Museum Logo
Home Page
About Us
Educational Activities
News And Events
Become A Member
Contact Us
Monthly Newsletter
Previous Month Button
June 2011
Next Month Button

Lecture Programme

The monthly lectures on Wednesday afternoons have proved very successful and so we are planning on continuing them in the autumn.  Meantime we have one last lecture in the spring programme, and there will be coffee mornings and other events.   If you call in at the Museum regularly you’ll find out what is ‘occurring’. 

100 Club – May 2011

134                  Athrina White              £25
5                      Jen Price                      £10
47                    Bernard Jones            £5

We could do with some new members – just £1 a month and all the thrill of the monthly draw as well as a boost to Museum funds.

Fund raising May - £308

Get well soon

We send our best wishes for a speedy recovery to Pat Porter and Mary Brown-  loyal supporters of the Museum Society.

Diary Dates

Wednesday 1st June - ‘Sir Oliver Starkey – The Last English Knight of the Order of Malta’ by Gerwyn Griffiths, 2pm at the Museum

Friday 10th June – Archaeology lecture series

Friday 17th June – Archaeology lecture series

Wednesday 22nd June – Archaeology lecture series

Friday 24th June – Archaeology lecture series


We all make them but I bet there are lots of different recipes – why not send yours in?  Here is mine for starters; I have just listed the ingredients, we all know you mix to a firm dough with the egg, roll out, cut individual rounds and cook slowly on a greased bakestone (or in my case, a heavy frying pan).

8oz self raising flour                                               
4oz butter                                                                
3oz caster sugar                                                      
3oz currants                                                         
Half teaspoon mixed spice                                                   
1 teaspoon honey                                                                     
1 medium egg (beaten)


Above man made forest,
Away from scent of fir trees,
the soft needle coated path
changes to  a stony surface.

West wind’s forceful gusts
Bend hilltop grasses to form
changing patches of colour,
until reaching  purple heather.

A beautiful young woman
mature, vibrant with vitality.
Draws  back her anorak hood to
let her hair stream out behind as
the wind stimulates zest for life,

Looking over the town below,
where she was born and grew.
Remembering good people there,
made her childhood happy too.

The wind blows cobwebs from her
mind, liberating, clearing thoughts,
For there are decisions to be made,
Love has died, love has been born.
so future paths must  be defined,

Here is the place to be alone,
where uninterrupted trains
of thought can flow and bring
clarity to any  cluttered mind.

Then that wind blows on to other
hilltops, always fresh and bracing,
cleaning,  removing,  polluted air,
Heralding yet another tomorrow.
Gordon Rowlands, May 2009


When I went on the internet to look up the derivation of this word as referring to a person (not a sandwich), it suggested that this colloquial term dates back at least to 1802 to mean companion, and the form of an older dialect term meaning workmate, associated with coalmining. It also suggested it might be derived from the 16th century term ‘booty fellow’ – a partner with whom loot is shared.  Any other ideas?

A Note on ‘Secret Army’

The short article ‘Secret War’ in the May Newsletter reminded me that some years ago I saw a Welsh television documentary which described the set up and activities of an organisation in Monmouthshire during World War 11.  It revealed that a person called Alan Hollingdale was given the task of forming secret sabotage groups within the County and showed his underground base in the forest of Wentwood, north east of Newport.  This consisted of a series of chambers constructed beneath the forest floor and entered by a hidden trapdoor.  It was for the storage of explosives and small arms and probably included radio equipment.

Alan Hollingdale was well known in the Scout movement as the County Training Commissioner whose role was to organise training courses for Scout leaders.  He was an assistant to the Scout County Commissioner who at that time was Lord Raglan so he had a connection with the establishment.  It seems clear that he would have initially approached individuals in the Scout movement but no doubt others would have been recruited as well.

Following Hitler’s attack on Russia on 22nd June 1941 the threat of an invasion of Britain rapidly receded and in 1944 the Auxiliary Organisation was disbanded.  Following the disbandment a scout leader colleague in Abertillery, Edward (Ted) Meredith revealed to me that he had been recruited by Alan Hollingdale for this purpose and had attended training courses on the use of explosives and firearms.  Ted at that time was a colliery deputy and his experience with mining explosives was considered to be an advantage for the type of sabotage under consideration.  None of this was of course put into practice and Ted Meredith later became a local Magistrate and a Vice President of the Museum Society until his death in 2008.
Laurence Hale 5th May 2011

Our thanks to Laurence Hale for this glimpse of local history.  Does anyone else know about the local activities of the Auxiliary Organisation? 

