Tag Archives: camp bolero

NEWS: cricket double act / Covid stats / GIs in Cresswell / new path access

News-in-brief  from Draycott-In-The-Moors in late August 2020
In this post we have news of…: cricket club’s father & son act / new access to old railway / Cresswell’s US soldiers in WW2 / local Covid stats…

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Lad & dad

The cricket season has been a strange one for local clubs, starting late in the year and operating under unfamiliar rules. But, for the Blythe CC First XI, who play in Cresswell, it has been surprisingly successful.

A run of victories is ensuring this will be a season to remember, and a lot of the wins have been inspired by a father & son act. Zen Malik,  who used to play for Worcestershire, and his father Khalid Malik are both new signings for the club, but have been in dazzling form – Zen with both bat & ball and Khalid as a bowler. In one match they even combined – with one of them catching a batsman out off the other’s bowling!

Khalid Malik 2020

Khalid Malik is welcomed to Blythe CC for the 2020 season

It’s worth going to see them in action – there are still a few games left of the season at the club’s Cresswell ground and spectators are welcome (free admission). See our what’s on page.

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Cliff’s permissive path

One of the problems with encouraging walkers to use the old Cresswell to Cheadle railway path is that there are very few access points to it. Both ends (at Cheadle and at Cresswell) are closed off, and, if you are in Cresswell, access to it from the road (i.e. from Cresswell Old Lane) is only legal at one point, right up until you get to Totmonslow.
This is a shame as the old-railway path is a really good walk, especially for those who have dogs – but many are put off when they find how hard it is to get access to it.

Cresswell end of the old-railway path (with Railway Cottages in the background)

Cresswell end of the old-railway path (with Railway Cottages in the background)

Well, that’s all changed. A local public-spirited farmer, Cliff Shelley, has said that a 100-yard stretch across one of his fields can now be used as a ‘permissive’ path, to get from Cresswell Old Lane to the old-railway.
If you get to St Mary’s Church in Cresswell, you’ll see a gate opposite the church’s driveway and, beyond that gate, a field. Simply go through the gate, walk directly down-bank for 100 yards down the field, and you will reach another gate – where you meet the old-railway path.
This is a real boon to local walkers!

Our thanks go to Cliff Shelley – with one warning. This is a ‘permissive’ path, so Cliff can withdraw people’s right to use it at any time.
So, it’s the usual thing: respect the land, and close the gates after you … or the permissions may be withdrawn.

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Americans’ great loss

As regular readers of this newsblog will know, we have been remembering our local WW2 dead over the last two months.
It’s sobering to remember though that another, ‘adopted’ group of people living here in WW2 also had their own losses.

As many older folk will know, the American army had a small base in Cresswell (so called ‘Camp Bolero’) during WW2.  One of the units based at Cresswell was the US 130th Company (Chemical Processing). But these soldiers were in shock when they arrived here in August 1944, because, just a few weeks before, when the company had been stationed in London, a V-1 flying bomb (or ‘buzz bomb’) had hit their quarters.

August 1944 bombing of US quarters

Devastation after the bombing of US quarters in London in summer 1944

A third of the company was killed at one stroke – over sixty men. (A tribute website to the memory of the men was set up recently.)
Unsurprisingly, the company had to be moved out of London in order to recover, and were sent to the ‘peace & quiet’ of this part of the Moorlands.

Amazingly though, they were not safe even in this part of the world. In December 1944, the Luftwaffe was bombing northern England and bombs were dropped in this part of the world too. The Americans realised that no part of England was completely safe…
Around March 1945 the company left Cresswell for the fighting in France.

The full story of these GIs was researched and written up by the late Barry Phillips, a local man who made it his life’s work to investigate the modern history of Cresswell. To see his full research, click here.

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Covid numbers

One thing that is confusing people is: as we live in a quiet part of the world, should we really be worried about Covid?
The easiest thing to do, in order to answer the question, is to look up the statistics – but they are hard to find, hard to understand, and poorly reported.
So… we’ve been digging.

The best place to find a guide to understanding the figures is the good ol’ BBC-News Website.  It’s helpful to have a guide because the Sentinel is reporting a total of 80 deaths from Covid  in the Staffordshire Moorlands this year, while the government’s own coronavirus stats page says 70 deaths. (It’s all about how you count!)

