North Wales in WWII

 

 

 

Llandudno and the Great Orme

 

The Imperial Hotel in Llandudno was set up in 1872 and records and historical artefacts show that the hotel became the headquarters of the Inland Revenue during World War II.The Inland Revenue moved to Llandudno in 1940 after the Government designated the town a “safe” area.  This led to 5,000 Inland Revenue staff and their families relocating with the requisitioning of over 400 hotels including The Imperial, boarding houses and private residences to provide offices and living accommodation.  One member of the IR staff based at The Imperial was James Callaghan who later became an MP and Prime Minister.“Finance is the fourth arm of defence,” said Chancellor Sir John Simon in his first war budget, stating that extra revenue to pay for the war effort was imperative.The Grand Hotel became the wartime home of two Inland Revenue departments: the Assessments Division and the Companies Registration Office, better known as “Companies House”. During the Second World War, Llandudno also played host to the Royal Artillery’s Coast Artillery School which was transferred from its historic site at Shoeburyness to land owned by the Estate on the Great Orme’s Head. The school occupied a 1 km length of the lower slopes and constructed workshops, stores, searchlight emplacements, as well as Naval and other gun sites. Also on the Great Orme  a  building that had been erected in 1909 as a golf club house and later become the  nine-bedroom Telegraph Hotel for golfers throughout the Second World War  was requisitioned by the RAF and used as a radar station.

 

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Mulberry Harbour Construction Site – Morfa, Conwy

 

The first prototype Mulberry Harbour was assembled at the Morfa near Conway, prior to being tested at Garlieston in Scotland, today the area is part of Conwy Golf Club. The use of Mulberry Harbours was vital to the success of the Day Landings as they allowed thousands of tonnes of vehicles and goods to be put ashore in Normandy each day. They enabled the Allied forces to disembark at a faster rate than was possible directly over the beaches. These artificial harbours were constructed by the Allies in many sections at various sites around the coast of the UK. After D-Day, tugboats towed the harbour components across the Channel before they were assembled off the Normandy coast. Two harbours were built in total: ‘Mulberry A’ was constructed at Omaha Beach and ‘Mulberry B’ at Gold, though they were soon damaged by a storm, and only one harbour (that at Gold Beach, off Arromanches) was kept operational. Each harbour required a vast 140,000 tonnes of concrete to build.

 

 

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Lord Haw-Haw

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

 

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