Thursday, 19 December 2013

The final lap...

All stories now sorted, chapters defined and intro written. Its now just down to a final edit, indexing, choosing the images (about 200 of them) and writing the captions. Not counting at present but in excess of 80,000 words.

A writer's lot is not (always) a happy one...its been a hard, but enjoyable, slog. Almost ready to send off the final draft to the publisher by 6 January 2014 for publication in October 2014.

'Swansea in the Great War'...out next year!

Sunday, 8 December 2013

DORA...its not a lady!

DORA was the Defence of the Realm Act 1914 (with a few subsequent amendments).

It gave the Government a lot of powers over the lives of the citizens of Britain. Public, factory, and shop etc. lighting in some parts of the country had to be dimmed to minimise the risk of German Zeppelin airships using the lights as a guide as to where to drop their bombs. It was also forbidden to sketch in some parts of Swansea - the docks and Mumbles being examples. One chap was arrested at Mumbles when it was realised that he'd been drawing the fort...he might be a spy!

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

'Swansea in the Great War' - chapters decided upon...

Now up to about 60,000 words (and I've got lots of illustrations, too) on 'Swansea in the Great War' which will be published in October 2014 and the chapter topics have been decided on as well.

They are (apart from the usual acknowledgements, introduction etc.,):

Recruiting and Conscientious Objection; The Treatment of Foreign Aliens; Medical Services in Swansea; The effect of the War on Industry; The Problem of Food Supply; Women and the War; Relief Efforts for those at Home or at the Front; Tales from the Front (Swansea's two VC winners; other short stories on those who served on land, on sea or in the air); Swansea's Foreign Legion; The War According to Captain Blackadder; Remembrance.

Now in the final stages of writing and correcting.

Monday, 25 November 2013

Swansea airmen in the Great War

Just writing a short chapter on the above. Several Swansea men downed (and killed) by enemy action or air accident including one man - who had been at the front for exactly one week - who had the misfortune to run into 'The Red Baron', Germany's famous fighter ace who had already claimed over 40 'kills'. There could, sadly, be only be one outcome from that encounter...

Monday, 18 November 2013

Publication date agreed!

I am now up to about 60,000 words written on 'Swansea in the Great War' and still a little way to go. Loads of illustrations, too.

The publisher plans to publish the finished work on 1 October 2014.

So back to the writing - I have to complete the draft by early January 2014...

Thursday, 7 November 2013

Swansea's foreign legion...

...not exactly. But a surprising number of lads who used to live in Swansea came back to fight for the 'old country'. They came from overseas with Canadian, Australian, South African, Canadian and American units. Not spotted any New Zealanders as yet. A number paid the ultimate price for their patriotism...

A number of them will have their stories told in 'Swansea in the Great War'.

Friday, 1 November 2013

Belgian refugees in Swansea, 1914

Writing about the above at present. Great welcome by the people of Swansea for over 700 Belgian refugees who arrived at Swansea having fled their native country due to the German invasion. 

Sunday, 27 October 2013

Industry in Swansea during the Great War

Currently writing about the effect on the Swansea docks of restricted trade, the U-Boat menace and industrial unrest as prices rise faster than wages. Also about the munitions factories that were set up in the South Wales area.

Several female Swansea munitions workers (known as 'munitionettes' or 'canaries' since their skin often turned yellow due the the chemicals handled in armaments production) were killed in explosions at these works.

Wednesday, 16 October 2013

Recruiting and conscientious objection

Just completing a chapter on the above for the book. Writing up one objector who wouldn't fight but was prepared to do civilian work under the direction of the Government; another who joined a Friends Ambulance unit - he'd help the wounded but not fight; and one who refused to fight or do other work and so ended up in Wormwood Scrubs...

Sunday, 13 October 2013

The writing continues....

Refreshed after two weeks in sunny Crete I have now written about 25,000 words out of a target of 35,000 for my forthcoming book 'Swansea in the Great War' (Pen and Sword Books, 2014).

I've now added chapters on food rationing in Swansea 1914-18, medical services and the role of women. About to start a hefty chapter on recruitment and the treatment of conscientious objectors. 

Friday, 13 September 2013

Aliens in Swansea!

No, its not a sci-fi alarm.

