The Church at Robeston Wathen has a close association with the Royal Air Force and more than 20 members from the wartime museum at Carew Cheriton went there recently to hear local vicar, the Reverend Peter Lewis, explain why.
Robeston Wathen church is not the closest church to any of Pembrokeshire’s wartime air force bases yet its North Chapel has a Memorial Chapel to RAF Coastal Command and it claims to have the only stained glass window in the country depicting an airman in RAF Battledress.
Rev. Peter Lewis explained the connection was due largely to the work of one of his predecessor, The Reverend Llewellyn-Davies, who became Chaplain to RAF Templeton, home to a number of training units in No. 17 Group Coastal Command during World War II.
Polish refugee Aircraftman Richard Napieraia, a Roman Catholic by birth, converted to the Church in Wales while serving at RAF Templeton and became very active in the life of the church at Robeston Wathen. He was accepted for Ordination but sadly was killed while undertaking parachute training near Manchester in January 1944. A year earlier, Sgt. Vivian Ackroyd of the Royal New Zealand Air Force, was brought to Robeston Wathen to be buried in the churchyard rather than closer to his Templeton base.
At the end of the war the window and memorials in the chapel were dedicated on Remembrance Sunday 1946 by the late Group Captain Reverend F W Cocks, Chaplain to King George VI.
Sir Henry Walford Davies, Master of the King’s Music, who wrote the Royal Air Force March in 1918, is connected to the church through his daughter who presented a wooden cross to it.
Rev. Lewis’s own wartime memories were connected to RAF Carew Cheriton where his father was vicar of the Parish Church in the village. He told the Control Tower Group he particularly remembered being ill in bed with measles at Christmas in 1948 when he heard people singing in the drawing room beneath his bedroom. Moments later shabbily dressed men stood beside his bed looking over him. Peter explained they were Germans from the local Prisoner of War Camp who had been invited to his home by his father after rules on fraternisation had been relaxed.
He said he would always remember a German POW telling him how, when he returned to Germany, he would tell of the friendship he found in Carew Cheriton and report that the British were not all bad as they had been led to believe.