Part 1 Early life
Note: I’m using the name Terry here because that was what he was called at that point. “Taff” came when he joined the RAF. I've endeavoured to follow this rule throughout!
Terence John Charles Williams was born in the village of Cymmer in the Rhondda Valley on 21st December 1928. His father, Harry was in charge of the stable at the Thomas and Evans factory In Porth. Strong temperance advocates, Thomas and Evans created “Corona” pop as an alternative for the miners to drink rather than beer. The pop was delivered by a fleet of horses and carts, the stables being next to the factory. Harry had fought at Passchendaele in the first World War and came from rural Monmouthshire. We believe his background in horse and livestock management originated there.
Terry spoke of a happy childhood, much of it spent on the hillsides above the valley. His father, while not by any means wealthy was hard-working and constantly employed. In the early 30’s the family increased with the arrival of his sister, Joyce.
Rickard St, Cymmer today. Terry's house on right with Cream door
However, in the mid-30’s Thomas and Evans started to phase out the horse drawn carts to replace them with lorries. Harry faced losing his job. One of 13 children, Harry asked one of his brothers who had moved away, whether he knew of any suitable work. It transpired that the Bristol Aircraft works at Filton used horses in the factory and so the family moved from Cymmer to Hambrook, just outside Bristol.
It’s interesting to speculate where Terry’s love of aircraft and flying came from. It may have been here. (We once had a book, “First in the Field” by George Manville Fenn, given to Terry on his 11th birthday, which had all of its flyleaves covered in very accurate pencil drawings by Terry of Spitfires and Hurricanes. The book tragically disappeared during Terry’s move from Carterton).
The advent of war in 1939 and the proximity of the aircraft works and Bristol docks, gave Terry ample opportunity to see aircraft in action. He spoke of occasions when he would sit on the downs at Winterbourne watching the German bombers coming in overhead from the east to bomb the Aircraft works and docks. His feelings must have been mixed to say the least since, as he said, his father was working in the factory at the time.
One night early in the war one German raid resulted in an incendiary bomb hitting the family cottage in Hambrook. The house was uninhabitable and the family was homeless. Harry, faced with destitution, cycled from Bristol to Monmouthshire to look for work on the farms there. He was fortunate and found farm labouring work. So, the family moved to a small tied cottage near Tregare.
White House Cottage today
A bright boy, Terry had won a scholarship to Chipping Sodbury Grammar School before leaving Bristol. We know that when the family moved Terry started at Monmouth School for Boys, a Public school. The scholarship must have been transferred, because we do know that the family would not have been able to afford any fees at this time. Terry liked the school and loved playing rugby there. He played at Hooker.
However, in 1942/3, when Terry reached 14, the family could not afford to forgo any income Terry might bring in (Buying uniforms alone created a huge financial challenge) and so he left school at this point. After a fortnight’s flirtation with a job as a plasterer, Terry discovered the pay would be better if he joined his father as a farm labourer at The Lodge farm outside Raglan. He stayed there for the duration of the war.
By this time Terry’s consuming love of flying had given him his direction in life and he was determined to join the RAF. In the meantime he joined the Air Cadets. Throughout the war he diligently created an aircraft recognition book using leaflets and multiple other sources. There are over 100 entries made (Including Japanese and Russian aircraft, which he would have been very lucky to see over South Wales!).
Terry's aircraft recognition book
Joining up... Terry's signing on paper
In 1946 and as early as he was able, Terry joined the RAF as a Junior Aircraftsman AC2 (The most junior rank). He signed on for the longest period on offer - 12 years.