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First World War hero ‘remembered’

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hero rememberedAFTER an 18-month long campaign researchers working on the West Wales War Memorial Project (WWWMP) have at last succeeded in securing formal recognition for the death of a First World War soldier from West Wales.

Gunner Robert Corfield died on a training exercise while serving with the Royal Field Artillery in 1915, but he has only now been accepted as a First World War casualty. His name will now be entered in the United Kingdom Book of Remembrance. Robert’s death has also, this month, been recorded in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC) data based.

Laugharne-born military historian and Project leader, Steve John, said: “Robert’s death certificate, inquest and service papers all show beyond doubt that he was crushed after falling from a gun carriage during a training exercise. Without the benefit of the computerised records we have these days, I can appreciate how some casualties from the First World War were omitted from official records compiled after the Armistice.”

“In the summer of 2012 we drew attention to the oversight and provided the Army with all the necessary evidence to demonstrate that Robert Corfield was entitled to be commemorated. However, along with several hundred other cases, the Army allowed Robert’s case to remain unprocessed, gathering dust, until we started to mount a campaign in the local press and on BBC Radio.”

“In August last year Lord Astor of Hever DL, Under Secretary of State at the Ministry of Defence, announced that the National Army Museum would take over responsibility, with immediate effect, for the investigation and verification of cases. He thanked one of our researchers at the WWWMP for bringing his attention to the backlog of cases that had been allowed to build up and gave his assurance that the Ministry of Defence was firmly committed to ensuring that those who have died as a result of their service in World War One received due recognition for their sacrifice and bravery.”

“However, despite that assurance it was only this month that the CWGC was able to announce that Robert Corfield was the first casualty in the backlog of cases to be accepted for commemoration.”

Steve said: “I sincerely hope that in this year, the Centenary of the First World War, the other West Wales cases we have submitted are processed by the National Army Museum quickly.”

Robert Corfield, a self-employed hairdresser from Aberystwyth, had joined that Cardiganshire Battery, Royal Field Artillery, within a week of the start of the war in August 1914 and had subsequently volunteered for service overseas a month later.

Robert’s battery, as part of the 1/2nd Welsh Brigade, was posted to Bedford to undergo training before deployment to the Western Front. It was while rehearsing artillery drills in a field off Ampthill Road, Bedford on August 26, 1915, that Robert fell from the firing battery wagon on which he was riding. As he fell from the wagon the wheel of the horse drawn gun carriage ran over his head.

Robert lay unconscious as Captain John Cook, Royal Army Medical Corps, tried in vain to save his life, but his skull had been crushed and he died shortly afterwards.

Steve says: “The memory of Robert Corfield deserved to be commemorated on the Nation’s official Debt of Honour. The Coroner at the Inquest into his death made clear that he was prepared to fight for his country and had died as nobly as if he had been fighting. It shouldn’t have taken so long for the country to recognise his sacrifice. His case could not have been clearer cut.”

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Community

Remembering the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge fifty years on

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TODAY, marks the 50th anniversary of the collapse of the Cleddau Bridge, then called the Milford Haven Bridge, a day that would change bridge building forever.

The construction of the bridge was a staple of a then booming economy, with the original project estimated to be around £2m, but the flawed design caused devastation.

On June 2, 1970, disaster struck the small village of Pembroke Ferry, when a 150 tonne section of the part-built Cleddau Bridge collapsed, killing four men and injuring another 5 people.

At 2.16pm BST, as a section of the bridge was lowered onto the supporting structure below, villagers reported hearing a groaning sound followed by an engulfing cloud of red dust.

The first officer on the scene was dad of two, PC Phil Lloyd, having just clocked into his shift at Pembroke Dock Station when the fire siren sounded.

Recalling the day, Phil, 74 said “I presumed it was just another chimney fire.”

Then at 2.20pm Phil received a call from his mother in law, she lived 30 metres below the bridge.

“When I went into the switchboard the fella said ‘your mother-in-law is on the phone’.”

“She shouted, ‘the bridge has come down!’ and i said ‘don’t be so dull’.”

PC Lloyd’s mother-in-law, Ivy Lewis, lived directly under the bridge, in Pembroke Ferry, on the south side of the river.

With the oil refineries, Milford Haven Port, all being developed in the county, the bridge was a much needed asset, which would give better accessibility and cut down the 20-mile round trip for vehicles.

Arriving at the scene, Phil described it as “utter pandemonium”.

At the time of the collapse, the local gas man was attending Mrs Lewis’ property. She originally assumed that he “had blown the house up”.

It was only when stepping into her garden could she fathom the true cause of the commotion. The whole section of the bridge was resting at a 45-degree angle in her garden.

Astonishly the bridge narrowly missed the below properties. Although it had completely demolished Phil’s aunties coal shed and outdoor toilet.

“Luckily there was a gap between her house and her sister’s house which is where the bridge came down.” Phil said.

