D-DAY VETERAN’S EMOTIONAL RETURN TO THE BATTLEFIELDS

Ted Owens at Bayeux War Cemetery

A veteran of 41 Commando has made an emotional return to the beaches of Normandy.
Ted Owens, aged 88 and from Pembroke Dock, Wales, returned to the spot at which he had been wounded during the landings as part of filming for an upcoming television programme.
Ted also made an astonishing visit to a town in the Netherlands where civilians paid a terrible price – not only at the hands of the Germans but of the British too.
“It was an amazing trip into the past for me,” said Ted. “I was able to walk near Sword Beach where I landed and was wounded.
“We also went to the Walcheren Islands where I took part in a commando landing exactly 68 years ago this November.
“I spoke to many local people there. That was very moving indeed.”
Ted’s trip was filmed for the first in a special three-part series, titled ‘Welsh Heroes of World War 2’, which will be broadcast on ITV Wales on Thursday, November 1.
Ted attended a special service at Bayeux War Cemetery and was invited to the village of Maizet, along with other Welsh veterans.
Maizet holds a service every year to honour the Welsh soldiers who liberated the village in 1944.
From France, Ted travelled to Westkapelle, a town in the Dutch Walcheren islands, which were the scene of a crucial battle late in 1944.
Ahead of the invasion by troops, including Ted, the RAF bombed dykes to flood the island and weaken the German defences.
In Westkapelle, Ted met people who remember the destruction that the bombing caused.

* Watch WELSH HEROES OF WORLD WAR 2: D-DAY COMMANDO online now. D-DAY COMMANDO 

‘The Bullseye Killer’ Wins British Academy Cymru Award

 The Wales This Week special ‘The Bullseye Killer’ has won a British Academy Cymru Award (Bafta Cymru).

The hour-long documentary won a Bafta in the Current Affairs category of the awards at the Wales Millennium Centre.

The programme documented the crimes of John Cooper, one of the most notorious criminals in British history.

Cooper burgled, raped and murdered during a 15-year reign of terror, which included four executions by shotgun. And, far from keeping a low profile between crimes, he even took time to appear on the gameshow Bullseye.

ITV Wales had exclusive access to the police enquiry and the forensic science which finally trapped Cooper.

‘The Bullseye Killer’ was transmitted the night Cooper was jailed in May 2011.

Hywel Jones: Do Not Go Gentle

When Wales This Week began filming with Hywel Jones there was a determination not to turn his story into a “misery film”.

That determination came from Hywel himself. But the aim would not necessarily be easily achieved: Hywel was dying of cancer.

He knew already that his condition was terminal. But he hoped that by portraying what he was going through he might help others.

From the first meeting to discuss the programme he displayed all the same qualities he would reveal on camera: courage, honesty and humour. You could not make a misery film with Hywel.

For six months we filmed with him, following him even to his appointments with his consultant.

In January, on camera, he was told he would probably live for only another six months.

Hywel wanted our programme to present the truth. This was the starkest truth. The prognosis turned out to be correct.

On Wednesday, July 4, at 1.30pm Hywel died.

It is not easy to write a tribute to someone like Hywel. That might seem a strange thing to say about someone who enriched so many lives but I’ll explain what I mean later.

When we started filming ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ Hywel was working on a song with his friend Rod Thomas.

It was a love song to Hywel’s wife, Cathy, and he wanted the song to be recorded by singer-songwriter Donna Lewis. They had once been in a band together.

Hywel contacted Donna in the United States and she agreed to sing it. Then, through incredible determination, he got Grammy Award-winning producer Trevor Horn to produce it.

Hywel aimed high and he hit his target. The song, ‘Always It’s You’, is now on sale to raise funds for Tenovus.

Hywel also wrote a blog and used Twitter to talk about his cancer. His final tweet described how he had been admitted to a hospice in Pontypridd so that doctors could deal with his pain.

He didn’t get to go home again. Donna came from the United States to visit her family and saw him before he died. Wales This Week was there too. In the end, the cameras stood back.

The words of another song come to me when I think of Hywel. “Let your mind rest easy, sleep well my friend/It’s only our bodies that betray us in the end”.

That’s a song about how the spirit of people who do something, create something, lives on.

Hywel was not defeated by cancer. It was always going to kill him but it never changed his determination to do what he wanted to do.

It never took away his zest for life, his honesty or his wicked sense of humour – that was still sharp and vital to the end.

Hywel’s family felt he was at peace in the final hours. A serenity he deserved.

And he died when he was ready to die: after he had said goodbye to his mother and while listening to his song, ‘Always It’s You’.

The way he lived his life and what he did with it is what really matters. Hywel created his own epitaph in the way he will be remembered by others.

That is why it is so difficult to write a tribute to Hywel. He did it so much better himself.

