Ruperra Castle Fire 80 Years Ago Recounted In Drama

A GWENT fortress’s devastating fire is being commemorated with a particular drama.

Ruperra Castle in Machen was destroyed by a fire on December 6, 1941, the reason for which is assumed to have been {an electrical} fault.

The Ruperra Castle Preservation Belief have created a drama known as Ruperra Castle Struggle and Flames 1939-1946 to spotlight the fire proper in the center of the Second World Struggle.

Quite a lot of individuals have recounted their recollections of the fateful day which got here proper in the midst of the Second World Struggle and only a day earlier than the bombing of Pearl Harbour.

South Wales Argus: Inside Ruperra CastleInside Ruperra Castle

Ethel Ackland was a resident residing in Ruperra Park Drive close to the Cardiff Street entrance to the fortress. She recalled noticing that there was no water popping out of her predominant water supply – the surface faucet. She then noticed excessive flames popping out of what appeared to be the highest of a sq. hearth and thru the home windows.

She went to see what was occurring together with many others and remembered the ‘horrifying’ crackling sound of all of the varnish and polish in the wooden as she walked up the drive.

Close by kids watched fire engines dashing previous on the roads. One, Terry Everson from Machen, remembered seeing the orange and gold glare in the sky. He recalled how it will flare up shiny earlier than dulling after which construct again up earlier than blowing out as if one thing was exploding and spewing out an orange glow.

Doris Oram and her husband have been in mattress at No.3 The Row in close by Draethen. They labored nights on the Rodgerston Aluminium Manufacturing facility. Mrs Oram recalled: “It was almost time for us to stand up to go to work and we heard the noise of fire engines dashing up the street to the Michaelstone entrance to the Castle.

“We have been certain the Germans had invaded. We are able to giggle about it now however on the time it was very horrifying.”

The blackout in place because of the battle meant that it was tough to get emergency providers to the fortress to extinguish the fire as engines have been getting caught on the fields earlier than even reaching the fortress. The fortress’s Sport Keeper Blackburn tried to assist the fire engines to the pond however the reflection of the sunshine of the fire in the water had led to them getting caught in the delicate earth after reducing throughout the grass.

South Wales Argus: 1938 Leyland Engine used to put out the fire. Picture: Lee British Fire Rescue Pics1938 Leyland Engine used to place out the fire. Image: Lee British Fire Rescue Pics

Those who did arrive on the scene drained the water from the ponds to assist to place out the fire.

So what was the reason for the fire?

At first, there have been ideas that it was a bombing raid, or the Germans had invaded however it was a moist evening so there have been no bombing raids and there was no invasion.

Many theories have been spreading round in regards to the potential explanation for the fire together with that the Individuals brought on it as there have been troopers utilizing the fortress as a base, however America didn’t enter the battle till the day after the fire when the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbour.

Italian prisoners of battle have been additionally blamed as have been the Dutch, nevertheless the Dutch troopers – the Princess Irene Brigade – left the fortress in October 1940.

One of many troopers who was in the fortress on the time of the fire believes it was {an electrical} fault.

Who was current on the time of the fire?

On the time of the fire and in the years prior, Ruperra Castle had been dwelling to plenty of Military regiments. The 307 Searchlight Regiment’s South Wales area HQ was at Ruperra Castle in November 1941 and 500 males have been stationed there and at 24 close by websites together with Hanley Swan, Mamhilad, Ponthir and Bulmore Street, Christchurch and Belmont.

On the time of the fire, solely 50 or 60 males have been stationed in the headquarters at Ruperra facilitating the requests from the close by websites.

Andy Newton of the regiment – which originated in Tyneside – stated that they felt like royalty residing in the fortress. He stated: “In the principle corridor that they had a marble hearth. My billet was on the high of the home, with large south going through windowsills the place we may lie flat-out in the solar. On a transparent day you had a stupendous view to the opposite aspect of the Channel.”

The troopers loved the countryside too and because the Hollybush in Dreathen was now closed down, they’d stroll alongside the river to the British Legion Membership in Machen the place they have been very welcome. Lance Robinson by no means forgot listening to an previous boy of about 90 there, an Eisteddfod gold medallist, a extremely good singer.

