PEOPLE V THE STATE: CELEBRATING 50 YEARS SINCE THE BATTLE FOR PEMBREY AND CEFN SIDAN
In 1969, the communities of Burry Port and Pembrey commenced a David v Goliath battle against the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to prevent it from relocating the Shoeburyness gunnery range, (which had to be relocated due to the proposal to build a third London airport) from Essex to the range it owned at Pembrey.
This would turn the area lying between Cefn Sidan and Kidwelly into a huge gunnery range, shooting missiles into the sea towards Gower.
The implications of such a plan would jeopardise the lives and livelihoods of the residents of Carmarthen Bay from Gower to south Pembrokeshire.
From the 1940s – 1960s the state and its institutions had commandeered Welsh land and uprooted community after community from the mountains of Merionyddshire to the uplands of Breconshire.
This was not going to happen here.
The residents of Burry Port and Pembrey fought the project with direct action and hard campaigning, invoking the spirit of their fearsome wrecker ancestors, the Little Hatchet Men.
Committees were formed in communities stretching from Swansea to Tenby to support the cause which the powers that be at the time took as a fait accompli.
This was a fight undertaken by people of all ages and the women were crucial to its success, as so many of the menfolk were working shifts in the region’s heavy industries.
Slandered and derided by the then Welsh Secretary, George Thomas, surveilled and raided by Special Branch, these brave women and their families took on the might of the British state and won.
If this battle had been lost, Pembrey Country Park and Cefn Sidan would not exist as we know it today.
It was a significant part of modern Welsh history which has been sadly neglected and this significant anniversary is the perfect time to inform todays’ communities of the enormity of the challenge faced by their forefathers.
Some of the original campaigners have now formed a committee to highlight this brave endeavour and are looking for interested parties to join in the celebration and commemoration of this fight.
One of the original campaigners, Mr Mike Clement said:
“It was, in effect, the biggest battle for the land that this area of Carmarthenshire has seen since medieval times and united the people of the coastal communities from Tenby to Swansea.
We are looking at ways of commemorating this vitally important piece of quite recent history, as it has been forgotten and we think it of huge importance that the younger generations learn about their heritage and the fight that their grandparents and parents undertook. Against all odds!”
There will be a buffet meal at Caffi Lolfa, Burry Port on Friday 20thJuly at 6.30 pm.
If you can offer some creative ideas and some spare time to volunteer, please come along but book ahead due to limited numbers.
Caffi Lolfa, is at 4 Stepney Rd, Burry Port.
Call the Caffi at 01554 834148