The Cymro

The National Library of Wales recently acquired three editions of a bilingual magazine which was published by Prisoners of War inside Stalag IVb between July 1943 and December 1944. According to Morfudd Bevan-Jones of the Library:

"it's awe-inspiring to think that the prisoners could create such attractive and interesting magazines under such hard conditions. The magazines remind us of the pivotal role played by Welsh soldiers during the Second World War... although they were far from Wales, by writing about Welsh news and articles to do with Wales, they felt they were much closer to home."

The magazines show the varied activities undertaken by the prisoners which included choir singing, Welsh-language lessons, athletics and boxing events, along with games of football, rugby, cricket, volley ball, darts and tug-of-war.

The magazines include pen portraits of sportsmen/prisoners such as Mostyn Thomas of Cardiff who excelled at both football and rugby. His prowess was matched by Billy Price who also played both games for the prisoners’ national teams although "his first love is rugby and he hopes to play in a good class team when the barbed wire is finally left behind."

There are match reports on football encounters between England and Wales filled with passion, though they feature vaguely familiar outcomes. In a report on "St George Beats The Dragon Again" we read:

"England forwards (putting) the Welsh defence under pressure, but the defenders were rising to the occasion: first time tackles and clearances easing the position; England attacked, an attack they maintained for most of the second half."

It continues:

"Under the constant pressure the Welsh defence played magnificantly. At the most critical moment a Red defender would rise to block, to clear, to divert - anything to prevent the goal going goalwards. Williams brought off a number of remarkable saves."

But unfortunately "England were right on top and just before time Limmage, taking a pass from Steen, lifted the ball into the corner of the net, making the final score 3-0!"

As expected there seems to be a great enthusiasm for rugby and there is a facinating article called "From Knappin to Rugby" which offers evidence that rugby "was, is and ever will be, the game of all Welshmen". There are match reports and profiles of Newport Rugby Club, Swansea Rugby Club and Cardiff Rugby Club where "some of the greatest players in the history of the game had been associated with the club". Players such as Gwyn Nichols "The Prince of Halves" and "in more recent years Cliff Jones".

Personally, the highlight of the magzines were the boxing sections which include a report on a fight won by Taffy Jones against a South American known as "The Smiling Kid". There is also an excellent profile of Charlie Bundy the light heavy weight/heavy weight born in Cwmparc who lost his Welsh title to Tommy Farr. The rousing portrait reports that "Charlie, who is now married with one child is a War Reserve Policeman back home." The author adds that "although he narrowly missed the highest honours of the game he worthily upheld Welsh prestige wherever he fought."943-1945

Dilwyn Robert-Young

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