Rather, its about what happened to enemy 'aliens' (basically foreigners) who happened to be in Swansea when war broke out in 1914. Assuming they were, e.g. German or Austrian, they would probably be regarded as potential enemies and would be subject to internment for the duration of hostilities.

Typically they were sent to a camp on the Isle of Man and remained there for, in some cases, as long as 5 years. Carl Oscar Roth was one such man having been born in Dresden but working in Swansea in 1914 (he had his own sausage skin making business). Off he went to the camp...

Wednesday, 4 September 2013

Swansea in the Great War

I have now started writing 'Swansea in the Great War' and have to get the work to Pen and Sword Books by 30 November 2013 (for publication late 2014).

I've completed about 8,000 words (out of a target of 35,000) in the last 2 weeks so am on target though these things always take longer than planned!

So far I've written about a Swansea man at the Battle of Coronel, one on board a Q-Ship (trapping U-Boats), winning a VC (William Fuller) as well as the Englishman (living in Swansea) who joined the Swansea Battalion as a private, ended up as a captain, and won a Military Cross and a Distinguished Service Order for his bravery. Oh, and he ended up as a prisoner of war and got outside the prison camp walls on two occasions (but was recaptured), turning back on a third attempt after he risked being shot!  

William Fuller VC

With a little bit of luck I shall be providing an interview to BBC Radio on how William Fuller won his VC. I've just written 2,600 words on the man and his exploits for my 2014 book 'Swansea in the Great War'. That said the BBC slot is only about 4 minutes long so some word reduction will be required!

Media interest in 1914-1918 is growing...

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Swansea VCs of the Great War

Interesting to see that the Government intends providing the birth place of every Great War VC winner with a memorial paving stone in remembrance of the winnner.

In the case of Swansea there is, of course, William Fuller VC and George Prowse VC. Fuller VC lived in the town until his death in 1974 and is buried in a local cemetery. Prowse VC was killed in action and his body lost in the subsequent fighting. His widow remained in Swansea until at least the late 1920s.

Under the Government scheme neither man will be remembered in Swansea as both were born elsewhere. It is very difficult to determine exactly which town 'owns' particular VC winners as people frequently 'moved around' so I suppose place of birth is pretty definite, even if the man subsequently lived elsewhere. 

Monday, 19 August 2013

Let the writing commence...

The research for 'Swansea in the Great War' is about 95% complete and I'll be starting the writing this evening while mopping up the odd bit of outstanding research as I go along. Just the 35,000 words to go then!

The book will cover the home front e.g. recruitment, conscientious objection, fund raising for soldiers comforts, hospitals and nurses, the effect of the war on industry, the treatment of aliens, Belgian refugees etc. It will also contain vignettes from the front whether on land, sea or in the air as experienced by the men (and women) of Swansea.

Interested? The book should be out in autumn 2014 and if you wish to express a possible interest (no obligation, of course) add a comment here ideally with an e-mail address and I'll add you to the update list.

Bernard Lewis

Tuesday, 30 July 2013

Remembrance in Swansea

At the end of the Great War Swansea, in common with every town and city in Britain, had a large number of its soldiers and airmen lying in a foreign field while most of its lost mariners rested in the deep, dark bosom of the ocean.

With no grave for a family to visit it was the town or village war memorial that acted as a focal point for remembrance. Ernest Morgan, the Borough Architect at Swansea Corporation, designed the cenotaph that now stands on the foreshore at Swansea, borrowing from the work of Edwin Lutyens and his cenotaph in London.

The foundation stone of the cenotaph at Swansea was laid by none other than Field Marshall Douglas Haig in 1922. The FM also received the freedom of the Borough during his visit. The work was officially unveiled a year later by Admiral of the Fleet Doveton-Sturdee, victor of the Battle of the Falklands, a forerunner of the 1982 conflict.  Since then the cenotaph has seen almost a century of remembrance, the ceremonies being held in November of every year.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Food control in the Great War

Why would you need to control food? Well, the success of the German U-Boat campaign in sinking Allied shipping in 1917/18 meant that food, as well as other essentials that were imported, were in rather short supply.

The situation became so serious that Swansea Corporation set up a Food Control Committee to oversee the delivery and subsequent distribution of foodstuffs to the Swansea public. There was also a move to increase the number of vegetable allotment plots. The raising of rabbits as food was also encouraged.

There were frequent food queues and butter and sugar were also regularly in short supply...

Thursday, 18 July 2013

Did German U-Boats ever come to Swansea?

