Archive for the ‘World War II’ Category

Alresford Railway Station: 1940s and 50s

There are not many photos of strategic installations around WW2: it is said that taking such photos was “not the right thing to do”. But there are a few paintings. Some of these were reproduced as souvenir postcards, after the war. June Benham found two of these recently, and has provided them for us to see.

The first is from 1944, from a painting by Ian Cooper. It shows tanks preparing for unloading, to be assembled and checked prior to D-Day. Iris Crowfoot, on her HamboneJunior.com website, mentions the tanks parked on the Avenue on 4th and 5th June 1944. This was in her story “Ike and Monty came to Alresford”.

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The second postcard is from the 1950s, and rather glamorizes the smoky steam engines with shining bodywork, in the sunlit scene. But no matter. It shows Edward Terrace too, and was painted by Ken Hankin.

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Later, there were different styles of engine attending Alresford Station. Actually, my grandson and I did a 100 yard trip on the diesel engine with the unusual Thomas the Tank Engine type face, up the sidings alongside Ellingham Close, and back again!.

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The story of Hambone Junior

Iris Crowfoot is another local collector of memories and stories about Alresford and the surrounding district. Her interest started as a project to learn more about Hambone Junior, the dog that was adopted by the US Forces based in Alresford in WW2. In doing this Iris has collected many wartime memories from local people, and other people too: these are published for all to read, on her website, www.HamboneJunior.com. There are a lot of interesting accounts on there, well worth reading!

In the February issue of the Alresford Forum, Iris presented a summary of the history pieced together so far about Hambone Junior, which is based on highlights from all her different stories. If the Forum story presented here interests you, you will find the longer accounts on her HamboneJunior.com website really fascinating!

From the Alresford Forum of February 2017:

“I often walk by Hambone Junior’s grave. Situated on a peaceful bank beside a sparkling trout stream in Alresford, sometimes it’s decorated with wildflowers by children on their way home from the park, and other times by a rubber ball dropped by a dog-walker. Poppies are placed there on Remembrance Sunday, to honour the memory of Hambone and his friends in the 47th Infantry Regiment, 9th Division, US Army. It makes me wonder what the American soldiers actually did whilst they were in Alresford in May 1944 and how poor Hambone met his end.

By interviewing local people and researching the archives, I’ve discovered that Hambone was a ‘brown and white scruffy little terrier’ who lived in a World War II army camp in The Dene, Alresford, where Valdean Park is sited today. The 9th Division were the US Army’s experts in amphibious warfare: they had already invaded the beaches of Morocco and Sicily before they reached Alresford in November 1943. They certainly made the most of the town’s watery landscape as they prepared for the biggest amphibious operation ever attempted – the allied invasion of Normandy. The railway station clattered with steam trains delivering tanks and amphibious vehicles with aquatic names like the Water Buffalo (a tracked landing vehicle) and the Duck (a 6×6 wheeled armoured truck). The shop windows rattled in West Street as the GIs drove them down to the camp. And Hambone would have added to the racket by barking as he ran around the busy men servicing and waterproofing the vehicles.

Not all the soldiers were expert mechanics. Sergeant Eddie Knasel’s son told me, ‘It was almost unbelievable, to think of Dad in the Ordnance Corps – he just wasn’t a practical person. He couldn’t even change the oil in the car when we were growing up!’ Nevertheless, Kentucky-born Eddie supervised a team of GIs who maintained Sherman tanks in The Dene. He was 24 at the time, a bit older than most, and had completed more of his education before being called up – perhaps that was why he was given more responsibility.

The soldiers dammed the River Arle where it crosses Drove Lane, to create a pool. Then they drove the Water Buffalo and Ducks up the medieval sheep track to test their waterproofing by splashing through the pool. A landing stage was built and whole platoons practiced getting out of a landing craft and wading through the river to the other side (I hope Hambone liked swimming). Godfrey Andrews remembers that the banks of the river were lined with sandbags when he swam near here as a child, just after the war.

