Valley at War

Of course the past doesn’t have to be distant to be fascinating. Events of the very recent past are just as gripping and their immediacy lends them an added poignancy. To hear tales from those who actually lived them is a real privilege, imparting a tangible sense of the past.

Llandeilo resident Miss Elizabeth Aileen Stephens kindly agreed to share her memories of life in the town and told us of her father’s bravery in the trenches of the 1st World War.

From his remarkable diary, we learn that Sergeant W.O.Stephens, was injured at the 1915 Battle of Loos in Northern France. Miss Stephens tells the tale - “He was injured rescuing an officer at Loos amongst all the mud and gore, although he was wounded himself and as a result he was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal”. He was shipped back to Britain to be nursed in Birmingham before returning to Llandeilo. The citation for the DCM reads “For conspicuous gallantry. Although wounded during the attack, he continued to lead his men until he was obliged to give in from exhaustion, having been again wounded in the enemy’s second line trench”.

Of course, not all history is about courageous acts and derring-do. Sometimes it is the quirkier details of the past that catch the eye. Miss Stephens told us this rather unexpected tale about the 2nd World War experience of Dinefwr’s White Park Cattle; “My brother remembers the cows being painted…because they would have been seen as white, stand out in the dark you see, so they were camouflaged. Then they quarrelled …they didn’t recognize each other!”

Other memories of Llandeilo in the 2nd World War included the use of Newton House as a hospital, where Miss Stephens’s mother was a Red Cross nurse attending to injured soldiers. Black Nissen huts were built by the Americans, although they never actually got used as hospitals, they became temporary accommodation for families made homeless during the bombing raids on Swansea.