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My remembrance

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Poppies_in_the_Sunset_on_Lake_GenevaFOR many , Remembrance Day is more than a commemoration of the thousands of men who gave their lives for our freedom. Men whose stories we hear but will never get to meet. For many of us, it marks a personal tribute to the men of our own families whose lives and innocence was lost and whose bravery must never be forgotten. This year marks the centenary of the First World War and the strength and courage of those men is more poignant than ever. This is my remembrance for the three generations of my family who fought in the First and Second World Wars. My Great Grandfather, George, was a Dockyard worker who spent his spare time repairing clocks. Like many of the young men he was called up with, he had no idea of what War would be like, of the conditions he would live in and the terrible things he would see. He was proud to be fighting for his country, so he left his home in Devon to become a soldier in WW1.

He was part of the machine gun co, spending most of his service in the trenches. He was also involved in the Battle of Somme in 1916 which is most likely where he sustained his injuries. He was lucky not to be one of 58,000 troops killed during the battle. I don’t remember much about Great Granddad, except that he was very quiet and watchful. He never talked about the war or its effects on him. My Granddad, Robert, was a bricklayer and keen motorcyclist from Devon. When he was enlisted, he offered his services as a bricklayer.

There wasn’t any need for builders so he began infantry training in 1942. He later became a motorcycle Dispatch Rider (military messenger), serving for 5 years in North Africa, Italy and Palestine in several antitank regiments. Granddad kept a diary, a very frank account of what he saw and felt during the War. He was badly injured when a passing shell hit a farm house on the road he was walking down. Throwing himself to the ground, he remembers being littered with debris and a sharp pain in his back. It was later found that shrapnel from the shell had gone into his back, leg and shoulder.

This was removed in an operation but years later he could still feel small pieces of shrapnel in his knee and finger. Like many soldiers, Granddad wrote home to his family during the War. We discovered these letters after he’d passed away. There was also a prayer book, with an inscription inside by my Great Grandfather. This little book came safely through World War 1… Darling Bob, hoping you will come safely back to us.

The letters are heartfelt exchanges between a worried mother and a brave son. My Great Gran talks of my Great Grandfather ‘fire watching’ and the ‘Yanks’ nearly running her over in their Jeeps. Also the terrible silence as my Great Granddad works on his clocks and she sits with nothing to do but wait and worry. My Grandfather reassures her that he is well, requesting small items of comfort and to pass on his good wishes to friends at home. On leaving the War, Granddad wrote his diary entries into a book which I typed up for him and he had printed in 2008. Sadly he passed away in 2011, but I will never forget the tall man, who talked modestly about the war, cracked jokes at his own expense and loudly banged the side of the chair in time to the band on the Festival of Remembrance.

My Dad’s Great Uncle John Harris, affectionately known as Jack, left his family in LLanfrynach, Brecon in 1914. He joined the machine gun co and was heavily involved in front line battle. He died in a POW camp in Belgium in Sep 1918 just weeks before the Armistice. My Dad’s Uncle still has the letter from the British Red Cross announcing his death. In 2010 my family travelled out to France, to find the War Grave of Jack. They talk about the rows of grave stones, looking out over the Channel and the way they are beautifully kept by the locals. I think this was a cold realisation of all the lives lost, the Sons, Brothers, Fathers and Grandfathers who will never come home.

I am proud of my family’s military history and of the men and women who continue to fight for us. November 11 is a day to remember these people and the way they suffered to give us the freedom we enjoy today. We should never lose sight of that, of what it means to be alive, to share compassion. It’s the only way we can ever truly be thankful.

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Did the world’s first airplane fly in Pembrokeshire?

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WHEN asked who was the first to fly an airplane, you’d probably say Wilbur and Orville Wright, more commonly referred to as the Wright brothers. However, you’ve probably never heard of Bill Frost, a Welshman who many say was the “first man to fly.”

Born in Saundersfoot on May 28th, 1848, Bill Frost was a carpenter on the Heyn Castle Estate.

Clearly, as a handyman, he was in the perfect position to build a plane, and this obsession, if the tale is to be believed, was strengthened in the winter of 1876. Legend says that Frost was carrying a large plank of wood on a windy day when a large gust of wind picked him up, carried him several feet, until he returned to the ground with a rather rough landing.

What followed was, shall we say, some rather odd behaviour.

Locals reported seeing Frost running around fields, with a large sheet of zinc above his head, presumably trying to get another gust of wind to lift him up. Although he was testing the limits of aerodynamic designs in all likelihood, he was of course branded rather bizarre locally.

Many locals also attributed this behaviour to grief, as his wife and daughter had recently died. A religious man and deacon of his local chapel, one could understand locals believing he was maybe trying to get to Heaven.

In 1894, things started to get serious for Frost, who applied for a patent for a flying machine on October 25th. To describe the patent would be to describe an amalgamation between a plane and a glider, with two reversible fans which would, he hoped, lift him into the air for a successful flight.

