locks had turned white, soon placated her, but the experience has remained with her.
Some of the POW’s from Island Farm were sent out to work on the farms, and two in particular aged about 19 or 20 years, were working on the farm close to Llangan School. Joan recalls the following incident “On their first day returning to the POW camp, they boarded the bus to Bridgend with us, the school children, they were having problems understanding the money to pay their fare. The Headmaster helped and despite the difficulties of the language they demonstrated their thanks. Miss Eluned David one of the teachers, was impressed with the likeable young men and as it was getting near Christmas she taught the children to sing Silent Night in German. One day, when they were ready and Christmas was very near, the children and the young men were travelling on the bus when the children sang their carol. The young Germans listened and with tears in their eyes thanked the children. The carol had touched them and no doubt they were thinking of their homes and families so far away.”
During the war years the villagers were able to supplement their rations by buying butter made locally at Ty-Ellis and cheese made at Ty-Candy – these were decorated with a leaf and carried in a basket through the village for sale – all very hush, hush of-course!
World War II had returned full employment which lasted until the 1960’s. At that time the cows belonging to Treoes Farm were being milked in the barn which is now Long Acre, they would also bottle some of the milk for re-sale. Some of the ladies of the village would help with the milking and would take the children along. The children used to enjoy being there, they were allowed to dip a cup or their hands into the pail of warm and frothy milk and drink it. They would secretly hide away some of the milk tops, which they would later use with scraps of wool to create pom-poms. Sometimes when the calves were with the cows the children would cup their hands into the pail and offer the milk to the calf. The calf would lap it up and lick their hands looking for more.
Many fondly recall Jack the gypsy who had ceased travelling and lived in a wooden shed opposite Moor Mill he kept his immaculate and colourful Romany caravan there also as part of his accommodation. Jack dealt in scrap iron and he and his wife were often seen in the village, his wife dutifully walking behind him. The travelling gypsies, with their horse drawn caravans used to camp on Treoes Moors. The villagers welcomed them, they were good people who gave business to and traded with the local trades people. They were spotlessly clean, and their washing could be seen daily, drying on the gorse bushes. The village children would play with the gypsy children and often share a meal with them around the camp fire. They would be careful what they ate and would take only jam sandwiches just in case the sandwich contained a slice of hedgehog than had been baked in clay.
Mr Goodwin was the rector at Llangan and one of his duties was that each year he distribute money to the poor and needy. The money came from the rental of some cottages at St. Mary Hill, which had been bequeathed to the Parish for the purpose. He would enlist the help of David Llewellyn to help him in this task.