The Americans made friends with local people, and their kindness is still remembered a lifetime later. Les Harness, of Grange Park, Northington, was a regular visitor to the camp, collecting their kitchen leftovers to feed his hogs. A mess meal for a GI looked like almost a week’s worth of rations to the British and I’ve read that people were horrified when they saw the Americans stub out their cigarettes on leftover food on their plates. But Hambone Junior’s comrades were generous, even helping Les with his petrol ration when they spent three weeks away from Alresford training under canvas, so that he could carry on collecting the waste food for his pigs.

Disaster struck as the soldiers mobilised for the invasion. Hambone was accidentally run over by a ‘Deuce-and-a-half’ (two and a half ton) truck. The men were very upset by this, but it gave Les the opportunity to repay their generosity by giving them a puppy which had recently been born at The Grange. They named the pup ‘Spider’ and took him with them when they marched down to Southampton in June 1944. The 47th Infantry Regiment landed on Utah Beach on ‘D-Day + 4’ and fought their way home through northern France, Belgium and Germany.

Hambone’s grave was originally marked by a wooden cross. By 1962, it had rotted away and the Alresford community replaced it with a memorial stone, which was unveiled by the American Vice Consul in Southampton. In 1994, some of the original GIs returned to commemorate the 50th Anniversary of D-Day in an event held in Broad Street, Alresford. They did not forget their faithful friend. Tucked away in a manila folder in the Hampshire Record Office, I found an archive photo of two old comrades placing a wreath on Hambone’s grave. A bunch of flowers was also left with the note, ‘I still remember you, Bill.’

I have not managed to find anyone who still remembers Bill … yet. If you once knew Hambone and Bill, or would like to share other memories of Hampshire during this special time, I’d love to hear from you.”

If you can add to Iris’s collection of memories about Hambone Junior, then please contact Iris either through her website, or by email.

Lawrence Wright, Horsas and Hansas

A story published earlier on this website describes the retirement years of Lawrence Wright, when he lived in Alresford and made extensive drawings of the buildings in the town, plus mentions some books published on architectural accessories, like stoves, fireplaces, beds and toilets!

A correspondent then highlighted his earlier publication, dealing with his knowledge of, and activities in, the Second World War, in relation to the war gliders – ie glider-borne troops delivered across the Channel into Europe, in Horsa and the Airspeed Hansa aircraft.

This is the review information found on this earlier book…..

“THE WOODEN SWORD” by Lawrence Wright, published 1967.

In 1939, at the outbreak of war, gliding ‘was not taken so seriously at the Air Ministry as to deserve even to be stopped’, in the words of Lawrence Wright, one of the dedicated band of amateur glider pilots who spent weekends before the war soaring at Dunstable Downs. Yet, by 1943, official scepticism over the strategic usefulness of gliders had largely disappeared and before the end of the fighting thousands of Allied troops and tons of equipment had been delivered to battle areas in Horsas or Hamilcars, and such historic battles as Arnhem and the Rhine crossings had been fought by glider-borne forces.

Lawrence Wright tells the inside story of the war gliders — how it all began, the men who planned and those who died, and how it ended — for the first time. lt is, he writes, ‘a very personal account of what one non-combatant Air Force officer saw of the Allied airborne forces in general and of British glider-borne forces in particular’. Written with wry humour and no false heroics this is a fascinating story – a war book with a difference.

The above Review presents a pdf copy of one of the printed versions of Lawrence Wright’s book, this one published by Elek in 1967. Copies of the book itself are available from Abe Books, and other resellers.

Display of Lady Luck memorabilia in the Globe Inn

Two earlier stories on here have mentioned the crash of the USAF B17F Flying Fortress “The Lady Luck” behind Alresford Pond in September 1943.  There was a memorial event to commemorate the 70th Anniversary of the crash in 2013. These reports also said that the Globe landlord at the time had gathered together a collection of memorabilia about the crash, and certainly Nelson Trowbridge donated some of his relevant items, including a model of the Lady Luck.

Regular visits to the Globe Inn over the last few years, and over the last few landlords, showed that the Lady Luck displays were only evident on one wall, and that wall had limited access, as it was in the Gents loo! So I decided at last to record the four framed items by photographing them. Regrettably when I finally got round to it today there were only two of these items still hanging on the relevant wall – what had happened to the other two with the press cuttings I don’t know!

So the currently much reduced display at the Globe is shown below. The first is a map and account of the basic facts.

