Tag Archives: Cornwall

The Gateshead Gnomes, and more Little People

Liverpool and the leafy parks and graveyards in its suburbs was not the only place to be involved in the Great English Fairy Flap of 1964.

In June 1964, strange things started happening in Gateshead, a very ordinary, humdrum town in the north east of England. It is a suburb of Newcastle-on-Tyne, where polar bears and walruses (or should that be “walri” ?) roam regularly in colder winters. Look for the orange arrows:

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At ten past four in the afternoon of June 2nd 1964, four boys were playing together in Leam Lane Estate, Gateshead. This looks a fairly desolate site, right on the shores of the freezing, windswept North Sea:

leam laneee

Looking at the map, though, as it does have one or two of the features that would link it with Celtic fairy sites, and indeed, with the old idea of dimensional portals out of which ghosts, goblins, UFOs and lots of other exciting beings may emerge:

leam lane

First of all, it is (or was then)  heath covered waste land with gorse and bracken, the very landscape beloved of fairies in Cornwall. It also has a very ancient Roman road, which would have been built directly over a Celtic track. Indeed, the reason that Roman roads across Western Europe are so unbelievably straight, is that Celtic tracks were. Quite a link, therefore, with times long, long ago.

Another indicator of pathways into other dimensions is the presence of any natural water, such as streams, and, for me, what clinches the deal, a natural spring. (that is what the blue “spr” stands for, at the centre bottom of the map). You can’t tell from this map. but I have looked at some larger scale ones, and the area also has a couple of cemeteries, absolutely classic places for crossing over into other realities.

Back to those four boys who were playing together at ten past four on that early June afternoon. They reported having sighted:

“a silver domed object about the size of a table, with portholes around the top and three legs. It was seen falling like a leaf through the sky making a low buzzing noise descending approximately 120 yards away from where they were standing.”

Here is the closest the Internet has to offer. It is in actual fact, the new Smart Car:

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At half past five in the evening, another, fifth boy, Mark Smith, aged 14, decided to walk down to the farm to collect some straw for his rabbits. When he arrived, he saw a group of around ten children, standing about twenty yards away from a haystack. This was followed by the startling sight of:

“around six or eight tiny human beings on top of the stack: they were about two and a half feet tall and dressed in bright green suits. They appeared to be digging into the haystack, as if searching for something. Their hands seemed like lighted electric light bulbs.”

Alpha-7-CLOSE-2

Mark went home and told his parents what he had seen and decided to make his way back to the scene, but he was stopped by the farmer. Mark says that he was told by another child that:

“she had seen a circular silvery object take off from the ground with a spinning motion giving off an orange glow.”

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On June 6th, 1964 several members of the local UFO Organisation visited the locality concerned and spent some considerable time speaking to many of the residents and children about the matter.

One child who admitted having seen “the little green men” told them:

“the leader of the little men was dressed in black and carried a baton with pink stripes.”

Another girl claimed:

“He was sitting on the roof of the barn watching us.”

Another girl told them that she had seen ‘him’ riding on the back of a cow whilst others claimed the whole thing was a hoax. The farmer who owns the land said

“All the claims are a load of nonsense. If anything has landed I would’ve known about it. I have a dog kept in the yard, he would warned me if anybody had been prowling around the farm.”

And that was not the end of it. Three months or so later…

It was claimed that a “Leprechaun” had been sighted in Tamar Street East in Belfast on or about September 10th 1964.

leprechaun

In fact, this particular Little Green Man was later identified as six-year-old Billy Knowles.

A-Little-Boy-Wearing-A-Green-Robin-Hood-Costume

He was playing at Robin Hood, dressed in his nice new costume:

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He was playing in a derelict house, something Belfast was not short of at the time:

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Poor little Billy was soon chased away by police who were frightened for his safety.

Too late!!!

The hint of a real life Leprechaun, and a real life pot of gold, triggered off the local people’s imaginations. Vast numbers of them descended into the streets causing massive disorder. Ironically the crowds that gathered there included not just children, but many adults. The incident, which involved the police and the fire service in some numbers, also attracted the presence of David Bleakley, the Labour MP for Victoria, who handed over a hastily written petition to Belfast Corporation, demanding action to keep the crowds and children away from the embankment and the many derelict houses there. One senior police officer was quoted as saying:

“A grown man, cold stone sober, insisted to me that he had seen a leprechaun.“

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Filed under History, Humour, Personal, Science

A Twitch in 1817

A twitch doesn’t have to involve a bird. It is becoming increasingly fashionable to twitch animals. I have twitched a Steller’s Sea Lion on the Brisons, a pair of sea stacks just off Cape Cornwall, which is in Cornwall, funnily enough. And I succeeded in my quest. I saw this amazingly lost creature, who, by rights, should have been sunning herself in Vladivostock Harbour. I saw her, on and off, for several years, in actual fact:

Steller Sea Lion
I have twitched a Bottle-nose Dolphin in Gainsborough in Lincolnshire. It frequented the River Trent at the back of of a supermarket car park in Gainsborough, Lincolnshire, Netto, if I remember correctly. It was there from January 25th-30th 1999, although I turned up on January 31st. And guess what? Well, this is all that I saw:

beaten

The following account is of a twitch for a sea-creature. It took place in the summer of 1817 in Massachusetts, and this is just one of a huge number of accounts. It came from Colonel TH Perkins on August 15th 1817. I have made one or two changes to make it easier for a modern reader to understand but other than that, there are no differences:

“The first appearance was in the summer of 1817, in the harbour of Cape Ann:

a Cape-Ann

And here is the more modern, less charming version:

a goolge YES easrthzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

And conceivably, this map is the best one for all the English people who think Boston is a market town in Lincolnshire:

map ann (2)

Back to the story:

“I visited Gloucester with Mr Lee. On our way down we met several persons returning, who had already visited the place, and they reported to us that he had not been seen for two or three days past. We, however, continued our route to Gloucester, though with fears that we should not be rewarded with a sight of the monster which we sought.

I had already satisfied myself, from conversation with several persons who had already seen him, that the reports in circulation were not mere fables. All the townspeople were, as you may suppose, on the alert, and almost every individual, both great and small, had had sight of him, at a greater or less distance:

etching

“The weather was fine, the sea perfectly smooth, and Mr Lee and myself were seated on a point of land which projects into the harbour, about twenty feet above the level of the water, from which we were distant by about fifty or sixty feet. Seated in this way, I observed an agitation in the water at the entrance of the harbour, like that which follows a small vessel going five or six miles an hour through the water. As we knew there were no rocks where the water was this broken. I immediately said to Mr Lee that I had no doubt that what I had seen was the sea serpent in pursuit of fish. Mr Lee was not looking at the spot which I was talking about, and had not seen the foam of the water, the animal having immediately disappeared.
In a few moments after my exclamation, I saw on the opposite side of the harbour, at about two miles distance from where I had first seen, or thought I saw, the snake, the same object, moving with the rapid motion up the harbour, on the western shore”:

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“As he approached us, it was easy to see that his motion was not that of the common snake, either on the land or in the water, but evidently the vertical movement of the caterpillar. As nearly as I could judge, there was visible at a time about forty feet of his body. It was not, to be sure, a continuous body, as from head to tail he was seen only three or four feet at a time. It was very evident, however, that his length must be much greater than what appeared, as, in his movement, he left a considerable wake in his rear. I had a fine telescope, and was within less than half a mile of him. The head was flat in the water, and the animal was, as far as I could distinguish, of a chocolate colour. I was struck with an appearance in the front part of the head like a single horn, about nine inches to a foot in length, and of the form of a spike. There were a great many people collected by this time, many of whom had already seen the serpent. From the time I first saw him until he passed by the place where I stood, and soon after disappeared, was not more than fifteen or twenty minutes”:

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“I left the place fully satisfied that the verbal reports in circulation, although differing in detail, were essentially correct. I returned to Boston, and having made my report, I found Mrs Perkins and my daughters disposed to make a visit to Gloucester with me when the return of the animal should again be announced. A few days after my return I went again to Cape Ann with the ladies; we had a pleasant ride, but returned unsatisfied in the quest which drew us there.”