'NHS priority' postbox in Cresswell

Sign of the times: the postbox in Cresswell is marked ‘priority’

However, whatever the precise figure, these are sobering facts. You’d think the Staffordshire Moorlands (into which Draycott falls) would be relatively safe, as we are in a quite remote part of the country – but it appears to be less safe than you might think. It works out that Covid has been responsible for around one in ten deaths in the Moorlands since the beginning of the year.
In fact, the rate of deaths in the Moorlands, per head of population, is higher even than Manchester or Stoke, which is concerning.
Why this should be – we don’t know. Does any reader know?

The good news is however that these are figures reflecting the past – the last six months – and the fact is that, as of this week at least, Britain (after a very bad start indeed), is now among the very best in all of the advanced nations in dealing with the pandemic.

So, in the meantime, the message is surely – no need to panic, but don’t relax…  Be careful still. Even in little Draycott.

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The American Army in Cresswell

Almost exactly seventy years ago, the final few of the hundreds of Americans who had been living in Cresswell completed their last parade, and left this parish.  They were going home after serving in the war effort.
It’s a fascinating story.

The ‘Chemical Company’ soldiers

We owe much of what we know about how the Second World War affected Draycott & Cresswell thanks to work by local man Barry Phillips – and almost all you will read on this page comes from his researches.

On 29th November 1943, the US Army’s 104th Chemical Co arrived at the custom-built “Bolero Camp” in Cresswell.  Pretty much on the site where Rookery Crescent is now, the camp consisted of a series of Nissan huts, and could hold around 300 men.

These specialist units of the American army (which later included the 106th Chemical-Impregnating Co, the 950th Chemical Impregnating Co and the 46th Chemical Laboratory Co, the 130th Chemical Processing Company – and more) were stationed here in order to be just a short walk from the Blythe Colour Works.  The works had all the necessary laboratories and expertise to help these units.
What these soldiers did is still a little mysterious. It’s known that they packed parachutes, but also their ‘boffins’ worked on developing the kind of uniforms which could act as protective gear in case of a chemical attack by the enemy.

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Former employees of the works remember the Americans being busy at the factory, but – it being ‘secret’ work – were given the official line that “they are only here to use our laundry facilities”!

At home in Cresswell

When Barry Phillips decided he would do a short history of Draycott in World War Two, he not only spoke to older local people, but he tracked down soldiers who had served here; and visited America to see them and get their stories.

What is apparent is that, even though Cresswell was something of a backwater, the Americans loved their time here, and set up little local charities.  One local man, Graham Hammond (who still lives in Cresswell) remembers going to parties organised by the soldiers for the benefit of local children.
One story, about a Xmas party at Draycott School, actually appears in the official USAAF written history, stored at NARA (the US National Archives and Records Administration).

The Americans did have one complaint though. They disliked English food: “We didn’t like that darned Spam, powdered eggs, warm beer and sprouts!!” one said to Barry.
The last remaining US soldiers left Camp Bolero in January 1946 – almost exactly seventy years ago.

Rookery Crescent

The site had a useful history thereafter though.
Local families who had been displaced by the war quickly moved into the empty Nissan huts – before the authorities could stop them. The local council, Cheadle Rural, had to accept the situation and so just charged the ‘squatters’ a nominal rent.

Around 1949, the local authority built 42 houses on the site – naming the area “Rookery Crescent”, rehousing many of the squatters in the new homes.
Strangely enough there are still a few reminders there of the past. Some of the houses to the south side of Rookery still have old brick walls in their gardens – part of the old huts. On the north side some old sewerage inspection chambers can be seen and the retaining wall.
However Barry says he has never found any official plans of the site, which would be good to find.
The only other wartime structures surviving in the parish are the two air raid shelters at Draycott College (then a primary school).

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Want to comment on any of the items on this page?
Just use the comments box – near the bottom of this page.           (The form will ask if you wish to put in your email address.  You don’t have to – and it is always kept private anyway and never published -, but, if you don’t add your email, that means you might miss any responses to your comment)

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Acknowledgments
Thanks again to Barry Phillips whose huge research archive and photograph collections form the bulk of this article.
If you want more details, Barry’s researches can be found online. See Cresswell during World War II, and Draycott Parish 1939 – 1945, and Cresswell – War Memories.
Barry has been not too well for a while, and we are all hoping he gets better soon.  (STOP PRESS: sad to report that Barry has died since this article was written)

Incidentally, if you are someone interested in local history, you might be surprised that the website Draycott-en-le-Moors – An Online History is back on the internet, after being deleted.  We on this village website begged and cajoled the so-called ‘Wayback Internet Archive’ organisation to restore it; and they now have done.  (Sadly, without most of the photographs though).
Barry Phillips and Matthew Pointon are the two local men who constructed the original website, back in the 1990s.