Stori Fawr Dre-fach Felindre


The Stori Fawr has a collection of items on the People's Collection website (click on the images).

Also on this page, memories from Gwilym G Howells of two of his experiences in World War Two.



by Gwilym G Howells

Towards the end of August 1944, I found myself on the 8th Army Front in Italy. As we prepared to move up, I received a parcel from the Drefach-Felindre Welfare Committee. In it, amongst other things, was a knitted woollen balaclava. The weather was hot and dry, so I wondered whether this would be a useful item to carry around with me. As it was, I packed it into the corner of my haversack and promptly forgot its existence.

The Germans were now defending the Gothic Line and we were in action in the Apennine Mountains west of Rimini. In the early morning of the 20th September 1944, we crossed the dry bed of a river and took up position on the brow of a small hill. The Germans soon realised that we were there and cannon and mortar shells 'rained down on us. It was obvious that we would not be able to move for the rest of the day. As nightfall approached the firing died down and I crawled to a position further down the hill for a rest and hopefully a little sleep.
I had crawled into an abandoned German trench which was very deep. I made myself as comfortable as possible and rested on my back looking up at the open sky. I soon became aware that the cloud overhead was very low, almost like dense smoke. Suddenly it started raining and the heavens opened; there was torrential rain the first for many months. In no time my clothes were soaking wet and I felt cold and miserable. My teeth started 'chattering', my ears were aching and I had a stiff neck.

Then I remembered the balaclava. I searched inside my haversack and there it was, surprisingly dry and warm. When the rain eventually stopped I pulled on the balaclava and my head was warm again; I felt so much better. What a Godsend!

There was no comfort now in the trench which was beginning to 'cave in' because of the rain; the sides were slippery and I hauled myself out with difficulty. I decided to make my way up to the top of the hill where there was an empty farmhouse; at least it would be dry in there with the prospect of a good night's rest. There was a danger of ambush by enemy patrols, but the conditions made this very unlikely. It was a terrible struggle up the hill, the ground which had been dry for months was now a sea of mud. There was no sign of my comrades and this puzzled me very much.

At last I reached the farmyard gate, but on entering through the door of the house I stumbled and expressed my displeasure rather loudly in Welsh. There was an immediate challenge from inside the house I was bundled into a corner and held securely to the floor. My comrades had sought the shelter of the farmhouse before me, therefore when I walked in wearing my balaclava and cursing loudly in a strange language, they were convinced that I was 'from the other side'. After the commotion had died down I had a wonderful night's sleep; my clothes were wet and muddy, but my head was dry and warm.

I wore my balaclava constantly during the Italian winter of 1944- 45. The contributor of the excellent article 'The War and Drefach- Felindre in last month's edition of the magazine, will now know, that the items sent to the troops were put to very good use.

Gwilym G. Howells.

The Balaclava gan Gwilym G Howells



by Gwilym G Howells

The interesting article 'I was there' in the June edition has brought back many memories of the time I served with the Armed Forces in Normandy.

This is a country of shimering streams, of widespread orchards, a country of wide straight roads lined with an endless procession of towering trees, behind which hide trim little farmhouses.

Inland from the Normandy beaches stands the ancient and historical city of CAEN. This beautiful city was in ruins when I passed through it, but it has now been rebuilt and completely restored. It is situated on the banks of the river Orne and it has two Abbeys - The Abbey for Men and the Abbey for Women, built by William the Conqueror and his wife Matilda to pacify the Pope who disapproved of their marriage. I believe that William the Conqueror was buried at Caen Cathedral.

BAYEUX is only a few miles inland from the Normandy coast. It is smaller than Caen but is no less beautiful. Here I saw the famous mediaeval 'Bayeux Tapestry'. This is a seamless strip of linen, 230 feet long and 20 inches wide, covered with 58 coloured sketches in worsted embroidery telling the story of the Norman Conquest of England. If you are ever on holiday in Normandy, you should go and see the Bayeux Tapestry - it would be very worth while.

My other memory of Bayeux is of visiting the British War Cemetery there. If I remember rightly there were only wooden crosses then marking the burial places, but it has now been beautifully laid out, each grave with its own headstone.

I was lucky to survive the war although not totally unscathed. when standing amongst those thousands of wooden crosses, one could not but feel anger and revulsion at the futility of War and the sacrifice of so many young lives.

After experiencing the horrors of war, the placid and beautiful countryside of Normandy is now peaceful and serene. May it remain so for evermore, then these young men will not have died in vain. Vive le France.

Gwilym G. Howells.

Normandy gan GG Howells

Gwilym was born in Parcesty, a smallholding on the outskirts of Drefach-Felindre in 1900. He worked at Lloyds Bank all his life. He spent part of his working life in Newbridge and whilst there he took an interest in the local rugby club and became their treasurer for many years.

Gwilym returned to West Wales on being appointed manager of Lloyd's branches at Llandyssul and Newcastle Emlyn.
Following his retirement Gwilym and his wife Nesta (the daughter of Tyhen farm, Penboyr) retired to Armerydd Drefach. Gwilym died in 1977 aged 77 and is buried in St Barnabus churchyard, Felindre.