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The second framed display is what looks like the Nelson Trowbridge model of the Lady Luck, and the ‘Revell’ kit box that it came in, and that cost 14s 6d (about 75 pence).

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Outside the pub grounds, in the Soke Gardens, a plaque commemorates the event. This was organised by the Town Council, the Alresford Society, and the Alresford Historical and Literary Society in 2003, for the 60th Anniversary.

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The rear of the Globe and their pub garden overlooks the Alresford Pond: this is taken from the Soke Garden, next to the memorial plaque.

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And the front of the pub – to help identify it!

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The previous stories about the crash are as follows:

The crash of Lady Luck, 1943

Flying Fortress crash in Alresford Pond

The Alresford Museum has several other pieces of memorabilia and press cuttings about the crash of the Lady Luck, and these will be on display in the Old Fire Station when the Museum opens in the garage there, later in 2017.

Air Commodore Christopher Paul, of Old Alresford

The Obituary below was published in the Telegraph on 27 March 2003, after the passing of Air Commodore Paul, who lived in Old Alresford. I was privileged to meet him only once, when I delivered post around Old Alresford, and I showed him some of my old aviation photos. He was what you imagined a Spitfire pilot had to be: slight of build, long piano player type fingers, a delicate touch. At that time he was 92 years old. But the following account does not mention Spitfires – maybe I saw him in his Turbulent, touring Britain – I at that time was supplying various photos of interesting aircraft to Air Pictorial.

It showed me, at that time, that you never realise the history behind the people you see or meet or serve in the local shops, cafes, pubs or wine bars, and Air Cdr Paul certainly visited the Bodega Wine bar many times back in the 1980s. Think of that when greeting the next 90 year old contact you make!

Nick Denbow

 

The Telegraph said:

“Air Commodore Christopher Paul, who has died aged 95, was a wartime bomber pilot who became involved in promoting gliding and other aspects of the boom in private flying after the Second World War.

Paul was given his first operational command in 1940 with No 150 Squadron, which was re-equipping with Vickers Wellingtons following the costly losses of Fairey Battles in France.

After a frustrating period when navigational aids were insufficient to conduct satisfactory night-bomber operations, he was posted to “Bomber” Harris’s headquarters as a watch keeper. He then moved to Flying Training Command, converting trainers into makeshift bombers.

When Paul joined the directing staff of the Army Staff College at Camberley he was at first disconcerted to discover that his RAF students included some highly decorated officers who had seen far more action than he had; but he took the opportunity to milk them of their experience for his eventual return to operations.

In early 1944 he was posted to No 13 Operational Training Unit to learn to fly Mitchell light bombers, where he attracted the attention of Air Vice-Marshal Basil Embry, the holder of a DSO and three Bars, who was preparing the 2nd Tactical Air Force to support the forthcoming Normandy invasion.

On taking over No 98 Squadron at Dunsfold, Bedfordshire, Paul was delighted by the presence of so many Canadians. Their food parcels and camp fire parties were especially appreciated, though they had a disconcerting habit of shooting at empty beer cans for revolver practice during their late night revels. Nevertheless, he noted with pleasure that the nightingales of Dunsfold Woods seemed to be inspired in their singing by the hum of the squadron’s two-engine Mitchells.

When the invasion was launched, Paul was awarded a DFC for the way in which he led the squadron in day and night attacks on tactical targets. His citation stated: “He has at all times maintained a high standard of determination, keenness and accuracy and has developed a fine fighting team which strikes the enemy with great precision and concentration.”

Gerald John Christopher Paul was born on October 31 1907, and educated at Cheltenham and St John’s, Cambridge, where he learned to fly with the University Air Squadron.

He was commissioned in 1929 and joined No 13, an Army Co-operation Squadron, equipped with Armstrong Whitworth Atlas biplanes. The following year, when RAF pilots were serving in aircraft carriers, he joined No 446 Flight in Courageous. When the Navy recovered its air arm, Paul came ashore in 1938 to No 90 Squadron, flying two-engine Blenheim aircraft.

