The memories of Alf Davies, 94, who is a war veteran from Llandudno, have been recorded by housing association Cartrefi Conwy so they can be put in a time capsule. The remarkable story of Alf, who narrowly escaped one of the Second World War’s worst atrocities, has been saved for future generations.
The capsule is set to be buried at the site of Cartrefi Conwy’s new housing development Cysgod y Gogarth (Shadow of the Orme) in Llandudno, where Alf will be moving once completed in the early summer. The new development consists of twenty-six one and two-bedroom apartments, which are designed for older or vulnerable people. Each home is designed to be fully accessible for disabled tenants and is in line with the Royal National Institute for the Blind’s Visibly Better campaign.
Alf and six of the other new tenants, who’ve already signed up, were interviewed about their life stories. Last year Alf was involved in a documentary film, Bringing Back Memories, which was made by Cartrefi Conwy and is now in the archive at Llandudno Museum.
During the war the majority of the men Alf was travelling with, a group of around 50, in a convoy of three trucks were ambushed by the German SS. More than 40 men were captured and unarmed men being murdered. The massacre of the British soldiers and around 30 French POWs happened in the French town of Wormhout, with which Llandudno is now twinned.
Alf, who was nicknamed Ambush Alf on his return to Llandudno, survived by jumping into a river and escaping across fields before making it to the evacuation beaches at Dunkirk. He recalled: “After the war started, I ended up fighting across Northern France. But the Germans advanced and pushed up back. We were part of a gun crew, not a heavy gun but it was big enough. We spiked it so the Germans couldn’t use it as we made our way to Dunkirk.
“The Germans dropped leaflets telling us to lay down our weapons and surrender saying we were surrounded and we knew the only way out was Dunkirk. We only had one rifle between a 10 or 11 man gun crew.
“The first, which our captain was in, was smaller than the other two which had about 20 men in each. I was in the truck at the back of the convoy. The Captain came up with the idea of a shortcut to Dunkirk through a place called Wormhout.
“We passed infantry who told us to turn back, but we pressed on and when we came into Wormhout where the SS were up in buildings and on roofs. They opened fire and it was absolute chaos. We all jumped down from the trucks and scattered. It was pretty much every man for himself.
“I ended up with a few other lads, in a garage which had some cars in it. I managed to escape from the garage after one of the men smashed a window and we able to escape through the back of the building. Basically we jumped into a river to escape. Some turned left while me and a couple of mates turned the other way and made our way down the river.
“We later found out that the ones who went the other way were caught and put in a barn with a lot of other British troops. It was all down to which way you turned whether you escaped or not. I lost so many good mates and still think about them today. Me and my two mates, Percy Bulger and Herbert Hughes, made our way across fields and eventually reached the beaches of Dunkirk.
“We found we were way down the beaches and had quite a way to go. One of the lads spotted a motorbike and said we should take it, which is what we did. In 1942 we ended up being sent to El Alamein where we fought across to Tripoli and places like that.
“Eventually we joined up with the Americans and went to Italy. We landed at the toe of Italy and went right up to Rome before being sent to Montecassino. We then ended up back in France and I was no more than five miles from Wormhout where I‘d been those few years earlier.
“We were fighting in France when we heard the war was over. I got sent to Germany to a place called Wuppertal where we guarded German prisoners. After the war I worked asphalting council roads around Happy Valley before becoming a refuse wagon driver and eventually a supervisor. I got married to Alwen in 1946 and she remained my wife until she died in 2001.
“We had one son, John, and he had two children, Nia and Glyn. And I’ve now got four great-grandchildren, Osian, Lois, Megan and Rhianna.”
Cartrefi Conwy Chief Executive Andrew Bowden was grateful to Alf and the other tenants for allowing them to chronicle their memories for posterity. He said: “The Cysgod y Gogarth development is state-of-the-art and represents the future for Cartrefi Conwy.
The burial of the time capsule is a great way to stay in touch with our history and heritage in order to provide us with a guiding light. It will also be a reminder that without the courage and sacrifice of Alf’s generation none of what we are doing now would have been possible. We owe them a huge debt of gratitude.”