Edward ‘Ted’ Cogdell left Griffithstown in July 1939 and ended up fighting in the jungle. He has just celebrated his 100th birthday and shared his life story with Angharad Williams.

“It was just before the war. I was 20 years of age and I had to do six months training as part of the military reserve forces, which came before national service, and everybody who was 20 had to do it.

I thought I would be home in Griffithstown by Christmas playing football again. We trained in Oswestry, and it wasn’t like to day, that was a foreign country as far as I knew. I had to get the map out and look for it.

I suppose it was exciting because the only places we travelled to were in the valley. We went to Pontypool and Blaenavon playing football. Outside of that was another world.

My Mam didn’t like it, my father had died by then. Industry was picking up and there was more money about and I was at the age where I was earning money and I could help her. So that was snatched away from them.

We treated it as a holiday because we thought it was just six months. It was there I met Ray Lewis (Blondie) from Tredegar, and we are still friends. I went to his 100th birthday party the week before mine.

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Then they transferred us to the regular army on the 1st of September. We had no choice, they knew war was coming and nothing was prepared for war.

They posted us to the 55th Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment in Devon and as soon as we got posted there we were sent to defend Tilbury Docks in Essex with 1914 guns. We were there until Christmas.

We weren’t trained, you trained as you went along. We were the first fully mobile regiment in the country. We were sent up to Glasgow docks and we were on the former liner Empress of Australia.

We found out on the fifth day at sea that we were going to Finland to fight the Russians. We didn’t make it, it was a suicide mission, we were not trained for Artic warfare.

Then we were on our way to France, along the Belgian border, but there wasn’t much fighting there then. We were recalled to Southampton and we were back up in Scotland again on the Empress of Australia and on our way to Norway.

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In Norway my friend Albert Badham was shot in back of the neck from a plane when we were in convoy and we buried him on the side of the road.

It was through him I met my friend Tommy Skog. I wanted a photo of my pal’s grave, we learned he was in the churchyard in Mo i Rana, but we didn’t know if the Germans or the Norwegians had buried him. It was the Norwegians and ever since the war they have looked after his grave and the six Scots Guards who are buried with him. There were masses of flowers on them.

I was awarded a commemorative medal by the Norwegian government in 2016 for my service.

We were evacuated from there because of Dunkirk and had a couple of days leave and then we jumped onto trucks and we went down to Dover and we were there for the Battle of Britain, from July 1940 to February 1941.

We were protecting RAF aerodromes, we was running out with our guns when the planes came. But it is a wonderful time in Dover in spite of the raids, there was so much comradeship. They never gave up even though people faced the raids day after day.

I have all the dates of where I was and when in documents from the War Office.

We were in Leeds and we were given kits and helmets and we were marched out and went on a ship to Singapore. It took two months to get out there and we didn’t know where we were going until a few days before we got there.

Singapore fall so we were sent to Ceylon. The men got off at Colombo and our equipment and guns went to Bombay.

By that point you take everything in your stride. We were frightened of the jungle, but then you get in there and after a week or two you treat it like you are walking through Cwmbran centre.

There I saw elephants, snakes, and wild animals like tigers, they wouldn’t attack you unless they were hungry.

In Camellia you had the huts from bamboo and in the night you could hear the snakes. If you had a couple of pints and wanted to go to the toilet you were afraid to get out of bed.

I saw too much fighting in Sri Lanka, Burma and India, it was a different battle there. We were digging holes and crawling through mud. The Japanese would tie themselves up in a tree and they would be quiet until you went passed and then they would open fire on you.

We saw some of the men who had been in camps and they were like skeletons.

We didn’t say much to people after the war, only to people like my friend Ray who was there too. If I told you half the things that went on well you wouldn’t believe me.

I had the book lying unpublished in my drawer for 20 years, when I wrote it I thought it was a load of rubbish. I had it put on A4 for the girls to read then on my 99th birthday took it out and published it.

We were the forgotten army. We didn’t come when people came back from Europe, we were still fighting. We would come home in ones and twos. I came home in September 1946 and got off the bus there was all flags up the street and I knew it wasn’t for me because nobody knew I was coming home. They were celebrating VJ day.

I was married on the Christmas Eve to my wife Maisie and we had one daughter. My biggest achievement, marrying the girl of my life.

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I went to 51 reunions after the war. There are only three of us left. Blondie and Yago (Eric Waldron) from Torquay. I talk to Yago on the phone, but he’s as deaf as a post. He’s 99.

You can’t forget those days. I wouldn’t have missed it. It was bad, it was terrible sometimes but other times it was laughable.

I turned 100 on July 28. I have had my ups and downs, but I don’t feel no different now to when I was 60."

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