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This particular sea serpent was seen regularly around Cape Ann until 1819 at least. Indeed, the east coast of the United States seems to have been a good place for would-be sea serpent twitchers, with records dating back to 1638:

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Don’t think I don’t have my own story to tell:

On October 25th 1988, I went to the Isles of Scilly to birdwatch. I crossed over on the ferry, the Scillonian. For two or three hours during the crossing, I remained on deck with my binoculars, eagerly scanning the storm tossed waves for seabirds.

Scillonian_III-01 xxxxxx

“At one point, I noticed what I took to be the head of a Grey Seal, which broke the surface perhaps a hundred metres away. It was dark in colour, and I could see a forehead, two eye sockets, and an obvious snout. I didn’t really think twice about it, and it remained there for perhaps two or three minutes. Then, suddenly, a Gannet flew directly above it, and I realised from a comparison of sizes that the head must be at least a metre and a half, if not two metres, across. And that means it cannot have been a seal !”

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Filed under Cornwall, Cryptozoology, History, Science, Twitching, Wildlife and Nature

A very cunning Käpitan

In Penzance Cemetery lie the graves of twenty two Second World War casualties from four individual ships:

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These vessels were in a convoy which was attacked by six German E boats ten miles to the west of Lizard Point, during the night of January 5th-6th 1944. All four ships were sunk. The casualties included HMS Wallasea, an armed trawler which was acting as one of the escort ships, the S.S.Solstad, the M.V.Polperro and the M.V.Underwood. This attack was part of the German attempts to disrupt the Allies’ obvious preparations for an invasion of Western Europe that coming summer.

What is so very striking about Naval war graves, however, having seen the last resting places of literally thousands of Army and Air Force casualties, are that the latter can often be very similar in age, rank or nationality, and perhaps even as far as regiments are concerned: in other words, the same kind of details may be repeated over and over again. With Naval graves, though, you feel almost as if a whole family is involved, with people of often widely differing ages, all having performed some specific job within the ship. And like a family, that ship is the sum of these individual parts.
The S.S.Solstad was a Swedish steam powered cargo ship originally launched in 1924 by Lewis John & Sons Ltd. of Aberdeen, under the name of the “Gatwick”. It weighed just under 1,400 tons, and was travelling from Swansea to London with a cargo of coal when it was torpedoed by the German torpedo boats, S-136 and S-84. The ship sank in three minutes with the loss of five lives. Here is the Solstad in two different companies’ liveries:

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Alide Reicher was 53 years of age. She a stewardess on the Solstad. She is, I think, the only woman war casualty whose grave I personally have ever seen, and even more unique is the fact that she was Swedish, a neutral nationality in theory, and was serving on board a ship of the Swedish Merchant Navy. She really was somebody who gave their life for freedom:

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The second casualty from the Solstad was Kenneth Allen who was killed aged only eighteen. Kenneth was a Deck Hand and the son of Alfred Anthony Allen and Minnie Allen of Blyth Northumberland. He was the husband of Marjorie Gertrude Allen of Gravesend:

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The M.V. Polperro, registered in Fowey, had sailed from Manchester with a cargo of coal, joining a convoy bound for Penryn, Cornwall and then on to London. This is the only photograph that I could find:

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The Polperro went down with the loss of all hands, namely eight Merchant Navy seamen and three Royal Navy gunners:

Polperro tower hil ww2 meorial

The wreck lies in 200ft of water. The Penzance graves from this nautical family are two Able Seamen:

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The M.V.Underwood, almost three hundred feet long and weighing two thousand tons, was travelling from the River Clyde in Scotland to Portsmouth, with military stores including vehicles. The crew of fifteen seamen and three passengers was all lost. This photo shows the M.V.Tuaranga, which was the sister ship of the Underwood, but in all respects save its name, it is the same vessel:

Port Tuaranga, was the sister ship of M.V.Underwood

The wreck of the Underwood was identified in 1975 by information on the boss of the propeller. This grave is that of the Radio Officer, Alexander McRae. He was 43 years of age and came from Carluke in Lanarkshire, Scotland. Graves do not have accents however. Alexander’s parents were William McRae and Annie McRae (nee Wilkie). His wife was called Edith :

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His Majesty’s Trawler Wallasea, (T-345) was an Isle Class Armed Trawler built in 1943. This vessel was part of the Royal Naval Patrol Service and weighed just under five hundred tons.

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Seventeen members of the Wallasea’s crew are interred at Penzance.  This closely knit sea-going family includes an Able Seaman, the Cook, an Engineman, a Leading Steward, an Ordinary Signalman, a Seaman, a Second Hand, a Stoker and a Telegraphist:

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All of these Allied vessels were sunk by German E-boats. These impressive vessels were capable of speeds up to almost 50 m.p.h. and were easily the most effective torpedo boats ever built:

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The attackers on January 5th-6th 1944 were the 5th Flotilla led by Leutnant-Kommander Karl Wilhelm Walter Müller. The flotilla comprised S84, S136, S138, S141, S-52, S142 and S14. In German, the “S” strands for “schnell” or “fast”. Rather imaginatively, in English the “E” stands for “Enemy”.

Karl Müller, when he was the commander of Schnellboot S-52, was already credited with the sinking of the British destroyer Eskdale on April 14th 1943:

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He was no doubt the very proud owner of his Knight’s Cross of the Iron Cross, awarded on July 8th 1943. This is the only picture of Karl Wilhelm Walter Müller which I have been able to find. The lettering across the photo is in German and may refer to copyright problems, but on the other hand, the long word, when re-examined in Photoshop, does appear to have a swastika in the middle of it, so perhaps it is from some archival source:

Karl Müller received Ritterkreuz

On this particular occasion off the coast of Cornwall, Müller was again in command of Schnellboot S-52. He was tasked with attacking convoys in the English Channel. Skilfully, Müller lay in wait for these particular ships of Convoy WP457, very close to the Cornish coast. His little fleet was then able to surprise the convoy by an unexpected attack from the landward side. This is the little cove where the German E-boat fleet sheltered. Look for the orange arrow:

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This is the cove where the Germans took refuge. They were extremely close to the shore:

cove

The soldiers guarding the telegraphy installations at Porthcurno presumed that the motor boats must be British and took no action. It was later said that “Their role was to guard the telegraph and not to act as coastal lookouts.” Such pathetic, pompous stupidity was to cost a great many lives.

At three o’clock in the morning of January 6th, 1944, the British convoy was more or less ready to cross Mount’s Bay where:

“The weather was fine with good visibility. It was moonlight with a south-west wind force three and moderate sea. Leaving the cove they prepared to attack the convoy.”