Well yes, they did but not during the war. They arrived (5 or so of them) for break-up at Swansea after the end of the war. As part of the Armistice agreement the Germans had to surrender numerous surface vessels and U-Boats to the Allied powers.

The U-Boats were estimated to have a scrap value of a few thousand pounds. The German High Seas Fleet (battleships, cruisers etc.) was accepted into the British base at Scapa Flow and, as discussions regarding its fate continued, the German sailors took the initiative and scuttled them, rather than have them fall into Allied hands.

The U-Boats were simply surrendered and  then broken up. They had played an important role in German naval strategy and, at one point, it looked as if their success in sinking Allied shipping might force Britain to the negotiating table before the country was starved into of the aims of the British Passchendaele Offensive in 1917 had been to clear the Belgian coast of Germans so preventing German submarines from operating against the shipping lines.

Wednesday, 17 July 2013

How to (try and) avoid being conscripted...

So, you don't fancy a spell in the front-line trenches but have no obvious answer to avoiding your call up for the Army. What do you do?

One enterprising chap in Swansea tried taking a drug that temporarily affected the heart in such a way that he would fail his army medical examination. The ploy failed, however, and he found himself in court to account for his unpatriotic actions (and yes, most people were patriotic in those far off days...)

The vast majority went when called, of course, judging the Great War to be a just war and the Allied cause to be one that was worth fighting for.

Thursday, 11 July 2013

The hard yards...

Spent a few hours today 'plodding' through the Cambrian newspaper (on microfilm) for 1918-19. Lots of information on Great War issues as they affected Swansea. The overall research is now almost (not quite) complete and I plan to start the writing for 'Swansea in the Great War' in August 2013, with a finish date of 30 November 2013.

Publication should then be autumn 2014. A long, long trail a winding...

#For the Yanks are coming...#

Summer 1918 and Swansea was enervated by the disembarkation of almost 2,000 'Doughboys'  in the town - part of the growing American Expeditionary Force. Though the AEF was a very welcome addition to the Allied cause it should be noted that the bulk of the fighting between August and November 1918 would fall on the British and Commonwealth forces. And it was a force that was not found wanting as the Germans were pushed out of France and Belgium after 4 long and hard years...

Tuesday, 9 July 2013

Lions led by donkeys?

Its an old cliche that the Great War generals were all useless. Modern study is showing that, as always, the picture is more shades of grey than simple black and white.

There were 'good', 'bad' and just plain 'unlucky' generals in the Great War, as there were in other wars. The Second World War gave us the disaster of France 1940, the loss of Crete, the fall of Singapore and the heroic failure at Arnhem to name but a few. Even in the 1982 Falklands War we had the Welsh Guards left as sitting ducks for the Argentinian air force. The Great War didn't have a monopoly on poor leadership though that is not, of course, in any way to minimise the resulting tragedies for families at home.

Many regard Field Marshall Haig as the prime 'butcher' of the Great War although a look at the works of John Terraine and  Gary Sheffield (amongst others) will give a fuller picture of the man, his successes and failures. Between August 1918 and the November 1918 Armistice he led the British Army to its greatest ever successes in the field.

And what did Swansea think of Haig in the post war period? He was awarded the freedom of the Borough of Swansea in the early 1920s and also laid the foundation stone of the cenotaph on Mumbles Road. He was thus clearly well thought of in the immediate aftermath of the war, and justly so in my opinion.

There will be more on this in my forthcoming book. 

Friday, 5 July 2013

Swansea's foreign legion..

It must be remembered that a large number of Swansea lads had emigrated prior to the outbreak of the Great War. A good number of them returned to join the fray - with the Australian Imperial Force, or the Canadian and South African contingents, for example.

They fought - and often died - for the 'old country', paying poignant tribute to what now seem to be old fashioned attitudes and virtues such as 'duty', 'patriotism' and 'service' in the cause of one's country.

Several will feature in my book; their sacrifice must not be forgotten.

Monday, 24 June 2013

Nursing on the Front line

Recently stumbled across the diary of a Swansea nurse that was serialised in a local newspaper during the Great War. She was nursing wounded Serbian soldiers (they were on our side!) when the Austrian army over-ran her base and captured her and a number of other medical staff.

After a series of hardships she was eventually released into the care of the Swiss, Switzerland then being a neutral country.

