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Tonfanau Camp & Area
July 1942 To December 1943

From Brian Parritt

In September 1939 when war broke out we were living in Married Quarters in Woolwich and my Father was posted as RSM to the new (Officers Cadet Training Centre (OCTU) being built in Shrivenham. While the new married quarters were being built we lived in Swindon. I remember the first air raid on Swindon and looking at the list of casualties, which were posted on the Town Hall in the Centre of the Town. My Mother applied for me to emigrate to the USA in a scheme to protect children, but when a children’s ship was torpedoed, the scheme was stopped.
In Shrivenham I remember the soldiers returning from Dunkirk and following the lorries asking for ‘Souvenirs’. We also ‘put up’ a distraught wife who was anxiously awaiting the safe return of her husband and shared her joy when he did arrive.
In 1942 my Father was posted to Tonfanau where a new OCTU was established. It was a bleak remote hutted camp on the seashore where potential officers had to endure firm discipline and intense physical training.  I went to school in Towyn, together with a large number of evacuees from Liverpool. We lived in one of the few houses that were not requisitioned on the sea front. For my Father it meant an hour-long cycle ride each morning and evening to get to the camp.
  1. It was a difficult cycle ride along a path in the dark of winter and sadly one night a Sergeant returning on his bicycle to Towyn, caught his eye on a bramble and the eye was taken out. One moment a fit active man the next blinded for life.
  2. One evening an American Bomber crashed on the outskirts of Tonfanau Camp. We boys all rushed to the crash site and saw the American crew safely climb out and walk away. The plane was burning fiercely and two RAF NCOs bravely climbed on board and began throwing out equipment and stores. We boys bravely stood under the wing, picked up the stores and carried them home. For months afterwards there was a serious bartering trade in goggles, ammunition and in particular candy.
  3. In the Army Camp near our house was an RASC Amphibious Regiment equipped with “Dukws” which could swim and then mount the beach. It was also a Trial Unit and on several occasions we saw experimental vehicles drive into the sea, did not float, and slowly disappear under the water. Great laughter and applause from we boys.
  4. The house next door was occupied by Italian POW’s who wore chocolate coloured Battle Dress. There was a resident soldier but were not guarded as such and we boys ran in and out at play. One day there was change in the atmosphere and a degree of tension.  It was the day that Italy surrendered and the prisoners were divided. Some wanted to join the Allies, others hoped that Mussolini would continue to fight. It made no difference to we boys, as we continued to use of the building to build dens.
My Father was then posted to a HAA Regiment based at Brighton and Patcham. The role was to engage the Doodle Bugs and more specifically the V Bombs. He then went to France and Germany, was awarded the MBE and finished as a Major (QM).

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If you have any photos of Tonfanau then I would love to show them.

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