The cunning Leutnant-Kommander Müller had the enormous advantage of complete surprise because his attack came from the landward, Cornwall, side. The escort led by the aging destroyer H.M.S. Mackay was overwhelmed by the firing of no less than 23 torpedoes and four ships were sunk:

mackay

The German force’s first attack sank the Solstad and the second, some five miles south of Penzance, sent the Underwood, the Polperro and the Wallasea to the bottom. Nowadays, with the right knowledge from the Internet, these ships can be visited by divers. Look for the orange arrow:

mounts bay
The rest of Convoy WP457 continued on their way, while the brave civilians of the Penlee lifeboat made valiant attempts to rescue any survivors. Those still alive, of course, were faced with a very low water temperature because of the time of year. In total more than sixty people were killed including, as we have already seen, one woman, Alide Reicher, who was a stewardess on the S.S.Solstad which, technically, belonged to the Swedish Merchant Navy.
Overall, Penzance Cemetery holds twenty two naval casualties from this action with the majority, seventeen, being members of the crew of HM Trawler “Wallasea”.
In April 1944, the Fifth Flotilla under Leutenant-Kommander Karl Müller, was among the E-boats who carried out another audacious attack, this time on Exercise or Operation Tiger, a large-scale rehearsal for the D-Day invasion of Normandy which was being held at Slapton in Devon:

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A total of 946 American servicemen were killed, with the almost inevitable communication problems causing many casualties from friendly fire. The majority of the casualties, however, were on the morning of April 28th, when a convoy of troops was attacked in Lyme Bay by nine German E-boats under the command of Korvettenkapitän Bernd Klug:

BerndKlug

Leutnant-Kommander Karl Müller survived the war and returned to serve in the West German Navy from 1956–1957. He died in Celle in 1989 at the age of seventy two. Had he been wearing a different uniform in 1944, perhaps an American one, they would have made movies about his daring attack during the 1950s.
It would have been impossible to have written this article without the basic research having been made freely available by David Betts. His excellent book about this most exciting episode in World War Two is advertised here:

There are two final points. Firstly, the war graves in Penzance Cemetery are kept immaculate, every single one. In order to make the inscriptions visible, I have had to photoshop all my photographs and that is the reason that the graves look so peculiar. And last of all, the real cost of war is in these last two photographs. How sad a fate for “our dear Bernard” and a “dear husband and daddy” :

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Filed under Cornwall, History

A very long way from home

If you cast your minds back what seems now a very long time, my continuing researches about the German bomber shot down in St.Just in western Cornwall on September 27th 1942 , had led me to the cemetery in Penzance:

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Of the seventy one Second World War burials in this cemetery, the grave of one particular sailor is very noticeable, because he lies such a very, very, long way from his home.

His name was Earl William Graham. Earl was an Able Seaman in the Royal Canadian Navy Volunteer Reserve (R.C.N.V.R):

March 29th 1945 cropped

Earl was born in 1917, the son of Arthur John Graham and Gertrude Graham. He was the husband of Regina Graham, of Preston, Ontario, Canada:

ontario

Earl Graham, aged just twenty eight, was serving on board H.M.C.S. Teme (K 458) not far off Land’s End, in position 50º07’N, 05º45’W. At 08.22 hours  on March 29th 1945, just six or seven weeks from the end of the conflict, the warship was torpedoed by the German submarine U-315. The Teme was hit in the stern and the rear sixty feet of the ship was blown off.
Three sailors were blown into the sea by the explosion, and poor Earl Williams was killed outright. The Teme might well have been thought, perhaps, an unlucky ship. It had already been the apparently jinxed victim of a significant collision, when an aircraft carrier struck her amidships in the Bay of Biscay in June 1944. The Teme only just avoided being sliced completely in half:

Capture

The “Teme” had been escorting the convoy BTC-111 off Land’s End. The Canadian warship had been “sweeping” to the rear of the convoy of merchant ships when it was attacked. Debris was flung some fifty feet into the air, and one man, later ascertained to be the unfortunate Earl Williams, was blown from the quarter deck up onto the after gun deck. He died moments later from his injuries. The three other seamen were never seen again, although they were initially posted as “missing in action”.
My internet researches have revealed their names as Gordon Walter Bolin, Thomas Joseph Hackett and Robert Everett Rowe. Thomas Hackett’s body was eventually found and his remains are buried in Falmouth Cemetery in Cornwall. Gordon Bolin and Robert Rowe, sadly, were never found, and their supreme sacrifice is commemorated on the Halifax Memorial, along with 2,842 others.
On this occasion, it took twelve hours to tow the mortally stricken “Teme” to Falmouth in Cornwall but the ship was so badly damaged that it was declared a Constructive Total Loss (CTL). A legal definition of the latter is…

“Insured property that has been abandoned because its actual total loss appears to be unavoidable, or because it could not be preserved or repaired without an expenditure which would exceed its value.”

The “Teme” was a Frigate of the River class, with a tonnage of some 1,370 tons. It had only just been completed in 1944 at Smith’s Dock Co Ltd, South Bank, Middlesbrough, in the north east of England. The ship was decommissioned and returned to the Royal Navy on May 4th 1945. They sold it to be broken up for scrap on December 8th 1945. So far researches are ongoing but the names of at least eight people serving on the ship are known:

frigate_river_hmcs_teme dertfyThe U315 operated with a grand total of some thirteen different Wolfpacks during its career, in some cases for just a few days. Their names included Blitz, Donner, Grimm and Panther. Launched at Flender Werke AG, Lübeck  on May 29th 1943, the U-315 went on eleven different patrols, and was commanded throughout by Oberleutnant Herbert Zoller:

zoller_herbert

The submarine surrendered at Trondheim, Norway on May 9th 1945. The craft was declared unseaworthy. and cut up for scrap on site in Norway in March 1947. I have been unable to trace any photographs of the U-315, but here is another Type VIIC U-Boat, the U-995, currently on display at the Laboe Naval Memorial near Kiel. Do not fail to click on the link to the German website, and make sure that you try the Panorama views. They are guaranteed to scare you (top of the tower) or make you very seasick indeed. Just look for the three yellow-orange circles on the photograph:

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The U-315 did not suffer a single casualty throughout its fifteen month career, and sank only two ships, the Teme and the Empire Kingsley, a merchant vessel of just under 7,000 tons:

empire_kingsleyI would highly recommend this website about U-Boats. It has a vast database of the more than 80,000 people who were in the crews of ships attacked by U-boats, as well as the most astounding detail about the U-boats themselves. I was also strongly attracted by the “U-boat of the Day” feature (bottom left).

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Filed under Canada, Cornwall, History

Aliens take refuge in Cornish Parish Church

In August 2008, as we always have done, we spent our family holiday in Cornwall. On August 14th, in the late morning, we went to visit the parish church in Germoe, a tiny, tiny village, between Penzance and Helston in the very west of the county. Look for the orange arrow:

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The church, like every ancient church in this part of the world, is built on or near the site of a pagan sacred well, in this case St Germoe’s Holy Well, which was renamed in honour of the patron saint of this little church, St Germoe:

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Germoe was a young Irishman from around 450 A.D.. This was just after the fall of the Roman Empire, in the so-called “Dark Ages”. Germoe was one of the disciples of St Patrick who came, or perhaps more probably, were sent, to convert the bloodthirsty savages of West Cornwall, such as their fierce War Chief, Teudar, to Christianity. Almost seven hundred years after this, in the eleventh century, the Normans built a church on the site. This original church was then in its turn replaced by a second church in the fourteenth century. The churchyard contains a strange little arched building known as St Germoe’s Chair. Supposedly, it was a shrine covering the bones of St Germoe, which sounds lovely, except that we know that there is no trace whatsoever of anybody’s bones under the structure:

220px-St_Germoe's_Chair_-

On either side of the church door are the quaintly carved “Germoe Monkeys” which supposedly represent long tailed monkeys of some kind and are said to ward off evil. As far as I can trace, nobody has ever thought it at all unusual that the peasant builders of a remote fourteenth century church should have a knowledge of monkeys:

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Perhaps they are not monkeys! It’s very hard to tell after so many centuries of erosion. Most of it since 1900.

