University of Oxford
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Walter Powell, Gwynedd Powell, Jack Edwards, Auxiliary Fire Service AFS

online resource
posted on 2024-06-05, 18:59 authored by Their Finest Hour Project Team

On the British Film Institute website there's an archive newsreel called "Armistice Day - Llandrindod Wells" that they think is 1939. As well as uniformed services for home defence, and nurses, and the like, there are masses of men and women not in uniform parading. They're wearing flat caps and suits with rows of medals. At around 59 seconds, you can see my Dad Walter Harold Powell and a rank behind him, my father-in-law Jack George Edwards. Both veterans of the First World War, and maybe they knew each other but they probably didn't mix too much until I met my late husband Bryan Edwards, son of Jack and Ivy Edwards in the late 1950s. Walter has his characteristic Burberry waterproof mac over his arm, with two WW1 medals, wearing a trilby. They are marching with the Auxiliary Fire Service (AFS). It's 2 months after the War has been declared.

Jack was a boiler man possibly at the Pumphouse Hotel, when it might have been a school for deaf children. The Hotel was commandeered for officer training for the OTC. My husband Bryan was born in 1937, and Colin his elder brother a couple of years before. Their flat in Caerleon, Temple Drive, was open house. The kids were left to their own devices, both parents working or looking after friends and family, and entertaining the soldiers and their ladies in the flat. These included the Polar Bears, Canadian soldiers, as well as officers.

My Mum was Gwynedd Constance Peirson Jones. She lived in Ashlawn, Tremont Road, Llandrindod, looking after two maiden aunts. These were sisters of her grandfather, George Adamson, who was a vicar of Nantmel, Radnorshire: Jane Eliza and Sarah Elizabeth. They dressed very old fashioned, true Edwardians. I have their letters. They wrote to all the children of Mum's family, and their wives. Mum's brothers were farming in Wales and England, her sister Mary White was a nurse in civilian hospitals in England. An older brother Martin Peirson Jones was in the Australian RAF and seconded to the Canadian RCAF. Another older brother Humphrey Peirson Jones was in the Australian army. And her youngest brother Christopher Peirson Jones was serving in the RAF.

After Grammar School Mum had completed a Pitman's secretarial course in London. Her sister Mary Peirson Jones was a nurse. Mum would've loved the academic life and was so bright and clever. But of course, there was no money. She stayed behind, never escaped, accepted the life of carer for her maiden aunts. Mum worked in council offices in Llandrindod as clerk in the Urban District Council, which is where she would have met my Dad Walter Powell, a rates collector. And where she met their great friend Louis Milward who worked in the same department. Walter and Louis were founder members of the Toc H in Llandrindod, and a photo is included with names.

Walter at least 12 years older than Gwynedd, balding, suffering from his War wounds. Her Mum Lucy Gwen Peirson Jones said to her sons "Why is she going out with this old man!" Walter and Gwynedd married 3rd October 1940 at Llanigon, Breconshire where her Mum farmed. They returned to Llandrindod to look after the surviving aunt at Ashlawn. Later in the War they moved to Walter's father's house, The Croft. There they raised me (born 1944). Before that they had entertained soldiers to tea, and their ladies. They also looked after evacuees, including a refugee Russian family, maybe more than one couple. And they cared for an evacuee from Bootle, Liverpool, called Johnny. One of these rich Russian ladies presented Mum with a luxurious fur cape and maybe some jewellery. Top of the range in those days, thankful for staying here. It was sort of Terracotta-ry brown probably Bear and there was a grey scarf that was sort of curly, you wrapped it close around your neck. The jewellery was like a string and then diamond shapes maybe to attach to a bag. I wouldn't have known the Russian families, but I dressed up playing with these furs and bags and jewellery.

The wedding photographs of Mum and Dad include a group of the two families. Walter would have been 42, Gwynedd about 30. There is also the newspaper article which describes the bride's suit and going away dress. Shockingly, the reporter uses the N word to describe the colour. There are also photographs of Mum's sister Mary Peirson Jones who married Leonard White a Major in the Oxford and Bucks regiment, Bren Gun carriers.

My Dad was well respected as rates collector. Allowing a lot of leeway about payments, and using his work to let local charities know of people needing help. Dad was also secretary of the Albert Hall theatre, and an elder of the Presbyterian Church. He also served in the fire service, joining in June 1938, left in 1946. There are photos of the Llandrindod fire brigades, the regular National Fire Service members, and the Auxiliary Fire Service. Their names are given on the photos. Dad's father, my grandfather WJ Powell kept diaries all through his life. And one of the wartime ones is an AFS diary so the front pages have advice and instructions for fire safety etc. While Walter served in the AFS Mum was on the fire service switchboard at night, working in the council during the day. There were shouts around Llandrindod. But I only remember one story. Dad's tender went down to the blitz in South Wales to support the fire fighters there. They were playing water on a munitions factory (Newport? Swansea?) and to get a better angle for the hose Dad and his mate climbed on these crates. Then someone came up to them and screamed at them to get down from those crates of Mills bombs (hand grenades)!

Friends and family would have helped Mum and Dad with provisions from the family farms. My christening book shows presents like meat, butter, eggs, sugar. I half-remember Mum talking about coming down the pitch at Llanyre in the car with Dad driving home from seeing friends. In the boot was an illicit ham! The Home Guard were guarding the bridge over the River Ithon and would have looked at their documents, and searched the car if they had any suspicions. Mum was very straight-laced and would have been so annoyed to have been stopped by these men. Mum didn't have a very high opinion of the Home Guard. After the War Mum and Dad bought the villa called Energlyn which the Home Guard had used as their HQ. They hoped to make it their family home, but the Home Guard had left it in such a poor state Mum and Dad couldn't afford the renovations.


Item list and details

Photos; Extracts from the front of an AFS pocket diary

Person the story/items relate to

Walter Powell

Person who shared the story/items

Liz Edwards

Relationship between the subject of the story and its contributor


Type of submission

Shared online via the Their Finest Hour project website.

Record ID