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Aber Valley Heritage Museum
Gwern Avenue
Senghenydd
CF83 4HA
Tel: 02920 830445
E-mail:  senghen.heritage@btconnect.com

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Gunner Wyndham Saunders

Gunner Wyndham Saunders (259619) Royal Field Artillery

Enlisted on 10th April 1918, aged 18.  Survived the war to be then transferred to the Army Reserve on 31st January 1919.

My grandfather Wyndham Saunders was born on 25 July 1899 in Glyntaff Pontypridd.  Later his family settled in Ilan Road,Abertridwr.

Gunner Wyndham Sauders demob cardOn 13th October 1913 aged 14 he started his first shift underground at the Universal Colliery Senghenydd. These were days when boys starting underground worked with fathers or an older member of the family. 

Benjamin Saunders, Wyndham’s father had come to South Wales for work form Portland, an island off Weymouth in Dorset, and was a stone mason by trade, but his older brother Harry worked underground so Wyndham went to work with Harry. 

After his first shift the officials said that they did not have his birth certificate and not to turn up to work until he could bring it to them.  He went home to his mother who said she did not have it but would walk to Pontypridd to get him a copy the next day. 

They were due in work the following morning so Harry swapped their shift for an afternoon shift so they would not lose money.  The following morning 14 October 1913 the pit exploded and Wyndham and Harry survived.   The men who swapped were killed. 

Wyndham returned to the pit when it reopened and worked until he went in to the army.  He served on the Western Front in the Royal Field Artillery as a gunner. 

He recalled those days as the most frightening of his life. In an interview I did with my grandmother she recalled him talking about being on the Somme and being frightened to death of shrapnel flying in and the men around him “dying like peas” (his expression).

He told how they had no time to bury the casualties but put the bodies just under the soil and when you were walking you could feel them under your feet. 

He said he was so afraid and said don’t tell me any man wasn’t afraid because they were all frightened to death.  Despite great loss of life he survived the war and returned to the Aber Valley where he married Elizabeth Jones on 14 March 1922.  Elizabeth had lost her father David John Jones and her mother’s brother Joseph Hopkins in the explosion.  They were married for 61 years had a daughter and two sons (neither of which worked underground) and seven grand children. They lived their whole married lives in Tridwr Road Abertridwr.  Wyndham returned to the Windsor colliery where he lost his little finger and the top of his thumb of his right hand in falls underground.

During the Second World War he worked in the munitions factory in Llanishen sweeping up and was working the night the factory took a direct hit from the Luftwaffe without warning.  He crawled under the table and when it was over he emerged to find many of the women on the machines dead.  Rescuers thought he was hurt because he was covered in blood. 

The man I remember as my grandfather was small (he was 5 ft 5” according to his passport)  had only eight and a half fingers, loved gardening and had a dry witty sense of humour.  Wyndham lived until 25 September 1983 when he was 84 despite smoking Woodbines and suffering from pneumoconiosis. 

Information Source: Cathrine White (Née Saunders), Granddaughter

PASSCHENDAELE (THIRD BATTLE OF YPRES)

A typical act of bravery took place on 17th August 1917 when Sgt Gilbert Lloyd, (Senghenydd), South Wales Borderers who, together with five others soldiers, held an isolated position until his battalion had been relieved and then brought out their wounded whilst still under fire.

He was awarded the MM at a local ceremony held on “The Rec” in August 19, 1919.  At this same ceremony where the villagers turned out in their thousands to see Colonel H E Morgan Lindsay, CB, DSO award the decorations to Sgt Lloyd and the men and also to the families of those Killed in Action (KIA). All listed below.

Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM)   Military Medal (MM)

Cpl. Tom Locke Sapper Robert Jackson

Pte. William Higgs Bdr. H C Fleet

Dvr. R G Taylor

Gnr. David Davies

Sgt. King Humphries

Pte. Syd Edwards

 

Distinguished Conduct Medal Military Cross (MC)

Sgt. T H Brown (KIA) Lt. J A Roberts(KIA)

(accepted by his wife) (accepted by his father)

Photo of Sgt Gilbert Lloyd

 

Wounded on three occasions before winning the MM in 1917.  Became a

 

Lieutenant in Home Guard, Aber and

and Senghenydd Platoon 1940-46.

Secretary of local Ex-Servicemen’s

Club for over 50 years.