After the war, Paul became commanding officer of No 13 OTU at Middleton St George, Yorkshire. He was delighted to discover a neglected Tiger Moth on the station, after which he enjoyed flights before breakfast – until the morning he hit a low coaxial cable linking two masts and crashed. He reported that he was showing off and entirely to blame. Years afterwards, when he lost the sight in his left eye, doctors attributed it to the accident.

In late 1946 Paul joined the headquarters of the diminished remnants of 2nd Tactical Air Force at Bad Eilsen in Germany. The base’s previous Luftwaffe occupants had accumulated looted Cognac, Champagne and other wines, so Paul and his fellow officers charged themselves a token penny a tot.

Paul also took advantage of the splendid gliding facilities which had formed the basis of Luftwaffe training since the end of the First World War, and which had been developed to allow the Germans to circumvent the rearmament restrictions of the Versailles Treaty.

His next move was to the United States, where he served with the Joint Services Mission in Washington and at the USAF War College at Maxwell Field, Alabama.

In 1949 Paul returned to the Air Ministry for Intelligence duties which centred on countering the developing Soviet bomber force. He regarded tête à tête background briefings for Aneurin Bevan as light relief.

Paul was discussing the joys of gliding with RAF colleagues in a London cab when he hit on the idea of launching a gliding and soaring club in the Service. A year at the Imperial Defence College followed from 1953. Paul then went on to become commandant of the Central Flying School at Little Rissington, Gloucestershire, and at the same time qualified as a Meteor jet pilot.

At the beginning of 1956 Paul arrived in Aden as Senior Air Staff Officer. A year later he returned to the Air Ministry for his final appointment as director of operational training. In October 1958 he took advantage of a “golden bowler” retirement, with the proceeds of which he paid off his children’s school fees and bought a small Druine Turbulent aeroplane.

Paul was appointed secretary general of the Air League of the British Empire, which required him to travel throughout Britain both by car and his own aircraft. He made a major contribution to the post-war increase in private flying, not least by converting an Air League journal into the aviation magazine Air Pictorial.

In time he was welcomed to the Royal Aero Club, the Gliding Association and the Tiger Club committees, becoming president in 1968 of the Popular Flying Association, which encouraged group ownership of private aircraft.

In the late 1960s Paul fell out with council members at the Air League, and was dismissed in 1971. He busied himself with village affairs at Old Alresford in Hampshire and with the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen’s Families Association, while writing for Air Pictorial, by this time an independent publication.

He also carried out extensive research on behalf of the Fleet Air Arm Museum, and produced a history of No 90 Squadron. In 1989 he became president of the Central Flying School Association.

Paul, who died on January 11, was appointed CB in 1956. He also held the Belgian Croix de Guerre and the Czech Military Cross, and was a Fellow of the Royal Aeronautical Society.

In 1937 he married Rosemary Lane, with whom he had two sons and a daughter. She died in 1975; he married, secondly, in 1985, Mollie Samuels, who survives him.”

 

The crash of Lady Luck, 1943

Lady Luck scale model by Tim Barnes

Lady Luck scale model by Tim Barnes

Much has been written about the crash of Lady Luck, a Flying Fortress in WW2, in or near Alresford pond: so it is difficult to write anything new. Already on this website we have had personal reports from people who were there at the time, like George Watson and Jim Smith.

There are also several reports and photographs publicly visible in the Globe Inn, down at the end of Broad Street, on the Soke: this is a fitting lasting tribute to the USAF airmen who were flying from UK bases at that time. Another memorial plaque is located at the end of the Soke, next to the pond, near the gate to the garden of the Globe Inn.

IMG_7638 strtHilary Cornford, from Old Alresford, an enthusiastic Lady Luck supporter, has enabled the Alresford Museum to retain and display an interesting modern memento of the event, which is an aeroplane panel painted up to make a replica of the tail of USAF Flying Fortress 25434. Known as “Lady Luck”, the tail was decorated, as many wartime aircraft were, with a mascot. Their original mascot was painted by Sgt Sam P Rodman, of the US 303rd Bomb Group, when he was based at the Molesworth USAF aerodrome in the UK.

The account below is of unknown origin, but a printed copy is glued to this modern reproduction of this tail panel, now in the custody of the Museum: this repro tail panel was painted by and is on loan from Tim Barnes, produced when he was working at the Lasham aircraft works near Alton. His employers kindly donated an aircraft panel from a modern Boeing 757 airliner, to make the repro tail panel look more authentic.