I've actually managed to make contact with the nurse's family and am hoping to receive some photographs in the near future. Another story for the book!

Thursday, 20 June 2013

'Swansea in the Great War' - book cover agreed!

Here is the cover of my forthcoming (2014) book. The back page blurb is yet to be agreed.

Thursday, 13 June 2013

Book cover for 'Swansea in the Great War' approved...

I approved the book cover design as devised by Pen and Sword Books today.

Its a photograph of High Street with the (now gone) Cameron Hotel to the fore. Above this is a small montage of Great War scenes, depicting the war on land, sea and in the air.

Quite neat and I'm very pleased with it. Just got to write the book 30 November 2013!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

Plodding through the 1916 press...

Researching tomorrow and looking at the Cambrian newspaper for 1916. Seeing what I can pick up from the microfilmed papers that will help inform my forthcoming book on Swansea in the Great War.

This past of the 'job' is a hard, slow plod...but it has to be done!

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Writing 'Swansea in the Great War'...

So, how long does it take to write a factual book on Great War Swansea?

Not as long as it takes to research it!

I'm allowing three months (part-time) to complete the book (about 35,000 words plus numerous images) between September and November this year. But I've been researching it in the local archive service and library since January 2013. At least five hours a week and sometimes more plus 'armchair' research via the web.

I've also made some appeals for info and have visited people to see what they hold as well as receiving info via e-mail and post.

Still some way to go but well on target!

Thursday, 23 May 2013

Conscientious Objectors (COs) - how were they picked up?

In 1916 all eligible men were deemed to have enlisted under the Military Service Act. It was then just a case of waiting for your call-up papers. But what if you were a CO?

Most COs simply ignored the papers and then, assuming they didn't hide themselves away, they would eventually get a visit from the local bobby (unlike the scene in the recent TV drama 'The Village' where two Military Policemen turned up to grab a chap who had not rejoined his unit).

The local bobby would arrest you and bring you before the local magistrates. Assuming it was proven that you had received and ignored your call-up papers you would normally be remanded in custody while awaiting a military escort.

After that you would be taken to a barracks, usually ordered to put on a uniform and, if you refused, you would be subjected to a court martial as you were now considered to be subject to military law. A prison sentence would usually follow and on release frequently the same process would kick in again...

Thursday, 16 May 2013

Swansea Fishing Fleet

Swansea was a major port when war broke out in 2014. So what happened to the Swansea fishing fleet during the war?

A large part of the fleet was requisitioned by the Admiralty and then used as a mine-sweeping force. Several were sunk by enemy mines or U-boats. 

Friday, 10 May 2013

If you are looking at these blog posts why not post a simple 'hello' (or make a comment/ask a question) so I know that I'm not talking into an empty cyber-space! 
Looked today at Swansea shipping records during the Great War in the West Glamorgan Archive Service. Needs a bit more work to get nearer a true total but I have already identified over 20 Swansea-registered ships which were sunk by enemy submarines or mines.

Other sources have given me the submarines involved in each sinking, plus their commanders' names and eventual fate (U-Boat losses were very heavy). 

Wednesday, 8 May 2013

Nationally there were over 16,000 conscientious objectors in World War I. A number of them came from Swansea and one of them died shortly after his release from prison. 

Monday, 6 May 2013

The Swansea Battalion left for France in December 1915 and didn't return to the UK until after the Armistice. Took part in the battles on the Somme (1916) and Passchendaele (1917). Plus the final battles of 1918 - its last casualty was on 7 November - 4 days before the armistice.

Sunday, 5 May 2013

Who was the driving force behind the formation of the Swansea Battalion? The mayor of the time, Thomas Taliesyn Corker. He was a Neath man but with business interests in the town of Swansea.

He appealed for volunteers for a town battalion in August 1914 and eventually over a 1,000 men joined up (many others in the town joined other units).

Frank Corker was the mayor's son and he joined up and served in the Swansea Battalion. Frank went missing in action during a raid on the German trenches in June 1916. He was never seen again. His father had pre-deceased him by dying (some said of the strain of his war-time work) in March 1916.

Saturday, 4 May 2013

On 10 July 1916 the Swansea Battalion, in conjunction with other units of the Welsh Division, attacked Mametz Wood on the Somme. Just nine days after the start of the 1916 Somme campaign - which saw the British army suffer 60,000 casualties including 19,000 killed on 1 July 1916 - the Swansea Battalion left the trenches and advanced on the wood which was hidden by the dust and smoke of a heavy artillery barrage.

