Tag Archives: World War Two

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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Draycott’s War Memorial – World War Two

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

But neither the rector nor the church wardens of the time left any record identifying who these servicemen & women were… so we started a project to find out something about them.
Having already identified those who died in WW1, we have now also finally identified the four men and one woman from 1939-45.
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Bernard Joseph Stubbs had survived two years in the appalling conditions of the Japanese ‘Burma Railway’ POW camps when he was killed in 1944 in a bombing raid – carried out by planes from his own side…
See full story
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Joyce Atkin (not Atkins) was a nurse, and is the only woman on the Draycott memorial.
She was on a troopship sailing to southern India in February 1944, when her ship was attacked and sunk by an enemy submarine.
See full story
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Paul Dobson
was killed parachuting into Germany during Operation Plunder the (successful) attempt to cross the River Rhine in 1945.
See full story
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Lawrence Cyples
died in one of the most devastating attacks on British shipping in the whole war – the disaster of the SS Lancastria.
See full story
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Bede Vavasour wasn’t even twenty years old when he died in 1942, serving in the RAF Volunteer Reserve Squadron 12 (part of Bomber Command).
See full story

WW2 Memorial – Bernard Stubbs

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

This is the story of Bernard Stubbs.
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All stories of deaths in war are tragic, but the story of Bernard Joseph Stubbs is especially so.
Just 25 when he died, he had survived two years in the appalling conditions of the Japanese ‘Burma Railway’ POW camps when he was killed in 1944 in a bombing raid – carried out by planes from his own side…

Cresswell-born

Back in 1919 when he was born, Cresswell had a railway station, where Bernard’s father William probably worked, as he listed his profession as ‘railway porter’. Perhaps he worked also at Totmonslow station (oddly, the station there was called ‘Tean Station’ at the time).  Both stations have since been demolished.

William and his wife Annie had married in 1897, having seven children in all, with Bernard being their youngest.
The family lived for many years at ‘School House, Cresswell’ a house within the grounds of St Mary’s Catholic Church on Cresswell Old Road. Over a century ago, the church ran a small primary school (which closed around 1918), and the School House was so-called because it was where the teacher lived. (The house next door – St Josephs House – was the old school itself).
William & Annie Stubbs were Catholics, which is presumably why they got to live in the house.

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(Courtesy the Thorley Collection for all the black-and-white photos above).

War

In 1939, Britain declared war on Nazi Germany, and, two years later, on Japan too. The Second World War would last for six years.
It must have been heart-breaking for William & Annie to see their youngest go off to enlist. Bernard joined the Royal Artillery, where he became a lance bombardier.

We know little of his war career until 1942. In this terrible year for Britain, one of the greatest blows was the fall of Singapore, a British colony at the time. With its fall, control of the Far East – from the Pacific to the Indian border – was now in the hands of the Japanese.
Bernard was one of the British troops in Singapore at the fall, and so he became a prisoner-of-war of the Japanese.

Film

The Japanese POW camps were notoriously brutal, partly because they worked the prisoners so hard. One construction project these prisoners were forced to undertake was the building of the infamous ‘Burma railway’. This huge project saw the deaths in terrible conditions of thousands of Allied prisoners – mostly British, American, Australian and Dutch. The story is the basis for the famous war film ‘Bridge Over the River Kwai’.

By the time of Bernard’s death in 1944, the project had been completed, but many prisoners, including Bernard, had to stay in these camps in order to carry out maintenance on the railway.
What a strange irony – a father who worked on a railway, and his son also working on a railway – but in such different circumstances…
And it was here on the Burma Railway that Bernard died. In an Allied air-attack on the railway in September 1944, Bernard was killed. In other words, he survived the camps – but only to die in an attack by his own comrades…

Kanchanaburi

Bernard’s remains are now in Kanchanaburi War Cemetery in Thailand, the main POW burial ground for those victims of Japanese imprisonment who were forced into labour on the Burma Railway.

Bernard Stubbs grave, Kanchanaburi

Bernard Stubbs’ grave, Kanchanaburi

It is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. In there are buried almost 7,000 POWs.
Near to it is the ‘Burma Railway Centre’ a small museum about the railway and the prisoners who built it.

Every year hundreds of thousands of British people holiday in Thailand, and many take time out to visit this site in their time there and pay their respects.

With thanks to Bill Pearson for researching the records.

