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Carmarthenshire students go for gold

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Benjamin Allen: Took home gold in the carpentry competition.

Benjamin Allen:
Took home gold
in the carpentry competition.

FOUR students from Coleg Sir Gâr have all scooped gold in an initiative designed to boost skills levels across the country.

The successful students were also announced winners of the Welsh heats in their respective categories of UK-wide WorldSkills competitions, SkillBUILD and SkillPLUMB.

19 year-old Benjamin Allen from Ammanford took gold in the carpentry competition and Charlie Short, 20, from Tumble, won the Wales plastering and dry wall systems final. Robert Goodman 20, from Cynwyl Elfed won gold in Brickwork, while in SkillPLUMB, Daniel Doughty 21, from Cwmann was announced winner in the Plumbing final.

Coleg Sir Gar students took the top two places in the carpentry competition, with Thornton Boswell, who is on the same course as Benjamin, coming second. The twelve finalists had to make a Mansard roof, a four-sided hip roof with two slopes on each of its sides, based on a basic drawing.

Benjamin, who is currently in his third year of a carpentry apprenticeship, said: “It was a real challenge. There was a lot to get done in the time and lots of difficult angles, which wasn’t exactly what we were expecting, but we had had a lot of practice in college. I have always wanted to be a carpenter as my dad runs his own carpentry business in Ammanford and I’ve been helping him out since I was around 15. He is thrilled that I won gold and that I am now following in his footsteps.”

The finals were held in Deeside as part of the SkillBUILD, SkillPLUMB and SkillELECTRIC Welsh heats, which were sponsored by British Gypsum, STIHL and Crown Trade. SkillBUILD is part of the largest multi-trade competition in the country, run by CITB with the endorsement of WorldSkills. SkillPLUMB is organised by SummitSkills and SkillELECTRIC is sponsored by National Electrotechnical Training (NET) and the JIB.

As well as winning the Welsh heats of the WorldSkills competitions, the four students also scooped gold in the finals of Skills Competition Wales, a Welsh Government-backed initiative that is designed to promote the importance of vocational skills and developing a highly-skilled workforce with the aim of boosting the overall skill level and prosperity of Wales.

Supported by the European Social Fund, the Welsh Government is funding a total of 32 Skills Competitions in 2015 in a range of sectors, from welding and brickwork to popular music and web design.

The four gold medal winners are now waiting to hear whether or not they will go forward to represent Coleg Sir Gar at this year’s Skills Show Birmingham in November.

This year, competitors representing Squad UK are in the running to travel to São Paulo. The competition takes place every two years in cities across the globe and is the largest international skills competition in the world.

Deputy Minister for Skills and Technology, Julie James AM said: “Having a highly skilled workforce is essential for the future of our country. It’s important to highlight the value of practical vocational skills that can be applied to our thriving industries in Wales. Skills Competition Wales aims to encourage young people and adults to develop their talents to the highest possible level and the healthy competition will set a benchmark for skills. Dozens of colleges, Sector Skills Councils and work-based learning providers across Wales are already involved in the initiative but we’re keen to see more Welsh businesses encouraging their talented young employees to enter.”

The Deputy Minister added: “It takes hard work, sheer determination and a lot of skill to compete against Wales’ most talented apprentices and learners, so their achievements should be commended and celebrated. We wish all the finalists and winners the very best of luck, not only in the next round of the competitions, but also in the careers they go on to pursue.” A GROUP of robin chicks have made a cosy home for themselves within a net at WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre. They were discovered by student Laurie Allnatt, who found the chicks when he entered a storage shed on site.

Learning Manager, Pam Styles said: “Some birds always seem to find strange and innovative places to make their nests and this was a really great find.

“The robin chicks are very young and we must be very careful not to disturb them. We have been watching their mum fly in and out of the shed to give them food. She is often perched on a tree right outside the shed guarding the area.”

This is not the first time a feathered family has picked an unusual location for their future home at WWT Llanelli Wetland Centre.

