b. 1922 | RAF
Born in 1922, Dennis Tidswell grew up in Gendros, Fforestfach, joining the RAF in 1940 and serving at RAF Duxford during the Battle of Britain. He was posted to Malta in 1941 where he served for almost 3yrs before returning to the British Isles when he was injured in a V1 rocket attack. Dennis told his remarkable story to the West Wales Veterans Archive during 2020/1 and participated in Age Cymru Dyfed’s WW2 Veterans celebration held in Aberporth on 6th June 2022. Dennis has lived in Pembroke Dock since the late 1940’s.
The material comprising Dennis’ collection consists of an audio recording which he made between November 2020-April 2021 which is supported by a written transcript; copies of photographs Dennis took during WW2, and finally a written description which introduces Dennis to the reader.
Dennis grew up in a village outside Swansea, where life was very much integrated with the church. His father was a member of the Swansea Police Force, having served in the Grenadier Guards during WW1. Dennis shared a hobby with his father; both were amateur radio enthusiasts and it was this that led to an ambition to join the Royal Air Force as a pilot. This ambition was to be partly-realised in July 1940 when Dennis was recruited as a radio operator and trained to operate the ground to air RDF communication system.
Dennis still longed to become a member of the air crew and was accepted for training in May 1941. However, it was not to be and Dennis received orders that he was being posted abroad. The shortage of trained radio operators in the RAF took priority over his personal ambitions to fly.
Dennis’s journey was an explosive one. He was on board a ship which formed part of ‘Operation Substance’ when this ship sunk off the coast of Gibraltar. Taking to a lifeboat Dennis was then transferred onto a much larger Cruiser which came under sustained attack before reaching Malta. For the next three years, Dennis served on the Islands of Malta and Gozo experiencing narrow escapes under the constant bombardment of the Italian and German Air Forces.
Upon his return to the UK in 1944, Dennis was posted to various RAF stations and eventually found himself in charge of a VHF/DF unit on the east coast of Hemsby at a time when the German V1 and V2 bombs were active. Dennis was injured when a V1 buzzbomb fell near to a vehicle he was in, leading to three months in the RAF hospital at Ely.
After demob, Dennis returned to Swansea and civilian life in August 1946. He took up a position with the London Insurance Company, with whom he had been an insurance clerk before joining the RAF. He moved to Pembroke, married his wife Beryl and had two children. Today, Dennis still lives in Pembroke.
Dennis Tidswell. Dennis and Beryl on their wedding day 11.10.1945. The chap on the right is Dennis best man – who had been severely injured whilst flying on operations with the RAF
Dennis Tidswell. Circa 1943. Members of the RAF Malta Boxing team of which Dennis was one. Dennis in uniform on the left.
Dennis Tidswell. 15th April 1942. Dennis photographed the ceremony in which George Cross was awarded to the people of the Island of Malta for their heroism.
Dennis Tidswell. May 1941. This is the photo Dennis took from the life-boat following the sinking of SS Leinster as the ‘Rock of Gibralter emerged out of the mist.