Entrance to Llanelli North Dock early 20th CenturyDuring the Second World War, 70% of men between the ages of 18 and 45 were called up. Women were also called to arms, as well as serving in the Armed Forces and the Land Army they also filled the vacancies left by the men who had already gone to serve. The town and its docks saw many changes.

From January 1939 up to the declaration of the Second World War in September of that year, Llanelli New Dock had exported 298,838 tons of coal and by June 1940, 20 acres of land was leased to the National Oil Refineries as a petrol dump.

Fears of a German invasion prompted the planning of the action to be taken in the event of an enemy landing at Llanelli. Preparations were made to sabotage and put the docks out of action. The Naval Commander at Llanelli, Commander A. H. Smyth, recruited a dozen men and trained them in the tasks they were expected to carry out. Cranes were to be immobilised, the dock gate opening machinery was to be destroyed, the steam and power house were to be wrecked, railway trucks loaded with stone or coal were to be driven over the edge of the quay.

Sections of railway track would be removed and the power and water supplies were to be cut off, The Harbour Trust’s barge and motorboat were to be scuttled along with any vessels in the port. Armed members of the Dock Home Guard were to board any vessel, which refused to comply.

In September the petrol dump at the docks was set ablaze due to enemy action, and in the resulting conflagration, part of the Dock Trust’s property was damaged.

In the February of 1941 the population of the town looked on in horror as the Luftwaffe bombed the nearby town of Swansea for three consecutive nights. In June of the same year the whole of the North Dock and certain areas around the docks were declared a “Protected Place”. By November petrol storage ceased, after 140,000 tons of petrol had been received. Thereafter the docks of Llanelli were used for the import and storage of iron and steel. This was used for the manufacture of shells, armaments and prefabricated ‘Bailey Bridges’, all this was to total over 130,000 tons along with 6,000 tons of coal.

In 1943 large-scale invasion exercises were carried out in Carmarthen Bay, these were mainly centred on Saundersfoot. With the build up for the beginning of ‘Operation Overlord’ in 1944, The United States Armed Forces used the port to store 5,000 tons of aviation spirit. They also carried out invasion exercises at Llanmadoc, while the beaches of Llanelli and Pembrey were also used as a training ground for the forthcoming invasion.

Duplicates of the German defences were erected; amphibious craft of all kinds were being tested. They also built up a dump of 12,000 tons of petrol in the Llanelli area. The supplies stored at Llanelli were not intended for D Day itself but for the succeeding days of the allied invasion of Normandy.

The docks loaded a total of 44 vessels with these supplies in an operation, which lasted until August. However, September saw the arrival of a number of barges to be loaded with cargos of high explosives. While the volume of shipping was greater than normally handled by the small port of Llanelli, every vessel sailed on time, which is a credit to those who were involved!