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We Saved Our Sands from the Shoeburyness Monster

Report by Ron Cant

IN the week when Cefn Sidan receives yet another Blue Flag award the work of those who actually saved the sands will be celebrated with a walk along the coast by 900 schoolchildren.

The SOS battle to save Cefn Sidan Sands Pembrey from the Shoeburyness Monster that started 50 years ago is being remembered  on Thursday. (May 23rd)

The sponsored walk is raising money towards a memorial for the Save Our Sands campaign that led to the creation of Pembrey Country Park.

The SOS@50 group has been set up to reawaken interest in the much forgotten massive community battle and their chairman Mike Clement has been visiting schools from Kidwelly to Stradey to inform pupils of the campaign.

Weatherman Walking Derek Brockway will be launching the walk at 10am on Thursday at Burry Port Marina Fields and will be joining more than 900 children from 10 schools from Kidwelly to Stradey to remember the battle to save Cefn Sidan from the big guns of the Ministry of Defence (MoD) 50 years ago.

Mr Brockway will be walking from Burry Port, through Pembrey and along Cefn Sidan, up Banc y Lord and on to Kidwelly Castle telling the story of the campaign and Cefn Sidan, its great wrecking history as part of his Weatherman Walking series.

Mr Clement said many generations of schoolchildren had grown up enjoying the fabulous Pembrey Country Park with no idea of the great battle and community struggle that led to its creation.

In 1969 the Ministry announced plans to take over the whole of the Pembrey Peninsula and recreate the proofing and experimental gunnery range that existed at Shoeburyness on the Essex marshes. The Southend location was being earmarked and needed for the site for London’s third airport transferring everything to Pembrey.

“It would have turned Pembrey and Burry Port into a garrison town with extremely 

limited access on a few days of the year to parts of the glorious eight-miles of Cefn Sidan.”

But the MoD had not expected the resistance to their big gun plans. People took the streets with placards and car stickers. Campaigners lay in the road in front of tanks on trial exercise at Pembrey with the SOS battle making international news with its intensity.

The MoD capitulated and agreed to a public enquiry which was chaired by HM Government Inspector the late Sir Alun Talfan Davies. The enquiry lasted six weeks at locations from Llanelli to Carmarthen.

There was great rejoicing when after the two-year “SOS We will fight them on the beaches” campaign which started in 1969 found in favour of the people with Sir Alun in his summing up saying the Pembrey Peninsula should be preserved for the “recreation use of the greater community.”

The creation of Pembrey Country Park started a few years later and it has become one of Wales’ biggest visitor attractions in some years attracting more than a million visitors. Sadly the story of the exhausted campaigner’s battle was unmarked and has largely been forgotten.

Mr Clement said in his school visits the schoolchildren taking part in then walk had their imagination fired with the battle their grandparents had waged against the Shoeburyness Monster and the MoD.

He said: “The spirit of the SOS campaign has certainly been reawakened,” he said.

“We are working hard to create a monument, hopefully within the park, so the great fight will always be remembered and are so grateful for the support of the schools, especially the pupils.

“They had no idea when visiting the park which has been the popular playground for kids in the community growing up what might have been, gun shells not sea shells.”

For further information please contact Ron Cant SOS press officer 1969-71) tel 07811101531

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