The Alexandra Dock Hotel After Being Struck By A Bomb In 1940

Photo reference number: 119

(Text and Photo from "Through Seven Reigns, A History Of The Newport Police Force 1836 - 1959.")


August, 1939, saw the police force energetically preparing to meet the threat of the second world war, which broke out on 3rd September. Balloon barrages were flown in various parts of the town, premises were requisitioned and troops billeted at hotels, in people's homes and elsewhere.
On 8th September, the first military convoy arrived. It was directed to Forge Lane, where the troops encamped before grouping and embarking at Newport docks.
On 12th February, 1940, the police administrative department was transferred from the Town Hall to more commodious premises at the Civic Centre. This was a great advantage. The new premises had ample accommodation on three floors, a suitable canteen and excellent social facilities. All these were very necessary where men and women were to do duty for 24 hours of the day.
Frequent air raid warnings kept the staff alert, but it was not until 26th June, 1940, that Newport sustained its first bomb damage, when there was a direct hit on the Cleveland Oil Depot in Corporation Road. Very little damage was caused, although four Corporation officials were injured as they were proceeding by car to the scene.
The town continued to receive periodical visits by enemy aircraft, though casualties and damage were slight. However, on 13th September, 1940, an enemy aeroplane fouled the balloon barrage, and crashed on a house in Stow Park Avenue, killing two children and severely damaging the building. The pilot was captured in Queen Street, but other members of the crew were killed in the crash.


At 8.20 p.m. on 9th October, 1940, the Alexandra Dock Hotel received a direct hit from a high explosive bomb, and several people were buried under the debris. A few minutes after the incident, Constable Charles Cook arrived on the scene, and with the help of Constable Emlyn Lewis rescued a man who, however, died a few minutes later. Constable Cook then began to burrow through the debris and rescued another man, who died the next day.
The constable continued to burrow, finding yet another man. Falling masonry struck him about the body and a beam caught fire but was extinguished with water poured from a succession of pint mugs repeatedly filled with water, and meanwhile Cook and other police officers and civilians who had arrived on the scene carried on their rescue attempts and released a man who had been pinned by a large piece of timber across his legs.
In the public bar near Mendalgief Road, most of the wall had collapsed, and the two upper floors had fallen into the bar. Gas was leaking and the dividing wall was leaning dangerously and likely to collapse at any minute. In spite of this, when Constable Edmund Wetter heard a woman moaning under the debris he immediately began to shift the rubble with the assistance of civilians. He was successful in rescuing the woman and returned to help Constable Cook and the others.
Constable Lewis, who arrived on the scene soon after Constable Cook, also assisted in carrying a man to safety and rendered first aid. He then located the landlady but was unable to rescue her owing to falling masonry.
On 31st May, 1941, bombs were dropped over a wide area embracing Fields Park Avenue, Ridgeway Avenue, and Glasllwch Crescent, killing six persons, severely injuring 41, and causing extensive damage.
The night of the 1st July, 1941, was the worst experienced at Newport. Parachute mines were dropped on the Eveswell Street area, Kensington Place, Belle Vue Park, in a field off Christchurch Road, on Tredegar Park golf links, Beechwood Road, and near the Transporter Bridge. Thirty-seven people were killed and 42 seriously injured.
At this time 37 members of the force had volunteered for the armed services and the regular force was supplemented by persons directed by the Ministry of Labour and National Service and known as War Reserve constables. Meanwhile the Special Constabulary had also been increased.
The extent of the police's war duties may be judged from the considerable work entailed in dealing with the constant flow of military convoys and the fact that 4,533 properties were damaged by enemy action, 51 persons killed and 63 seriously injured.
On the day Italy entered the war, great hostility was shown towards many Italians in the town. Crowds gathered outside their shops during the black-out, sang patriotic songs and hurled bricks through several of their windows. Detection of the offenders was impossible owing to the lighting restrictions and the huge crowds.
Street patrol work was difficult because there was seldom a night without a few fights and opponents changed from night to night. The arrival of American troops, both white and black, also added greatly to the work of the police.
Several of the War Reserve constables carried out their duties magnificently. Three, Constables T. Ludlow, F. A. Chappell and N. D. Cox, joined the "regulars" in 1940, and are still serving today.
Then there was "Dai Flat Hat," whose courage was outstanding. He was a most loyal and capable officer, would tackle anything, and even canvassed a little insurance while on the beat. He had been an insurance agent before joining and his wife carried on his job while he was at Newport. A great friend of the regulars, he was most obliging and became the Force's barber, cutting the men's hair while they were on reserve duty at the Civic Centre,
Of the large number of War Reserve constables who served, only the three mentioned remained; the rest returned to more lucrative positions. Few would have reached the physical standard required in peacetime, however.
Women were enrolled for clerical and other duties in what were known as the Women's Auxiliary Police Corps.
Victory over Japan brought the town its first victory celebration. Huge crowds gathered outside the Town Hall and sang, danced, and carried the police shoulder high. Fortunately, intoxicants were rationed at this time.
American soldiers arrived in their fire engine and circled the town, and anyone who could get on had a ride with them. Such was the state of the town that the Deputy Chief Constable, Superintendent Cyril L. Williams, withdrew most of the police to the Town Hall police station, there to remain on reserve duty.
The whole celebration passed without serious incident, however, and as the hours passed, the people dispersed to their homes. By 4 a.m., the town resumed its normal tranquillity.


Constable C. H. Cook, G.M.
Constable E. Wetter, Order of the British Empire.
Inspector W. A. Everson, commendation.
Constable E. P. Lewis, commendation.
The Chief Constable of Newport, Mr Clifford Montague Harris, was honoured with the award of the Order of the British Empire for his war services.

Photos of Constables Cook and Wetter

See how the bombing was reported the day after