Teacher shares memories of taking a stand against conflict
THE story of Swansea's wartime pacifists, plus the mayhem caused by the Three Nights' Blitz, is being told in a new television documentary.
More than 100 people were imprisoned in Wales for being conscientious objectors during the Second World War while other pacifists felt pressurised to support the British war effort.
Swansea teacher Hetty Bechler was among those who protested against the war since its outbreak in 1939. She said she was pressurised to sign a declaration supporting it.
Mrs Bechler, 97 and now living in London, said she faced tough opposition from within her family.
She said: "My father came to me and said 'Who do you think you are?' And my brother, who had joined the Army, told me, 'Whatever happens, you'll make no difference'.
"Anyway, in the end I signed, and sometime later, someone from the authorities came to see me and said, 'If we catch you in Swansea protesting with the pacifists, we will report you'.
"That frightened me, and many teachers who held the same views felt similarly threatened."
Mrs Bechler, nee Morgan, added: "About eight or nine of us girls — all pacifists — would meet up regularly.
"We would meet to listen to Dvorak's New World Symphony or some other classical piece of music. It was a sort of social club, and we'd sell the Peace News at Swansea Market. I was not particularly political, and didn't always understand what was going on in the world, but I knew how I felt — I was against the war, full stop."
Swansea meanwhile suffered 207 civilian deaths when some 800 bombs fell in early February 1941.
Eunice Davies, of Ammanford, told the S4C programme, Lleisiau'r Ail Ryfel Byd: "They were flying so low over Ammanford, towards Betws and the Swansea Valley, that you could see the faces of the pilots.
"I will never forget the noise, the light and the siren beams searching for the planes."
She added: "I didn't recognise the town — all you could see were the shocked faces of those living there."
Sally Evans, of Pontybrenin, said: "I remember seeing the barrage balloons around Swansea, forcing them to fly higher in the air. But that didn't stop them.
"We could see the flames lighting the sky everywhere and I'll never forget the noise of the planes. They had a different hum to ours."
Winston Churchill visited Swansea a few months later to raise morale, to a hero's welcome.
But it would appear that not everyone agreed with the war.
S4C's Lleisiau'r Ail Ryfel Byd is at 9pm on tomorrow.