Cymdeithas Hanes Resolfen History Society

A web log for the Resolven History Society which publishes articles and stories related to Resolven and the immediate surroundings.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Local Defence Volunteers

In this week of remembrance it is fitting that this item is included by Mr Colin Evans regarding the role of the Home Guard in Resolven during the Second World War.

The Home Guard section of Resolven – World War Two 1939-45

The Resolven History Society invited Dr Jonathan Skidmore to speak in our December meeting of 2011. He was gathering information about the residents of Resolven, Seven Sisters and Neath who were killed during the World Wars. He indicated that he was gathering information about relatives of those places in order to compile the events, stories  places  and possible letters received by relatives from those serving in the Army, Royal Navy, Merchant Navy, Royal Air Force , Women’s Army Nursing Brigade, Royal Observer Corps and the Home Guard.

 Picture taken outside the Angel Inn in Pontneddfechan

In conversation with one of the members of the Society, Hazel Wessendorf ( Mrs Jones), she was able to give me a photograph of the Home Guard in Resolven or more correctly the LOCAL DEFENCE VOLUNTEERS. Hazel can remember her mother then living at 16 Lyon’s Place, recounting the tale about an American soldier visiting her parents’ home. She told Hazel that the American had been on manoeuvers at Melincwrt waterfall and along the banks of the Melincwrt brook. Hazel’s father Mr Alfred Wessendorf was a coalminer during 1939 and also became a member of the Home Guard. Later he joined the RAF in 1940 and served until 1945. He served with the RAF Regiment at Fylde and was also stationed at RAF Bridgnorth in Shropshire. He was also stationed at the RAF gunnery on the Isle of Man, where he worked as a gunnery instructor for the Lancaster bomber crews.

Another member of the History Society asked Mr Conway Rogers of Heol Herbert if he had any photographs of his grandfather Mr Gomer Newbury of 32, Yeo Street. He was a serving soldier in the Home Guard because it is stated in “Resolfen Recalled”, in a piece on the “Roll of Honour” where it names residents of Clyne, Melyn Court and Resolven who died while serving with both civil defence and the Home Guard. The report states that Private Gomer Newbury of 32, Yeo Street had died after taking part in a Home Guard drill competition in Neath on the 2nd of May 1943. He was 45 years of age and left a widow, son and daughter. Mr Conway Rogers recalls his mother telling him of his grandfather’s fate but he does not have any letters, papers or badges from his grandfather’s uniform. Conway was also unable to verify the identity of any of the soldiers in the photograph of Resolven Home Gurad which was kindly given to me by Hazel Wessendorf.

                                                                                 J C Evans (29.8.2013)

The history of Brecon Cathedral

November Meeting : Geoffrey Marshall – the history of Brecon Cathedral

In the continued absence of a chairman, Trefor Jones introduced Mr Marshall and explained the rather unusual circumstances by which the Right Reverend Marshall of Brecon Cathedral had been invited to speak to Resolfen History Society. It appears that the contact was made during the British and Irish Lions tour to Australia in July, when he had sat next to a chorister during a concert in Sydney Town Hall and found that he was churchwarden at Brecon Cathedral. Being ever vigilant our Secretary invited him to speak to the Society, he declined but suggested the Rev. Marshall as a better alternative.

Geoffrey Marshall began his talk by explaining that he had been born in north Wales but had spent his formative years in Derby, following a spell as Vicar of Wrexham he had gained his post at Brecon some six years ago. His talk commenced by showing slides of the present day work of the cathedral, his message being that it was far from being a museum. The slides showed links with local organizations, festivals and royal visitors, and the Dean’s infectious sense of humour was evident throughout.

It appears that Brecon Cathedral owes its existence to the disestablishment of the Church in Wales in 1920 when six cathedrals were created instead of the former four. The diocese of Brecon and Swansea was established and centred on the newly created City of Brecon, with the Church of St John as the cathedral. Swansea was a much bigger town of course, but did not receive its city status until 1969.

As with many other churches in Wales, the original building was established by the Normans. The castle at Brecon was built in 1093 at the confluence of the Usk and Honddu by the illegitimate god son of William the Conqueror, Bernard de Neufmarche .  A monastery, the Benedictine Priory of St. John the Evangelist  was established shortly afterwards and was housed in what is now the cathedral building. Its military history, including the claim to have supplied most of the Welsh archers at Agincourt, meant that Brecon is the only and oldest walled cathedral in Wales and is still able to be locked at night. The monastery was disestablished in 1538 by Henry VIII.

Geoffrey Marshall then took the attentive audience on a tour of the building. The tithe barn, almoner’s house and the internal parts of the building were discussed in great detail.  He explained that every cathedral must have a “cathedra” or throne though the present one is not used very often. Some of the curiosities of the building were then explored including a cresset stone to illuminate the medieval building with candles and a font with Latin inscription which may date from the ninth century and be Celtic in origin. A more modern feature is the nine foot bronze cross modeled on driftwood from Gower. 

Brecon’s connection with the military continues to this day and it remains one of the garrisons of the British Army in Wales and is the home of the Gurkhas. Its association with the gallant defence of Rorke’s Drift in 1879 in the Zulu war, is commemorated by “a ring of immortel”, donated by Queen Victoria to note the 11 VCs achieved in the famous battle.

In conclusion, Geoffrey Marshall turned his attention to the various famous persons buried in the confines of the cathedral. The building contains some medieval graves with no inscriptions, the oldest stone statues and the grave of Thomas Coke a contemporary of Wesley who was instrumental in the spread of Methodism in America.

Mr Phylip Jones thanked the Right Reverend Marshall for a highly enjoyable and memorable talk.