THE largest celebration of veterans of the Second World War in Wales in recent years was held in the Towy Valley recently.

On October 4, 2023, 120 people who served in the Second World War or experienced the war and went on to serve during National Service, gathered at Myddfai Community Hall near Llandovery for an ‘Our Greatest Generation’ event.

Among the guests were nine Second World War veterans including D-Day veterans and Betty Webb MBE. Ms Webb worked as an ATS and was involved in Bletchley Park.

Some of the attendees included those who were children and witnessed the bombing of Pembroke Dock, Swansea, Cardiff and Newport, with some going on to serve in the Armed Forces in later life.

The event was opened by the Lord Lieutenant of Dyfed, Sara Edwards, and Colonel James Phillips, the Veterans Commissioner for Wales, introduced the veterans.

Among the veterans introduced was an Ammanford born veteran of the Second World War.

Neville Bowen was born in Ammanford in 1922 and was initially working as a coal miner before he took on work in demolishing bombed-out buildings at the start of the Second World War. In 1942 at the age of 19, he joined the Royal Navy and completed his training on HMS Glendower before a gunnery course on HMS Wallasey. He worked as a Royal Naby DEMS Gunner (Defensively Equipped Merchant Ship) and used Oerlikon guns to protect merchant ship convoys.

He was involved in the Battle of the Atlantic and amongst his medals are the Atlantic Star, Pacific Star and Italy Star. He first served on troop ship HMS Louis Pasteur carrying RAF personnel to Canada and carrying out convoys in the Atlantic and Mediterranean and witnessed many ships sinking and a torpedo narrowly missing his own ship whilst he was on watch.

Both of his brothers also served during the war, Doug was in the Welsh Regiment and was badly wounded in Monte Casino, with Neville going to visit him in hospital in Naples and returning home together. Their brother Will served in the Royal Artillery.

There was music provided by Kirsten Orsborn, the Royal Marines ambassador and Forces Sweetheart and Greg Lewis, a producer of ITV Wales’ Greatest Generation and Lest We Forget documentaries presented Lest We Forget: Filming the Stories of the Veterans.

Speaking before the event, Simon Wright, CEO of Age Cymru Dyfed, said: “Age Cymru Dyfed supports older veterans across west Wales. As such, we are looking forward to welcoming a number of WWII veterans – Our Greatest Generation – and their families to Myddfai Community Hall to celebrate their contribution to this country in its hour of need.

“It may be nearly 80 years since WWII raged around the world, but their part in ensuring a free world is not forgotten through events such as this and, through the West Wales Veterans’ Archive held as part of the People’s Collection Wales at the National Library of Wales.”