Pam continued: “A few years back one of our grounds staff was sweeping up, then he leant the broom up against a wall while he went for lunch. When he came back a swallow had made a nest on the top of it! We left the nest alone and found another broom.”

As well as the common sight of a robin, Llanelli Wetland Centre welcomes tens of thousands of migratory birds that visit every year.

The Wetland Centre in Llwynhendy, Llanelli, is a 450 acre mosaic of lakes, scrapes, pools, streams and lagoons.

So, if you visit the Wetland Centre anytime soon, be sure to look out for birds making their nests in unusual places. It can be quite a find.

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The tale of the WW2 Luftwaffe pilot who mistakenly landed in west Wales

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IT WAS this time of year, 1942, that a bizarre series of events led to a German fighter pilot landing at RAF Pembrey in South Wales, unintentionally aiding the war effort of The Allied Forces in the process.

On June 23, 1942, Oberleautnant Armin Fabar was ordered to a fly a combat mission along with his squadron, in response to an Allied bombing raid of northern France.

Armin Faber mistakenly flew to South Wales after the dog-fight

Fabar’s squadron (the 7th Staffel) all flew Focke-Wulf 190 fighter planes. These planes were seen as superior to the then current Spitfires of the Allied Forces, and in the subsequent dog-fight that developed over The English Channel seven Spitfires were shot down, compared to only two Focke-Wulf 190s (FW-190s).

One Czechoslovakian Spitfire pilot, Alois Vašátko, dramatically lost his life when, in the fray of combat, he collided head-on with an FW-190. The German pilot bailed out and was later captured by Allied Forces.

Spitfire pilot Alois Vašátko lost his life in the battle

In the ensuing battle, Faber became disorientated and was separated from his squadron. He was attacked by a Spitfire manned by Seargent František Trejtnar. In a desperate attempt to shake off his pursuer, Faber fled North over the skies of Devon. He pulled off a brilliant ‘Immelman Turn’, a move in which the sun is used to dazzle a pursuer on your tail. Now flying directly from Trejtnar’s view of the sun, Faber shot him down.

Trejtnar crashed near the village of Black Dog, Devon suffering shrapnel wounds and a broken arm.

The victorious Faber had another problem entirely, though he was unaware of it at the time. He had mistaken The Bristol Channel for The English Channel, and flew north into south Wales, thinking it was northern France!

Finding the nearest airfield – RAF Pembrey, in Carmarthernshire, Faber prepared to land. Observers on the ground ‘could not believe their eyes’ as Faber waggled his wings in a victory celebration, lowered the Focke-Wulf’s undercarriage and landed.

Faber expected to be greeted with open arms by his German brothers, but was instead greeted by Pembrey Duty Pilot, Sgt Matthews, pointing a flare gun at his face (he had no other weapon to hand).

As the gravity of the mistake slowly dawned on him, the stricken Faber was ‘so despondent that he attempted suicide’ unsuccessfully.

Faber was later driven to RAF Fairwood Common for interrogation under the escort of Group Captain David Atcherley. Atcherley, fearful of an escape attempt, aimed his revolver at Faber for the entire journey. At one point the car hit a pothole, causing the weapon to fire; the shot only narrowly missing Faber’s head!

Fabers mistaken landing in Wales was a gift for The Allied Forces, a disaster for The Third Reich.

He had inadvertently presented the RAF with one of the greatest prizes of the entire war – an intact example of the formidable Focke-Wulf 190 fighter plane, an aircraft the British had learned to fear and dread ever since it made its combat debut the previous year.

Over the following months Faber’s plane was examined in minute detail, the allies desperately looking for any weakness in the FW-190. There were few to be found.

They did find one, however.

The FW-190s became relatively sluggish at higher altitudes. This knowledge aided the Allied Forces and saved countless lives, as the aerial battles turned increasingly in their favour.

Faber was taken as a prisoner of war, eventually being sent to a POW camp in Canada. Towards the end of the war he was sent home to Germany due to his ill health.

