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Residents explore Ely and Caerau’s World War Two history

CAER Heritage talk to Dolly McCarthy about WW2 memories.
The CAER Heritage group and Glamorgan Archives get together to explore Ely in WW2

The CAER Heritage group and Glamorgan Archives get together to explore Ely in WW2

RESIDENTS in Ely and Caerau have been working together to rediscover their history, in a project joining the youngest and oldest within the community.

With the help of CAER (Caer and Ely Rediscover) Heritage project, families have been gathering their relics from World War One and Two to make a display that will be featured in the Cardiff Story Museum.

CAER Heritage project works with Cardiff University to reconnect the community with its past. According to Dr David Wyatt, senior history lecturer at Cardiff University and member of CAER Heritage, the group aims to fight Ely’s negative stigma by looking at the area’s importance throughout history.

As part of the six-month project, CAER have been working with Michaelston Community College and took students to the Glamorgan Archives in Leckwith to look at Ely’s original plans.

Pupils have also been trained to use recording equipment in order to interview elderly residents from the Healthy, Wealthy and Wise community group. Dr Wyatt explained that by encouraging the community’s youngest members to interview the oldest, the scheme aims to “break barriers between generations and understand the present though looking at the past”.

One resident able to reflect on Ely both today and in World War Two is 85-year-old Dolly McCarthy from Pethybridge Road. At a CAER Heritage event held on November 10, Mrs McCarthy explained that although she was only nine when the fighting broke out she remembers the day that war was declared.

Dolly McCarthy from Pethybridge Road tells us her stories about WW2

Dolly McCarthy from Pethybridge Road tells us her stories about WW2

“It was a Sunday morning and the Echo man was shouting that we were at war,” she said, speaking at the event held at Ely and Caerau Community Hub to collect people’s wartime memories.

Mrs McCarthy also recalls the prisoners of war that were sent to the area, as she explained: “They stayed at the Blue Barrage, where Western Leisure Centre is now. I remember them going up to Plymouth Woods, they were only boys – 18 or 19 years old.”

At the age of 15, Mrs McCarthy was working in Williams’ Greengrocers in Pethybridge Road when the war came to an end. She said that on hearing the news the shop owner shut the grocers to celebrate with her staff.

Mrs McCarthy said: “She was a little old lady, almost like a mother to me. She took us all into her kitchen at the back of the shop and made us bacon and egg sandwiches.

“After rationing for so long it was the best thing I’d ever eaten.”

At the event however concerns were raised about the possibility of collecting enough memories like Mrs McCarthy’s. Local history enthusiast Ben Thomas,aged 68 from Highmead Road, explained it has become increasingly difficult to collect the community’s memories as a whole.

Mr Thomas said: “ A lot of people choose to forget, my parent’s generation were encouraged to forget.

“The generation who knew what happened have gone. This is the first time something has been done in this scale.”

Despite this, a more optimistic tone was held by other members of the community. Tia Smith, aged 7, and Bethan Smith, aged 6, described the event as the “best day ever” after they were set the task of designing their own housing for soldiers returning from the war.

From left: Tia Smith, 7, and Bethan Smith, 6 with their town plan for retired soldiers

From left: Tia Smith, 7, and Bethan Smith, 6 with their town plan for retired soldiers

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