The Swansea Battalion committed 676 men to the attack on Mametz Wood. When the losses were counted several days later (the wood having then been captured) there were around 100 Swansea Battalion men killed and 200+ wounded.

As an officer of the battalion said after the war ' The battalion did a great many things during the war, but the hardest thing it did was attack Mametz Wood'. 

Thursday, 2 May 2013

I'm currently (May 2013) researching for a factual book to be published in 2014 - 'Swansea in the Great War'. The publishers will be Pen and Sword Books of Barnsley.

My other books are:

Swansea and the Workhouse - the Poor Law in 19th Century Swansea. 2003.

Swansea Pals - a history of the 14th (Service) Battalion, the Welsh Regiment in the Great War. 2004.

Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths Around Swansea. 2009.

Spent a couple of hours in the local archive office today, looking at various records including some material on a Swansea man who served on the front line with a 'Friends Ambulance Unit' - a medical unit made up of men who did not believe in fighting but wanted to 'do their bit'.

He actually assisted some French army units and received a  bravery award for helping the wounded while under fire. 

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Got some information about Swansea and its people in the Great War? Please get in touch and let me know.

It might get into my forthcoming book 'Swansea in the Great War', to be published by Pen and Sword Books in late 2014, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the Great War.

Bernard Lewis
Just received 74 pages of records from a chum who was able to visit the National Archives at Kew. Relating to a 'Q-Ship' in World War I on which served a Swansea man. Basically a Q-Ship was a disguised tramp steamer that would unveil guns once a German submarine surfaced for an 'easy' kill.

Sadly, the man I am looking at drowned in an accident when a lifeboat was lowered to make the U-Boat commander think the ship was being abandoned thus encouraging the sub to surface.

Such are the awful chances of war...

Bernard Lewis

Tuesday, 30 April 2013

So, how many lads with a Swansea link won Victoria Crosses in World War I? Answer: two.

William Fuller. Survived the war.
George Prowse. Didn't survive the war.

Brave men, indeed.

Bernard Lewis

Monday, 29 April 2013

'Swansea Pals' was published in 2004. It sold out in hardback within 12 months (about 800 copies - its NOT JK Rowling!). It also sold well in paperback.

With the approach of the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I interest in the media seems to be growing. In the past 9 months I've had more approaches from TV companies etc. about the Swansea Pals book than in the previous 9 years.

I understand that 3 Welsh TV production companies have used the 'Swansea Pals' book as the background to their 'pitches' to BBC Wales for documentaries to be broadcast in 2104. There are other companies with other themes also pitching, so it is by no way guaranteed that the book will eventually be 'converted' into a TV programme. But I should have some news in the next month or so...

The BBC were actually looking for 'pitches' on any one of three topics - Wales and the Great War; Dylan Thomas; obesity.

Fingers crossed we get some good news...

Bernard Lewis 
I gave an interview today to Mumbles Community Radio about my books: Swansea and the Workhouse; Swansea Pals; and Foul Deeds and Suspicious Deaths Around Swansea.

I also appealed for information from any listeners who had information on aspects of Swansea in the Great War - my forthcoming book (publication autumn 2014).

I rounded off the day with a visit to a lady who had some relevant a visit to Verdis in Mumbles for the customary ice cream and coffee!!

Got any information on Swansea in the Great War? Please get in touch!

Bernard Lewis 

I'm Bernard Lewis, author of 'Swansea Pals', the Swansea Battalion in the Great War.

I'm currently researching on a broader theme - 'Swansea in the Great War' - following a writing commission from Pen and Sword Books. This book will be published in autumn 2014, the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of World War I.

If you have any information on Swansea in the Great War, whether by way of a family member who served in the armed forces, or someone who helped in some capacity on the Home Front I'd be pleased to hear from you.

I am interested in those with a strong Swansea link who served in the armed forces but also those who worked in munitions, or maybe women who took jobs that were previously typically taken by men. The experience of conscientious objectors is also of interest.

I particularly need photographs, letters, diaries or memoirs of those who played a part in Swansea in the Great War.

If you can help or would like to (eventually) buy a copy of the book, please get in touch!

Bernard Lewis
29 April 2013.