Monticelli Trap (Alec Fincham #11)


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By Steven Johnson The Invention Of Air (1St Edition)

Meat rationed to Is 10d worth a week for adults about lIb in weight lId for younger children. Sept -Nov: London bombed every night, over 3 million homes damaged or destroyed, 30, dead from bombing. As can be seen, the year had had its toll of bad news, and yet though the darkness seem to have shed its mantle over the country there was a glimmer of light and hope.

Our Troops had been evacuated from Dunkirk. The Government had taken measures to secure and immobilise the beaches with concrete pillars and in many area the beaches were mined. On May 14th the Government announced the formation of the unpaid Local Defence Volunteers, Mr Anthony Eden broadcast a call to all able bodied men to defend their country, they rallied from every town and villages, thus a citizen army came to existence.

The prime roll was to safeguard waterways, railway stations, bridges, factories, to clear rubble and manning anti aircraft batteries. All they had originally was an armband with L D V printed on it, but in July the Title was changed to the Home Guard, and uniforms were issued and in this area with the Royal Welch Fusiliers taps.

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There was a shortage of rifles, but a shipment of old rifles was sent from the United States. One enterprising teacher in this area, made quite a few dummy wooden rifles so that the lads could drill. The volunteers comprised of men too old or too young for active service or in reserved occupation. They were trained to regular army techniques and virtually every town village had its own company. Friction did arise between the Home Guard and other voluntary services, especially on the use of buildings, but common sense prevailed and they worked together amicably.

Local people were recruited to be in command and at the outset a full time staff was employed. Jack Davies from Trawsfynnydd became a Sergeant Major. Harry Jeffs of Balmoral was the 2nd in Command It is unfortunate that the records of the Barmouth Company as yet are not available. The Archives in Dolgellau have no knowledge of their whereabouts, they have records of Home Guard activities in adjoining districts, it is also unfortunate that there are very few people left with information about this period We know that they met at the old Arrow hall at the end of Jubilee road.

Names of some of the personnel are available through the courtesy of the Barmouth Advertiser and in May there is a column extolling their virtues under the heading.

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May 14th was the 3rd anniversary of its foundation ,May 16th celebrated throughout the country as Home Guard Sunday, when there were staged parades and demonstration designed to illustrate the efficiency of this force both in the use of weapons and in tactics. The article goes on to cover a demonstration by the Barmouth Company under the command of Captain Lewis Williams on the Recreation Ground on Sunday week. Following a most effective display of field craft the Company then took part in a mock attack upon a detachment of "German troops" in charge of Lieutenant Harry Jeffs who is 2nd in command of the Barmouth Company , The crowd was greatly impressed with the thoroughness and efficient of all who took part and the demonstration throughout reflected much credit upon those in charge of this company.

From Hugh Robert "Henddol" collection of photographs we have pictures of the concrete blocks on Fairboume beach, concrete pillbox in the sand dunes at Rowen Dyffryn, a brick built pill box not far from Wayside, an Anderson shelter in Talybont and a stone built pill box built into the rock face opposite Aberamffra which has two peep holes which effectively covers Barmouth Bridge. Should this pillbox be allowed to disintegrate.

Williams and H. It is hoped that the records may come to light and that the full names of those who served in the Barmouth Company can be listed. There are quite a few stories about the force which have now passed into Home Guard folklore, and The Barmouth Force was no exception. The Battle of the Peak was one incident. During one of these exercise, held on a Sunday, the cadets had to defend and hold the Peak, the Peak being the highest point above Barmouth with a full view of the town, The Home Guard on the other hand were given the orders "Take the Peak" a simple enough order?

The battle to commence at O was also the Church Organist, They resolved the problem by deciding that they would commence battle at The Cadets guarded the Peak all morning without any sign of the enemy whilst the Home Guard commandeered a local coal wagon and took it up Panorama road and on to Gellfawr Farm which lies behind the Peak, At Gellfawr the Umpires were stationed and they adjudge the Home Guards the victors for attacking the peak from the rear as the Cadets had not reckoned on being overwhelm from their rear.

The authenticity of these stories cannot be verified and over the years they have become enhanced Probably the basic are true, the popular T. In a recent T.

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V broadcast it was stated that had there been an invasion the Home Guard would have been deployed on guerrilla activities. Britain was in turmoil in June , with our land forces having been over-run by the German army on the continent, and the consequent evacuation of our decimated troops at the Dunkirk and the French channel ports. It was feared that an invasion of mainland Britain was imminent, the Channel Islands having been already occupied, and an incursion via Southern Ireland being a distinct possibility.

Together with other factors such as the supremacy of the Royal Navy and the determined resistance of our small RAF Fighter Command, did indeed make the German High Command think again and fail to press home their undoubted advantage. The reality was very different. Our gallant forces were severely overstretched and under-equipped and a determined attack upon our shores would surely have been successful. I was sixteen at the time and sitting my matriculation exams at school but I had already volunteered for the navy and been told to wait.