At this time, of course, Cornwall was a place where English was not spoken. Few, if any roads connected this Celtic speaking area with England, and the inhabitants of the county regarded themselves as a separate country. So how did they know about monkeys?

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Personally, I have always enjoyed the brightly coloured glass windows, straight from a Hammer Horror film. You almost expect Peter Cushing or Christopher Lee to peer through them:

Most spectacular of all in the church, however, is the font. Nothing is known about its origin except that it is very, very ancient:

font

The stone structure is certainly pre-Norman Conquest (1066) and equally, cannot really be connected to the Celtic era of St Germoe. At this time, deep in the Dark Ages, baptisms are known to have taken place in the Holy Well, as a demonstration to the local pagans of the superior powers of the Christian faith. Any fonts were placed in as low a position as possible, because a baptism in this era always included the washing of the feet.
In my humble opinion, as they say, the font is not at all a Christian font but an object of veneration from a much. much older religion, forgotten for countless centuries, and perhaps older than even the Romans.  The faces carved on the side. I believe, are those of their gods, these unknown people  from so long ago.
One face has a chip on it, which looks like a tear and must surely represent the sadness of a long forgotten entity who knows that he is divine, but who now has no worshippers to emphasise that fact:

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The other face is much more intriguing and always seems so very, very poignant.

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To me it always looks like a sad alien, marooned here for ever, unable to return to his own planet.

Perhaps I should contact Giorgio Tsoukalos on Discovery History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens”?

ancient aliens

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A Life on the Ocean Wave

After doing my researches on the German Dornier Do. 217E bomber which was shot down in St.Just in western Cornwall, I tried very hard to find the graves of the crew. It seemed likely to me that, whatever side they might have been on in the conflict, they had probably been interred a very, very long way from their homes and families. After failing to find their graves in the two cemeteries at St.Just, I visited the cemetery at Penzance.

The dead crew members of the Dornier bomber were not in that particular cemetery either, but I did find a great many other graves from the Second World War.

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And at the time, I was forcibly struck by two things. First of all, the majority of the dead were from ships, completely unlike, for example, the cemetery where my father is buried in South Derbyshire. Here more or less all the war casualties are from the Army or possibly, the RAF. Secondly, I became very aware of the discrepancy between what we do and say on Armistice Day, and what dreadful fates have befallen the people who are buried in these graves. We all wear our poppies, and dutifully pledge that “At the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.” yet I am very sure that we don’t, despite all our best intentions.
The poor people in those graves in Penzance Cemetery no longer have any life whatsoever, thanks to their decision to join up and serve their country. They hit a brick wall in time, sometimes known precisely down to the very minute, and then no more. And they weren’t anonymous. They all had their own lives just like we do now, with families, girlfriends, wives, beer to drink and Christmases to celebrate.

William R.Baxter was an Able Seaman on the Merchant Navy ship, the S.S.Scottish Musician which was a motor tanker of just under seven thousand tons, registered in London. The ship was to survive the war, but William R.Baxter was not.

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On Friday April 18th 1941, the Scottish Musician was damaged by aircraft bombing at a position some three miles from St. Ann’s Head on a bearing of 205°. St. Ann’s Head is the extreme south western tip of Pembrokeshire in south west Wales.

annd head

William Baxter was the only casualty. He was just twenty one years of age. William was the son of Richard George Baxter and Ruth Baxter of Penzance and the husband of Beatrice Joy Baxter.
P1500250xxxxxThe Scottish Musician was consequently further damaged on January 5th 1942 when she hit a mine at position 52° 16’ N, 01° 59’ E, which is near the port of Harwich in Suffolk in East Anglia. This resulted in the death of the twenty year old cabin boy, Albert Henry Jones. Albert is buried in Canada in the “Notre Dame des Neiges” Cemetery in Montréal.
P1500256XXXXXXXRonald Norman Neale was an Ordinary Seaman. He served on board HMS Warwick which was an Admiralty ‘W’ class destroyer. Young Ronald was only twenty years of age when he was killed, on February 20th 1944. He was the unmarried son of James and Linaol Neale of Grove Park, London. On his grave, his grieving parents have had inscribed “Gone from us all, but always in our thoughts”, as Ronald no doubt was for the rest of their lives. On the day that I visited, there were flowers on his grave, conceivably from one of his aging siblings perhaps, or possibly his nephews or nieces.

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HMS Warwick was itself only twenty seven years old, having been launched in 1917. As “D-25” she participated in both the First and Second World Wars, before she was torpedoed and sunk on the day that Ordinary Seaman Ronald Norman Neale was killed. From July to November 1943, she had been in the Bay of Biscay on anti-submarine duties, as part of the RAF Coastal Command offensive. In November she participated in Operation Alacrity,  helping to set up and supply Allied air bases in the Azores.
Having returned to Britain in January 1944,, HMS Warwick was tasked with leading an escort group operating in the South Western Approaches, guarding merchant ships against surprise attacks by German E-boats. The destroyer was patrolling off Trevose Head just north of Newquay on Cornwall’s northern coast when she was torpedoed by the U-413. At the time, HMS Warwick  was under the command of Commander Denys Rayner. The warship sank very quickly, in just a few minutes, with the loss of over half her crew.
The U-413 had been launched on January 15th 1942, and was commanded by Kapitänleutnant Gustav Poel, who, unlike the vast majority of German submariners, was to survive the war.

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As well as the Warwick, the U-413 was an extremely successful submarine which sank five merchant ships amounting to a total tonnage of 36,885 tons. By August 20th 1944, the U-413  was  commanded by the 26 year old Oberleutnant Dietrich Sachse.

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On this summer’s day, though, the U-413 was sunk in the English Channel to the south of Brighton, by depth charges from the British escort destroyer HMS Wensleydale and the destroyers HMS Forester and HMS Vidette. Forty five members of the Kriegsmarine were killed, including the fresh faced young Captain.  Only one member of the crew survived. His name is not recorded but it is thought unlikely to have been Ishmael. Oy vey!

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Filed under Aviation, Cornwall, History

The Luftwaffe comes to Cornwall (and stays there)

For many, many, years, we have spent our summer holidays in Cornwall, in the very westernmost part, which is called Penwith, and where the major town is Penzance, the birthplace of the pioneer chemist, Humphry Davy. Ten miles or so to the north west of Penzance is the even smaller town of St Just. Just look for the orange arrow:

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In the nineteenth century, there were any number of tin mines around the town, which is made up for the most part of stone buildings with slate roofs.

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It has a beautiful ancient parish church with its centuries old frescoes of Christ and St.George.

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There is also the old battleflag of an old Great War battleship.

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Nearby is the medieval “Plen an Gwarry”, which is a small area of open grass, used for watching plays or sporting contests or perhaps just for relaxation.

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As you relax, you might want to eat a pasty or a pie from Mcfaddens, who are often quoted as making the best Cornish pasties in the world. The day I took these photographs, they had sold out. Fortunately, they do mail-order, although the pasties will not always be piping hot.

