Stanley Garnet Davies M.B.E. 1918 - 2011

Stanley Garnet davies aged 90, click Stan at 90
Stanley Garnet davies aged 91 with Cornelia at 82, click Stan at 91

Stanley Garnet Davies, photograph of Dad with Hilary and I.

Written by my Father, Stanley Garnet Davies 1918 - 2011. (Notes are in brackets)

The reason for my writing this account is that ever since my father died in May 1941 I have been aware of how little I knew about him personally and of the times through which he had lived. I hope that I, being eighty-one years of age in June 1999, will live long enough to complete this book before I die, and so hopefully pass on to my successors the sort of information I would have liked to have known about my father. In case this should be taken as sexist, I hasten to add that I was quite close to my mother who never tired of telling us stories of her childhood onwards.

My father, Evan Davies, was born in July 1871 in the small coastal village of Llangrannog in Cardiganshire, South Wales, He was the eldest son of John and Maria Davies, who had a small farm, Llainshed, at the head of the small valley running down to the sea. As the family grew, the farm was not large enough to support them, so John, my Grandfather, decided with other men in the same position to go to sea. They built their own ship, a 32 foot , two-masted, brig, above the high water mark on the beach. Farmers provided the oak trees and paid for the cost of sails and rigging on the basis of shares in the profits. Five crew were to man the ship, which they called the Margaret Ann, or rather the Welsh equivalent, which I cannot spell. When completed, the ship had to be pulled into the sea, over rollers, by a team of horses (John Davies had a pair of horses for ploughing). There was no harbour at Llangrannog, so the ship could never return there. The crew had been taught rudimentary navigation by the village post-mistress and with her school atlas as their sole guide, they set out westwards on their voyage to the Chilean Islands where they knew the sea bird droppings, guano, was free for the taking. They sailed west until they hit the South American coast and then turned South, keeping the coast in sight, until they reached the Straits of Magellan, through which they passed into the Southern Pacific. I did not learn this from my father who never talked to me about his past, and I never enquired. My son found a book in a shop in Port Maddoc, North Wales, entitled the Seafarers of Southern Cerridigion and written by the curator of the Maritime Museum in Cardiff. There was no mention of grandfather in the book, but my son rang the curator who strangely came from Llangrannog and knew my grandfather by reputation as Captain John. He knew that my grandfather was one of the crew of the Marged Ann and said that the records of the ship as of all sailing ships of that date were held in Canada. To return to the voyage - when they reached the Chilean Islands, they had to jettison the rocks they had carried as ballast on the outward journey, and then began the filthy job of filling the hold with Guano. They were helped in this task by a Chinese who had been used and marooned on the islands by a previous vessel. The journey home was the reverse of the outward voyage and they sailed into Cardigan Bay eighteen months after they had left it. I have purposely not mentioned their adventures when they had to put ashore on the South American continent to replenish their water barrels, and forage for food because although very interesting it has no relevance and I have only put what I have in print to give the reader as much as I know of my paternal grandfather. They made the same trip some years later but their main use of the vessel was to carry coal dust from the ports of Cardiff, Swansea and Llanelli back to Cardigan where it was bound together with liquid clay to make what was known as Culm which the poor people burnt on their fires. They also obtained a contract to carry railway lines to Northern Spain where they used the port of Santander. It was returning from Spain into Liverpool in a storm that they were driven onto the rocks off Anglesey and the ship was lost. Fortunately all five of the crew survived although none of them could swim. This was the end of my grandfathers seafaring but with the money he had earned he made his farm more viable with more land and extra live stock. Only his youngest son John Elias, known as Jack, followed in his footsteps and was Second Officer on the S.S. South Western, drowning, when the ship, acting as a troop carrier was torpedoed when crossing the channel to France on Saturday, 16th March 1918. (The "South Western" was sunk by the German submarine UB-59 in the English channel, while 9miles SW from St.Cathrines Point, Isle Of Wight, U.K, while on voyage from Southampton to St.Malo, carrying general cargo). DAVIES, Second Officer, JOHN ELIAS, 72341. S.S. "South Western,". Mercantile Marine. Drowned at sea 16th March 1918. Age 29. Son of John and Mariah Davies, of Llainshed, Llangranog, Cardiganshire; husband of Bessie Clarissa Davies, of Glenover, West Wellow, Romsey, Hants. II. D. 7). He was 29 years of age, and left a wife, Bessie Clarissa of Romsey, Hants and a son Ronald born 1916. He is buried in a churchyard at Etretat, a small coastal town 26 kilometres north of Le Havre. (grave ref no II.D.7)

