Chipping Warden: History & Heritage

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The altered  Medieval village sign pays tribute to RAF Chipping Warden which significantly changed the village for 5 years from 1941-1946.  An airfield, hospital and series of Nissan huts were built just northwest of the village.  The hospital is now a school, one of the Nissan huts is the football club’s hut and the the aerodrome is part of an industrial estate.  An account from Domesday Reloaded records that the hospital became a school in the early 1950’s and notes that the single story building has long corridors and wards turned into classrooms.

First research into RAF Chipping Warden led me to names of individuals who were based  there and stories of war time raids.  One in particular listed the last flight of a Wellington Bomber which crashed south east of the airfield killing all but one of her crew.  LP286 was returning home and overshot the airfield due to engine problems.  The crew were remembered with honour and were all aged early to mid twenties:

Flight Sergeant WJ Hillier -Pilot
Sergeant H Mairs -navigator
Sergeant AG Grant- Air Bomber
Sergeant JB Egan – Wireless Operator
Sergeant P McGowen- Air gunner
Sergeant PV Birch- Air gunner (only survivor)

The story continues with an account of a meeting with a witness to the crash.  At the time the witness attended the old primary school by the church in the centre of the old village.  The man recalled the plane flying over with smoke trailing from the starboard engine and that following the crash the children were sent home.  The witness continued with memories of the excitement of planes flying, and as a small child having no awareness to the true horror of the crash.

 

 

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One comment

  1. I am amazed how many small RAF bases there were during the 1940s – built seemingly in the middle of nowhere – living in Lincolnshire I am obviously aware of the large airfields – but I have found about 3 in relation to some of my own sites – I have recently been looking into RAF Spanhoe which was a training base for American Troop carriers – sadly your story sounded hauntingly familiar as I have found several examples of aircraft crashes either at my airbases or planes that didn’t return from missions, what is always more poignant is when you also find photographs of the crew and realise how young they were.

    Liked by 1 person

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