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St Just also hosts its popular Lafrowda Festival, a community and arts celebration that lasts for seven days.

There is the old bank, with its many changes of owner and cryptic lettering.

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More subtly famous is the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel which was built in the first half of the nineteenth century. It is an enormous stone building, and I remember reading somewhere that, as vast numbers of impoverished Cornishmen were forced to emigrate overseas, given its position so close to the cliffs of Land’s End, this building was usually the very last thing that thousands of emigrants saw as they set off towards the mines of the USA, Canada, Australia or South America.

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Some of the very best and most spectacular cliff scenery is at either Carn Gloose or the nearby Cape Cornwall. This is the Brisons, a pair of storm battered sea stacks.

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It was here that a very, very lost Steller’s Sea-lion lived in the late 1980s and 1990s. It should have been living in Eastern Siberia or Western Alaska.

 

Every time that I have ever driven down Cape Cornwall Road to look at the cliffs or to watch the fierce ocean storms, I have always looked up at the old Methodist School on the left, to check that the conspicuous gap on the ridge of the roof is still there.

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From a tourist leaflet that I read many years ago, I know very well that, during an air raid in the Second World War, this gap was caused by a German bomber in its last few seconds before it crashed into Chapel Road.

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This year I decided to research the story more extensively, so I called in at the library in St Just, where the helpful staff tried very hard to check any references to this event in the books of their Local Collection. They were unfortunately unable to find anything but, not for the first time I suspect, they contacted long time St Just resident, John Harry, who came round to the library straightway to recount the full story. Mr Harry told me that the events had taken place in the autumn or winter of 1942.

As a little boy, he was always very excited indeed when the St Just air raid warning was sounded, and he always had to be dragged very reluctantly up to bed. In their home in Chapel Street, the family had a simple home-made air raid shelter downstairs in the kitchen. It consisted for the most part of a rather robust kitchen table which, in theory, should be able to withstand the majority of shocks which an air raid might cause. On most occasions, though, John’s aging grandmother would refuse to get inside it, but instead, ostrich like, would merely stick her head underneath.

This particular night, they could hear distant gunfire, which gradually grew louder and louder. Some kind of aerial dogfight was clearly taking place, as they could all hear the noise of aircraft engines, machine guns and a series of explosions. Granny kept shouting “We’ll all be killed! We’ll all be killed!”, but her daughter replied, “Be quiet! Don’t keep saying that! You’ll frighten the child!”.

“The child” himself thought that it was all extremely exciting, and was clapping his hands in sheer glee. Suddenly, there was a huge crash. John shouted, “We’re winning! we’re winning!”. Auntie went upstairs to see what was happening. She looked out of the bedroom window. Below her, she could see flames down in the street. “All of Chapel Street is on fire!”, she shouted, “All St Just is ablaze !”

The stricken bomber had destroyed two houses, but fortunately, nobody was injured. The first house was owned by an old lady, but she had gone away to her daughter’s for a two week holiday.

The other house was a second home for the newly married Mr and Mrs Vague. (sic) They did not normally bother to use their air raid shelter, but on this particular evening, their cat had kept making a huge fuss, walking repeatedly backwards and forwards from the bedroom to the shelter. In an effort to keep the cat quiet therefore, the two of them finally moved down to the air raid shelter. From this place of safety, they were able to feel their house shaking as if it were an earthquake.

When it was safe to do so, both Mr and Mrs ran to the emergency shelter in the St Just Town Hall. All they possessed at this moment were their night clothes. In later years, though, of course, Mr and Mrs Vague would dine out regularly on the fact that they had had their lives saved by the cat.

The next morning, more than half the town was cordoned off by the Home Guard. Hundreds of windows had been blown out by the explosions. On the Methodist School (look for the orange arrow), huge numbers of tiles had been knocked off.

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Fragments of the crashed plane were everywhere. In the nearby village of Kelynack, some mile and a half away, (see the previous map after Paragraph One), one member of the German crew had landed by parachute. He had a broken leg, and, a forlorn figure, he was duly arrested by Mr.Matthews, the owner of a small local farm. The rest of the crew, three men, sadly, were all killed.

In a house in Cape Cornwall Street, a woman stepped forward in the darkness to open the bedroom curtains. She tripped over a German’s dead body, which had been blown in through the window. A few days later, in another house in the town, a frightened woman was to find a German’s leg on the top of her wardrobe.

And for a very long time afterwards, John Harry was too frightened to leave his mothers’ side.

Even now, though, at nearly eighty years of age, John was still unaware of where the three dead Germans were buried. And seventy years ago, his mother had been equally unable to ascertain their final resting place. Equally unsuccessful was her friend, who was actually a member of the local Home Guard. Indeed, at the time, everybody in St Just was curious about where the dead Germans were. They kept asking the Home Guard, who always replied with the same “Dunno”. It was thought, however, that some of them did know, but they were just not saying.

My own researches have been equally unsuccessful. I was unable to find the Germans’ last resting place either in the cemetery at St Just, or in the war graves section of Penzance Cemetery. Subsequent inquiries, however, reveal that most German war dead at this time were taken to the German Cemetery on Cannock Chase, and that after the end of hostilities, many of them were then re-interred in Germany. Let’s hope so. It is certainly a very long way from the frequently wet, windy and misty West Penwith to whatever churchyard in Germany where they rightfully belong.

The two destroyed houses were never rebuilt. Instead they were replaced by a row of garages. When the foundations for these buildings were being dug, the workmen found Mr.Vague’s gold watch.

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Amazingly, this was not the only air raid on tiny St Just. On another occasion, the Luftwaffe bombed Holman’s Foundry, which produced munitions for the Allied Forces, down in the Tregeseal Valley. Ironically, Mrs Holman had herself been born in Germany. She had originally come over to England around 1900 as a governess, and then married into a local family.

This particular bombing attack was actually mentioned in one of his broadcasts by Lord Haw Haw. He said, in very sinister and threatening fashion, “Don’t think we have forgotten you, St Just. You have not been forgotten.”

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The foundry’s owner, Ken Olds, lived in a house right next to the foundry. At the height of the bombing raid, when the grandparents went to look for the baby, they found that he was no longer in the bedroom. In actual fact, he had been blown out of the window, and they found him in the front garden. He was still in his cot, fast asleep and completely unharmed. Nearby houses had lots of cracks caused by the explosion of the bombs. In later years, this seems to have led to large scale subsidence, and all of the houses eventually had to be demolished. So too the foundry itself had to come down, and it was replaced by a housing estate.

I was genuinely surprised that after seventy years that it was still possible to talk to an eyewitness of all these amazing events. I will never forget my afternoon spent in the company of John Harry. He is a most charming man, and an amazing source of knowledge of the St Just area, the people who have lived there, and the people who live there still.

Subsequent, subsequent, subsequent researches on the Internet have now revealed the excellent website of Shauney Strick whose hobby is “The History of World War 2 in Penwith, Cornwall:Uncovering the evidence with a metal detector”.

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With his metal detector, Mr.Strick recently uncovered several small parts of a Luftwaffe aircraft buried in West Place, St.Just. (see street map above). The various objects of wreckage were from a Dornier Do. 217E, aircraft U5+1H of 1Staffel KG 2, which had crashed on September 27th 1942 as it made its way towards Penzance, after being pursued and shot down by a Bristol Beaufighter Mark IF of 406 Squadron from RAF Predannick. The Beaufighter was  flown by Squadron Leader Denis Chetwynd Furse with Pilot Officer John Haddon Downes as his radio operator.  

