Porthcawl at War
The following pages tell the story of a town; and how its residents lived through a period of great personal suffering and resolve.
PORTHCAWL NEWS JULY 1914
Porthcawl’s summer continued with confidence. Mention of a foreign Archduke assassinated, somewhere in the Balkans the month before, held little significance for this thriving town.
In early July, the success that Porthcawl had been enjoying, as a fashionable resort, was affirmed with the arrival of French and Belgium tourism delegates. Harmonious renderings of the ‘Marseillaise’, in Welsh, could be heard in John Street, as the foreign guests enjoyed their lunch at the Porthcawl Hotel. The visitors, who hailed from Mons, Ghent, Brussels and Paris, wished to forge links with “the healthiest resort in Wales.” (Porthcawl News 1914).
Elsewhere, the Pavilion, in Highfield Avenue, re-opened after refurbishment, with Mr. Gerrald Darrell, the manager, promising some attractive fare for the coming season, including the celebrated Dan Leno Jr. ; whilst the Pavilion Orchestra began their summer season of concerts in the bandstand .
The G.W.R had finally agreed to begin filling in the inner dock; and a drinking fountain was proposed for the front, looking down John Street, in honour of ‘Queen Alexandra .’ However, all did not favour it, as it was felt that the £15 collected would be better spent on a drinking trough for horses.
The Regiments may well have agreed, as an increased number of regiments held their training camps at Porthcawl that July. The 3rd Battalion Welsh Regiment, The 3rd Battalion Cheshire Regiment, The 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, The Glamorgan Yeomanry, The Mounted R.A.M.C, Royal Horse Artillery, The South Wales Field Ambulance and Red Cross Nurses . Was this heightened influx of military might any indication of an impending conflict?
Austria – Hungary declared war on Serbia on 28th July followed by Russian mobilization. On 1st August, whilst Porthcawl’s townsfolk and visitors enjoyed the Bank Holiday, including Henry Studt’s New Jungle Scenic Railway, steamer excursions, sea-bathing and concerts at the Coliseum, Germany declared war on Russia.
The day before, on 31st July, the 3rd Royal Welsh Fusiliers had already left Porthcawl, as they were ordered to Pembroke Dock to defend Milford Haven; thus releasing the Border Regiment, who was ordered to Scotland. Britain was beginning to mobilize. Porthcawl was soon to witness a great change.
The speed trials at Rest Bay attracted 1000 motor machines of all kinds and P&A Campbell steamers operated a full programme of excursions to Weston-Super-Mare, Mumbles and Ilfracombe. The Nottage Unitarian Sunday School ,too , enjoyed an outing to the Mumbles by train.
Meanwhile, the Porthcawl Urban District Council continued to hold discussions with the ‘Porthcawl Gas Company’ over its purchase, in order to meet the rapidly growing demand for gas. Besides a growing residential population, it was estimated that on a particularly fine day in the summer, Porthcawl could expect over 7000 visitors. The lack of seats available for visitors between the Esplanade and Newton, was resolved; and following the numerous influx of cars that summer, road surfaces required such attention that a steamroller was purchased for the town.
In the pursuit of attracting even more tourists, the council invited the eminent aviator Henri Salmet, in his Bleriot Monoplane, to visit the town and sent a request to the War Office for a temporary warship. “ If Ilfracombe can have three, why can’t we have at least one?” (Porthcawl News July 1914)