South Wales Argus: 307 Searchlight Regiment at Ruperra Castle307 Searchlight Regiment at Ruperra Castle

The 307 regiment solely lasted 12 days on the HQ because of the fire. Frank McClary was making ready to maneuver to the Battery Headquarters at Ruperra Castle proper because the fire began. He stated: “We spent only one evening there sleeping in the steady block in bunk beds the place it was actually snug.

“The fortress was a spoil. They stated that there wasn’t sufficient water there to place the fire out. The troopers walked inside and had a glance. It was fairly a large number. The treads on the gorgeous huge staircase have been nonetheless there.”

Lance Robinson of the Tyneside 307 Searchlight Regiment was stationed at Ruperra Castle on the evening of the fire.

He stated: “Solely our regiment of about 50 males was in Ruperra when it burnt down. The remainder had gone out on to the searchlight websites. They reckoned there was {an electrical} fault. The fortress hadn’t been used, you see, and so when all of the lights went on, the electrical wires in the ceilings and the partitions have been overloaded.

“I imply, when you’d smoked a cigarette in the fortress you couldn’t have set fire to it as a result of there was no furnishings or something to catch. It wasn’t our neglect. You’re not going to burn your personal dwelling down, are you? We’d been in some huge locations earlier than they usually’d been alright.

“The fire began in the ceilings. They have been falling in and everyone was attempting to get down the steps. That’s why Cecil Hogg and me and my brother jumped out by means of the home windows. There was a scatter, only a huge scatter. A fellow got here in to the place the lads have been sleeping or enjoying playing cards and stated in Geordie ‘Away – the hiss took a hardin!’ which implies ‘Get out, the home is on fire.’

“There was a cockney lad who used to do all of the cleansing, who went spherical throwing items of coal in by means of the home windows of the separate rooms of officers and sergeants. The remainder of us had been collectively in massive rooms.

“The entire intention was to get everyone exterior after which see what you could possibly do. You couldn’t do something inside. There was a roll name to examine that everybody was out. It was most likely about 9 or 10 o’clock when the fire began and by 1 or 2 o’clock in the morning it was nicely away, burning itself out. It was darkish and folks may see the flames throughout the world. There have been some hoses obtained out of the outhouses and we have been informed to carry on to them tight as a result of they kick. However there was no water popping out of them.

“The fire brigades got here from Cardiff, Newport, in every single place, however they couldn’t all get by means of. And after they did, it was too late. The next day Lord Tredegar got here in his brass hat – he wasn’t in a correct military gown, it was an honorary one. He stated he was very glad that we’d all obtained out.

South Wales Argus:

“The one casualty was Lieutenant Barker, a really good fellow, who went in to rescue the mascot canine, a bulldog, known as Tyne. It was frightened by the fire and went again into the Castle. There have been friction hoists above the home windows which he used to decrease the canine down so then he couldn’t use it for himself and needed to leap from the second ground. He broke each his legs and naturally that completed him in the Military. He was a very good Rugby participant too.


“All of us slept in a giant room above the stables after that.  Pat Kirkwood was supposed to come back to do an Ensa present in the Banqueting Corridor however with it being burnt down she gave it in the stables. Finally I went contained in the Castle. I keep in mind seeing all the within flattened. After I appeared up he may see the sky.

“Ruperra had been actually one thing for somebody like me to see. The rooms there have been fancy and there was a sprung ground in the corridor on the primary ground. We’d seen castles earlier than, we’ve obtained a number of castles up right here on Tyneside , however this was actually stunning. And I’ve by no means forgotten the chandelier. When it was throughout I used to be actually upset. The environment have been so good, the gardens and the timber. I loved it there and I’m sorry for individuals who by no means had the possibility to see it because it was.”
The yr earlier than the fire, the fortress was dwelling to a battalion of Dutch troopers who had escaped from Holland earlier than the Germans invaded.

The Princess Irene Brigade have been stationed on the fortress between August 29 and October 10, 1940, six or seven weeks after touchdown in Milford Haven.