In 1885,when my father was 14 years old, he left home to work as a live-in-apprentice in a water wheel driven woollen mill at the bottom of the ravine leading to the beach at Llangranog. He had, had some schooling at the charge of a penny per week, but when he started work, he was befriended by the local Baptist minister, who continued his education, and taught him the rudiments of music, including tonic sol-fa and staff notation. I should stress that at this stage He knew nothing of English which he began to learn in his mid twenties. In 1898 he left Llangranog and moved to Swansea, where he obtained a trainee salesman job in David Evans, the largest departmental store in the town. That he obtained the job proves that by this time he was able to speak English fairly fluently. It was in the store that he met my mother. He had risen by this time to be in charge of the carpet department earning the princely sum of fifty Pounds per annum, live-in, all found. My mother was a first-hand dressmaker and was paid seventy-five Pounds p.a. live-in, all found. She came from a much better background than my father, Her father was a cabinet maker by trade and as eldest son had inherited the family building business in Birmingham. His name was William James Brown and my mother was Bertha Amy. She was born on the ninth of March, 1980 and had two elder sisters, Lilian and Edith, and later another sister Cissie was born. Her mother whose maiden name had been Brinkworth, died shortly after the birth of her fourth daughter, as far as I know from consumption the name then given to what we know as tuberculosis. A year or so after his wife died, William remarried a Miss Jenny Wildsmith from Redditch. She was a qualified dressmaker and she taught my mother the trade. My mother finally left home to work as a bodice hand, firstly in St Ives, Cambridgeshire, and then Malvern, Worcestershire, before moving to Swansea where she met my father. Her father was against the relationship but could not dissuade her, and finally my mother and father were married on the third of June, 1908 at St Clements Church, Malvern Hill Road, Nechells, Birmingham.

My father was 37 years of age and my mother 27. They could not see much of a future for themselves if they stayed in Swansea, so with the help of loan from a friend of my father, a Mr. Rees from Llangrannog, and their combined savings, they bought a dairy business at No. 1 Manor Place, Kennington, in South East London. My father had to start work at 5 a.m. every morning getting milk from the depot, and then trundling around the streets on a trolley with a heavy milk churn, he had to fill the milk jugs of his clients with their required demands. This was before the days of milk bottles, and some of the poorer people would buy a farthings worth. My mother worked in the shop selling dairy products and groceries until my father returned from his milk round. The business was so successful that they were able to clear their mortgage out of the first years profit.

On 30th April, 1911 my eldest sister, Ruby Millicent, was born followed two years later on 18th May, 1913 by her sister Ellaline Beryl. On 14th June 1914 the Archduke of Austria was assassinated in Sarajevo, Serbia with Austria and Germany declaring war on Serbia and then her ally Russia. The German army invaded Luxembourg on 2nd August and on the following day declared war on France and invaded Belgium on 4th August 1914. Later that day Britain declared war on Germany and the first world war had begun. My father, being forty-three was not called up and business continued as normal until the German zeppelin raids on London commenced. For safety Ruby and Beryl were sent to live on the farm with my father’s parents at Llangrannog.

The Second World War In June 1939 I registered myself at Morriston Employment Exchange, Swansea, as a ‘National Serviceman’. I was 21 years of age and all men of that age were required by law to register for National Service. I had registered my preference for the Royal Navy.

