The railway cottage at Coed-y-Bleiddiau is today empty, in the process of being restored by the Landmark Trust with the intention of it once again becoming a holiday home. Before World War II this isolated cottage was used as a holiday home to a succession of interesting people, including St John Philby, father of the spy Kim Philby who fled to Moscow at the height of the Cold War, and Sir Granville Bantock, the composer and conductor. Another former occupant was the infamous William Joyce, the wartime traitor Lord Haw-Haw. Joyce was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1906 to Irish parents who became naturalised American citizens before returning to their native country. The family moved from Ireland to England in 1922. Joyce applied for and obtained a British passport in 1934. He married his second wife, Margaret, in 1937 and together they founded his National Socialist League, following in the path of his hero Adolf Hitler. By this time MI5 was preparing to detain Joyce in the event of war with Germany, but two days before hostilities began Special Branch detectives who went to arrest him found he had already left for Germany with his wife. Joyce’s sister later claimed that a MI5 agent had tipped him off. Once in Germany, Joyce broadcast to the people of Britain. ‘Germany calling, Germany calling’ was the call sign of the Reichsender Hamburg radio station which broadcast nightly anti-Semitic and propaganda filled news bulletins in an effort to undermine the morale of the British people. Joyce would add authenticity to his broadcast by mentioning things which he could have known about only through the German spy network in Britain, like a particular town square clock having stopped at five o’clock and not been restarted. On one occasion Joyce asked listeners in the Ffestiniog area how the Johnson brothers from the valley at Maentwrog were doing and how many of the five brothers had been killed in the futile war against the superior forces of Adolf Hitler. He talked about Coed- y-Bleiddiau, the cottage beside the Ffestiniog railway in which he had stayed, making it sound almost as if he had been there the previous weekend. When the war ended Joyce was captured and tried for treason in a case, which went all the way to the House of Lords. He claimed that he was not a British subject and therefore could not have committed treason. However, the fact that he held a valid British passport at the time he started his broadcasts torpedoed his defence and he was executed at Wandsworth prison in 1946.
Coed-y-Bleiddiau is also reputed to be the spot where the last wolf in Wales was killed.
Ref: Leslie Walford