Remembering Barry at War

KINGS SQUARE: Remembering Barry at war

KINGS SQUARE: Remembering Barry at war

First published in News by

ON Monday, August 3 1914 an estimated 50,000 visitors from across south Wales flocked to Barry Island to enjoy a warm and sunny bank holiday.

Less than a week later Nell's Point would be inhabited, not by sunbathers and day trippers from Cardiff and the valleys but by soldiers manning the guns of Barry Fort.

The holiday season was over, Britain had entered World War One.

The first signs of war throughout Britain was the recall of the Reservists. Barry's Naval Reservists had gathered at the local shipping offices on August 2 and had left that night for their war stations, the Army Reserves following later.

The local Territorial Force Centre at Gladstone Road was the scene of much activity on August 4 when the town's three territorial units were mobilised. Troops also began entering Barry, being billeted in local schools, this meant that when children returned from their summer break their classes had to be held in church buildings.

On August 5 a group of French sailors from a ship anchored in the docks paraded up Holton Road, the main shopping area of Barry, carrying aloft a large Tricolour. They halted outside the Town Hall at Kings Square, where a large crowd had now gathered, and sang the Marseillaise.

Barry Sea Scouts had only just returned home from their Summer Camp when war was declared.

During their camp they had greatly impressed Admiralty officials with their signalling prowess and several of the older scouts had been asked to volunteer as signalmen to the coaling fleet and at least twelve of them served in that capacity. Local scouts were also doing their bit to guard Barry reservoir and protect the water supply.

The first real warning to the people of Barry that the military presence was not just for show and that the war was now a grim reality occurred on Friday, August 7 when Edward Davies, a young schoolteacher from Hengoed, was caught sketching the sentries patrolling around the Barry Fort. He was seized and held on the suspicion of being a spy.

When it was discovered that Edward was actually sketching for art classes at Barry Summer School. he was let off with a severe reprimand and his drawings were ordered to be destroyed.

Capt. JH Cook of the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry. the officer in charge of the sentries at Barry Fort, warned the people of Barry that they were at war. He explained that his men were carrying loaded rifles and fixed bayonets and anyone else acting suspiciously on the docks or the coastal path might not be so lucky.

On August 14 the first recruiting notices had appeared in local papers and, after a slow start, men began to come forward in numbers. By the end of 1914, 1600 Barry men had enlisted.

Amongst the men leaving the town for the army were 19 members of Barry Male Voice Choir and over 60 members of the YMCA.

Many other institutions would lose much of their memberships before the year was out.

A fund was set up to provide toys for the estimated 800 children who would be without their fathers that Christmas.

During early September a town guard was set up, with its members being drawn from the older men of the town who wanted to do their bit. Over 400 men joined the Great War "Dad's Army".

As many men were leaving Barry to join the services, another group of people were just arriving in the town - the Belgian refugees.

Around 100 Belgians sought shelter in Barry, amongst them the famous painter Emile Claus who lodged at a house at Porthkerry Park.

By the close of 1914 many Barry men had seen action on the continent and across the sea lanes of the world.

The first reported local fatality was that of Royal Navy reservist W Cowling, a married man from Graving Dock Street. He was killed in action serving aboard the cruiser HMS Hawk which was torpedoed in the North Sea on October 15,1914.

When HMS Monmouth was sunk on November 1 at the Battle of Coronel, she took with her five men from Barry.

The first street to feel the full effects of the war was Brook Street.

John Durman, a reservist of the 2nd Battalion Welsh Regiment, of number 37 Brook Street was killed in action on October 29. Just eight days later Bert Clements, who lived at number 30, was killed while serving in the Grenadier Guards.

The saddest Barry story of 1914 concerns the sons of Mr and Mrs Stanley Whitty.

On November 21, Stanley Jnr died of wounds while serving with the 2nd Welsh. On Boxing Day his brother John was killed while serving with the Grenadier Guards, and a third brother was badly wounded and sent home from the front at the end of the year. The war was just a few months old and already one family had given it all it could.

It was a sign of things to come.

Copy supplied by Alun Robinson via Ade Pitman from Barry at War. To find out more visit www.barryatwar.info

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