My name is Ben Johnson
and I live in Merseyside now. During World War 2, I lived in
Liverpool. I have a brother David who is two years younger than me. I was
about 11 years old at the time and for the first eighteen months or so of
the war, I lived at home with my mum and dad and brother David.
Dafydd (David) Gwilym
(Foel) and Ben.
Things became really
bad in Liverpool at that time. We were being bombed by German Aeroplanes,
people were being killed and their homes completely wrecked. My mum and
dad were very frightened for our safety, so they decided to have David and
me with a lot more children go on evacuation to a safe area. That is how I
came to live in Rhiw in the Llyn Peninsula.
I must say we had
never been away from home before not even for one night, so this parting
from our parents was very traumatic to say the least. You must remember,
if you can that travelling in those days sixty years or so ago was not
like it is today. To go to Wales seemed like going to the moon. Because it
took so long and ordinary working class people did not have motorcars like
When we arrived in
Rhiw we were taken to the village school where the people who were going
to house and look after the evacuees were assembled.
Their job was to speak
to us and then choose the children whom they thought would settle in their
homes with them.
Mrs Jones, Llyshyfryd
Mrs Jones of Llys
Hyfryd chose my brother and me. Mrs Jones who asked us to call her Nain
was with her daughter in law who we called Mattie, Mattie lived in her own
bungalow and was more fluent in speaking English so it was Auntie Mattie
who did the negotiating with us. As far as I can remember there were about
20 or 25 evacuees who came to Rhiw and we didn’t know one another because
we came from different schools in Liverpool. We had an English teacher
from a Liverpool school whom I didn’t know either but she was very nice,
her name was Miss Henderson.
Eventually we started
to settle in to life in Rhiw, and believe me what a contrast to life in a
Mrs Jones had four
sons Griffith John, Will, Idwal and Emlyn he was in the army and was the
only one who was not married.
There was an organ and
piano in Llyshyfryd and when Emlyn came home on leave he used to play for
us and we would sing along to the music, that was where my love of singing
Emlyn had lovely wavy
hair he would put Brylcreem on it looking smart and he would let us have
some to put on our hair I used to think it would give me nice wavy hair
Next to Llyshyfryd was
a small, corrugated hut where a butcher (Dyn cig) used to come once or
twice a week to sell his meat.
David is now known as
Dafydd, Auntie Mattie was Griff John’s wife they had two children at the
time Gwilym and Mair, Gwilym was about four years younger than me, Mair
was about three years of age.
We used to go to
Auntie Mattie’s bungalow quite a lot it was on a hill, and, looking down
you could see Hell’s Mouth (Porth Neigwl). There was a sort of buoy (bwi)
which was anchored in the middle of Porth Neigwl and R.A.F. Blenheim
Bombers (aeroplanes) would come and drop bombs on this buoy (bwi) using it
for target practice.
There is a run of
rocks looking down on Rhiw where we went to play and also to collect
blackberries for Nain to make pies with.
We learned to grow
potatoes, carrots, onions, etc in our garden, which we really enjoyed, we
also had two hens whom we named Jenny and Lizzie those were the names of
my mother and her sister at home in Liverpool, we thought it was quite
clever to do that.
Rhiw in the 1940's
There wasn’t any
electricity or running water in Rhiw, we had paraffin oil lamps for our
lights and had to catch the rainwater in big barrels for washing with. For
drinking water we went to a well (Ffynnon) with buckets and carried water
home and put it in a big store vessel (llestr) with a lid on top.
I used to go to a farm
to see the farmer Hugh Jones (Cadwgan) and help him milk his cows and take
his horse called (Twm) to the fields and plough the ground. I loved to do
We also would drink
buttermilk (llaethenwyn), that took some getting used to, but eventually I
learned to like it.
In Rhiw we had a
village school, a post office and a shop, which was run by Robert Griffith
and his wife.
There was also ‘Shop
Newydd’ which was run by Mrs Williams, her husband, Mr Williams used to go
catching rabbits with his dog and when he came back from his exploits he
would have the rabbits he had caught hanging from his walking stick with
the stick resting on his shoulder.
On the other side of
the village was the Sugar Loaf hill (Pen Clip) we went to play up there as
well and helped the farmer set fire to the gorse bushes. A few days later
we would go with a sack and collect the wood branches that were left
because they were excellent for starting the fire in the grate. We used to
go fishing in Porth Neigwl with Griff John and Idwal in their fishing
boat, in those days they had to row the boat out into the bay as there
wasn’t any engine on it, it was hard going. I was not a good sailor, I was
always seasick but Dafydd was fine it didn’t affect him.
There was a bus that
used to come from Pwllheli twice a week to take the people to town to do
Llyshyfryd is a
detached house, one side there was Ty’r Ysgol where Mr Williams the school
headmaster lived and on the other side over the hedge lived Mary Tyddyn
Morthwyl. Mary was a strange woman who was very strong and looked after
her pigs and hens. When we were in the garden and she was feeding her hens
she would look over the hedge and in a big loud voice shout ‘Helo Boys
Bach’ she would frighten us sometimes when she did that, but eventually we
became used to her and settled in to living life in Wales a country I got
to know and love.
I do hope I have given
you a little bit of insight as to what life was like for two English boys
who came to live in your beautiful country. My only regret is that I
didn’t stay in Wales and become an adopted Welshman. I have such happy
memories of that period in my life that I know I will never forget my
were written by Ben Johnson for a school project on the war that Elin Morris did a few years ago.
Elin is the grand daughter of Mrs Ray Jones,