Tag Archives: Penzance

A strange photograph (3)

In 2009, we were on our annual holiday in Cornwall, staying in a cottage near Penzance.  Here is Penzance, the last town in England and still plagued by pirates. Look for the sun tanned arrow:

On ‎August ‎17th , ‏‎around half past eleven in the morning, we arrived at Men an Tol, one of the most famous landmarks in this part of the world. Here’s  its location, right out in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by other megalithic sites and lots of place names in Cornish. Look for the orange arrow again:

Men an Tol is a megalithic monument, supposedly, and we set off along the rough path out to the moors:

It was a nice day, lots of heather in bloom:

Standing stones are so plentiful in Cornwall that farmers even used them to build dry stone walls:

Here is a decidedly average photograph of the monument we were going to see. It  is a uniquely arranged Stone Age structure, although I have always felt that if it is uniquely arranged, that may be a negative feature rather than a positive one:

Here’s a better one:

Just for scale, the stones are perhaps three or four feet tall. I didn’t dare try to crawl through the hole, for obvious reasons.
There were a number of buzzards circling in the blue sky. This is a Common Buzzard:

The birds were all little dots high in the sky but I took some photographs, thinking that I could perhaps blow them up later on.
It must have been a couple of months later, as I worked my way through far too many mediocre photographs of our holiday that I noticed something a little out of the ordinary. Here is a full size photograph and the buzzards are still just tiny dots. Note the bracken though, because that will prove where I took all the photographs:

Here it is blown up. There are three buzzards in shot and the bracken is still there. Notice the tiny white cloud because that will reappear.

I started to try and look at the buzzards by blowing the picture up a little more. The little white puff of cloud is still there:

I immediately noticed something strange off to the right so I blew it up yet again. The white puff of cloud provides continuity of evidence:

What on earth is that? I blew it up again :

And again:

And this is the best I could do. I used “unsharp mask” on it this time:

I do not know what this object was. At the time I did not even know it was there.  It may have been an inflatable balloon or something from a pop concert or a festival of some kind, but that really is clutching at straws. No events like that happened in the area during our stay there. And it must have been quite big. A buzzard’s wingspan is around five feet and it is certainly bigger than that. I have never seen a children’s balloon that big. You could argue that it was a lot closer than the buzzards. But surely then I would have noticed it. Sooooo….by definition, it must have been a UFO. I just wish I’d seen it!

Incidentally. I have done very little with Photoshop to these pictures. They have been cropped, resized and may have had their brilliance and contrast levels changed to make the images clearer. These photographs are completely honest, in other words.

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Filed under Aviation, Cornwall, History, Personal, Science, 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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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:

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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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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:

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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:

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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”?

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Two strange graves

Wandering around Penzance Cemetery looking for the graves of three Luftwaffe bomber crew members, I soon found the War Graves Section of the cemetery.

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Of the 110 identified casualties, two stood out from the rest for very different reasons. The first is a war grave of an extremely strange and unusual political background, coupled with a puzzling discrepancy over dates.
According to his grave, Sapper William Ormerod (1903548) of the 661st General Construction Company of the Royal Engineers died on June 17th 1941.

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William was born in Manchester and had lived in London. As Sapper Ormerod, he was a British Volunteer in the Winter War of 1939-1940 and was killed in action fighting against the Soviet Red Army in Finland.

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Sapper Ormerod was initially buried in Karelia, but at some point his remains were returned to England. This lengthy delay is presumably the reason that the date of death on his grave in Penzance is listed as June 17th 1941, when there is much evidence to support the idea that he was actually killed in the previous year. But neither is a death date of June 17th 1940 particularly likely either, given that the Winter War ended with the Peace of Moscow,  a treaty which was signed on March 12th 1940. Perhaps Sapper Ormerod was initially injured in combat, and then died of his wounds.

The Soviet Union, of course, were our allies for the vast majority of the Second World War. Before Hitler’s surprise attack on Russia, however, the Soviets, having signed a non-aggression pact with Nazi Germany in August 1939, the so-called Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact, were considered by the British to be an ally of Nazi Germany.

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For this reason, when the Soviets attacked Finland on November 30th 1939, the gallant Finns were considered to be our allies. Presumably, this was the reason that men such as Sapper William Ormerod went out there to fight and in some cases, to make the supreme sacrifice. The great ironies of war were re-established, of course on June 22nd 1941, Operation Barbarossa, when Hitler attacked his erstwhile ally. The Soviet Union then immediately ceased to be a bunch of Commies and became our true and most wonderful of friends. The gallant little Finns became our treacherous, despicable enemies. Too late alas, for William Ormerod.

A second war grave in Penzance Cemetery is unusual for a very different reason. It is the grave of John Ostrich.

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John was a member of the Merchant Navy and served as a Mess Room Boy. He was aged only fourteen years and 344 days old at the time of his death. John was the son of Louis and Nancy Ostrich of Canton in Cardiff, and was a member of the crew of the S.S. Margo, a cargo ship registered in Cardiff, with a weight of 1,412 tons.

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John was killed on March 8th 1941. This account comes from a Merchant Navy Message Board and was written by a guest who signed in with the name of “SIF9HD8”. I hope he will not mind my quoting his words…

“On the afternoon of the March 8, 1941, sailing in the English Channel, the Margo came under attack from three German aircraft who proceeded to rake the ship with machine gun, cannon fire and bombs. Although no bombs or explosives hit the Margo, the ship was violently shaken by the concussion of the near misses and her hull and superstructure were pierced by cannon and machine gun fire. Crew members returned fire with small calibre weapons onboard the Margo, and in the process hit one of the aircraft, which was subsequently seen to break off the attack and black smoke was observed coming from the starboard engine. The remaining aircraft continued their attacks for several more minutes, which was eventually broken off and the aircraft disappeared over the horizon. While assessing the ship’s damage, it was found four crew had suffered various injuries and the young Mess Room Boy lay dead. A course was then set for Penzance to land the wounded and the dead”.

At the tender age of fourteen, John Ostrich was one of the youngest casualties of the Second World War. I found another part of the story on the Internet….

“Archie Richards, a former serviceman with the Royal Navy, who notified the local; newspaper, “The Cornishman” of the grave, said: “I don’t want this to be a competition for who has the youngest war dead. I just want to let people know that a 14-year-old died for his country and lies here.” His final resting place is sited across a path from other war graves, meaning John Ostrich is separated from fallen comrades . Mr Richards added: “I also hope that maybe a family member might come across this and want to visit the grave”.

For years,  the Royal Navy Association had held a service at the war memorial in Penzance cemetery and members had wondered about this boy. Recent government acknowledgement now allows Merchant Navy veterans to stand alongside armed forces personnel and their efforts and achievements in time of war have been recognised as an important part in winning the war.”

A book “They Shall Grow Not Old” by Billy McGee is dedicated to more than 500 boys aged under 16 who died in service with the Merchant Navy during the Second World War. It is only available from the author who can be contacted on “billy1963@ntlworld.com”

The Margo herself had a very long and complex history. Just one screen capture hardly does it justice.

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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.

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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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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.

street map

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.

P1330546  yyyyy

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.”

williamjoyce_2041800i

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”.

metal detrector zzzzzzzz

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.  

Dornier-Do-217E2- zzzzzzz

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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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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