 

The painted ‘Tail Art’

“This is one of the two known tail art paintings done by Sam Rodman.

This languishing beauty adorned the tail fin of a Fort which carried the simple title of ‘Lady Luck’ on the nose – perhaps one of the most popular and understandable names chosen by the numerous air crews around the world. Standing on the horizontal stabiliser of the Fort and painting onto the huge tail would have made the task of painting much easier for Rodman (and other artists), and it is surprising that the tail was not used more often for embellishment.

This particular B17F arrived at Molesworth, Cambridgeshire, via the South Atlantic route to England, having passed through Marrakesh, North Africa. Assigned to 303 BG on 6th March 1943, it began combat flying with a mission to Wilhelmshaven on the 22nd, under the command of Lt Griffin. It was lucky 13 for First Lt Loyd Griffin, later made Captain, as he completed that number of sorties in Lucky Lady before finishing up in mid-July. Thereafter, 9 different crews took the Fort to targets across France and Germany until misfortune overtook Robert Cogswell’s crew.

On a recalled mission to the Nantes submarine pens in France on 26th September 1943, they experienced a runaway prop on #4 engine, which subsequently caught fire and forced them to abandon the aircraft over Southern England. The pilot, Lt Cogswell, stayed with his ship until all the crew had baled out safely, and then jumped himself – too low by then – and he sustained severe back injuries as a result. Lady Luck crashed near Alresford pond – a sad end for a veteran of some 25 missions.

Robert Cogswell returned to combat flying, but was tragically killed in action, flying a B29 during the Korean conflict in 1951.”

The picture on this text, attached to the painted panel. shows Sam Rodman painting the original artwork on the B17 tail, earlier in 1943. Lady Luck was a Boeing B-17F-50-BO, with the USAF registration 42-5434.

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USAF Molesworth

303-bgMolesworth in Cambridgeshire is now a non-flying facility under the control of the United States Air Force, and is one of the two Royal Air Force (RAF) stations in Cambridgeshire currently used by the United States Air Forces in Europe (USAFE). In WW2, from November 1942, Molesworth was occupied by the Boeing B-17 Flying Fortresses of the 358th Bombardment Squadron, the first of four squadrons that would comprise the 303d Bombardment Group. The 303d remained at Molesworth until shortly after V-E Day in late May 1945.

The 358th flew the first mission for the group on 17 November 1942. The group became one of the legendary units of the Eighth Air Force. Initially missions were conducted against targets such as aerodromes, railways, and submarine pens in France until 1943, when flying missions commenced into Germany itself.

The Library display of 2013

Seventy years after the event, Hilary and Ray Cornford set up a library display, in the Alresford Library on Broad Street, showing the stories and artefacts available surrounding the B17 crash in Alresford. The file of documents they collected has been passed over to the Alresford Museum, so that they are all available for future researchers (Accession number D1031a). Anyone joining the newly established Membership of the NATT will have access to the Museum resources, by arrangement.

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The tail panel is Alresford Museum item A1060.

In the Alresford Library there are other locally produced documents about the event, such as Nelson Trowbridge’s April 2001 essay, called ‘Lady Luck – What Really happened?’, a copy of this paper is also held in the Museum (Accession Number D1031b). Other comments from Nelson about the Lady Luck crash were quoted in an earlier Alresford Memories story – https://alresfordmemories.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/flying-fortress-crash-in-alresford-pond/

A wartime childhood in Bishop’s Sutton

Drayton Farmhouse, at Nythe, drawn by Jim Smith

Drayton Farmhouse, at Nythe, drawn by Jim Smith

Jim Smith, who still lives in Alresford, remembers various wartime events: all these happened between Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, where he lived with his parents in Drayton Farmhouse, just past the watercress beds in Nythe. At the time, Jim was around six years old, and years later, when he finally managed to get a sketch pad, he drew the pictures shown here of some of these events.

