219 Petrol Depot (P.D.), R.A.S.C
The depot was probably established in the very early years of WWII, possibly in 1940/41, since, from the War Diaries, work on the construction of latrines, various Nissen huts, roadways, plasterboard huts, cookhouse, etc., were being carried out early in 1942.
The depot was manned by the Royal Army Service Corps (R.A.S.C), with other work being carried out by a detachment of 247 Coy, Pioneer Corps and 608 Railway Construction Coy. The Royal Engineers (R.Es) Construction Coy attended to carry out repair work and the laying of new sidings.
The depot was situated at the site of the old Fochriw Colliery, on a flat area of about half a mile in length and, following its closure and dismantling in 1923/24, some of the sidings were left in situ in order to facilitate the movement of the coal being produced by the Brithdir Level on the other side of the valley opposite Penybank. The single track rail connections to the joint GW/RR railway at Cwm Bargoed and the Brecon & Merthyr railway at Fochriw Junction also remained in situ.
This location provided an ideal site for a fuel depot since, not only did it have some indigenous railway infrastructure on a level surface, but rail access to the south Wales coast was available via both rail links, Cwm Bargoed already possessing sidings which were laid down for the iron, steel and coal traffic of the Dowlais Iron Company. Access to the north of the country was facilitated by the B&M to Brecon and associated connections via the LNWR to Abergavenny. It also had a substantial area for storage and it was located at a fairly remote site above the village of Fochriw.
However, one drawback of its isolated position was that it was located at an elevation of about 1250 feet and was susceptible to very inclement weather. Snowstorms, very high winds (80mph), heavy rain and thick fog being recorded which hampered the loading, unloading and despatch of trains.
Another hazard was that of fire, and it is reported on more than one occasion that fire fighting crews were called out to heath and embankment fires which were probably started by sparks from the steam engines.
During 1942, the depot was also used as a training venue for such activities as battle training, bren gun training, fire fighting training, foot drill, gas training, handling petrol and route marches as reported by entries in the War Diaries. Those units recorded as being involved were 212P.D, 219P.D 194 and 247 Coys Pioneer Corps (Link to War Diary). However, the 1944 diary entries make no mention of indigenous training but that personnel were sent to the R.A.S.C. Training School South Wales Division.
A talk by the Officer Commanding (O.C.) 219 P.D on tins, careful handling of, stacking method of sheeting. fire precautions. Security, electric light and coal economy in use of. Gossip and hygiene are also recorded.
Materials handled were motor transport (M.T.) fuel and spirit, Derv, petroleum, grease, lubricants, oil, kerosene, fog oil, M.T.87.
From the 1942 War Diary entries, it is difficult to assess the volume of traffic handled at the depot since such entries as wagons received, wagons unloaded, wagons loaded and wagons despatched lead to double accounting should all figures be added. However a rough estimate of many thousands of wagon despatches and receipts has been made.