49 years later Faber would visit the Shoreham Aircraft Museum, where parts of his FW-190 are displayed to this day, along with parts of the Spitfire that he shot down in the skies over Devon. He presented the Museum with his officer’s dagger and pilot’s badge.

This little-known but important piece of Carmarthenshire history illustrates not only the high-stakes arms race between The Third Reich and The Allied Forces during WW2, but also the cost of human error.

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NSPCC: Wales conference puts spotlight on domestic abuse

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PROTECTING women and children from domestic abuse was the focus of a ground-breaking conference in Wales this week (Mar 28).

Organised by Cardiff University’s Exchange Network – with support from NSPCC Cymru / Wales and Welsh Women’s Aid – the event aimed to share information on the most effective approaches to tackle all forms of violence against women, domestic abuse and support for victims – be they adults or children.

Preventing violence from happening and protecting those who fall victim to domestic abuse formed the focus of the conference, at Cardiff’s Novotel Hotel.

Representatives from Welsh Government, Relate Cymru, Barnardos and Rape and Sexual Abuse (RASA) Centre also attended.

Domestic abuse continues to be a significant reason for young people to contact Childline. In 2016/17 volunteers at the NSPCC-run helpline undertook 120 counselling sessions with children from Wales who had concerns about abuse by a partner in their own relationship.

And 241 children from Wales contacted Childline to discuss parental domestic abuse.

Some young people who witness this also experience physical abuse by their parents. This can sometimes happen when they try and intervene in the abuse taking place, with some children telling Childline they were hit by their mother or father when trying to stop a fight.

“Sometimes my dad gets in a bad mood and gets really aggressive. He says horrible things to me and my mum and it scares me. In the past he was threatening to hit my mum, when I tried to get him to calm down he slapped me instead. I feel like neither of them listen to me and they don’t understand how upset it’s all making me.” (Girl, 16-18, Wales)

Head of NSPCC Cymru / Wales, Des Mannion, told The Llanelli Herald: “Domestic abuse can have a huge impact on a child’s physical and emotional wellbeing and it’s hugely important that we share information and discuss ways to both prevent violence and protect victims.

“We all have a part to play in tackling domestic abuse and it’s important to pick up the phone if you’re concerned so that our advisers can offer guidance and get help where it’s needed.

“Stepping in early helps to change behaviours and avoid abuse escalating, and putting the child at the heart of interventions is paramount in keeping children safe and limiting long-term damage.

“It is also vital that children and young people affected by domestic abuse have access to the right kind of support to overcome the trauma of witnessing and experiencing domestic abuse.”

Any child worried about domestic abuse can call Childline on 0800 11 11. Any adult who is concerned about a child can call the NSPCC Helpline on 0808 800 5000.

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Pop-up craft stalls return to St Elli

Tamsin Mathias

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Photo credit: www.stelli.co.uk/about-us/

LLANELLI’S St Elli Shopping Centre is once again playing host to a fantastic group of pop-up craft stalls today and tomorrow (Mar 1-2).

Following on from a highly successful outing just before Christmas, the ‘Pert A Blasus Pop-Up Emporium’ will see a variety of crafters take to the Atrium to sell their handmade crafts.

A group of friends who met whilst running stalls at craft markets around South Wales, Pert A Blasus brings together a host of skill sets and backgrounds – including a former kitchen fitter and scaffolder, a former clerical assistant, and a primary school teacher.

Primary school teacher Jill Davies has been crafting most of her life as a hobby; however, seven years ago decided to launch ‘Dzines by Jill’, which sees her hand-decorate plain pieces of ceramic and household items with her own unique designs.

Jill also organises her own ‘Made it Markets’ in Neath.

Also on board with Pert A Blasus is Steve Kennedy, who is the brainchild of ‘Cut n Scroll’, where he hand cuts items from wood and enlists the help of his wife Tanya for painting and gemming; Wendy Taylor, also a primary school teacher, who completed a precious metal course at Gower College and now makes her own items for her ‘Simplicity by Silver’ stall; and Jill James who runs her ‘Pretty Cute Fairies’ stall.

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