PROGRESS IMPEDED (The War Period.)
The outbreak of war in 1914 found few experienced YMCA Leaders in Wales. The staff that had inspired such prodigious growth in Association activities and had considerable experience in camp service with H.M. Volunteer Forces in Wales dispersed abruptly. The administrative unit of the Council appeared to have suffered complete disintegration.
In these circumstances the National Council, London, invited Mr. F. S. Higman, the General Secretary of the Cardiff Association, to undertake responsibility for organising YMCA service for the Forces in Wales. It is not clear whether the appointment included supervision of Local Association work.
The Central YMCA became the Headquarters for Wales, but some ambiguity existed as to whether the General Committee of the Cardiff Association would be associated with Mr. Higman in this sphere of work or whether a small ‘Ad Hoc' Committee of prominent laymen should be appointed. In practice the latter appeared to be the course adopted.
Mr. Higman's first move was to prepare a plan for three administrative regions, viz, South East Wales, West Wales, and North Wales, with area offices at Cardiff, Pembroke Dock and Caernarfon, respectively.
In the South East District, twenty-two canteens were opened, six in Cardiff and six in the Chepstow area on the West shore of the Severn Estuary. Two canteens were located at munition works in Port Talbot and Swansea.
The Swansea Association provided an excellent service in its temporary buildings, its new premises having been requisitioned for the purpose of a Forces' Hospital.
A hut outside Cardiff Station was in constant use for members of the Forces travelling to and from war areas when on leave.
On Sunday afternoons throughout the war period, four to five hundred wounded men were entertained to tea and an orchestral concert at the Central YMCA. Provision and preparation for tea were undertaken by members of many Cardiff churches. On Sunday nights a concert and short service were arranged.
At Pembroke Dock in the West, the work was under the control of Mr. G. W. Thomas, the Assistant Secretary at Cardiff Central. Twelve Centres were sited around Milford Raven. Excellent work was done especially during the winter months when severe weather made access to the substantial huts near the mouth of the Haven almost impossible for road transport.
The town centre at Pembroke Dock was very popular and the facilities for refreshments and entertainments were much appreciated by Army and Navy personnel stationed at isolated units.
It is interest to record that the young assistant to Mr. G. W. Thomas was a trainee YMCA Secretary in his early twenties, Norman Tucker, who later became General Secretary of the National Council of YMCAs Inc. His wife was a Pembroke Dock lady who helped in the Canteen Service.
North Wales had eight Forces Centres. A hut at Bangor Station was a blessing to troops in transit to Anglesey and Caernarvonshire. The work in