Friday, 21 September 2012

The Wilts & Berks Canal

This was the first real Rural explore that I went on. I'd seen the place on a website called Dereliction in the Shires  so after contacting the owner we arranged a day and set off starting at East Hanney and walking the route to Wantage.  This stared off as a bit of an embarisment due to us getting lost a bit and instead of following a footpath to the site we ended on the road but ended in the right place after following the footpath.


 This lock last saw use over 100 years ago and one of the lock gates was still hanging on the hinges.


 Looking at the lock I can't help wonder what it would have looked like today if still operating till you notice a tree growing from the side.

 The canal today, does not look like it would take much to get working again but again you find it is full of trees and weeds in places.


The next one along had water running though it and even a lock gate laying over to one side

But again the nature had been doing there best to reclaim and the trees were the machines doing he work of destruction.

 This part near Grove has bee restored though the lock I am stood on is just a wall made to look like a gate.

 Heading into Wantage following the spur you will find little to say a canal ran here other than this dip.

But you will pass the remains of once magnificent bridge  


 and at the end where the wharf used to be an old this building

 Which as you can see has been fully restored, the last part of the Wilts and Berks canal. I'll post a part two at a later date.


Sunday, 9 September 2012

Flying Officer J.A. Wilding & Sargent J.F.Andrew

 On the 9th September 1944 a stricken Halifax bomber from  426(Thunderbird) Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command struggled to bypass Wallingford, just after passing near the bridge the port wing folded and the bomber crashed in a field near Newnham Murren and exploded killing the Pilot and Flight Engineer.

The story starts on the 9th September 1944, the 426(Thunderbird) Squadron, 4 Group, Bomber Command, of the Royal Canadian Air Force left Linton-on-Ouse, York. They were to make a sortie to Le Havre but the weather made it impossible to bomb with accuracy and the attack was called off. One Halifax VII bomber, NP68I was hit by flak.
To land safely back in Linton several bombs were ditched in the English Channel, leaving ten 500lb bombs on board. The plane was engulfed in smoke and flames. The pilot, John Wilding,  gave the order to abandon the aircraft. MacKay, the rear gunner, advised that the turret was unserviceable. Wilding told him not to panic, to do the best he could to get out saying “I’ll try to hold it”. MacKay using his feet pushed until the door gave way. An explosion followed and he rolled out through a sheet of flames and landed with an injured left leg. The wireless operator, Thorb (Tommy) Thompson bailed out, as did the navigator, Ed O’Meara. The bomb aimer, Len Irving, was the last to leave by the front hatch. Quite why they did dump the other ten puzles me.
  During its last few moments the aircraft was guided between Wallingford and
Benson, when the port wing folded  It was seen to turn over on its back and spin in.
The plane came down at Newnham Murren, Crowmarsh, about 500 yards
From  the eastern boundary of Wallingford. Three tons of bombs still aboard, the aircraft exploded, the blast shaking the town’s buildings and shattering windows.
 Wilding was found a few hundred yards away from the crash crater, inexplicably lacking any trace of parachute harness or pack. Andrew was found about twenty-five yards from Wilding, firmly strapped into his parachute harness and with his pack lying unopened beside him. An investigation found that the No 7 cylinder had blown off the port outer engine and that there was considerable internal damage. This was the most common failure of the Halifax XVI Hercules engine.
    Flying Officer J.A. Wilding had completed nineteen sorties and, for his actions with No 426 Sqn, was Mentioned in Despatches and awarded the Distinguished Flying Cross posthumously. He is buried in Brookwood Military Cemetery at Woking, Surrey. Sergeant J.F. Andrew, also Mentioned in Despatches posthumously, had completed fifteen sorties; he is buried in Kerry Cemetery, Powys.
That is the story of J.A.Wilding and J.F Andrew, I felt I had to look into it a bit more so went to look for their graves and the crash site. 
I checked on Where's the path for possible spots and the most likley place looks  to be either a small copse of trees which is around 500 yards away or across in an other field just a bit further.

The area has a small depression and Wallingford Bridge is around 500 yards away in the distance.


 The other possible site is in the field beyond the hedge but that takes the distance to over 600 yards

This is a screen print of where I think a possible crash area is, the copse is just over 500 yards from Wallingford Bridge

After looking at GE again I reassessed the position and 500 yards from the Eastern Boundary of Wallingford is around  where the line is marked, the map shows the area in 1940

 This map shows both modern day Wallingford with the Historic version, both have the possible crash site on which is around 54o yards from the Eastern boundary. The dark green area is around 35 yards across which I'd say would be around the size of crater 3 tons of bombs would make.

The photo here shows the area I think the crash happened,it would be around mid photo north the shadow from the tree on the left.

Wilding Road and Andrew Road were named in Honor of of them and on the junction a cairn was built, each year on the Sunday nearest the fateful day a service is held

Both RAF personnel and Canadian are represented at the service


Wreaths are laid at the base of the cairn and the Canadian flag is flown above the Town Hall.

Sergeant J.F. Andrew is buried in Kerry Cemetery Powys,

 Flying Officer J.A. Wilding Brookwood Cemetery in Surrey.
They will never be forgotten.

Saturday, 1 September 2012

RAF Hampstead Norreys

I was attracted to this one because of the pillboxes shown on the DOB so a visit was in order. I remember the place from diving past for many years and over time had watched parts disappear.  One place comes to mind is the guard house which was near the stables at Wyld Court. It was there for years then I noticed it had been removed, maybe it had deteriorated and the landowner demolished it. The photo below was taken in 1955 and you can see the tree runways and all the dispersal points.  wikipedia

I decided to go along and see how many of the pillboxes were left and in what condition they were. One I knew as near the farm as it can be seen when you drive past and I had spotted a second in the woods on the way from Aldworth.

Turned out to be well overgrown with brambles though did have some of the embrasure  shutters from the war still in place. From there is was a drive round to the farm to ask if it was ok to visit the one in the field. The Manager was a little reluctant due to other people wandering round with out asking but as I had he told me where to go an look for the pillboxes.

One of the reasons for visiting was the filed had no crops in so easy to get to. The external is suffering from erosion and on to it still has earth from the camouflage.
Inside there are shutters, the steel door and gun mount.

The next is across the old airfield quite near what was an old quarry, the door from this one was outside. Finding the next was by luck as I popped into the woods to look at a building and spotted the pillbox.

The last pillbox was reached by walking along a footpath that was near Aldworth then cutting across the field.

Outside is eroded and the earth is still on top along with the curly wire posts for barbed wire, inside are more along with shutters and the steel door inplace

 The rest of the old airfield is worth a look with old air raid shelters in place as well as the bases of buildings and the ammunition dump.
 The one above is being distorted by tree roots which is growing on top

You can even come across the odd aircraft tie down. The old runways have been removed though parts of the perimeter track still exist. The place where the main runway used to be is used by light aircraft which are kept on site  near the farm.
The place was worth the time to visit and look round and hopefully I will get back for the parts I have missed.  Flickr Photos