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One additional detail was that one of the diesel engines from the stricken bomber flew an enormous distance before smashing through three garden walls in West Place. 

As I mentioned above, my search for the final resting place of the Luftwaffe bomber’s crew led me to Penzance Cemetery, where, although I did not have any success with the Dornier, I did find that the World War II graves there had some very interesting, and very, very sad tales to tell. But that, as they say, is for another time.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Black Shuck on the world stage

As I have said in two previous blogposts, Old Shuck, Black Shuck, or simply Shuck is the name of the huge, phantom black dog which roams, allegedly, the fields and fens of Norfolk and Suffolk. There are, of course, many places other than East Anglia where completely credible reports occur. We have already looked at three in Nottinghamshire, but almost every county in England has its own version of the creature, whether that be the “Bogey Beast” in Lancashire, the Lincolnshire “Hairy Jack”, the “Gallytrot” in Suffolk or the “Bargheust” in Yorkshire and the North.

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They are often associated with electrical storms, such as Black Shuck’s appearance at first Bungay and then Blythburgh in Suffolk. More often, though, they are linked to places rather than meteorological conditions. Churchyards and graveyards at midnight are a favourite, as well as crossroads. Equally, if not more, favoured are dark lanes, ancient pathways and lonely footpaths in the countryside. Occasionally, there is a connection with water, such as a river, a lake or even a beach. Sometimes, such as at Launceston in Cornwall, it may be an ancient tumulus, as is the case with the….

“graves and prehistoric burials whose attendant hounds proliferate densely in Wiltshire and West Somerset on the grounds that they can be seen as passages downwards to the World of the Dead, and so also suicide graves and scenes of execution…”

(Theo Brown: ‘The Black Dog’, in Porter and Russell (ed.) ‘Animals in Folklore’ (1978).”

Likewise, the Black Dog is seen as the “guardian of the threshold, escorting souls into the afterlife”. According to Jennifer Westwood in her book “Albion” (1985) :

“Black Dogs commonly haunt lanes, footpaths, bridges, crossroads and graves – all points of transition, …..held to be weak spots in the fabric dividing the mortal world from the supernatural.”

And :

“If a count be made of the kind of places favoured by these apparitions one thing becomes plain. Quite half the localities are places associated with movement from one locality to another: roads, lanes, footpaths, ancient trackways, bridges, crossroads.”

Let’s now leave Nottinghamshire’s Shuck eating his Pedigree Chum for just a moment, and skip thousands of miles to the north east of the United States. In her most excellent book, “Real Wolfmen True Encounters in Modern America” the author Linda S Godfrey explains her idea that…

“One common factor seems to emerge from every collection of strange creature accounts: there is an unmistakable connection between anomalous beings and certain features of the land. Unexplainable creatures and events tend to occur near freshwater; on hills; at boundary areas such as roads; and on or near burial grounds, and military zones, and all types of sacred areas around the world.
This geographic predictability supports the premise of many contemporary investigators like Rosemary Ellen Guiley, Nick Redfern, and the late John Keel, who suspect that anomalous creatures are not natural animals; they are entities that belong to a completely non-human realm and are attracted to certain energies of the Earth and all living creatures.”

The researchers listed above, and many others, believe that werewolves, Bigfoot, alien big cats, grey aliens, UFOs and sea monsters as well as more traditional entities such as fairies, dragons and ogres are all part of a planet-wide “spirit” population that manifests “in some sort of concert with the human mind, intent on  its own enigmatic purposes.”

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And of course, this theory does go quite a long way to explaining a very large question, namely, “Why do so many apparently reliable witnesses continue to report the same, impossible things?”

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If we just think of Great Britain, how many UFOs, Black Dogs, ghosts and even sea serpents have been reported over the years?

Linda S Godfrey, who specialises in the more exotic of the world’s canids and possible canids writes about the Wolfmen who are regularly seen in her native Wisconsin.

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Wolfmen in form are rather like Bigfoot, except that they have a wolf’s head.  They are thinner than Bigfoot, and consequently, can move very quickly if required. The most famous of the American Wolfmen is the “Beast of Bray Road”.

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Witnesses have sketched what they saw on this most famous of cryptozoological highways…

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Linda S Godfrey first became interested in the Beast when she was a journalist and had the opportunity to speak to one of the first witnesses….
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Fairly frequently, the Wolfman’s favourite food is roadkill. These were originally witness sketches…

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There are at least two photographs…

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One of the very earliest known sightings of a Wolfman occurred not in Bray Road, but at the St Coletta School for Exceptional Children, where Mark Shackelman worked as a security guard. Linda S Godfrey tells the story….

“The nightwatchman’s main duty was to make quiet surveillance of the 174 acre grounds…The land was dotted with ancient Native American burial mounds.
One evening, movement on the mound behind the main building drew the sharp nightwatchman’s attention as he observed what appeared to be a large animal digging furiously atop the raised earth. The creature was roughly man-size, covered in dark fur, and knelt in a way that should have been physically impossible for a four-footed beast And it fled on two feet rather than four as soon as it noticed Shackelman’s presence.
The flummoxed Watchman examined the mound next day and saw that the Earth had been torn by what looked like big claw marks, with raking slashes in sets of three. That night, he made sure to arm himself with a big, club-like flashlight before making his rounds. Sure enough, the creature was there again, digging in the mound near midnight. This time, however, it rose upon its hind legs and faced Shackelman. It stood about six feet tall and reeked of rotten meat.
Shackelman bravely shined his light at the creature so that he could get a good, long look at it. Although it was covered in fur, he could make out powerful arms that ended in hands with thumbs and little fingers that were much smaller than the middle three digits, explaining the triple slashes in the dirt. It had a muscular torso and a canid head with a muzzle and pointed ears. Perhaps most surprisingly of all, the creature made a growling vocalisation that Shackelman later described as a “neo-human voice” and that sounded to him like three syllables, “ga- dar-rah”. The creature continued to make fearless eye contact with Shackelman, who felt he was in imminent and mortal danger.”

If you want to read what happens to Mr. Shackelman, or the Wolfman, then you will have to buy the book! You will not be disappointed! It is a marvellous book which opens a whole world of strangeness that takes a lot to explain away. This report of a wolfman was just the first of the many. According to Linda S Godfrey…

“Was the St Coletta creature just a sign of things to come? The Shackelman sighting was only the first of over one hundred reports nationwide of a human sized canine that could run upright or crouch with a chunk of bloody carrion clutched in its paws. In that incident and most sightings since, the creature is described with a head that appears wolf-like but a body that often – except for its fur, dog shaped limbs, and elongated pause – looks somewhat humanoid because of its powerfully muscular torso and shoulders.”

Here are some more modern colour photos, in some cases taken by trailcams.

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If you look at Youtube, a search for the “Beast of Bray Road” will reveal scores of films of varying quality. This lasts an interesting three minutes…

and this is a more thorough full length programme

If, however, you find yourself being tempted towards the “Gable Film”, please be aware that its maker has already acknowledged, several years ago, that the film is (a very accomplished) fake .

