Interview with Elizabeth Anne Tyler

Title

Interview with Elizabeth Anne Tyler

Description

Elizabeth Anne Tyler talks about her family’s farmland, its history and when it was purchased by the Air Force for the construction of RAF North Luffenham. Mentions various episodes of wartime life around Edith Weston, as reported by family members and neighbours: her mother witnessing, as a schoolgirl, an enemy aircraft strafing the train station in 1940; a train packed with evacuees; a Hampden crash near Pilton. She gives an account of a Lancaster crash as told by various witnesses and recounts her efforts made to commemorate the aircraft and its crew with a ceremony and the unveiling of a plaque.

Creator

Publisher

IBCC Digital Archive

Date

2017-12-08

Contributor

Peter Schulze

Rights

This content is available under a CC BY-NC 4.0 International license (Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0). It has been published ‘as is’ and may contain inaccuracies or culturally inappropriate references that do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of the University of Lincoln or the International Bomber Command Centre. For more information, visit https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc/4.0/ and https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/legal.

Format

00:40:55 audio recording

Language

Type

Identifier

ATylerEA171208

Temporal Coverage

Transcription

CB: My name is Chris Brockbank and today is Friday, the 8th of December 2017, and we are here in Edith Weston talking to Liz Tyler about several topics, but the first one is to do with the purchase of the family’s farmland for the construction of North Luffenham airfield. So, what are the original information about that?
EAT: Well, my father always said that on Friday, the 1st of September at one o’clock, they’d all come in for lunch, and two men turned up at that door, well dressed, all suited, well spoken, and they said they wanted to acquire the land that they had in the Parish of North Luffenham, some of it in Edith Weston and that was it, there’d be no going back. Grandad said, what about the mangles? And they said, no, you’ll be compensated, there’ll be, that’s it, you’re finished, you’re not going back and a few weeks later they saw mangles going off in lorries towards the [unclear] factory. At that point, obviously the family quite [unclear] that they’d lost it, they lost seventy four acres, which was quite a lot in those days, and I think was little concern whether it was because grandad didn’t want his twenty-three year old son to go off to war, I don’t know, but they were successfully farming here before all this happened so, we can only guess that it was loss of land, loss of farming, loss of income, and they went through the war, they had to rent land at Manton, rented quite a lot at Manton and I believe they had some down at Wiston down as well but in 1945 the farmer next door died and they bought his farm and it all got back on, even [unclear] gave up the land at Manton.
CB: So how did they feel about, what do you think the feeling was about the land being given up?
EAT: I would think Grandad would be quite grumpy about it because they were farming, he was farming at Pilton and farming at North Luffenham and they were farming here and they came here in 1903 and obviously with the view to acquire more land, that’s what they did in those days so, I would think he’d be quite upset about it, they seemed quite successful, his father was quite successful, I did read something from, can’t quite remember the year, about 1913 or 1914, there was about five thousand three hundred assets, now not necessarily cash in the bank but assets, although the property they were on at that point was owned by the Ancaster family so that was all rented, so any more than that
CB: Cause Lord Ancaster owned most of the land
EAT: Oh, they owned the entire village of Empingham and Edith Weston, everything, Pilton, the whole lot. Edith Weston came up originally in 1913 for sale and one of the Ancasters died and then unfortunately the younger one died as well in about 1923, ’24, the next the whole of the village of Empingham in west [unclear] came up, Pilton was sold in 1953
CB: Right.
EAT: And North Luffenham, it was a massive area that they owned, so from Grimsthorpe Hall, Grimsthorpe Castle
CB: Right
EAT: Near Bourne
CB: Now, as far as the family was concerned, actually, looking here at the deeds of the purchase, of the sale rather, they are in three separate sections, that’s because they didn’t own the land right across there presumably, did they?
EAT: They didn’t. This was the guy next door, then this one, this is Needham’s now, I presume it was Stokes at the time, that field is still there, it’s still empty
CB: Right
EAT: But our land looks as it’s got the housing on it
CB: Yes
EAT: On the [unclear] present
CB: No [unclear]
EAT: No
CB: The other houses?
EAT: Severn Crescent and Welland
CB: Oh, right
EAT: The offices are here
CB: Yes. So then the airmen’s court is there?
EAT: Yes, it’s definitely at Severn Crescent and [unclear]
CB: Yeah
EAT: So here, I’m not too sure whether that’s the MT section now, not exactly too sure but the golf course is here now. So
CB: Yeah, put in in later time by the RAF.
EAT: Yes
CB: Yes
EAT: Yes, it’s still there so and of course the officer’s mess. Where the officer’s mess is.
CB: Yes
EAT: Grandad always used to, we still got the stackyard opposite, Grandad used to take his cows across the road apparently
CB: Right
EAT: And we owned the two fields either side of it as well so