Another topic of interest would be the local Home Guard and those who undertook fire watching duties.  Do you have a story to share with us?

The stories our readers send in are always the most popular part of the Newsletter so please share your memories with us.

Arthur Lewis OBE – TV Star

Arthur Lewis who now lives in Essex but still takes a keen interest in the Museum and local events, was invited to take part in an episode of ‘The Reel History of Britain’ – a 20 part history series presented by broadcaster Melvyn Bragg.  One of the programmes is on Coal Mining in the 1930s and it is this episode to which Mr Lewis was invited to contribute.  Filming day was 20th May 2011 at Big Pit Museum in Blaenavon and this is Mr Lewis’s account of the day, having travelled down the previous day with his son Idris.

Arriving at Big Pit lower car park, we were met by members of the BBC at 9.00am and taken to the lower cafeteria to discuss memorabilia we had been asked to bring.  We were introduced to groups of mining families from other coal mining areas of Britain.

We were then taken to a van built in 1967 as a film display unit.  We menfolk were grouped on a red carpet for filming before climbing into the van.  The van had a number of stepped seats, two each side of a gangway.

Once we were seated (my son Idris alongside Melvyn Bragg) the entrance door was closed and a film screen lowered.  Before an old film was screened, a producer with cameras and microphones set on floor rails asked us to view the 1920s to late 1930s film for later comments.

Later, outside the van, we were individually interviewed by Melvyn Bragg:

  1. Melvyn Bragg, holding my 1936 pit first aid box, asked about the contents which would have been in it, and my usage.
  2. My Deputy Certificate from Glamorgan dated 1942 and how to pronounce Llanhilleth, also its location.
  3. My copy of the Abertillery and District Museum Society first book and the picture in it of the Lather Boy.
  4. What did I think of the van and film.
  5. My career from pit boy to date.

After lunch in the top cafeteria we waited to be interviewed by the producer, a young lady named Dympna, together with cameraman and sound technicians in a large building housing mining machinery.  Whilst waiting my turn for interview I took Idris to meet Ceri Thompson, Curator, and Peter Walker, Manager of Big Pit, an ex-student of mine at the Polytechnic in Treforest, Pontypridd.


  1. First day underground
  2. What it felt like descending the pit shaft, walking to coalface, lighting, sounds, awareness of roof, sides, and floor, during your working life.
  3. What families must have felt with men leaving home to work in such dangerous conditions etc.

My interview went on beyond the 1930s, it got a bit emotional when I spoke as Under Manager and Manager helping workmates keep their jobs even though suffering from cancer, epilepsy, and depression after war service.  I also spoke of my charity work in the Philippines, Borneo, Turkey and the award of my OBE.

Instead of all finishing at 2pm, I left Big Pit at 4.30, with miners still to be interviewed, to undertake the 275 miles back home to Essex. There were delays on the notorious M25 and I arrived home at 9.45pm – a long day.

The programme will be screened on BBC2, probably in August/September.
W Arthur Lewis O.B.E 24th May 2011

This sounds an interesting series and I am sure we will be particularly interested in the episode featuring Mr Lewis.

New Books

The Mortimers – Lords of the March by Charles Hopkinson and Martin Speight.  Originally published in hardback in 2002 this has now been published as a paperback, with plans and maps,  price £12.95.  A study of the contribution of the Mortimer family as formidable Marcher lords, 1070s-1461, their relationship with English kings and Welsh princes, and their ultimate influence on British history through the ascension of Edward IV as King of England.

The Dead of Mametz - a Thomas Oscendale Novel by Jonathan Hicks, paperback price £8.95.  Thomas Oscendale, a military policeman based in France, investigates the suicide of a corporal of the Welsh Regiment and two related murders in June 1916. His investigation reveals a map marking a spot in Mametz Wood which is also of interest to British and German Intelligence. Oscendale is determined to pursue his investigation despite being warned off by the authorities.


