The Human Side of History
Reaching back over 900 years, you will get a glimpse into the lives of ordinary and extraordinary folk who left their mark on this county, further afield or on the dusty pages of buried records. Read tales of heroes, villains, artists, poets, paupers, and even ghosts. From ghoulish to bawdy and everything in-between, these true stories will not only educate but move and delight as no history lesson ever can.
The material included does not focus solely on Haverfordwest and includes material that has links to my heritage and includes miscellaneous writing pieces, most but not all of which are allied to historical matters.
Here are just a few of the intriguing stories:
On a wall in the Mayor’s Parlour in Picton House, Haverfordwest, is a framed mixture of certificates and letters relevant to the American 28th (Infantry) Division. Here’s why.
As the build up for D Day, 6th June 1944, progressed, so this country became inundated with American soldiers destined to become part of the biggest amphibious invasion force in history. Pembrokeshire was not excluded and for six months, beginning in late September 1943, became home to part of the 28th Infantry Division. Towns in Pembrokeshire, and further afield across south Wales, became the scene of columns of marching American soldiers.
In 1415 the battle of Agincourt was fought. It has come to represent one of the heritage events in the history of this country along with Trafalgar and Waterloo. The date of the 25th October is St Crispin’s Day, patron saint of leather workers, who was one of two men (the other was St Crispinian) tortured and executed by the Romans on that day in the 3rd century and later canonised.
Despite the remarkable patriotic feeling when remembering Agincourt, largely due to Shakespeare, Henry was an extremely cruel man even by the standards of the time.
I have delayed writing anything about The Assembly Rooms in Haverfordwest because there is an absence of any meaningful documentation relating to the early years of the life of this building. The Blue Plaque on the wall outside, placed there many years ago by The Civic Society, suggests that it was built in the early part of the 18th century, which I shouldn’t really cast any doubt on as an executive member, but there are just ever so slight – dare I say it – doubts as to how old this building might be.
It’s a pity, and an irony, that so little should be known about this place because of all of the buildings in the town, this one was for many years, the absolute centre of upper strata social life of the county.
WW2 memories relevant to the war in the air have recently been rightly focused on The Battle of Britain, but there were other theatres. Here’s a remarkable tale that I want to tell you.
Bill Thomas was born near Clarbeston Road in 1924. He left school at fourteen to work in an office at James Williams of Narberth. At the age of seventeen he joined the Air Training Corps and then the RAF at eighteen.
The loss of every life in war is a tragedy; each one has its own story that ripples out and affects huge numbers. Ever present enormous casualty statistics can sometimes inure readers to the personal elements, but when emotive documentation survives it comes home with a jolt...especially when it is someone of your own close family.
I never knew my grandfather, James Gambold; he died before I was born as a result of injuries sustained at the battle of Ypres during the First World War. And neither did I ever meet his brother, my great uncle, John Henry Gambold.
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