I was born in Caerphilly, south Wales, in 1938. My father was a coal miner and our home was in a row of typical terraced houses with no electricity, no bathroom and no inside toilet. We had two gaslights downstairs and candlelight for our bedrooms and a coal fire to keep us warm. In our small backyard we kept several chickens for eggs and a Christmas poultry dinner. We had great neighbours, friends and relatives all around, who proved to be great support to my mother and our family in the years to come.
Before becoming a miner my father had been a regular soldier so when the Second World War commenced he was away on army training and from that time only came home occasionally. So as I grew up I hardly ever saw him. My first memory of my father was of him visiting me in the local isolation hospital, 'Adain y Glyn', where I had been confined with diptheria. I had been very ill, but was recovering. He was not allowed into my room but stood in his uniform in the doorway talking to me and pitching sweets onto my bed. It was November 1941 and he sailed to the Far East the following month. That was the last I saw of him until the end of the War.
Victory came in Europe. We had massive bonfires with everyone singing all the old songs until the early hours of the morning. There was a great party held at the end of our street with the tables laid and decked with trifles, cakes and drinks. We enjoyed it all but my dad was still a Prisoner of War. On 15 August 1945 the war in the east was over. My dad was safe and would be coming home. At last, on 19 October, the day finally came. My father the P.O.W. was coming home tonight but I couldn't even remember what he looked like. Our streets had banners at both ends; 'Welcome Home Harry' they pronounced. The evening came and the taxi arrived to take me and Mam to the General Station in Cardiff. Then we were on a platform, which was crowded with mams, dads, sons, daughters and other relatives, crying, cheering, shouting. The train arrived. The men who had survived the horrors were home at last, uniformed and carrying kit bags. I'll never forget the scene of kissing and hugging.
I was hanging on to my mam's hand, demanding which one was my dad and how I would know him. "Don't worry," she said. "We'll wait until the crowds clear and the last one left will be your father." And there he was coming down the platform with a large kitbag and his cap on the back of his head.
As we drove home over Caerphilly Mountain, the town and the castle were ablaze with lights. My dad was sitting in the front seat and, as he caught sight of the castle, he turned and said: "Well, Kate, old Hitler never damaged our pile of stones then." We arrived at our street to a sea of cheering and smiling faces and a house full of relatives and neighbours. My dad was home.