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Teacher shares memories of taking a stand against conflict

By South Wales Evening Post  |  Posted: September 29, 2012

  • Hetty Bechler

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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.

Shocked

"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.

richard.youle@swwmedia.co.uk

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  • maxmin  |  October 09 2012, 8:54AM

    Yes Neathboy I didn't expect anything else from a contemptible person like you. Some servicemen give their lives and their limbs others their minds. Kipling had it nailed when he wrote : "It's Tommy this and Tommy that and kick him out the brute; But he's the saviour of his country when the guns begin to shoot" Strange isn't it when anyone mentions the criminal immigrant gangs flooding into the country you get all defensive howling that not all immigrants are bad and we should let in as many as want to come. But when it comes to servicemen you are ready with the tar brush. I feel disgusted that so many of my friends died fighting for a person like you - they were so much better than you in all respects. I expect you will want to join you friends burning the union jack and saying all soldiers are murderers. From now on - since - you like abbreviations you will be referred to as CLM. Work it out.

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  • weslangdon  |  October 08 2012, 1:53PM

    Its not as simple as that; ex squaddies do end up in jail but many also end up with serious mental health problems and or drink and drug addictions. Large numbers of ex servicemen end up homeless too and a big proportion went through the care system before joining up. There was or rather is a huge difference between WW2 experience and the modern conflicts our soldiers face, WW2 was about survival, our modern wars have all been political and in many instances deeply unpopular, so squaddies having faced the horrors of conflict recieve rejection on return home because some of us believe they ought not to have been there.

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  • Neathboy234  |  October 08 2012, 9:15AM

    maxmin it is of course interesting to note that Mark Bridger is ex army, although he is described as an ex lifeguard in the EP. Only last week i was reading about another ex soldier who stabbed his two young son's to death. What sort of monsters are the army turning out, i guess when u teach people that it is ok to kill there will be consequences here are just a few more, i know there is always going to be a few rotten apples, but to me it looks like the whole orchard is infected An estimated 20,000 veterans are in the criminal justice system, with 8,500 behind bars, almost one in 10 of the prison population. http://tinyurl.com/9u85fku " Military police investigate Afghan child abuse claims " http://tinyurl.com/9shj2aw " Exclusive: Secret Army squad 'abused Iraqis' " http://tinyurl.com/8oesfry " Hereford SAS soldier guilty of child abuse charges " http://tinyurl.com/9maeo7v

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  • Neathboy234  |  October 08 2012, 8:53AM

    maxmin Ur beginning to get a little spooky, Is there anyone else U can stalk other than little old me lol

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  • maxmin  |  October 08 2012, 7:21AM

    It doesn't surprise me you don't like the armed forces, I should imagine that you are against anything that actually serves and protects our country, one more thing to add to the ever growing list of things you don't tolerate - oh sorry like. Still never mind when the revolution comes you can shift them across to the 'Do not tolerate' column. It's interesting how you accuse me of being 'obsessed' with the military. It demonstrates very plainly the fantasy world you live in. If you care to check the postings - and before you go all girly - yes they are still all there, you will find that the person who first mentions the military in connection with me is - wait for it - YOU! By the way did you read about another person who refused to obey an order given to him by a police officer? And this police officer was the chief constable and he ordered someone to lie to an investigator. Just like me he refused to obey and now the chief constable is out of a job and possibly facing criminal charges. Strange isn't it as according to you every order given by a police officer should be treated as holy writ. I bet that chief constable wished he had given that order to a spineless person like you, he would have leapt up saluting madly and offering to perjure himself from now until doomsday! Thank God there are still some people with a shred of morale fibre still left.

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  • Neathboy234  |  October 07 2012, 7:57PM

    Now maxmin u know i don't like the army/navy/RAF and all that lot. So i'm off now to watch a bit of downton abbey. Been nice chatting, i do love our little verbal wresting. Catch U again x

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  • maxmin  |  October 07 2012, 7:45PM

    I wouldn't know why you would say that, anyway according to you I wasn't in the military. Mind you you must be a very clever little boy to know that a military crest looks military!

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  • Neathboy234  |  October 07 2012, 7:42PM

    maxmin i thought it would be something to do with the military, it seems to be an obsession with u. I had an action man once as well mind U

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  • maxmin  |  October 07 2012, 7:33PM

    It's the crest of the unit I served in, I assume you took part in Emmerdale did you?

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  • Neathboy234  |  October 05 2012, 8:22PM

    maxmin BTW what's that silly little profile picture u have got. Something to do with the military i shouldn't wonder, U do seem to have an unhealthy obsession about all things militaristic

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