Tag Archives: Point Lynas

Sea mines on North Wales beaches

30 Jan

Having failed to close the port of Liverpool by bombing the Germans changed their tactics in January 1943. In the first week of the month they resorted to laying sea mines by submarine in the approach channel between Point Lynas, Anglesey and the mouth of the River Mersey.

On the evening of the 2nd a sea mine exploded on the foreshore at Penmaenhead near Colwyn Bay, damaging the windows of two properties but causing no casualties. The following morning saw a number of mines washed up on the Denbighshire coast.  Just before six in the morning people living close to Pensarn railway station got an early wake-up call when a German sea mine exploded, damaging 87 houses while a second device did not detonate and 15 people were evacuated from their homes while it was rendered safe.  Elsewhere that morning further mines were washed up opposite Sunnyvale Camp, Towyn and another on the beach at Sandbank Road, Towyn. In this instance over 250 people were evacuated to rest centres while the Royal Navy defused the bomb. Later that day a mine was found in Foryd Harbour, Rhyl and 40 people were evacuated from Kinmel Bay while that was defused.

On the 4th of January further sea mines were washed ashore.  In Colwyn Bay, 400 people were evacuated from their homes and 1600 civil servants working at the Ministry of Food were moved from their offices when a sea mine washed ashore by the Rothesay Hotel. The police closed the promenade and surrounding roads while the, now overworked, Royal Navy bomb disposal team got to work.  A further two mines were spotted in the sea off Colwyn Bay pier and to minimise the risk to life from these devices the Chief Constable of Denbighshire made an order under the Public Entertainments (Restrictions) Order to close the Victoria Pier in Colwyn Bay during the hours of darkness.

The SS Apapa

4 Aug

While at Bron-y-Nant Cemetery in Colwyn Bay this week I came across a fascinating First World War grave marker.  Situated close to the boundary wall of the old red bricked isolation hospital one headstone – a large, local limestone boulder – stands out for its simplicity while the rest in this century old cemetery are the usual mix of shapes and styles.

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The epitaph is both difficult to read and follow.  After nearly one hundred years some of the lead characters have become detached while the uneven contours of the stone must have been a challenge to the monumental mason.  It reads:

“In memory of John Mackey, Leeds, Able Seaman also a man whose name is unknown they both perished through the sinking of the British Passenger Steam Ship ‘Apapa’ by a German Submarine on 28TH Nov 1917 their bodies were washed ashore at Rhos on Sea. They died for their country”

The SS Apapa was one of the largest liners in the Elder Dempster fleet and was returning home to the port of Liverpool from West Africa when she was torpedoed by a German submarine.  The vessel had reached a position three miles north east of Port Lynas, Anglesey when she was attacked at 4.10 a.m. on Wednesday, November 28th, 1917, when steaming at 13 knots.  No sign of the submarine was visible to those on board.  The torpedo exploded on the starboard side extinguishing the electric light and making the work of mustering the passengers much more difficult, but fortunately the sea was calm, with brilliant moonlight.  Captain Toft managed to launch a number of boats without incident, but ten minutes after the first attack a second torpedo struck one of the boats containing around 30 people and killed or drowned the majority. There were 249 persons on board the SS Apapa; 40 passengers and 37 crewmen were lost. 

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Other bodies were washed ashore elsewhere on the North Wales coast including one at Abergele and a further three were laid to rest at Glanadda Cemetery in Bangor.

There are thirty graves in Bron y Nant cemetery of the men and one woman who died during the first and second world wars.  Not all are marked with the familiar Commonwealth War Graves Commission Portland stone markers, the majority are private family memorials.  This grave can be found in section B.232.