Museum Logo
Monthly Newsletter
Previous Month Button
July 2024
Next Month Button

What’s on at the Met Cinema

Fri 12th July 8pm KA’s SKA Soul Band, Tickets from £20
Sat 20th July 7.30 pm David Bowie Tribute Band  Tickets from £14.

For more information visit or Tel 01495 533195

Museum Opening Times

The Museum is open to the public, free of charge:

Thursday* to Saturday              10am – 1pm

June 100 Club

This month’s prize numbers were drawn by member Susan Davies  and the lucky winners are:-

No.  44         Sian Price                 £20
No.  01         Nichola Hayward    £10

If you would like to join our 100 club and be in with a chance of winning, it costs just £1 a month. Ask at the museum for further details.

ABERFEST 2024

Man with sword on stilts Aberfest was a big success again this year with lots of visitors, including this interesting character! 

 

And of course many thanks to our volunteers for manning the café, gift shop, Pokemon hunt and raffle stall, without whom the event would have been a non-starter.

 

Voices of Abertillery

Of course, it was still the day of the horse and cart.  We didn’t have a milkman delivering bottles.  He would come with his horse and cart and the churns and a hand pail.  You’d go to the door with your jug and he’d measure out a pint or a half pint or a quart of milk and you’d have it there fresh every day.  [RR]

 

Voices of Abertillery book

The above is an extract from ‘Voices of Abertillery’ compiled by Simon Eckley & Don Bearcroft. 

 

It’s a compilation of memories from interviews of local people and is available to buy now from the museum for just £1 a copy.  Pick up yours while stocks last.

 

 

The museum will be closed to the public on Friday 12th July for staff training

 

Senghenydd Memorial Garden

Anyone coming to the valleys of Wales will find constant reminders of the coal mines that once dominated the towns and villages and where now looking around it would be hard to imagine a coal mine ever sitting in the middle of the beautiful landscapes! Our local Guardian of the Valley at Sixbells is one such reminder but if you ever get the chance go to Senghenydd, at the top of the Aber valley near Caerphilly you will find a poignant memorial built in memory of the men, women and boys who lost their lives in mining disasters. The garden built on the site of the old Universal Colliery where on 14th October 1913 the worst mining disaster recorded happened and 439 miners and 1 rescuer lost their lives.

Can you imagine a small town losing that many fathers, sons, uncles, brothers, grandfathers in just one moment in time?!  The anguish and heartache of waiting to see if you were the lucky or unlucky mother, wife, daughter, sister – or even workmate as each body was brought out!
It wasn’t until 100 years later and many more disasters that this site was dedicated to over 10,000 miners that have been killed in Welsh mines. A disaster is classed when more than 5 people lost their lives in one incident – so many others have not even accounted for.

Senghenydd mining disaster statue In the middle of the garden is a bronze statue depicting the rescue of a survivor of the disaster. Around the statue a wall has been built with tiles naming every person who lost their lives in the 1901 and 1913 disaster at Senghenydd, and if that is not enough to make you realise what a hard life these people encountered there is a walkway that has a tile each side in remembrance of every disaster throughout Wales since 1880’s...each of the 152 tiles states the name of the colliery, place and number killed.

Many local authorities contributed to the fund raising campaign to buy the ground and make this memorial garden remembering that coal is an essential part of our history and this is one way to help keep the memory and culture alive. It is now acknowledged by the welsh Government as the Wooden carved statueNational Mining Disaster memorial Garden of Wales and has been added to the register of historical parks and gardens of Wales by Mark Drakeford former First Minister for Wales.

As with many historical sites these days the local museum and the garden are looked after by volunteers.  As if this wasn’t a big enough sight to make you think back to the days of mining disasters tucked away at the back of the garden is a wooden carved statue of a woman holding a small child looking out over the area...waiting to see if she was the lucky or unlucky one!
Karen Prately

 

Six Bells Memorial Slab 1Memorial Slab 2

80th anniversary of D-Day

Last month (6th June) marked the 80th anniversary of D-Day or ‘Operation Overlord’.  This topic was covered very ably by our very own Jen Price for the 75th anniversary which is available to read using the link at the end of this newsletter.     D-Day marked the beginning of the end of World War II and while much is known about the events of that first day, thanks in part to the 1962 film ‘The Longest Day’, not so much is known about the planning that went on in the years prior.  What follows is but a very small insight into a few of those operations…

OPERATION PLUTO

The British War Office determined that petrol and oil would account for 60% of all supplies that would be needed for a successful operation to liberate France and so British engineers, the British Armed Forces and oil companies worked together on ‘Operation Pluto’; Pluto being an acronym for Pipeline Under The Ocean. 