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Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us.  Bernard’s service number was 1426651

For the stories of all the other service-people whose names are on the war memorial plaque in St Margaret’s, click here

WW2 Memorial – Joyce Atkin

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

This is the story of Joyce Atkin.
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Joyce Atkin (not Atkins) was a nurse, and is the only woman on the Draycott memorial.

She was on a troopship, part of an Allied convoy sailing from East Africa to southern India in February 1944, when her ship, the SS Khedive Ismail, was attacked and sunk by an enemy submarine. The ship went down almost immediately, with a terrible death toll – only some 200 people survived, less than one-eighth of those on board. It was Britain’s third worst mercantile disaster in the Second World War.
She was just 28 years old.

Brookwood Military Cemetery

Joyce’s official stone is at Brookwood in Surrey

The role of women who die on active service in war is often overlooked by those who construct war memorials, so it is to the credit of the Draycott memorial committee that they ensured Joyce’s name would be there too.

Bromley Wood

Joyce was born to a farming family in the spot known as Bromley Wood, which is halfway between Cresswell and Hilderstone. Her parents Sidney and Annie had married in Uttoxeter in 1913, and she was born two years later.
(Sidney and family later moved a few miles to nearby Morrilow Moor Farm; he died in 1957).

Leigh Church War memorial

We think Joyce worshipped at Leigh village church as a girl

Joyce seems to have had an adventurous spirit, as, in 1936 at the age of 21, having left Bromley Wood Farm and her parents and three brothers, she enrolled at the Colindale School of Nursing in north London.
Qualifying in 1941, at some point she joined the Queen Alexandra’s Imperial Military Nursing Service and later took on war duty, in the course of which she met her tragic death.

Shock

The incident in which Joyce died brought home to the British public just how involved women had become in the frontline effort in the last years of World War Two.
More than eighty service-women, including medical staff, died in the attack on the ship – and this turned out to be the highest ever death-number of British female military personnel in one single attack.

An extra tragedy in this event was that, although the ship that Joyce was on had already been sunk, the other ships in the convoy were still of course just as much at threat from the enemy submarine; and so two warships in the convoy immediately went after it. The depth charges these warships used against the submarine may well have injured or killed some of the survivors of the SS Khedive Ismail who were still in the water. It was one of those terrible dilemmas of war.
The submarine was eventually forced to surface, when it was destroyed by the warships’ torpedoes.

The news came as a terrible shock to the nation – so much so that the incident became the basis of an incident in The Cruel Sea, a best-selling book by Nicholas Monserrat (which was later adapted into a film of the same name).
Since then the full historical account has been written up in the book Passage to Destiny’  by Brian Crabb.

Remembrance

Though Joyce’s body was never found, she does have an official war-marker. You will find her memorial stone at the Brookwood Military Cemetery in Surrey.

Interestingly, Joyce, as well as being remembered at Brookwood and at Draycott, is also remembered on the war memorial in Leigh village (near Tean). The parish of Leigh is adjacent to the parish of Draycott.

Joyce Atkin's name on Leigh War memorial

Joyce Atkin’s name is also on Leigh War memorial

It is not unusual for someone to be on more than one war memorial: most village war memorials were erected, not by the local authority, but by local people, who would nominate any war-dead who had been born or lived in and around the district. Joyce had lived on the ‘border’ between Leigh and Draycott.

With thanks to Bill Pearson and David B Atkin for researching the records.

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Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us.  Joyce’s service number was 270574

For the stories of all the other service-people whose names are on the war memorial plaque in St Margaret’s, click here

WW2 Memorial – Paul Dobson

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

This is the story of Paul Dobson.
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The story of how Paul Thomas Dobson comes to be on the Draycott War Memorial is also the story of his cousin, Barbara Dobson (married name Black).

On Armistice Sunday, Barbara, who was a standard bearer for the Royal British Legion in the 1970s, did not go straight to the main RBL Remembrance procession – which, in our district, is held in Blythe Bridge.
No, she went up to Draycott Church, in uniform (she had been in the ATS in the war), and paid her respects there first… to her cousin “our Paul”. And she did this faithfully each year as long as she was able; she died in 1997.
And… it is possibly because of Barbara that Paul Dobson is on the Draycott memorial at all…

Parachute Regiment

We still know very little of Paul Dobson’s life and death, though his father and brother are recorded as living in Cheadle in 1939, which was the year that war broke out; Paul was just 14.