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Frank Roy Daughton, friend of S.A.Casswell

A little while ago, I wrote about a Schoolboy’s Diary which I had bought on ebay. The 1935 diary had been owned by S.A.Casswell , who lived in Lincolnshire, at Sutterton near Boston. Only a few minutes searching on the Internet revealed some rather sad details about the one single person listed by S.A.Casswell in the address section of his Diary.
Frank Roy Daughton had lived firstly at 385, Kings Road Chelsea and then at 5, Gerald Road S.W 1. He was an officer originally in the RAFVR, the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, and then in the RAF.
Given that Daughton’s job was to fly aircraft over long distances, both within Great Britain and abroad, he was surely continually in search of meteorological information before he set off on any of his trips. What more logical person to consult than his friend S.A.Casswell, who we know worked on the staff of the Meteorological Office as a Meteorological Officer?
Roy Daughton was born in London around 1915. His father was Frank Daughton and his mother was Bertha Daughton. The first personal detail that I have been able to trace is that before the war he was a member of the Metropolitan Police. His warrant number was 124334. He joined the force on July 15th 1935, and he left on February 25th 1944. His last posting was as a Police Constable in the C.I.D in X Division.

During the war, Roy Daughton was a Flying Officer, Number 133684. He began his career as a pilot with 9 OTU (Operational Training Unit) who were tasked with training long-range fighter aircrew. They operated from RAF Aldergrove in Northern Ireland, eighteen miles from Belfast. Roy Daughton must have served with 9 OTU at some point between 1942-August 11th 1944, as they were a comparatively short lived organisation.  He had received his commission on February 2nd 1943.

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Roy Daughton then served with the OADU, the Overseas Aircraft Despatch Unit.  Their difficult and dangerous job was, quite simply, to co-ordinate the ferry flights of military aircraft, perhaps, for example, from the end of a factory production line in the United Kingdom to their new home on some distant foreign airbase. The commonest destination was North Africa or the Middle East. Sometimes, they ferried American aircraft which had just been flown across the Atlantic Ocean. This latter task in itself could be enormously dangerous, especially in the case of relatively small aircraft such as the Lockheed Hudson. The Overseas Aircraft Despatch Unit operated from RAF Portreath in west Cornwall.

The OADU’s very first customers were four Boeing B17C Flying Fortresses bound for Egypt. Other frequent flyers were Bristol Blenheims, Bristol Beaufighters, and Vickers Wellington bombers.

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Roy was to die on February 25th, 1944 aged only 29. I have been completely unable to trace the circumstances of his death, although it was presumably either while or after delivering an aircraft from the United Kingdom to North Africa.

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Roy is buried in Morocco, a very long way indeed from his cosy home in London. He lies in Rabat European Cemetery, Mil. Plot 21. Grave 673.

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Roy is one of only nine war casualties in this far flung cemetery.

gereman websiteAt the time of his death Frank was a married man. His wife, who was about a year younger than him, was called Doreen Margaret Daughton, and the family home was in Maida Vale in London. In addition, I also discovered that in 1946, a Doreen M. Daughton left the port of Southampton in England and sailed to Halifax in Nova Scotia, Canada. She later crossed the border into the USA, but after that, the trail has, as they say, “run cold”.
And that is it. Frank Roy Daughton’s life, or what I personally have been able to find out about it. No medals, no fanfares. Nobody even seems to remember why he died at that premature age of around twenty nine years, or how or exactly where. What was he doing when he was killed? Was it his fault? Was he flying? Did he run out of fuel? Was he just walking perhaps, tired and inattentive, across a busy Moroccan street? And did S.A.Casswell ever know that his brave young friend was dead?

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The Diary of S.A. Casswell, 16¾

Four or five years ago, I had a phase when I bid for a few diaries on eBay. One particular diary that I bought was the “Charles Letts Schoolboy’s Diary for 1935”. The inscription on the inside front cover reads “With Best Wishes for a Happy Christmas and the New Year from Johnie” (sic)

Typical of a boy perhaps, the diary is barely filled in at all, and where it is, it is helpfully done in his own personal code. Whatever happened on June 11, it was 7  I  T and so was the previous Tuesday, June 4th.  June 3rd, however, was 8 Sw I T. January 1st was  “9 Sp I Party” and January 2nd was “Rec. Card (New Year). February 20th was “Sp.I. Party  T.Lodge”. It may be that the owner was using his old 1935 schoolboy diary to record events when he was in the R.A.F. (see below). This would be because it was not allowed to keep a diary in the British Armed Forces, in case you were captured, and your scribblings were of use to the Nazis. This cunning plan is certainly implied by his entry for January 16th which reads “Night Raid on Berlin 1943 spoke to one pilot”.

I  know only the young man’s surname and initials. He was called S.A.Casswell and he lived at a house called “Tudor Lodge”.

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This pleasant house was in the rural village of Sutterton, which is near Boston in Lincolnshire.

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S.A.Casswell  weighed nine stone seven pounds and was five feet seven inches tall. He took a size eight in gloves, a size seven in boots, a size one in collars and his hat was a six and seven eighths. His birthday was on August 25th 1919, so he was fifteen when he received the diary as a Christmas present. He seems to have liked it so much, that he didn’t start entering anything into it until possibly early 1937, when he would have been sixteen years old. Sadly, the very fact that I now possess his diary must surely mean that S.A.Casswell is no more. On the other hand, a quick search of the Commonwealth War Graves’ Commission website reveals that at least he did not die before his time in battle.

His bicycle frame number was Y27697 and his Unemployment Book serial number was 3243. He went to school on the 7.50 a.m. train, and possibly came back home on the 5.24 p.m. He only lists two trains which will take him to school but he lists a total of six trains which will bring him back home. They are the 11.30 a.m., the 2.46 p.m., the 4.10 p.m. (on Saturdays only), the 5.19 p.m. and originally the 7.50 p.m. although this was replaced by the 8.40 p.m. in later years. At school he did not study Scripture but he did study Arithmetic and Algebra and Geometry and Trigonometry and Mechanics. He studied Physics and Chemistry and Botany with English Composition and English Literature, along with History and Geography and Latin and Art. He has not recorded any of his marks in tests and exams, so he was either not particularly outstanding, or perhaps, extremely modest. For some peculiar reason, he has pasted a receipt inside the front cover of the diary. It is for the three pence  to join the Literary and Debating Society at school on October 5th 1937 when he not only paid out the money to join, but signed the receipt for it as well. Perhaps he was later to go into banking, or maybe even politics.

Casswell didn’t use his piece of “Forbes Blotting” which is still inside the diary as a free gift, but he has given us one or two really interesting insights into the life of a schoolboy. He certainly had some kind of interest in sport. He has recorded the fact that in 1934 and 1935 Cambridge won the Boat Race by adding it in pencil at the end of the printed list. On the page which records the athletic records for universities and schools, he has written what are now incomprehensible figures underneath the one mile, long jump and high jump. He has also inserted performance figures for Spalding Grammar School which may or may not have been achieved by him. For the hundred yards, for example, the school record was 10.6 seconds. For 220 yards the record was 24 seconds, for 440 yards the record was 55.6 seconds by P. Nicholson in 1933, for half a mile it was 2 minutes 14 seconds, and for a mile it was 4 minutes 57 seconds. For the long jump, J.B. Britain achieved 19 feet 8¾ inches in 1937 and H.G. Harrison or perhaps Hugh Harrison threw the cricket ball the magnificent distance of  96 yards 1 foot 2 inches in 1937. The high jump record for the school was 5 feet 1½ inches. This was achieved in 1938 and equalled in 1939.

