Born in 1938, Gwyndaf Evans was the son of railway worker Trevor Evans. Gwyndaf’s grandfather was affectionately known as Griff “Y Crossing Borth”, who is commemorated as such on his gravestone. Gwyndaf came from a large family who lived for a number of years at Station House Borth. After leaving school at fifteen, he found himself in Birmingham looking for a job. He hated all the aspects of industrialized post war cities like those of the Midlands; they seemed dull and drab and rationing at the time added to the gloom. After seeing a poster depicting life at sea, he decided to join the Royal Navy. He was to spend eleven years altogether at sea from 1954 until 1965.
He began his training at H.M.S. Raleigh as a stoker. His first seagoing vessel was H.M.S. Ocean, which was involved in the Suez Crisis. After bombarding Port Said, Gwyndaf witnessed the aftermath of conflict, as many of the wounded, including sailors and Egyptian civilians, were treated aboard ship. The most unpleasant memory was disposing of limbs in the furnaces. His next vessel was H.M.S. Drake and then H.M.S. Eagle which was the sister ship of the H.M.S. Ark Royal. By this time, he had become a stoker leading hand. His travels took him to South Africa, Australia, the Mediterranean and Scandinavia.
Gwyndaf’s next posting was to H.M.S. Goldcrestwhich was based in Pembrokeshire. However, in one of the many scrapes he was involved in he “borrowed” a police car, and with a few of his shipmates as passengers, drove it back to base. There was a hue and cry so he decided to hide in a laundry basket. In the end it all caught up with him and he was demoted.
By this time he was already married and upon hearing of the imminent birth of his daughter at Borth, he decided to hitch hike home, but only got as far as Haverfordwest where he got involved in a brawl helping his shipmates. He got locked up for a time, and only saw his daughter a week later.
As he says he always got away lightly with these escapades because he was a keen cross country runner and a very good footballer. He played for the H.M.S Eagle team, and later for the Mediterranean Fleet eleven. By the time he was on H.M.S Diamond, he was leading hand again, and he did a couple of stints on H.M.S. Defender and H.M.S. Duchess. He returned to serve on H.M.S.Diamond, which voyaged to the Mediterranean, the Baltic and went to the small port of Sunsvalt, just north of Stockholm. The captain of the Diamond had served with the Mayor of that town, and Gwyndaf remembers the incredible reception they received with bands playing and the whole town out welcoming them.
At the H.M.S. Goldcresthe was a great friend of David Jones of Aberystwyth, better known as Dai Cwmparc. They were both in the same football team, and were often flown around for matches in a small plane from the ship as far north as Lossiemouth in Scotland.
Long after leaving the Navy, Gwyndaf was invited to return to H.M.S. Ocean. His son-in-law, Desmond Enoch, was warrant officer in charge of 800 marines on the new Ocean. Gwyndaf and his daughter went on a twenty-four hour complimentary trip on this vessel to the Channel Islands and back. Gwyndaf was so used to the protocols and disciplines of naval life in the 1950’s, that he was surprised by being piped up to the bridge and embarrassed when the captain forsook any formality and hugged him, saying “welcome back my boy”.
He recalls Benidorm in the early 1960’s as a sleepy little Spanish town when he visited there on the H.M.S. Diamond. The approaches were so shallow that during their 10 days stop over the crew built a little stone jetty so they could land via the ships’ boat…apparently its remains are still there.
Gwyndaf remembers going to Wembley to watch Wales play England and when he arrived at Victoria Station he bought himself the biggest leek he could find, and just before the game started he ran on to the pitch to plant it in the centre circle. What he did not know was that two of his brothers were also in the crowd, and an argument ensued as one said it was Gwyndaf and the other one said it was not; insisting he was still in the Mediterranean. All this was caught on the Pathe News, and a neighbour ran to tell Jano, his wife, that they had just seen her husband in Wembley planting a leek. He was filmed beautifully sidestepping the chasing police. Eventually he was caught, but they were very tolerant and allowed him to get back in the stands. He wonders if he was the first “football hooligan” caught on camera. Despite all this, Wales lost 5-1 in a dour match. He recalls later that there were free drinks all night in the West End as everybody agreed that his stunt had been the highlight of the match.
On another jaunt from Chatham to London, he and two shipmates were hitch hiking in uniform when a massive car drew up and they were told to jump in for a lift all the way to the capital. It transpired that it was one of the Queens’ state cars, whose chauffeur was an ex-Naval Petty Officer. The car’s interior was incredibly plush with gold ashtrays. As they reached the heart of London, the driver said “Hang on I will show you something special”. They drove up to the Dorchester and they were instructed to wait five minutes, and in that time a large crowd had gathered expecting Royalty to step out, instead of that it was three matelots
Being a sportsman was a great help, as often if he fell asleep during lectures or the like, he would have to report to his Commander. When he arrived for the expected disciplinary outcome things inevitably changed when his record was checked, as the next thing he knew was “put the kettle on Evans”. This would be followed by long discussions about impending football matches or cross-country runs.
Gwyndaf will never forget running a race wearing his Welsh shirt, when a car drew up and out of the passenger window, his then Commander said to him “Boy, remember what that shirt is that you are wearing”, and as Gwyndaf says “It gave me a huge fillip and I ran like the wind”. He misspent his youth gloriously, courtesy of the Royal Navy. Prospects seemed bleak in the Service when he left, but nowadays, he believes he would have stayed on in the Royal Navy for much longer.