New Bench in Main Street

We have a beautiful new bench in Main Street.  This is some of the history behind it.  

Goffe Taylor a life long resident of the village, recent Parish Councillor and past Chairman of the Parish Council instigated the replacement of the wooden bench in Main Street as a memorial and celebration of Victory in Europe 75th Anniversary.

The Parish Council agreed this was an excellent idea and following notice of a bench Commemorating WW1 in Moreton Pinkney, David Ogilvie of Kilmarnock their supplier was contacted.

A suitable RAF style bench from their website was chosen, at the same time we became aware through a local contact that Buckingham Group, constructors of the x roads and Chipping Warden bypass would fund the purchase on behalf of the Parish Council.

The Parish Council members Tom Boston and Grahame Barnes constructed the concrete base for the bench and fitted the bench, John Taylor ( Budds Farm) kindly supplied the concrete.

The unveiling of the bench was on the evening of 2nd July 2021. Due to the then current Covid – 19 regulations, this had to be kept to low numbers.

The bench was unveiled by Goffe and Gillian Taylor with the Parish Council, Sean Homer and Anton from Buckingham Group and a few friends in attendance.

Goffe gave an insight to life in the village and the airfield post war. Mark Hazelton as already mentioned gave an account of the Operational Airfield during the war.

Refreshments were enjoyed in the Village Hall afterwards, where some documents and books were available to view showing plans and pictures of the airfield during the war.

Opening Speech
If you missed it, here is the speech given by Mark H when it was unveiled.

“I have an aerial photo of the site, taken by the Luftwaffe in 1940 – when it was ‘just’ fields. 

A local chap tells me of his father coming home, in the early 40’s – ashen faced and saying ‘its all gone’.  He had been to the farm and it was all cleared out – no machinery or animals, the ancient ridge and furrow ploughed level.

Secrecy was the watchword. Things weren’t talked about.  The farmer had been moved away almost overnight. 

Over the next 18 months RAF Chipping Warden or “Number 12 Operational Training Unit” was built.  (Much of the material and armament being transported by the now defunct Stratform Upon Avon Midland Junction railway). 

Opening in 1941 and originally planned as an operational bomber base, at its peak would have hosted some 4000 staff. 

Instead of becoming fully operational, for reasons unknown, it ended up being used to train young crews.  Primarily on Wellington bombers, although Oxfords, Lysanders and Ansons were also regulars (with the latter most commonly used for navigation beam training and towing target drogues).

The first real action occured in October of that year– when a night time intruder overflew the airfield and dropped eight incendiary bombs, lightly damaging two Wellingtons.

Crews from 12 OTU also took part in many real operations. 

One of the most common of those operations was known as ‘Nickeling’, where four Wellingtons would fly together across the channel and drop propaganda leaflets. 

Slightly less common were diversion exercises where the brave crews would fly towards the enemy, often dropping shredded aluminium foil – or ‘window’ as it was known, to confuse the enemy radar into believing many more planes were heading their way, in order to draw out enemy fighters and divert attention away from the real bombing missions.

I sat to write these words a week ago – that day, the 25th June was perhaps one of the darker days for the airfield.

In 1942 twenty aircraft took part in ‘Operation Millenium’ the 3rd 1000 Bomber Raid, targeting Bremen.  17 claimed to have bombed on target.  Four didn’t return, either hit by flak or shot down by night fighters, with 11 crew being killed and four becoming POWs. 

Perhaps the closest call to the village came in October of 1943 when a Stirling bomber from RAF Stradishall, taking part in an exercise was ordered to land at RAF Chipping Warden due to bad weather. 

It is believed the crew mistook the perimiter track for the runway and just before 9pm it crashed into the roof of the rectory, tearing off one of the  landing gear, which came to rest in what is now the garden of ‘Littlestones’.  The aircraft made it onto the airfield but, five of the six crew were killed. 

Astonishingly, the dozen or so evacuee children sleeping in the loft of the house slept on!

However. my Uncle Steve would probably say that it was the day in the early 1970s that he and the Jones boys were playing football in the school field behind me, and one unearthed an anti aircraft shell!

The last flight from 12 OTU was on 1st June 1945.  By the time it closed, I can account for some 230 lost souls which sadly includes a handful of unfortunate civilians as well as crew members in incidents related to around 127 airframes.

The records are sparse – they were top secret, they were hand written.  They’ve been lost, damaged etc.  More comes to light all the time.  It is important to remember, even as those at the time wanted to forget and those inbetween times, couldn’t or wouldn’t talk about it. We will remember them.”