He has recorded the books which he has read, although strangely they are both dated “1937” in this “1935” diary. Typically for a boy perhaps, he has read only two books. They are both by H.G.Wells and they are called “The Camford Visitation” and “Star Begotten”. Both of these were written in 1937, so they were pretty well hot off the presses.  The former work cost him the princely sum of two shillings. The latter book was one of the first, if not the first, to postulate the idea that aliens are visiting the earth to modify Mankind genetically, a scenario familiar to anybody who has dared to look into the vast internet swamp of claims regarding alien abduction.

It is only when S.A.Casswell lists the films that he went to see at the cinema, presumably in Boston, that we realise what a fascinating and attractive world the silver screen must have been for a boy, or a young man perhaps, of 16 or 17 years of age. I will just list the films that he saw, and their connection to the Internet.

There is a vast variety of films that he watched and they do not include those whose titles I have quite simply been unable to decipher. Presumably, in the absence of television during the 1930s, a weekly visit to the cinema must have been the norm for almost every family that could afford it. It is equally striking that even with the other six evenings of the week left largely vacant, this young man seems not to have been over tempted by the opportunity to read books…

Jericho,   Wee Willie Winkie,  Victoria the Great  , The Littlest Rebel, Green LightFive over England Three Smart Girls,  Take my Tip   ,Storm in a Teacup  The Prisoner of Zenda Souls at Sea   Oh, Mr. Porter!   The Squeaker  A Star is Born Dr Syn   Marie Walewska   Hells Angels    A Yank at Oxford   The Count of Monte Cristo    Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs Pygmalion    Blockade   Black Limelight   The Adventures of Robin Hood Kidnapped   Sixty Glorious Years   Alexander’s Ragtime Band Crime School If I were King   

“Crest of the Wave” and “Lot’s Wife” were both theatrical plays rather than films. He saw “The Prisoner of Zenda” while away at Oxford.

Man with Wings The Dawn Patrol  The Citadel  Angels with Dirty Faces That Certain Age  with Deanna Durbin, Old Bones of the River   with Will Hay You Can’t Take It with You It’s in the Air  and finally, Everything Happens to Me with Max Miller.

S.A.Casswell has recorded only one address in the relevant section. It is Roy Daughton who lived originally at 385, Kings Road Chelsea S.W. 10. Roy moved subsequently to 5, Gerald Road S.W.1 on an unknown date.

And that is probably all I will ever know for definite about S.A.Casswell. I did though make a more determined effort with his private code and came to what I thought was a reasonable explanation of events. As I said earlier, the major problem with the diary is that so many entries are in code, and they appear to be spread over several years. Nowadays, it is going to be extremely difficult to be absolutely certain about this code, given that the entries may refer to completely different circumstances. However, if we accept that S.A.Casswell, at the shy and tender age of 16¾ was sweet on a girl whose name began with a letter I then there is some kind of sense to it all. “Sp.I Party” therefore means that he spoke to Irene or Iris or even Ianthe at a party. “Rec. Card” means that he received a card from her for the New Year. “Ph to I” may well mean “Phone Irene”, and he may have done this after the “Panto” on January 16. On this date, there is another entry, an RAF one, which says “Night Raid on Berlin 1943 spoke to one pilot”. Towards the end of January he starts mentioning “Sp.I Cd  Pty  Ddke” and this is clearly something to do with the girl. On January 25, 1938 the Aurora Borealis was visible mainly from 6.30 p.m. until nine o’clock, but it then persisted to a lesser extent until at least midnight. On January 29th he has written “Three leave began” (an RAF reference?) and “Ph to I re tomorrow”. The next day, it is “Avec I 4 party at Peterboro”, presumably the day he invented texting.
In February, there is more French, with “Avec I 9 pty to Dnce Gldrdrm.” Presumably he is just missing out the vowels in this last entry. From then on S.A.Casswell’s diary is a mixture of, we presume, speaking to Irene at various venues, including the Post Office, and going to parties. There was an election on April 5th when he spoke to Irene, perhaps, at Tudor Lodge.

On April 8th we have “Sp I (drawing of a bell) W.D. avec C.C.”. On May 3rd we have perhaps “I and L ( with a square drawn around it) and “first-time” also in brackets. He saw I again on May 10th and two days later, he spoke to her again on the day of the Coronation. On May 31st he spoke to her at the tennis courts, and on June 2nd he heard, perhaps optimistically,  of the “break with Nigel”. On June 5 he played tennis with her. On June 13th he spoke to her but also wrote the enigmatic “gulls etc” alongside this entry. On July 4th he wrote “ I at Hendon phone”. On July 30th he played tennis with her again ( Plyd T. avec I.). On August 4th he went on holiday to Cornwall and Devon, visiting Cheddar, Penzance, Looe, Torquay, (when he got the Inter Science result) then Minehead and Burford before coming back on August 7th. On August 13th he went with “ I & six to Butlins & on the thriller”, presumably a fairground ride of some type but he also received his Higher result . On Saturday, August 31st, S.A.Casswell went on holiday again at exactly 10.30.a.m. visiting Oxford, Trinity and Stonehenge of which he has drawn a lovely little pencil sketch.

Stonehenxxxxxxxx

He finally arrived at Bournemouth at 9.00.p.m.On September 2nd, he went to Poole Potteries where he sketched some of the pots.  The next day, he sailed around the Isle of Wight in the “Emperor of India”. He saw the Needles, Southampton Water, the Spithead forts, a submarine and an aircraft carrier. In the evening, he saw a variety show at the Pavillion (sic) in Bournemouth. On September 4th, he crossed Poole Harbour by ferry and visited “The Great Globe” and then the Tilly Whim Caves near Swanage. In the evening, he visited the illuminated gardens and fountain at Bournemouth. On the 5th, it was tennis at Meyrick Park followed by Lulworth Cove and the Cordite Works until continuous rain from 6.00p.m. brought the day to a close. Next day, there was a Buckhound meet at Barley, he bathed, he visited the library and museum, and then walked through the town and gardens. On Saturday he “went on (not in) the Boating Lake at Parkestone” before watching “Fanfare” at the Palace Court. He returned from his holiday on September 8th.

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“Sp I” continues fitfully through September and October but there are few entries in either November or December, so it looks as if the romance may have petered out. He seems to have spoken to her on occasion over the Christmas period, including Christmas Day itself, “9 Rec Card. Sp I  Pty Ddk”. On December 30th he seems to have “See I Bycl St Rd” where “St” must surely mean “Station”. He spent his last day as he had most of the year “Sp I Party Tud Lod”.

I did make valiant efforts to trace his rather distinctive name on the Internet, and this was not a total failure. During the Second World War, I found an S.A.Casswell who was in the R.A.F. Perhaps because he had studied Arithmetic, Algebra, Geometry, Trigonometry, Mechanics, Physics and Chemistry,  this  S.A.Casswell was a Meteorological Officer. He worked on the staff of the Meteorological  Office itself, rather than being attached to an individual squadron and lecturing aircrew about likely weather conditions before they flew off into combat. In 1998, what must surely be the same man, still living in Boston, Lincolnshire, appears as the author of an abstract entitled “A wind-direction display system”.  His subsequent death at home in Milnthorpe around November 29th 2007 was then announced on the Society News page of the magazine “Weather”. Unfortunately, there are two Milnthorpes, one near Wakefield in Yorkshire, the other a much likelier place to retire to, perhaps, on the coast of Cumbria, near Kendal and the Lake District. The paper “A wind-direction display system” was then posted posthumously on the Internet on April 30th 2012.

I was unable to discover if this particular S.A.Casswell  was married, and if so, what was his wife’s first name. Hopefully, it was Irene or Iris or even Ianthe.

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