South Wales Argus: Sergeant Siegmund Emanuel KleerkoperSergeant Siegmund Emanuel Kleerkoper

Sergeant Siegmund Emanuel Kleerkoper was a kind of who was despatched to Ruperra Castle. He stated that they have been housed in the coach home and in the stables with bunks of 4 males. He wrote about Tuesday coaching periods together with weapons coaching, discipline workout routines and marching in the mountains.

He stated: “I learnt to march. With massive blisters underneath my ft and sweat pouring off my face and physique, I by no means gave up and I completed each march.

“The environment have been splendid, and we remained in Ruperra Castle for 2 months. We couldn’t criticise our coaching regardless that scarcity of weapons enforced the utilization of fairground weapons however with directions from army police.”

Sergeant Kleerkpoper would play the piano in the banqueting corridor and encourage the opposite musicians in the regiment to placed on performances.

Earlier than and after the fire a Royal Military Service Corps Unit have been educated on the fortress and a few of those that escaped from Dunkirk have been recovering on the fortress.

When the unit got here again from Dunkirk, they got two blankets to sleep on the ground in the fortress they usually have been unable to bake as their gear was left in France.

The unit have been prepared to maneuver out because the Second Subject Bakery Unit moved in after they left Dunkirk. John Rogers, a baker from Kent, had a fortunate escape in Dunkirk as lots of his comrades died however he was in the opposite half of the unit which returned to Ruperra.

South Wales Argus: The coach house and stables entrance nowThe coach home and stables entrance now

Mr Rogers returned to Ruperra Castle in 1943 following the fire and slept underneath a canvas in the grounds. He stated: “This time the cell bakery gear was at Ruperra which grew to become the primary bakery coaching base.

“Males have been being recalled from the Center East and from varied components of England. We baked underneath marquees and the ovens stayed on the trailers with canvas over. We did the baking out in the sphere underneath canvas.”

South Wales Argus: Mobile bakery at Ruperra CastleCell bakery at Ruperra Castle

The Ministry of Defence’s instruction manuals for Cell Bakeries have been illustrated with footage from the Ruperra Castle grounds and Mr Rogers stated that they educated an entire American unit at Ruperra who additionally slept underneath canvas

What is occurring with the fortress now?

The fortress is a uncared for and harmful spoil in response to the Ruperra Castle Preservation Belief. They’ve been campaigning for 25 years to buy and preserve the Scheduled Historical Monument, Grade II listed constructing and Grade II registered park.

The present homeowners beforehand submitted planning purposes to transform outbuildings into a non-public residential growth.

South Wales Argus: Ruperra Castle recentlyRuperra Castle just lately

The Ruperra Castle Preservation Belief have created an hour-long drama/documentary known as Struggle and Flames with Cwmni Cwm Ni (Our Valley) theatre group who dramatize the recollections of wartime troopers and native individuals across the time of the fire. This can be carried out on Thursday, December 9 in English at Machen Uniter Providers Membership. E book tickets: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/performance-of-ruperra-castle-war-and-flames-1939-46-tickets-204437807987 

They’re additionally offering a free copy of their guide Ruperra Castle Struggle and Flames 1939-1946 to any new member who registers as a member of the belief between now and the tip of December https://ruperracastle.weebly.com/membership.html

The guide can be obtainable to be bought for £6 https://ruperracastle.weebly.com/films-and-books.html

The belief are additionally releasing their movie, Struggle and Flames, so the general public can be taught extra in regards to the historical past of the time across the evening the Castle was burnt out. https://youtu.be/rx04eahJ-hA

Jack Hanbury, Patron of Ruperra Castle Preservation Belief and Deputy Lieutenant of Gwent, stated:  

“It’s a nice disgrace that Ruperra Castle, as soon as really a fortress match for a king, has been uncared for for thus lengthy. 

“The Belief desires to see the Castle rescued from its present ruinous state, and for its magnificent setting to be revered as a haven for wildlife and as a lung for the encompassing conurbations of Newport, Cardiff and Caerphilly.   We need to assist and encourage the present homeowners to revive the Castle and defend its gardens and outbuildings.  This can be a nice alternative for the local people to assist save this iconic constructing from collapse.”

Discover out extra about Ruperra Castle:

An enormous thanks to the Ruperra Castle Preservation Belief for offering the knowledge and pictures.

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