CB: And the officer’s mess overlooks the valley, it’s a very nice spot to be but it’s an expansion period airfield design, so it’s an impressive building but it was added to, wasn’t it, in later years for the language school?
EAT: Yes, it was, it was a lot of flat and [unclear] a row of garages, believe it or not, so, yes they are overlooking the fields, it seems an odd place for the officer’s mess, it seems out of sync with the rest of it, you know, the whole campus on this side of the road and the officer’s mess is near the village
CB: Yes. It wasn’t unusual for the officer’s mess to be slightly away from the main activity, but it just happened to fit there by the look of it
EAT: [unclear] paper
CB: And so, Grandfather was not too happy really about it happening, about the purchase, the requisition but did he get income from doing work for the RAF, once the airfield was being, had been constructed and was operating?
EAT: I don’t think so, I don’t think there was any, I know they, I think they rented, every so often you can get a bit of grass keeping back or something and I think most folks had some land on there for haymaking, but whether, it must have been during the war, because there’s a story of Grandad’s daughter, my Aunt Mary, driving a costa car, driving across the airfield during the war and a bomber of some sort coming in, she was an awful driver and she got this old car and drove too close to this thing as it came in and it shattered all the glass in the car. So, she was taking tea up when they were flying so that had to be
CB: Yeah
EAT: To my way of thinking during the war so therefore they were haymaking on the edge of the camp presumed, I think, on the North Luffenham Road,
CB: Right. Was the farm actually, mainly arable or was it?
EAT: Oh, it was a typical farm of those days
CB: Or was it a mixture?
EAT: It had a few cows, they did some, we had a little milking parlor, they got sheep, they got chickens, they got turkeys, they got arable, they grew the barley and they grew the oats, the oats was crushed up for the animals that they’d got and they got some cattle, beef cattle so it was a typical, absolutely typical small farm of that time
CB: So, with the loss of land for doing all these tasks in farming and it wasn’t all their land that they took, then where did your grandfather go to continue his farming?
EAT: He rented Normanton
CB: Right
EAT: Where the nursery is now and the [unclear] along there
CB: Three miles away?
EAT: Yes, about three miles, yeah. I remember bouncing down there on a trailer when I was quite small and so that tells me it was definitely on the right-hand side just beyond where the present garden nursery is, so
CB: And that was rented also from Ancaster, was it? Or was that outside the Ancaster boundary?
EAT: I don’t know the answer to that [unclear]
CB: How many acres?
EAT: I’ve never heard of Ancaster selling Manton, of course Manton had its own hall anyway, some wealthy folks there, I don’t know the answer to that one, to be honest with you, but I have never heard of Ancaster selling at Manton
CB: So, Grandfather wasn’t pleased about the possibility of his son going to the war, what actually happened to him? Did he continue farming or did he
EAT: Oh, Dad continued farming, yes, he did
CB: He did?
EAT: Not, I don’t know, it’s something we never spoke about, but you know, sitting here looking backwards now Dad was twenty-three in 1979
CB: ’59, ‘39
EAT: Oh, ’39, yeah and he was born in 1916 and it just makes you wonder, it was his only son, he had a son and a daughter, it just made you wonder if Grandad was slightly panicked by the fact that he might have to go off to war but I don’t know, Dad was, he became part of the home guard, and Grandad was ARP and he what was called a school field now next door to the officer’s mess, it’s full of little bits of grenade and shrapnel
CB: Yeah
EAT: Which I presume they, because I actually, one of my hobbies is metal detecting, I spent hours digging up what they’ve blown up and the field is, I got a bucket full of them
CB: Yeah
EAT: Absolutely [unclear] with this
CB: Yeah
EAT: It was five fields at that point of course
CB: Yeah. What were they doing to create these?
EAT: Practice I presume, in the home guard practice field,
CB: Right. Yeah
EAT: Funnily enough, on eBay, fairly recently I have seen an ARP box with Grandad’s name com up on it
CB: Ah, really?
EAT: And it was found at the Newark show, I didn’t buy it, I’ve got no family to pass it on to, I’ve got pictures of it of course, I’ve pinched those off eBay but I haven’t got the actual item but it was G T Tyler of Edith Weston
CB: Amazing
EAT: And his little, something medical on it, he was, he did some medical course in 1911 or 1912 and there was a copy of that and now funnily enough, it makes me wonder because his wife did the same course and earlier on in the First World War we’ve got, or I’m not actually sure the First World War, we got some pictures of the women in the Red Cross in the barn. So, whether that’s how they met we don’t know
CB: No. Now the extent of the airfield is more than five hundred acres
EAT: Yes, I suppose so
CB: So here we are talking about a relatively small amount
EAT: According to this paper that I’ve got it’s 73,036 acres or thereabouts
CB: Right. Who were the other farmers who gave up land?
EAT: We know the Mackies were one of them
CB: Right
EAT: Of Edith Weston
CB: Cause their farmhouse was at the end of the far, of the eastern side of the airfield
EAT: It was. They had to give that up because they had a red lamp on the top [unclear], got the pictures of that
CB: After the war