On the 3rd September 1939, Britain and France declared war on Germany. At the end of September 1939 I received call-up papers from the Navy. They directed me to attend at Butlins Holiday Camp, Skegness in Lincolnshire on the 4th October 1939. I arrived by train from Swansea via London and enlisted as a ‘Trainee Writer’. I was given eight weeks disciplinary training and rifle drill. I spent most of the time marching up and down the camp courtyard which acted as a parade ground. I learnt how to ‘Slope’, ‘Present’ and ‘Ground’ arms. However I didn’t get a rifle until I was in Malta and then only for three days in the entire five year conflict. There were about thirty of us on the course as writers. When the course was complete we were detailed to go to one of the three naval barracks. I was sent to Devonport in Devon with ten others.

In early December 1939 I arrived at Devonport. There was nowhere to sleep at the barracks so we were sent into a holiday camp at Wembury Bay, adjacent to the entrance to Plymouth Sound. The first day at the camp was a farce. Nobody knew what to do with us so we were issued a bucket each and marched down to the beach to collect gravel. We filled the buckets and marched back. The purpose of this exercise was to create paths in the mud it had poured with rain and our marching was making it worse, a mud bath. As fast as we fetched the gravel and emptied our buckets the gravel sunk and the mud rose. We all went to bed that night damp and worn out. The second night after I had made friends with a couple of the lads we went out to a pub in a village, Down Thomas. The next morning we woke to the sound of a bugle and shouting for all hands to muster on the parade ground. The Commanding Officer of the camp, a sub mariner Lt. Commander. He proceeded to shout at us that he didn’t know whether we were a load of animals as all the toilets were in a filthy state. A Petty Officer sidled up to him and whispered something to him that we couldn’t hear. He then addressed us and said he was sorry he understood that there had been sickness in the camp overnight of all those that had partaken of last night's supper. We were lucky as we had been to the pub. I believe there were about two hundred of us all naval types billeted at the camp. We continued gravel duty for a couple of weeks. The writers were then moved to Devonport barracks. My first job was attached to the pay-office assisting with the clerical work. Devonport barracks had been a cavalry barracks prior to the Navy taking it over. The barracks were so full that on each hammock hook two men would sling their hammock, one bar taut, and the other in a ‘U-bend under him. The smell was awful and the conditions very poor. We were sleeping in the stable building. Another Welsh boy, Arthur Jones, whose father was a Baptist Minister, and myself decided to volunteer for sea duty, because of the conditions. We had heard that the aircraft carrier, ‘H M S Illustrious’ was shortly to commission at Barrow In Furness, Cumberland. Within a fortnight I was notified to report to ‘H M S Orion’, a light cruiser of 7,000 tons, which was at Devonport Dockyard. Arthur Jones was posted to the Illustrious a couple of months later. I met him again in Malta.

On 8th February 1940, I joined ‘HMS Orion’, Leander Class Cruiser, as The Captains Secretary’s Writer, my first post. The first thing the Captain’s Secretary said to me was, ‘Can you type’? I said ‘No’. upon which he said. ‘A fat lot of bloody use you are going to be.’ He was a midshipman but was younger than me. I remember his spotty face. I slept in the secretary’s office and would be in my hammock while he was hammering away with two fingers at the typewriter. He used to curse in my direction. I gradually learnt to type. The ships complement was 700.

When I joined the ship she was being loaded with £5,000,000.00 pounds worth of Gold ingots for storage in , Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada. The gold had come from Holland and Britain. We set sail that evening from Plymouth. In the sound, the ship was steered through 360 degrees to ‘swing’ the compass. We then sailed for open sea. We passed the Eddystone Lighthouse and I took my last sight of England for over two years. It was a dull grey evening. The voyage, which was unescorted took 7 days, We steered a zig zag course to confuse any enemy submarine that we may have come across in the North Atlantic. We sailed North to South Greenland and then turned South down through the Newfoundland banks. Terrible seas with all the masts and rigging covered with icicles.
We spent a week in Halifax. All I remember was;
1, the houses were all wooden clapboard, but electricity must have been cheap as they all had multi light chandeliers.
2, Although there was a foot of snow, it was dry and your feet didn't get wet.
3, The women all had fur coats but flimsy dresses underneath.
4, Men and women were separated on the ferries.
5, No smoking in Cinemas.

