Author: South Wales Miners Library, Swansea University

Provider: South Wales Miners' Library

Rights: Copyrighted

Interview of Powell, Oliver by Francis, Hywel on 29th November 1973.
The interview forms part of Swansea University�s South Wales Miners� Library collection.

1 audio file (8 min. 10 sec.)



Francis, Hywel: What were you doing up there then?

Powell, Oliver: In the Crystal Palace? I had joined the Royal Naval Division. I was being instructed by Lieutenant {Mipher} , who was secretary to the Scott expedition, a very nice chap like, you know. All sorts of people, like, Mr Churchill came to inspect us, should have arrived at ten o’clock and he didn't arrive until the bloody afternoon, until half the buggers were falling down in a faint waiting for him. It was his brigade like, see, the Royal Naval Division, but after a while I thought we’ll I didn't want to be a soldier as such, I'd rather go into the navy. So we sat our examinations for signalmen, and for some reason or other they passed me, I don't know why, I wasn't very brilliant. Anyhow I was sent to Chatham, and from Chatham I was sent to the fleet at Scapa Flow. And there I met all sorts of people, strange man, but like I told you the best fellow I met was the General that failed at Gallipoli like, General Sir Ian Hamilton. He came on the bridge of the ship, he ignored the officers of the watch, and he merely talked to me. Did I know the name of that island? {It's Stromer, that one?, Hoy} very rough in the winter. I said, "Yes it is, very, very rough here in the winter, and for a long time, paternal like, you know, he is the only chap who ever spoke to me, the other fellow, Kitchener, well no he walked passed us as though we didn't bloody exist like. He was taken aboard the special destroyer Oak, all his entourage, all the C.I.D. men, all the secretaries, all the rest of it, were aboard our ship see. We took them to an old hulk of a ship that they used as a staging post and post office, unloaded them there and then they were taken aboard The Hampshire in the next harbour, Scapa, we were in Long Hoy, ships, The Hampshire was in Scapa. They left that night in terrible weather, terrible weather it was, the destroyer escort returned they couldn't face it, I don't know what happened , nor no one else I don't think, what happened to that ship. The navy's grapevine, long time before we knew anything about Kitchener or his trip to Russia, had been talking about what was happening to The Hampshire in Belfast. She was refitting there, presumably for this journey, there was all sorts of talk and rumour about what was going on on The Hampshire in Belfast. And it's a strange thing that the navy grapevine seemed to know what was going on. Deadly secret now about the raid on {Zeebrugge} , they were going to smash up the submarine bases in {Zeebrugge} , deadly secret. But every bugger in the fleet knew what was going on. So if they knew, the other fellows must have had an inkling somewhere or the other. And of course the joke about Kitchener, that nobody knew that he was going to go to Russia, when he reached the railhead in Thurso, bloody great crowds meeting him like you know, and nobody was supposed to know. Then the last I saw of him, he was standing on the stern of The Oak as she left to go to {Scapa} harbour, that was the last of {him}

Francis, Hywel: Did you volunteer?

Powell, Oliver: Oh yes, a great patriot I was, bloody glad to get out of the pit. I thought we would have a good time, have a good adventure, it was supposed to be over by Christmas like of 1914, what a joke.

Francis, Hywel: How many of you volunteered like that? How many of you from {Tredegar} ?

Powell, Oliver: Oh a great joke man, the Tredegar Company, we were offered, by a great speech by Mr Tallis in the Circle, that anyone who volunteered would be paid, or his wife would be paid, ten shillings per week, see the Company would pay them, … ten shillings per week. Scores and scores went, but the Tredegar Company forget about the ten bob see. In 1920, William Price who was the secretary, financial secretary to the Combine, he was searching now for witnesses, for volunteers who would come forward and stand up to the Company's promise. And a celebrated carter locally in those days, old Sam Thomas, Sam Dowlais, right, he said, I'll be one. And Bill Price organised this case against the Tredegar Company, and he won, and they all had their money back. My brother was one, and he had his seventy odd quid, during the 1921 strike, but oh that cheque was a celebrated thing for him I can tell you that. And of course a lot of them were proud of this, Christ!, they lived like millionaires, knocking the tops off whisky bottles, a real good time they had. Wasn't long before they were bloody broke man.

Francis, Hywel: Where there many ? Were there many in that situation?

Powell, Oliver: Many hundreds of them. Oh it cost the company thousands and thousands of pounds. Serve the buggers right, why should they make promises and not keep them.

Francis, Hywel: Were there many CO’s in this area?

Powell, Oliver: Well not many, Aneurin was a military objector, not a conscientious objector. But they picked him up, and they took him to Newport, and the sergeant major, he wanted to know why was he this and why was that, he had no reason to answer his bloody questions, he said, I'm not going and that's on end to it. Other people who took that view were sent to camps for objectors and all the rest of it, but he was mysteriously released.

Francis, Hywel: more tea?

Powell, Oliver: He's got the story all right but I don't know where it is now, why, what was behind it all, I see, that he was released, because he was a hell of an agitator during the war see. He organised a march, a demonstration on Oakdale, trying to pull them out on strike down there, all the rest of it, and I believe that there was a political wire-pulling like, let him go, get him out of the way like, he'd be less trouble outside the bloody army than in it.

Francis, Hywel: Who's that, Aneurin? Oh, and he was connected with the pits wasn't he, that made a difference didn’t he, because he kept working at home

Powell, Oliver: He was still working the pits of course, he was, should have been exempt.

Francis, Hywel: That’s half of it see, shouldn’t been called should he.

Powell, Oliver: No

Francis, Hywel: But there was {unclear}

Powell, Oliver: But they were trying to get him out of the way, but it didn't bloody work! Eh, good days, great days, good old days they were, so they say!