** You can watch ‘Do Not Go Gentle’ on the ITV website.

Gareth Williams: Public Fascination and National Interest

Gareth Williams

Next week an inquest will open in London to answer questions about one of the most baffling of all modern spy stories.

Gareth Williams was a well-liked and extremely talented young man from a small village in Anglesey, who went to work for the Secret Intelligence Service, MI6.

But he died in bizarre circumstances.

Gareth’s body was found locked in a hold-all at his flat in Pimlico in August 2010. The bag was padlocked from the outside and placed in his bath.

A recent pre-inquest hearing heard, from a lawyer representing the Metropolitan Police, that it was “very difficult if not impossible” for Gareth to have locked himself inside the bag.

Gareth’s family’s lawyer Anthony O’Toole, said that if the spy had not locked the bag himself, there was “a high probability that there was a third party present in the flat” at the time.

He added: “The impression of the family is that the unknown third party was a member of some agency specialising in the dark arts of the secret services – or evidence has been removed post-mortem by experts in the dark arts.”

This is a sensitive story to cover but it is one that is both of interest to the public and in the public interest.

The coroner has said it has already “caused much public anxiety and concern”.

Two of the main lines of inquiry being followed by the Metropolitan Police appear to have come to nothing.

Early on in the investigation police issued an appeal for information about a Mediterranean couple reported to have called at Gareth’s flat. But at the recent hearing they were now described as a “red herring”.

In addition, DNA found on Gareth’s hand and thought to be key to the inquiry has now been confirmed as belonging to a forensic scientist.

An error at a forensic laboratory belonging to LGC Forensics had caused details about the sample to be incorrectly inputted into a computer leading police to think it could belong to a suspect.

Little is known about Gareth’s work but he had been on two courses which meant he could be “operationally deployed”.

Among the mourners at his funeral was MI6 chief Sir John Sawers who told the family that Gareth had done “really valuable work” in the “cause of national security”.

We are unlikely to hear anymore about that work. The Government has ruled that evidence to the inquest about his work will be heard in secret.

ITV Wales’ award-winning current affairs programme Wales This Week brought together a group of experts to review the available evidence.

One point that struck our panel was the way in which Gareth’s reputation had been pulled apart by lurid headlines in the weeks following his death.

Could someone have been feeding information and rumour which would smear Gareth’s name?

If he was a national hero, as Sir John seemed to suggest, who could be behind the smear?

One of our panelists, Miles Goslett, a journalist who investigated the case for the Sunday Times, asked: “Why was it that within 48 hours of [Gareth’s] body being discovered a newspaper was reporting the fact that not only was he gay, and stating it as fact, but also that he was possibly a transvestite? I mean, how was this relevant and, more to the point, where this so called information came from is rather unsettling.”

Another issue likely to interest the coroner is the apparent eight-day delay in someone raising the alarm that Gareth was missing. Mr Goslett described this as “extraordinary” given Gareth’s work.

Police went to the flat following a call from a personnel manager at GCHQ, who will give evidence to the inquest.

Go here to read more and to watch a clip from Wales This Week.

Dementia Film Wins Broadcast Award

Wales This Week‘s film ‘Living With Dementia’, which was broadcast on ITV Wales last year, has won a Guild of Health Writers’ Award for Best Broadcast Programme.

The award was presented at the Royal Society of Medicine in Wimpole Street, London.

The film followed Jim McWade, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease, and his wife Maureen, and Peter Oldacre, who was looking after his wife Ann.

You can read about the making of the programme on the ITV Wales blog and watch it below.

Dementia Film Nominated For Award

“Seventy-five per cent of my life I can keep in a normal context. I have to confess that the 25 per cent is my bogey man… It’s the place where I don’t like to linger for long.”

Those were the words of Jim McWade in a Wales This Week film called ‘Living With Dementia’ which was broadcast last year.

The film followed Jim, who suffers with Alzheimer’s Disease, and his wife Maureen, and Peter Oldacre, who was looking after his wife Ann.

The programme was now been shortlisted for a Guild of Health Writers’ award. It is up against three items from BBC network news and a programme from BBC Radio 4 in the Best Broadcast Programme category.

You can read about the making of the programme on the ITV Wales blog and watch the film in two parts here.

Snowdonia Celebrated

Last year marked the 60th anniversary of the creation of Snowdonia National Park.

This first Welsh National Park was about conserving the past. But, six decades on, does it still have a role to play?

That’s the question Wales This Week asked on the night of the anniversary, October 18.

We filmed across the park with attractions such as the Welsh Highland Railway and the Pen-y-Gwryd pub where the Mount Everest team based themselves for their training ahead of their 1953 ascent.

We also visited Ogwen Valley Mountain RescueGraig Wen on the Mawddach estuary and the couple behind the Baavet duvet.

The 23-minute programme is available to watch here.