I have long looked for someone with knowledge to sort and categories the medals in our museum, at last someone came forward. Don Bearcroft.  

The British Campaign Medals of WW1 broadly speaking fall into the categories of either trios or pairs.                                      

The award of each being dependent on the date of the recipient's commencement of service.       

The most sought after grouping is the 1914 trio of medals. These were awarded to those who served in France and Belgium between 5 August and 22 November 1914.This consisted of a four pointed star inscribed with the dates AUG to NOV 1914 on the front. This was normally awarded with the War Medal and Victory Medals hence the term "Trio". A ribbon clasp was also awarded to those who had actually come under fire during this period. Approximately 400,000 of these were awarded. Territorial Forces who volunteered for service abroad during this period were given a separate award and did not normally qualify for either star. The subsequent award was known as the 1914-15 star. This was awarded to those who served between 5 August 1914 and 31 December 1915 other than those who had already qualified for the 1914 Star. The Medal is identical to the 1914 star but the inscription reads 1914-15.Again this was normally awarded with the War and Victory Medals and is known as a 1914-15 Trio. Approximately 2,350.000 of these were awarded. There are several examples of 1914-15 Trios in the museum.                              

Those who served after the qualifying period of 5th August l914 and 31st December 1915 were not awarded either Star but would only be awarded the War and Victory Medals known commonly as a Pair. The Memorial Plaque is sometimes found with a group of WW1 medals. These were awarded to the next of kin of those who lost their lives on active service during the war. Again there are several examples of these in the Museum                                                   

All of the above medals are inscribed with the recipients service number, rank name and regiment making research either locally or on the internet possible .Unfortunately many of these groups of medals have been split up over the passage of time and it is common for medals to be found singly or as groups with a missing medal.

This page is only intended as a brief explanation of the campaign award system of the Great War. For further information and illustrations please refer to the information points in the Museum and the Medal Displays.


In the collection is a plaque commemorating two brothers, Albert and Charles Coulson. Both were killed in Flanders at different times in the Great War, they are buried in different cemeteries shown below. We only have one medal the others have been split up amongst the family, the medal and their two photographs are on display in the museum.

LE TOURET MEMORIAL  - France  Pas de Calais

Approximately 1 kilometre after Le Touret village The Memorial takes the form of a loggia surrounding an open rectangular court. The court is enclosed by three solid walls and on the eastern side by a colonnade. East of the colonnade is a wall and the colonnade and wall are prolonged northwards (to the road) and southwards, forming a long gallery. Small pavilions mark the ends of the gallery and the western corners of the court.


It is one of those erected by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to record the names of the officers and men who fell in the Great War and whose graves are not known. It serves the area enclosed on the North by the river Lys and a line drawn from Estaires to Fournes, and on the South by the old Southern boundary of the First Army about Grenay; and it covers the period from the arrival of the II Corps in Flanders in 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos The names of those commemorated are listed on panels set into the walls of the court and the gallery, arranged by Regiment, Rank and alphabetically by surname within the rank. Over 13,000 names are listed on the memorial of men who fell in this area before 25 September 1915 and who have no known grave.

The memorial was designed by J.R. Truelove and unveiled by Lord Tyrrell on 22 March 1930.



Northern France North of Englefontain town. Englefontaine was captured by the 18th and 33rd Divisions on the26th October, 1918. It was later "adopted" by the Borough of Cheltenham. Englefontaine British Cemetery was made by the Burial Officer of the 38th (Welsh) Division in November, 1918, and enlarged after the Armistice by the concentration of graves from the following cemetery:- LES TUILERIES BRITISH CEMETERY, ENGLEFONTAINE, was behind the garden of a house, on the North side of the road to Salesches, at a hamlet called Les Tuileries. It was made by the 33rd and 38th Divisions in November, 1918, and Bear logocontained the graves of 55 soldiers from the United Kingdom. There are now over 150, 1914-18 war casualties commemorated in this site. Of these, nearly 10 are unidentified. The cemetery covers an area of 586 square metres and is enclosed by a low rubble wall.

Huw Bearcroft


Top Of Page



Registered Musuem Logo

© Abertillery & District Museum 2011