He probably joined up soon after turning eighteen, in 1943, and the next we come across him is in the March of 1945, the last year of the war, as the huge armies of the Allies move across Europe, slowly pushing back the enemy forces, fighting every inch of the way, making the final assault on Nazi Germany.

Paul is a young sapper in the Royal Engineers, attached to the Airborne (Parachute) Regiment. He is now just 19 years old – and has been thrown into this absolute maelstrom of conflict.

His was a short war. It seems he was killed parachuting into Germany as part of a forward operation during Operation Plunder.  Operation Plunder was the (successful) attempt to cross the River Rhine under the overall command of General Montgomery.

Reichswald Cemetery

Reichswald Cemetery, where Paul is buried

Paul is now buried not far from where he died, in Reichswald Forest War Cemetery, the largest war-graves cemetery in western Germany.

Draycott Memorial

One little mystery is: why is Paul on the Draycott Memorial? He never lived in the parish, and his name was already on the Cheadle Memorial; and he was most likely born in Cheadle.
However, when the memorial at Draycott was erected in the 1960s, his cousin Barbara Black happened to be living here, at Draycott in the Moors (in Cresswell), with her husband Robert Black.

So … could it be that Barbara heard of the project to erect a plaque in Draycott, and pleaded for Paul’s name to be listed on there? She seems to have been very proud of her cousin. Also her father (and Paul’s uncle) Harold Dobson, who had died in 1960, was already buried at St Margaret’s.

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This story is quite possible. You didn’t always have to have been living in the parish or even born in the parish to have your name on its memorial; you only had to have a family ‘association with the parish’.
Anyway, we like to think it is because of Barbara that Paul is on the plaque.  And to think of Barbara going on her own to the plaque to remember him each year – because she was responsible for him being on the plaque – is a touching image.

With thanks to Bill Pearson for researching the records
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Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us.  Paul’s service number was Sapper 14429264

For the stories of all the other service-people on the war memorial plaque in St Margaret’s, click here

WW2 Memorial – Lawrence Cyples

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

This is the story of Lawrence Cyples
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Lawrence Cyples (sometimes spelt Laurence) went to war in 1940, leaving the family home in Draycott. But, within just a few months, he was destined to die, five hundred miles away.

Cyples grave in St Georges , Oleron Cemetery - courtesy B Crabb

Lawrence Cyples grave – courtesy B Crabb

His body is interred in a tiny cemetery near the village of St Georges on the island of Oleron, just off the west coast of France in the Bay of Biscay. Here, kindly villagers rescued and buried his body when it was washed up on their shore. Lawrence is one of twelve British servicemen buried there.

He died after one of the most devastating attacks on British shipping in the whole war – the disaster of the SS Lancastria.

BEF

Lawrence (sometimes identified as Laurence) was born into a potter’s family in 1906, in Forsbrook, the next village along from Draycott. By the time of the 1911 census, his family had moved to Stallington, the other side of Blythe Bridge.
In 1930, Lawrence married Violet Evans and they had a son in the next year. They then settled at The Rocks, a house opposite the Draycott Arms.

However, in 1940, at the relatively late age of 35, Laurence was called on to take part in the British Expeditionary Force campaign’s to stop the German advance into France; this was the first major encounter between the British and the Germans in World War Two. Lawrence was a sergeant in the RASC.

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Retreat

The BEF were simply unprepared for the speed & ferocity of the German onslaught, and, in May of that same year, the troops had to retreat quickly, with many of its soldiers heading, famously, to Dunkirk, where a fleet of small ships had to hurriedly ferry them back to England.

The remaining British soldiers in France, including Lawrence, were still in trouble, cut off by the speeding German advance, and had to head for the other, west side of France, and to the port of St Nazaire, where they hoped for transport home.

Lancastria

So it was that, a month after Dunkirk, the SS Lancastria, a converted cruise ship pressed into Navy service, arrived off St Nazaire to pick them up … eventually squeezing Lawrence and at least five thousand other personnel aboard a ship meant only to carry two thousand.
However, by now the German air force was already in the skies above western France – and the Lancastria was simply not able to get underway fast enough. The ship was bombed – a direct strike down its funnel – and sunk in minutes, taking virtually all on board down with it.
It was to be the largest single loss of life to British forces in the whole of World War Two. A full account of the incident is written up in Brian Crabb’s book The Forgotten Tragedy.

