A WOMAN who came to the UK from France during the Second World War remembered meeting a Penarth captain who delivered food to a city under siege.

Captain William Roberts, from Penarth, delivered food to the city of Bilbao when it was blockaded by rebel military forces during the Spanish Civil War.

A new book, Outwitting Franco, describes the acts of bravery of Captain Roberts and other Welsh cargo vessel captains during the civil war which lasted from 1936 to 1939.

Marion Avon, from Holmesdale Place, Penarth, remembered meeting Captain Roberts at her childhood home in Marseilles after reading a story about him in last week’s edition of the Penarth Times.

“My father, Archibald Silcox, was a shipping agent who exported coal from Cardiff docks”, said Mrs Avon.

“He came to Marseilles in 1909 and in 1937 he brought Captain Roberts and his daughter back to the house one day. Captain Roberts wasn’t sure about taking his daughter with him to Spain.

“He went off with my father and left the daughter with us all day. She had a bath and she relaxed. We showed her the rocks and the sea because we were by the Mediterranean. Then I went to bed. I didn’t know if she would be staying with us. But they went off at night. I never saw her again”.

Captain Roberts and his 22-year-old daughter, Fifi, were travelling to Bilboa in northern Spain to break through a blockade imposed on the city by Francisco Franco, a general who rebelled against the Spanish republican government.

They arrived in Bilbao on April 19, 1937, with nearly 4,000 tonnes of food for the city’s starving inhabitants.

Mrs Avon said it was an ‘amazing coincidence’ to read Captain Robert’s story in the Penarth Times.

In 1940, she fled with her family as the German Army invaded the country. She was just 10 years old.

She said: “Paris had fallen, and the Germans were moving down. We left on June 18 and France fell on June 20. We had two days.

“We used a troop ship to get to England. It had 2,000 troops and 2,000 evacuees. They had come from all over France”.

After arriving in Liverpool, the family eventually settled in Penarth.

Mrs Avon’s children encouraged her to write a book of her memories and in 2017 she published her memoir, Before and After 1940.

“Life in France was absolutely beautiful”, said Mrs Avon. “We were right by the Mediterranean. We had a big terrace in front of the house, and we lived outside during the summer.

“It was a different life. People can’t imagine it now”.

After being diagnosed with colon cancer in 2018, Mrs Avon had an operation to remove her colon and donated £1,200 from the sale of her book to the Duthie Ward at the University Hospital of Wales.

Mrs Avon’s donations are still ongoing and she has since raised over £3,000 for the Duthie Ward.

To find out more about Mrs Avon’s book, contact penarthtimes@penarthtimes.co.uk.