Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University

Provider: South Wales Miners' Library

Rights: Copyrighted

Interview of Vale, James by Francis, Hywel on 10th May 1974.
The interview forms part of Swansea University�s South Wales Miners� Library collection.

1 audio file (8 min. 30 sec.)



Vale, James: Three of us came back and then there was the talk that boys had to go. So I said {unclear} Dai, I’m not waiting no more” I said, I’m going up to Brecon tomorrow to join. And I did, I went to Brecon and I joined the Field Artillery.

Francis, Hywel: Dai? Who do you mean – Dai?

Vale, James: Dai Williams, my mate see, not Dai Dan. Dai then, {unclear} I was reading that you see, he was questioned there by you, Dai was a {unclear} Dai wouldn’t have it, Dai wouldn’t have the Army. Dai ducked a question there I think. Dai was a C.O. But mind you he was a courageous man to be a C.O. in that time.

Francis, Hywel: Oh, he did say later that he was a C.O., but originally he said that he came under the influence of Jingoism and Patriotism, and was prepared to go to fight, but later, you know, within about a year or so, later on, he changed his mind.

Vale, James: Of course, Dai was coming then you see, {unclear} it’s true, every word he said is true mind, but what, we got mixed up in this. This is it, when we started on that trail you know, we were attending these classes you see, N.C.L.C. classes. And some of us were made little reds.

Francis, Hywel: But were you attending these classes in the war?

Vale, James: Not in the war, oh no.

Francis, Hywel: How do you mean he was a C.O.?

Vale, James: Well, Dai said he didn’t believe it, it was a Capitalist War, and he didn’t believe in fighting people.

Francis, Hywel: You remember him saying this do you?

Vale, James: Oh yes, I do. Dai was quite right.

Francis, Hywel: Was he saying it openly?

Vale, James: Yes, oh yes. Dai was not a very liked fellow because he said it was a war, he said, Why the hell am I going out there to kill people, and I don’t know them.

Francis, Hywel: Was he very unpopular for saying this?

Vale, James: Very unpopular at that time. There was a good many. But this is the point see, Hywel. I want to come now the start of Dai Dan’s first meeting in this Hall, that’s where Dai started, in this Hall down here, and it was an hectic night, I remember it. I want to give a true picture to you if I can, about Dai, when this annual meeting was called, because you had so many people you see, the Watkins' for instance, there was such a clique you see, and you had some of them as officials, oh, they were like a pigs guts you know, {unclear} if you were touching this one you were touching that one over there. It was a hell of a job for the likes of Dai Dan and myself if you wasn’t in any kind of clique then you see.

Francis, Hywel: This was after the nineteen twenty-six strike, lockout, was it?

Vale, James: Oh yes, that was it, yes.

Francis, Hywel: About nineteen twenty seven?

Vale, James: Yes. But where I’ve missed the part of my life to come to that as you see, naming the year, you pull me up on anything like that because, when I came back and joined, you see, well, I was only about eighteen, when I joined.

Francis, Hywel: Could you tell me anything about that?

Vale, James: Well, I joined up, I was trained in Preston, I wasn’t long there, three months, I was sent over the pond.

Francis, Hywel: Were there many of you from here? Did you go up on your own to Brecon?

Vale, James: No, no. Dai Williams came up with me see. And I think about a month later Jack Watkins came up, and we met Jack in Preston {unclear} Preson.

Francis, Hywel: Had there been other Abercrave men before you?

Vale, James: Oh yes.

Francis, Hywel: Dick Beamish had gone hadn’t he?

Vale, James: I don’t know where Dick went from, now the strangest part about it, when I came back after the armistice, it’s funny, we came over the pond at the same time, I think, me and Dick, on the same boat. I think Dick came from Salonika, and I came from Egypt. I went to France, from France to Italy, from Italy over to Port Said, up through the Suez Canal to Kantara, I was on the train the following morning at four o’clock, and up the line. I remember that, that was a quick move. I didn’t see a lot of fighting, but I was moved around a lot. I saw the last of it was, when Johnny Turk was driven out of Egypt. When they were driving them out of Jerusalem, I was in the seventy-fifth division, that’s what I was in, and that’s the Division that why they’ve got on their fighting battery waggons and gun waggons, the Key of Jerusalem, the Key on their waggons, you know, that they took Jerusalem from the Turks. Well they actually threw in out there, the Turks, they threw in, in October, when the main war was declared over in November. So the Turks were defeated before - that’s where the crumble started coming in you see.

Francis, Hywel: What effect did it have on you, that experience? Did you see, I mean, you said you didn’t see much fighting, I mean, did you see much bloodshed, did you have any harrowing experiences?

Vale, James: Yes, I saw a good bit of that you know, I saw a good bit of it out there, boys knocked about and maimed and killed and all that, oh yes, I saw some of that. But fortunately, myself, I had nothing myself. And that’s where I was on – I wasn’t so far educated as Dai Dan. I couldn’t see – Dai had more schooling than I had you see. Now, I couldn’t see as far, although I felt bitter against the Germans because they killed my brother, you know, and that’s how I felt, they had no trouble in getting me into the forces because that’s my feeling at the time, which was a wrong feeling. That they’d killed my brother, I wanted to kill a German, that’s what I felt about it see.

Francis, Hywel: The brother had been killed before you volunteered?

Vale, James: Oh yes, he was killed in nineteen fourteen you see. He was gone and killed years before I went up.

Francis, Hywel: What was your feeling about people like Dai Dan who were C.O.s then, when this had happened to your brother?

Vale, James: Ah well, I couldn’t say anything against Dai, of course, they said they didn’t believe, and I was coming now, I was coming now, and Dai was talking as a man of my age. I mean, as I was saying that Dai had more schooling than me, but I was beginning to feel then, you know, realise things, that this was a capitalist war. And then I studied and thought of it myself, if that German hadn’t killed my brother, my brother was there to kill him. And I thought what bloody fools we are to be fighting this war. And that’s what brought me back to Dai Dan, that he was a courageous man, and he didn’t believe in that, and he wouldn’t have it.

Francis, Hywel: When did you come to this conclusion then?

Vale, James: Well, not long after I got there. I could see how things were going along when I got to Kantara, I could see now, when the boat got up, I mean it was a boat that they stole from the Germans, took from the Germans {on the Kaiser} {unclear} I come up through the Suez Canal {unclear} Kantara, God I said, I looked and I said to my butties, o Jock, Jock, Jock from {unclear} who was with me {unclear} I said look at that bloody lot, {unclear} and there the officers luggage was being lifted down off the top deck, down here, and these poor Egyptians were taking it away. Cases you know, on their backs for the officers and so forth. If they wasn’t moving quick enough, there was a whip behind them. Well that turned my mind a lot when I saw that happening you know. The way that our people were treating those fellows. To me, I thought, this is damn {unclear} when things like this are happening amongst ourselves, I though, my God, if this is war, good God, God help us. I saw those things happening there, which I didn’t like, and as you say, asking me then, I think it turned my mind against these things you see. Oh yes.