Frank Smith, his Dad, farmed the fields between Alresford and Bishop’s Sutton, and looked after the cress beds. The most memorable event was the crash of the Lady Luck, a USAF Flying Fortress, in September 1943, when Jim, his Dad and Uncle Alf, who was in the Marines, were out in the evening, near the watercress beds at Nythe. As dusk approached, and the first sign of anything unusual was the noise of bombers coming over at low level from the west (Nelson Trowbridge – see below – says that the rest of the crew had bailed out over Winchester). Jim says that their landing lights appeared to be switched on, lighting up the sky, and presumably also the ground in front of them. He assumes they were trying to show the pilot of the stricken aircraft the ground, despite the dusk, for him to find a suitable area of fields for a crash landing. Then the aircraft crashed, ploughing into the field near the cress beds at the top of the pond.

Lady Luck, who did not quite end up in the pond!

The crash of Lady Luck, who did not quite end up in the pond!

Almost at the same time, a parachute appeared, and the parachutist came down in one of the trees north of the pond, close to them. His parachute got caught, and the man, who turned out to have been the pilot, ended up hanging in the trees upside down. Jim’s Uncle Alf was a big man – he had size 17 feet – and managed to reach the pilot and lift him up out of the harness, and tree, down to the ground: being very grateful the pilot gave Uncle Alf his boots, which were hanging round his neck, as they used to fly in thick flight-socks. The pilot said it was not a problem for him to give the boots away, they were always lost in a crash, so he would get some new ones issued. The only trouble was the boots were size 8, so Jim’s Dad had them, they would not fit Uncle Alf’s big feet!

img182The railway, running on the embankment up the rise to Four Marks, was an easy target for passing enemy aircraft, so they would harass any trains they found steaming up the gradient. As a result there would often be a train sitting in the cutting, west of the railway bridge, hiding in the shelter of the cutting and the trees, until the driver felt that aircraft activity in the area had subsided, or any circling aircraft had given up. Others got caught on the exposed embankment, and Jim remembers one train speeding down the hill, with what appeared to be all the wheels sparking or on fire under the carriages behind. Possibly it had needed to go downhill very fast, and the driver was trying very hard to slow down! But Jim reckons the train had been machine gunned by an enemy aircraft and was on fire.

The railway bridge itself was quite low, for vehicles passing underneath, and one unfortunate tank commander only discovered the lack of headroom when he tried to open the hatch on the top of the tank just as the driver approached the bridge. This did not end well, as the bridge did not move.

Plan of the Bishop's Sutton Army camp

Plan of the Bishop’s Sutton Army camp, off Water Lane at the bottom

Jim also remembers the troops who were in a camp in Bishop’s Sutton, between Water Lane and the main road. The huts at the bottom were where they slept, and higher up there was the canteen and other common rooms. Jim was always sure of a breakfast there, so often sneaked in with the soldiers: they had sort of adopted him as a mascot. He also sold them the occasional eggs when he could find them, and achieved a good price! His Dad as the local farmer used to take the kitchen waste away for the animals to eat: there he would often get a wink and a comment that there was a sealed container in the slops that he might find useful – it would contain some sausage meat or bacon.

Postscripts:

Another comment on this area is from George Watson:

George Watson also remembers that the Alresford Volunteer Force practice rifle range used targets on the embankment of the railway, on the northwest side. Hopefully they did not shoot at these when trains were passing by, but there were various wayward shots that went over the railway, into the fields at the other side. George collected some of these bullets – with permission from the farmer – and later gave them to the Alresford Museum.

See also Nelson Trowbridge’s comments on the crash of the Lady Luck in an earlier story: https://alresfordmemories.wordpress.com/2013/01/18/flying-fortress-crash-in-alresford-pond/

In this story Nelson mentions his booklet “Lady Luck: What Really happened”. In this booklet Nelson suggests that the bomber crashed at around 5pm, so it was not dark, but could have been very overcast from the bad weather that had caused their mission to be aborted. Captain Cogswell, the pilot, bailed out, but could not have survived if the plane had been so low as to crash within 100 yards or so. It is more reasonable to assume the plane flew on, on a circular track. Nelson says the plane was reported to have veered around by 180 degrees, out of control, with one engine on fire and a wing falling off, returning to the spot where Capt Cogswell bailed out. But luckily it did not get back as far as Alresford!