Bill Frost with his wife, Annie, in 1896 . Bill lived until 1935.

Then, the patent said, wings would be spread via a lever and another lever would control whether the aircraft was moving up or downwards.

With his practical knowledge and his interesting research methods, Frost began work on building the aircraft.

He did so in the workshop of his house on St Bride’s Hill, an impressive feat when you consider it was over 30 feet long.

Reports state that the aircraft was built out of bamboo, canvas and wire, with bags and pouches filled with hydrogen to help it stay afloat.

The patent, in full, reads: “The flying machine is constructed with an upper and lower chamber of wire work, covered with light waterproof material. Each chamber formed sharp at both ends with parallel sides. The upper large chamber to contain sufficient gas to lift the machine. In the centre of upper chamber a cylinder is fixed in which a horizontal fan is driven by means of a shaft and bevelled gearing worked from the lower chamber. When the machine has been risen to a sufficient height, then the fan is stopped and the upper chamber, which has wings attached, is tilted forward causing the machine to move as a bird, onward and downward. When low enough it is again tilted in an opposite direction which causes it to soar onward and upward, when it is again assisted if necessary by the fan. The steering is done by a rudder at both ends.”

A book has been written about the subject

So, why are the Wright brothers considered the first men to fly?

Well, for starters, there’s no photographs of Frost’s flight, nor any written testimonials. However Frost himself, as well as several locals in the area, claimed that on September 24th, 1896, Frost flew for approximately 500 yards.

This, if true, would have been a considerably longer flight than the Wright brothers achieved.

The end of the flight was not so successful, however, as the bottom of the craft hit a tree and crashed into a nearby field.

Not deterred by this, Frost repaired the machine, however it was then destroyed in a storm some weeks later, and Frost could not afford to build a new one from scratch.

His patent expired four years later.

Without a craft for another flight, and with no photographic evidence, his claim to be the first man to fly, unfortunately, can not be verified.

In 1935 Frost died aged 90 years old. Although he held no grudge against the Wright brothers, he did state that the government had turned down his application for funding following his first attempt, which scuppered the hope of any future flights after his craft was destroyed.

The reason for this? The government claimed that aircraft would never be used for navigation or warfare; a statement that looked very foolish as World War I began to play out.


HTV footage from the 1990’s on the Bill Frost story (Youtube)
 

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Library reservations service expanded

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PEMBROKESHIRE’S Library Service has extended its reservation service.

Customers can place up to two reservations for books and audiobooks, which are available and in stock at libraries in Fishguard, Haverfordwest, Milford Haven, Narberth, Newport, Neyland, Pembroke, Pembroke Dock, Saundersfoot and Tenby.

Items are also available to reserve from the service’s Stack (store).

Library members can place reservations free of charge, in person or via the online catalogue.

To access the online catalogue, log on to https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture and select ‘Find Library Books’.

Customers can also place a request for an item not currently in stock, to be purchased as one of their two reservations.

The Library Service is not offering an Interlibrary Loan service at the present time.

For details on the library services currently offered in Pembrokeshire, please view https://www.pembrokeshire.gov.uk/libraries-and-culture

 

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Extra police patrols at Tenby skate park after ‘men approached young girls’

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CONCERNED locals in Tenby have taken to social media to write about concerns of inappropriate behaviour – between males they think may have been asylum seekers currently housed at Penally Army Camp – and young girls in Tenby.

The police have said they are investigating the matter.

Witnesses have said that young girls have been approached by males while at the skate park in Tenby.

The Home Office has said that the camp will be used to house up to 250 male asylum seekers whilst their claims are processed due to a shortage of alternative accommodation, caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Reports circulating on Facebook have claimed to have direct knowledge that male residents of the camp have been talking and exchanging contact information with local school girls, some suggesting that they were in school uniform when talking with the men.

However, the police have not confirmed that that is the case – it remains an unproved allegation.

One local claimed on Facebook: “So tonight a few of us concerned local parents decided to go to Tenby skate park.

“As we got there two young girls where sat on a bench waiting for someone.

“Some kids told us they were the ones talking to the men yesterday exchanging Snap Chat details and stuff.

“Then the men from the day before turned up… saw us and scurried off down the beach.

“The two girls then quickly wandered off.

“These girls were about 14.”

One resident had stated that they had reported the incidents he had seen and heard to the local police station, he claimed that an officer told him they were in talks with Greenhill School about the incidents.

Pembrokeshire County Council said that they are unable to comment on the alleged incidents, however a spokesman told The Herald in a statement: “All I would say is that our schools regularly advise pupils not to engage with strangers.”

Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed they are investigating two alleged incidents at the skate park, and have been in contact with the local schools.

A police spokesperson told The Pembrokeshire Herald: “We have received two reports of alleged inappropriate behaviour at the skate park in Tenby and are looking to speak to the people who contacted us.

“In the meantime the skate park is now part of our patrol plans and we have linked in with local schools to reinforce the School Beat Stay SMART online messaging.”

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