A pipeline concealed under the ocean would negate the need to bring in supplies by tankers which could be subject to air attacks but designing a pipeline proved difficult.  The first prototype was tested in May 1942 in the River Medway in south-east England.  It was only a 120 yard stretch that failed after 2 days of pumping.  By October of that year, the pipeline was sufficiently improved to test a full scale rehearsal of Operation Pluto so in December 1942 a 30 mile pipeline was laid across the Bristol channel from Swansea to Ilfracombe in north Devon.  It was deliberately laid in bad weather and even had bombs dropped on it to test its resilience which it passed.  However in August 1944, when it came to the actual laying of the pipeline across the much wider English channel and under wartime conditions (and without the engineers on hand to supervise) it proved much more difficult and early attempts did not succeed.

As well as the actual pipe, pumping stations would also be needed and in the spring of 1943 work started on building two pumping stations, one in Dungeness in Kent and one at Sandown on the Isle of Wight.  The stations were built under the cover of darkness and were camouflaged to look like seaside homes and other harmless structures.  In 1943 corresponding sites in France were picked.  Cherbourg was picked to connect to Sandown while Ambleteuse in northern France was picked to connect to Dungeness and those would be built as soon as those areas were liberated.  The former would be codenamed Bambi and the latter Dumbo (in keeping with the Disney theme of ‘Pluto’). 

In late September 1944 a pipeline was successfully laid that connected to the Bambi pumping station in Cherbourg but it failed in early October having delivered only 900,000 gallons of petrol.  Bambi was terminated with immediate effect.  Meanwhile a pipeline had also been connected to the Dumbo pumping station in Ambleteuse and that would remain in operation until the end of the war.

Map location of pipelines

By Original artist Ashley T. Walker. Drawn in 2009 for Historic American Engineering Record (HAER) VA-132 - The Library of Congress, Public Domain

OPERATION TAXABLE

If the D-Day landings were to have any hope of success, the Germans had to be made to think that the invasion would happen at Calais and not Normandy and to this end there were several deceptions planned, one of which was codenamed ‘Operation Taxable’ and involved  617 Squadron RAF….

While the allied forces were on their way to Normandy, 617 Squadron was flying towards Le Havre.  Each aircraft was carrying strips of metal foil called ‘window’.  In an operation that required precision flying, the lead aircraft flew across the channel towards Le Havre and dropped window into the sea knowing that it would be picked up by German radar.  It then looped around and headed back the way it had come.  The next aircraft following behind would follow suit, dropping more window but slightly further along the route to France before turning around and looping back, followed by the next aircraft and so on.  The hope was that the metal foil would be picked up on German radar and with each sweep of the radar arm the foil would be picked up getting nearer and nearer to France making it seem that the invasion was under way while in fact it was but many miles further west in Normandy.  This took great skill on the  part of the pilots as if they miscalculated the Germans would realise they were being deceived.  To make it more convincing a few small boats headed across the channel dragging huge barrage balloons while, at the same time, 218 Squadron was carrying out a similar operation near Calais in what was known as Operation Glimmer.  The plan worked in that it distracted the Germans from what was happening in Normandy.

HOBART’S FUNNIES

Another little known aspect of Operation Overlord was the part played by ‘Hobart’s Funnies’.  The allied amphibious attack on Dieppe in 1942 had been a disaster and the allied forces had to learn from their mistakes at Dieppe if the D-Day landings were going to be successful.  To this end, thanks to British Engineers, Churchill tanks and American M4 Sherman tanks were adapted to face the challenges they would encounter.  These adapted tanks would be the forerunners of the modern combat engineering vehicles and they played a major part on the commonwealth beaches at Normandy.  They were nicknamed ‘Hobart’s Funnies’ after the 79th Division’s commander, Major General Percy Hobart.

The main vehicles of the 79th Armoured Division were the Assault Vehicle Royal Engineers (AVRE’s) which were Churchill tanks adapted to carry various ‘attachments’.  One such AVRE saw the main gun replaced with a spigot mortar that could hurl a 40lb projectile at concrete obstacles in its path such as bunkers and road blocks while the ‘bobbin’ attachment was a reel of canvas cloth with reinforced steel rods which it rolled out in front of itself to stop itself and following vehicles sinking into the sand of the landing beaches.  Other attachments included the ‘Box Girder’- a bridge that could be dropped in 30 seconds to span a 30 foot gap - while the ‘Double Onion’ could lay demolition charges up to height of 12 feet.

Other tanks included the ‘Churchill Crocodile’, which was fitted with a flame thrower and was very effective at clearing bunkers and other German fortifications while the ‘Crab’ was an adapted Sherman tank designed to clear mines in the path of the tank.  The DD (Duplex Drive) tank could float in water so it could be dropped off some distance from the shore and float onto the beaches.  These tanks proved very effective on the commonwealth beaches of Normandy, however, while they had been offered to the Americans, take up by them was minimal and history suggests that had they been used at Omaha beach, US casualties may well have been far less.
Sally Murphy

Further Reading

Operation Pluto

Normandy Landings

Hobart 27s Funnies

And to read the D-Day article by Jen Price, use this link

 

Top Of Page

 

© Abertillery & District Museum 2024 Registered Museum