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Like myself these lads would soon be serving in the regular armed forces. Among the older members there were several veterans of the First World War, and indeed one, namely Finnegan the Greengrocer who had seen service in the Boer War. He was to become our armourer and was excused patrols and drill. There were also others whose call-up papers had been deferred but who would eventually be conscripted into the various armed services.

Drill and basic training in unarmed combat, bayonet drill and the like took place in the Arrow Hall across the road. We had no weapons at first and drilled with dummy wooden rifles.


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We were however soon to be given some vintage Canadian Ross rifles. Later we would be issued with proper Army Battledress and the armoury provided with standard Lee Enfield rifles, plus a few hand grenades.

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Up to then our weapon against tanks would have been home made petrol bombs known as Molotov Cocktails. From this it might well be gleaned that we were at first, more of a danger to ourselves than to any potential enemy. Our main duty in the early days was standing night guard on Barmouth Bridge. We were to challenge any one approaching with the customary commands. Among our ranks we had an older comrade who had an unfortunate stammer. A pedestrian crossing the viaduct late at night in the blackout was a rare event so that the opportunity to utter the challenge was welcome as a relief from the boredom.

We always let him make the challenge arguing that it was his right as the senior member. Yes, it was not very praiseworthy, but quite funny when the words came out partially at least! Not conduct conductive to good order!. On another occasion after our Company had been issued with joy oh joy a coveted Lewis machine gun we were on the beach at Dyffryn engaged in target practice.

As he was lying prone firing away the CO approached and stood over him issuing an order; with due respect and military discipline our friend sprang to his feet with the Lewis gun stuttering away and spraying bullets all around and everyone diving for cover in the sand dunes. Another incident which could well have resulted in a fatality, but has also a funny side to it, occurred when four of us were preparing to stand down at first light after a night on guard duty on Barmouth Bridge.

We were in a little shack which had been allocated to us for shelter when off watch on stand-by. It had a tin roof with an oil lamp suspended from it inside and two bunks for the two off watch. As it was not yet daylight we needed the light of the lamp. There was an almighty bang as his gun went off in the confined space and the light went out. When we had recovered to some extent from the shock, one of us lit a match. The shot had blown a huge hole in the tin roof but not only that, Jack who had been standing in front of M was in a right state. Fortunately the bullet had missed his head but his hair was standing straight up from the blast and his face was all black with soot from the lamp.

He looked all the world like the stereotype golliwog of comic movies. It was perhaps this subliminal association of ideas, together with a certain reaction to shock, coupled with huge relief that our friend Jack was still in one piece that caused Trevor and me to burst out in a spontaneous bout of uncontrollable laughter.


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So infectious was this that the others soon joined in, eventually to subside with the realisation of what might have been. Not only that, but Jack was the son of our Commanding Officer. No action was taken and if anyone should think that this sort of thing happened only in the Home Guard then they have not had much experience of the armed services.

Friendly Fire? I must relate a really comic situation that I witnessed on one of our many exercises. These war games were often held in conjunction with other military units training in our area. Our local Home Guard Company would often outwit them through our better knowledge of the local terrain.


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  • I had a clear view from my position at the head of a small valley which had a dry-stone wall extending up the middle. I soon became aware of two opposing patrols advancing simultaneously, one each side of the wall which both were using as cover. Being close to the wall they were concealed from each other but not from me.

    It was with great amusement that I observed the leader of each small group periodically raise his head to observe the land on the other side, but, as it happened, never at the same moment. I waited gleefully for this, as it was like an episode from Laurel and Hardy film I had seen. Then of course there was utter confusion.

    No one could say who had captured whom! During my two years with them, until I was old enough to be called up into the Royal Navy in early June , I saw our unit develop into a disciplined, well trained, and well-equipped body. With the ever diminishing threat of invasion the Home Guard was able to take over from the army many of its more mundane duties such as guarding bridges, railways and vital installations, thus releasing its troops for frontline service overseas e.

    North Africa or preparing, alongside our American allies, for the Second Front on the mainland continent. There is no doubt that the Home Guard have us youngsters a good grounding in basic military discipline and skills, thus easing considerably our subsequent entry into the Armed Forces proper, and greatly facilitating the otherwise arduous basic training.

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    What happened to Mr Parry? Rights : This image may be used freely, with attribution, for research, study and educational purposes. For permission to publish, distribute, or use this image for any other purpose, please contact Special Collections and University Archives, University of Illinois at Chicago Library at. For more images from the collection, visit collections. Henry Jones, vict, Mason's Arms - Thomas B.

    Frank Foster to Robert Barrow - Charles Attwell.

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