Left Halifax for Bermuda. Terrible storm - everything battened down as sea came right over us and washed the seaplane off the catapult. The second day we woke to flat, calm seas, like blue milk, with the Bermuda Islands all around us. (about a hundred, some very small)
The Naval Base was on Ireland Island, which was connected by a rickety wooden bridge to St Georges, the largest island. The water was shallow, crystal clear and swarming with brightly coloured tropical fish. At night there was a continuous noise of frogs and cicadas.
Went to a negro bar where rum was only 3 pence. Half a crown in a white bar. We soon lost our nerve and left pursued by a negro who wanted to take us home to meet his school teacher!! sister.

Left Bermuda after a couple of days once the storm damage had been repaired. Two days later we sighted land, we passed between the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico. I slept on the upper deck as it was too hot below and woke the next day to see Jamaica in front of us. A fringe of jungle around the coast and then mountains (purple Blue) rising straight up. I learnt later that they were called, "The Blue Mountains", and were 7,000 feet high.
The lower decks were cleared before we landed and ships company addressed by the Medical Officer, who warned that venereal disease was rife - 1 in 7 of the women were infected. I thought this unnecessary in my ignorance of the depravity of long service sailors.
All the way from the docks to Kingston, the roads were lined with very large black women selling fruit by the light of a candle in a jam jar. Some had unusual objects, e.g. knitting needle cases - lid and case made from one bamboo, blackened and then the pattern cut out. Also they had puffer fish, lacquered in their puffed up pose with an electric light inside them. I bought a pineapple for 6d and we went to the cinema. I was surprized that there was no roof on the cinema and you looked up at the stars. I had never eaten a fresh pineapple and took a bite without peeling it. I will never do that again.
The ship had been in Jamaica before as Flag Ship of the West Indies Squadron and had left there in early January 1940 to go to Canada to bring Lord Tweedsmuir (the writer John Buchan), The Governor General of Canada's ashes back to Britain. When we had drawn along the Jetty the first morning about 6.30am, the black mammies were there with the laundry, left by the crew some 3 or 4 weeks earlier. The movement of H M Ships was supposed to be a secret!!

From Jamaica we took weekly turns with an Australian Cruiser going round and around the Dutch Island of Curacao, Some 10 or 11 German ships had run in there when war had started as the Dutch were neutral. We were some way out from the island but could see its volcano sticking up above the horizon.

The only other island that we visited was Trinidad in the Gulf of Paria off Venezuela. We weren't allowed ashore as we were only there to take on oil. The island is not beautiful, at least not near Port O' Spain, the capital where we were. Low hills and very few trees. My main memory of the place was a, a negro on the oil tanker alongside offering me a spider monkey for 10 shillings and b, the cat fish with mouths about 6" in diameter suddenly appearing from the murky depths of the harbour to snatch anything filthy floating around the ship. The day after we left Trinidad I woke in a panic with the sea washing around me. We had picked up speed, the weather deteriorating, had meant sleeping above deck was now not wise.