The news of the Lancastria’s terrible death toll, coming so soon after the complete retreat from the European mainland, was felt by Prime Minister Winston Churchill to be more than the British public could cope with: so he had the news suppressed.
(The account was only eventually released five weeks later).

The lost lives are still commemorated by the few who remember; in fact, an 80th anniversary service was due to have taken place this year, only to be called off because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Violet

It’s not known whether Lawrence’s wife Violet was ever able to visit her husband’s grave on the island in the Bay of Biscay after the war. Probably not; people didn’t have the money to travel abroad in those days.
Eventually, more than a decade after her husband’s death, she married again, to Leonard Ridge, a neighbour. The wedding was held at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Cresswell.
Violet lived to a great age, and is now buried in the graveyard at the same church.

With thanks to Bill Pearson for researching the records
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Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us.  Lawrence’s service number was 5041642

WW2 Memorial – Bede Vavasour

Back in the 1960s, the congregation at Draycott St Margaret’s put up a war memorial plaque in the church. It named the forces personnel of the parish who had died in both world wars.
See – the story of Draycott’s war memorial.

Draycott war memorial

Draycott war memorial plaque inside St Margaret’s

This is the story of Bede Vavasour.
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Bede Vavasour wasn’t even twenty years old when he died in 1942, serving in the RAF Volunteer Reserve Squadron 12 (part of Bomber Command). He was the navigator on a training flight, part of preparation toward becoming a full bomber-crew member, when the plane he was on went out of control and crashed. He and three other airmen died in the incident.
He never even lived long enough to see active service.

Bede Vavasour gravestone at CresswellHis body was brought back to Draycott, where the family lived, and he was buried in the small graveyard at St Mary’s Catholic Church in Cresswell, where his official Commonwealth-War-Graves stone (right) is cared for to this day.

The Vavasours

Bede came from Draycott’s leading family. The Vavasours were the most distinguished family in the district in the early twentieth century, owning land and wielding much influence.
In fact, the family could be traced back three centuries, to the Vavasour Baronetcy of Yorkshire; in 1848, Bede’s own grandfather, Oswald Hugh, was born at Hazelwood Castle, the family seat.
By a slightly complicated procedure, the Vavasours had merged, some years before Bede’s birth, with the Stourtons, who had been the main ‘gentry’ hereabouts in the 19th century, and thus the Vavasours had come to own lands in Draycott.
This is why Bede’s full name is Bede Joseph Stourton Vavasour.

The Vavasour family story took a twist when, by chance (?), the famous potter Bernard Moore came to live in Draycott in the 1890s. He and his family lived in great comfort in the twelve rooms at The Grange, the very large house which is still there on Cheadle Road.
Here, Bernard’s daughter Dorothy came across the Vavasours.

In 1915, Dorothy married Oswald Joseph Vavasour, who by then had settled in Canada, and there they had a child – Bede. The family returned to Draycott sometime in the next few years; they were definitely back in 1928.

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They made a home for themselves at Draycott Cottage, not far from The Grange. Dorothy was still living there when she died in 1952 – though, by this time, the Vavasour money and influence had waned.

Mr Hugh Vavasour 1976Bede’s father Oswald lived until 1973, in a house in Cresswell Old Road.
Bede’s brother, Hugh Bernard (right), who also served in the war, in the Royal Artillery, went on to work as sales director for Blythe Colours; he died in 1990.

RAF

We haven’t found out yet when Bede joined the RAF, but it’s likely he finished his education (at Stonyhurst College in Lancashire) before joining up – the RAF reserve did not accept recruits until they were aged 18.

The fatal flight took place on 12th June 1942.
The crew flew a Vickers Wellington out of Chipping Warden in Oxfordshire only for the plane’s wings to ice up. (Though it was summer, temperatures at high altitude can get to below freezing). The plane plummeted down over Chipping Norton – with no survivors.
Bede’s body was brought back to his home village.

The Vavasours were strong Catholics, which is why Bede is buried at St Mary’s RC Church in Cresswell.
Each year, Bede’s sacrifice is remembered at the church on Armistice Sunday, when the parish priest, accompanied by the congregation, carries out a ‘blessing of the grave’.

With thanks to Bill Pearson for researching the records
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Can you add any more to this account? We’d be grateful for any knowledge anyone may have. Use the Comments-Box below or email us.  Bede’s service number was 117114

For the stories of all the other service-people on the war memorial plaque in St Margaret’s, click here

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.