“One man had been killed at the scene and two others were taken to hospital but died later. Then when the bridge was lifted, we found another man underneath.”

Construction of the box-section bridge was put on halt immediately.

Within 18 month’s bridges in Germany and Australia, both of the same ill-fated design collapsed with fatal consequences.

The cause of the collapse was later revealed that the diaphragm above the pier of the bridge had not been thick enough and buckled as the 230-foot section was cantilevered out.

Following an inquiry, a number of safety recommendations were made, which included the addition of 500ft of extra steel to strengthen the bridge.

In 1995, on the 25th anniversary of the disaster a memorial plaque to the four men who died, William Baxendale, George Hamilton, James Thompson and local man Evan Phillips.was unveiled.

Unfortunately the plaque was later stolen and has not yet been replaced.

The completed Cleddau Bridge reopened in 1975, making it the largest unsupported span in Europe although costs had escalated to £12m upon completion.

The disaster which shook the small village, laid the foundations for which a new standard was developed in the box girder bridge design.

The Cleddau collapse was regarded as the last major bridge disaster in the UK.

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Community

Lottery win for local neighbours

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Ten people in Pembroke Dock are celebrating today after winning £1,000 each thanks to their lucky postcode.

The Milton Terrace neighbours netted the windfall when SA72 6BJ was announced as a Daily Prize winner with People’s Postcode Lottery on Saturday 18th April 2020.

People’s Postcode Lottery ambassador Judie McCourt sent her well-wishes to the winners. She said: “What lovely news to start off your weekend. Congratulations to our winners!”

A minimum of 32% of ticket sales goes directly to charities and players of People’s Postcode Lottery have raised over £500 million to date for thousands of good causes in Britain and beyond.

This draw was promoted by the Wildlife Trusts which have received over £12.6 million in funding from the players of People’s Postcode Lottery. The Wildlife Trusts look after more than 2,300 nature reserves and operate more than 100 visitor and education centres across the country. The Trusts work to make life better for wildlife, people and future generations.

Many good causes close to the winners have also benefitted from players’ support, and local charities can next apply for funding in August.

For more information on People’s Postcode Lottery, please visit www.postcodelottery.co.uk or Facebook  and Twitter.

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Call to stay safe and respect the countryside

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With more people using countryside paths and walks for exercise
during coronavirus restrictions, a call has gone out for walkers to stay
safe and respect landowners’ privacy and business.

The joint message comes from Pembrokeshire County Council and
Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority.

Pembrokeshire has some of the most beautiful countryside in Wales
and is fantastic to explore on foot.

And with exercise close to home part of the permitted reasons to
leave lockdown, paths and walks are increasingly busy.

Walkers are advised to only access footpaths from their doorstep and
be aware that when using Countryside Rights of Way that you are
crossing private land.

At this time of year the countryside is a busy place, lambing is in full
swing and field preparation for new crops is underway.
Those using the paths are asked to follow and observe any advisory
signs or temporary diversions you may come across.

Please note that routes are normally unrestricted, but under the
present situation there may be some routes that aren’t available, such
as closures to part of the Pembrokeshire Coast Path.

Please be particularly vigilant and respectful when using paths that
are in the curtilage of private residences or pass through Farm Yards
and adhere with “social distancing” at all times.

Please follow this advice:

Wherever possible restrict use to footpaths accessible within
your neighbourhood – if possible do not drive to the
countryside to walk.

Follow any diversion signs provided by landowner.

• Remember social distancing. Keep 2m distance from anyone
and use wide areas to pass each other safely.

• Plan your walk – try to avoid busy times of day when many
other people may be walking, and if possible, don`t use the
same route every day.

• Respect landowners as they may be self-isolating or have
vulnerable people living with them.

• Ensure dogs are kept on a short lead, but beware of livestock
as they may chase your dog.

• Do not let your dog come in contact with other people.

• Clean up after your dog – do not leave dog fouling bags
behind.

• Ensure gates are not left open allowing livestock to escape.

• Keep to the line of the path, do not allow your dog to run free.

• Respect the property and business you are passing through.

• Keep away from livestock

• As part of good personal hygiene always wash your hands
after visiting the countryside.

It is also worth remembering that when walking or running on roads
where there is no pavement, you should face on-coming traffic and
wear highly visible clothing.

Tegryn Jones, Chief Executive of the Park Authority said: “This
guidance will protect the public and any livestock they may encounter
while out walking. It will also prevent additional calls upon emergency
services, who are already working at capacity, from having to respond
to issues such as trespass, lost dogs, sheep worrying and livestock
escaping from fields.

“We are encouraged by the response of the vast majority of the public
in following Government advice to stay at home and only access the
outdoors from their doorsteps. It is important for those people who do
have walking opportunities on their doorsteps to take note of the
advice provided when out walking.”

Full details of the Coast Path closures can be found on the Authority’s
website at www.pembrokeshirecoast.wales.

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