I was set down in Malta in June 1940 after the fall of France and just before Mussolini declared war. In Malta I served mainly with the Fleet Airarm, but also with the Submarine Force and General Navy. When I arrived back in England I worked for two years on shore at Plymouth. Then with DDay I was sent to Normandy to work with a service opening up Antwerp when it was liberated. On the 4th September 1944 Dad joined Advance Party 1732, and joined with Jack Taylor a group headed for Rotterdam. They set off from Juno Beach, Courseulles-sur-Mer, on Thursday 7th September. The Germans were more stubbon than anticipated and after seven months we liberated Rotterdam at4am Tuesday 8th May 1945, where people were dying of starvation in the streets. I would rather not recall those years, but it was there that I met my wife and started married life. The following, is information I have accumulated from my Father. There were, at that time fears for the stability of Europe. The Orion was sent to Canada carrying Dutch and English gold. After crossing the Atlantic and unloading in Canada the ship returned to her cruising grounds, the tropical waters of the Caribbean. He suffered 3 months relaxation in the West Indies. 10 or 11 German merchant ships entered the then neutral waters of the Netherlands, West Indies, (Antilles) that is the seas of Curacao and Aruba at the mouth of the Orinoco river. It transpired that these merchantmen had been ordered into these waters for their safety and the Orion was likewise sent to keep an eye on them. At that time the war started and the Orion was recalled to Europe when the Germans broke over the Dutch border. The ship sailed east crossing the Atlantic and entered the Mediterranean Sea where she docked at Alexandria, Egypt. The ship joined the 7th Cruiser Squaron at Alexandria. Dad left the ship there and joined "HMS Diamond", (H 22) - D-class Destroyer, bound for Malta. In Alexandria Dad had gone into a Silver Smith's shop and was negotiating a price for a pair of silver filigree earings when the smith drew a knife and demanded cash, robbery, from Dad. At that time an Australian Soldier had entered the shop, seeing the knife, the soldier lifted the arab off his feet and punched him over the counter. Dad said he had never seen anything like it. The two servicemen ran from the shop. I remember the earings as a child, but think they were stolen, as they were in a suitcase containing Dad's uniform and war memorabilia, by removal men when we moved to London from South Wales in 1952. I also remember, a german minesweepers medal, that was kept in that demob case. In Alexandria HMS Orion berthed alongside HMS Diamond and because she was ready to let go and make for sea. He had to jump from the Orion's aft deck down onto the Destroyers deck which was a good drop. He jumped holding onto his kit bag and took a tumble. He said that the Destroyer crew were not as friendly or accommodating as the Crew had been on the Cruiser. Dad arrived in malta on 9th June 1940.
Dad was stuck in Malta until 1943 as the island was under siege. He can tell you many interesting stories about the bombing of the island, the aircraft and submarines stationed there. In fact Italy declared war within 24 hours of Dad’s landing in Malta which he took personally at the time. Dad flew from Malta to Gibralta on a Catalina flying boat. He passed over the fleet which was enroute to Malta as he passed he could see that German aircraft were still attacking the fleet. His brother Jasper was on one of the convoy ships, ‘HMS Charybdis.’ He stayed in Gibralta for a week and the made a very slow passage on "HMS Kenya" back to England. The ship was one of three that had suffered aircraft damage. The bows had been blown off and the front of the ship had been shored up with timber and plywood for the journey home. Dad was sent in September 1944 to Normandy, France. He arrived on the beach and onMonday 4th September 1944 after sleeping the night in the dunes joined a group, Advanced Party 1732 bound for Rotterdam. They left Juno Beach Normandy from Courseulles on Thursday 7th September 1944. He then travelled North through Belgium where he stayed a while, we won’t go into detail about what he did on his travels. Though Mum probably knows better than anyone now what he got up to. Finally he travelled up to Holland and arrived at Rotterdam at 4am on Tuesday 8th May 1945.

Mum was the daughter of a Rotterdam Hairdresser. She had been 12 at the outbreak of war and her world had been turned upside down. In fact those of us born since the war probably have no way of imagining those years. The salon and 3 story house was lost in 1940. It had stood in the city centre opposite the town hall. In fact my mother witnessed the destruction. Up until 1940 my mother had been educated by Franciscan Nuns at St Laurent’s Convent. Her education was interrupted by the war and she completed it in 1945 at a state school.

Towards the end of World War II, my Father came to Holland to help with, ‘The Relief of Holland’. An exercise to help restore Holland after the ravages of that war.

This is how Garnet met Cornelia.

While stationed in Rotterdam my Father had occasion to attend a pre-wedding reception of one of his colleagues and asked a pretty young Dutch girl for directions to the Nieuwe Binnenweg, a street in Rotterdam. The Dutch girl was of course my Mother. She had been walking in the City with Henny her younger sister. My Mother said to my Father that she would show him the way. Henny went home, as she didn’t want anything to do with foreigners. Henny in fact went straight home and told her parents that her older sister had indeed gone off with a foreigner.

My parents went to the celebrations in the Nieuwe Binnenweg, but my Mother did not enjoy the party. They left and my Father offered to escort my Mother home. They did not go directly home but walked round the harbours and agreed to meet a week later. Mum had to be home by 9pm. It was 10pm when that pair arrived in Wm Buytewech Straat, the family home. Mum rang the door bell and my Grandfather, who had been waiting for her grabbed her and said that she could not go out for a week because she had stayed out. This did not worry my Mother as she had arranged to see my Father again the following week.

They courted for 3 months in Rotterdam and were married at Rotterdam Town hall at 9.30am on Thursday 25th October 1945. Mum was 18 and Dad 27. They had been taken to the wedding together in a commandeered open top touring Mercedes taken from the Germans. In fact their honeymoon was a day trip to Den Haag in a jeep. Dad was due to be discharged early in 1946. The couple set sail on a troop ship for England on 8th November 1945. My mother had to travel in one of the officer’s cabins on the bridge while my Father, leading Ships Writer had to travel with the crew in the hold. He waved to her when she was on the Bridge. Mum’s cabin was very nice but there was a cockroach on the ceiling. My mother went and found the captain and asked him in English to remove the animal from her cabin. The Captain did. The naval ship docked at Harwich and the newlyweds travelled by train to Swansea South Wales via London.

They settled down to married life in this small Welsh fishing community. Dad left the Navy and returned to his pre war employment at Swansea Employment exchange.

There were a few funny incidents in the early years.

Mum had to improve her English. Dad took her to the local Library where they made enquires with a lady librarian about books to help her. The librarian, speaking very slowly, loudly and deliberately said “This book will suit you” and showed Mum a child’s book. It made my Mother laugh. A few days later the door bell rang and Mum went to answer the door. Two local ladies were in the street. One asked “Are you the new Mrs Davies” Mum replied “Yes” They had heard that Dad had married a Dutch girl. One caller said “She looks just like one of us”. They had obviously never seen a Dutch person before. On another occasion Mum and Dad were invited to take tea and play cards with the Vicar and his wife. My Mother, living with my Father, and him being ex naval, had naturally picked up some English that was less than desirable and not for use in pleasant company. My mother had been dealt a poor hand at cards a proceeded to swear, saying “I haven’t got a ruddy sausage”. They were never invited again. My favourite story is the one about the grocer. After the war food was rationed. You had to register at one shop and buy your rations and ration free food at that shop. My Grandmother, Bertha, who was registered at one shop, sent my mother to another shop where the family wasn’t registered to buy some sausages. My mother dutifully went into this particular grocer and bought a pound of sausages from the grocer who was obviously attracted to my mother and let her have the sausages. The grocer’s wife had witnessed this. A week later my mother innocently was sent again. The grocer’s wife came up to my mother as she entered the shop and said. “The next time you want sausages, ask me, and you won't get any”. Pointing at her.

I was born in 1947 and we moved to Sketty Swansea where Hilary was born in 1949. Dad then got a job in London in 1953 and the four of us moved to Wembley where Hilary and I went to school. Mum worked at ‘Wembley College’, teaching 3 – 5 year olds Dad had many jobs within the Civil Service. Dad was awarded the MBE, ‘The Most Excellent order of the British Empire’ in 1971. This honour was awarded for setting up SET, ‘Selective employment Tax’. Dad set up the office in Astmoor Runcorn in the late 60’s recruiting over 200 staff. This was the reason that they moved from London to Kingsley in 1967. Another important decision as without this one I wouldn’t have met Wendy. The award was presented by H M the Queen and I have bullied Dad into bringing the medal if anyone would like to see it. Dad retired in 1980, 25 years ago after working for 44 years including 5 war years.

Mum and Dad had moved to Stockton Heath just before Dad retired. Mum and Dad celebrated 60 years of marriage on 25th October. 2005. When you consider that they came from different backgrounds, culture, religion and language. That they have a 9 year age gap and that they number only one in 1500 out of 60 million people of these islands It is in every sense a tremendous achievement.
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