EAT: But it’s at the end of the runway this was and it was dangerous for them to live there so they moved them and build a brickhouse further up which Edward Mackie moved into, Ted Mackie and his wife but Richard, the son, still lives in Edith Weston now, he’s about eighty four now I think
CB: Yeah. What, any other, do you the names of the other farmers? I just wondered how many farms were involved. Cause looking at the map there, they are all sorts of field
EAT: Yes, there was
CB: [unclear] There
EAT: Can you stop now?
CB: Yeah.
EAT: [unclear]
CB: They moved to the, to Edith Weston in 1903 but it was rented, then they bought, when did they buy the farm?
EAT: They bought the farm on a [unclear] dated the 5th of January 1925 between the Honorable Gilbert Heathcote-Drummond-Willoughby Earl of Ancaster, Baron de Willoughby de Eresby and Baron Aveland [unclear] and it was George Thomas Tyler that bought it
CB: How much money, does it say?
EAT: Probably [unclear] find it.
CB: Never mind
EAT: But of course, there was more allowment and this farmhouse and everything else at that point
CB: Yeah, yeah, yeah. So, the farm was requisitioned you said on the 1st of September ’39. What happened then about payment?
EAT: Well, we assume there must have been compensation for the crops, I can’t find any paperwork on that, but I am still looking. There’s a letter saying that on the 1st of May ’41 from the solicitor saying I’ve enclosed a copy of the confiance to the Air Ministry which you need to return to me on Friday and then on the 11th of August 1941 from Barclay’s Bank addressed to G T Tyler of Edith Weston, we beg to inform you we received from [unclear] Philips Heavens and Dons that’s the solicitors the sum of three thousand four hundred and seventy nine pounds, fifteen schillings and seven pence for the credit to your account, they’ve also returned to deed’s covering the reminder of your property,
CB: Right
EAT: That’s from the standard bank manager of Barclay’s Bank
CB: Right. And we are covering the documentation on this later. Ok.
EAT: What is that?
CB: So now we are moving on to recollections of your mother and stories you know of about activities when the airfield was running in the war, because there were a lot of crashes
EAT: Ah, there were crashes, there were all sorts of things going on, my mother was born in 1926, was only about thirteen when the war started, it wasn’t long after that she lost her father, she did have to go to Sanford High School and on, it was the same day that Coventry was bombed apparently but she didn’t know that at the time, on Thursday in November, she said, in 1940, it was a real pea soup, a foggy day, the fog never lifted all day, the train that she went on from Luffenham station was late, this was heading into Stanford and as soon as she arrived at the high school the sirens sounded so she joined her classmates in the shelter, which was under the balcony of the rear hall near the shower block apparently, the siren went four times that day and [unclear] no lessons were taken, the last time it went it was at 3.40 just before the lessons ended. Now the teachers in those decided that the girls that had got to catch a train might as well leave so they all trotted off down to the station and as they crossed the bridge and waited under the canopy for the train, they heard an approaching airplane coming from the Barnick Tunnel direction and the fog was dense and they all came out from the canopy to have a little look and see what it was and this plane was going over the station and they saw the swastikas on the wing and the machine gun bullets hit the station. Now, everybody ran back under the canopy and the plane continued following along the rail track. No one was injured and later they heard that the plane had been shot down in Melton Mowbray. Nobody was injured in it at all, but the next day one of the classmates had died, Silvia Smith, 13 years old, the only child of Mr. and Mrs. Smith who ran the newsagents and tobacconist in Oakham. They just presumed it was shock. And for many years the, I think mother said she could see it in 19, the Sixties or Seventies, she went to the station, she could still see the marks on the wall. So, that was that. That was that one. On the day that war was declared the 3rd of December 1939, after they’d heard that war had been declared about eleven o’clock or at eleven o’clock, mom and grandma went down to see great grandad and after about twenty minutes they came back to Manor Farm, Mrs. Pick stood at the letter box, she was crying, she thought her two boys, Ken and John would be called up but of course they weren’t because they were farming and they did remain at Pilton through the war. And Harry Pridmore was busy in the yard and he said to mom that he wanted to go and check the cattle in Marriot’s field which is down on the Luffenham Road and she said, she didn’t really want to go cause she was scared but her dad said it would be ok, he wouldn’t send her if it wasn’t, so she reluctantly set off on her bike and then she left it by the spring and ran across the field, she crossed the iron stone railway track she saw Mr. George Dexter standing in the middle of Marriot’s field, he was smoking a cigarette, he said that all the cattle were well and she just glanced at them to be sure and the cattle were in the corner field in a small archway under the railway and they heard a train coming along, it was a long train with many, many carriages, it was doing about twenty miles an hour and he looked up and saw this absolutely packed with evacuees all with gas masks on their shoulders and all wearing labels, some were waving and some were crying, mother, Mrs. Margaret Tyler said she couldn’t, she could see them, Mr. Dexter, he was a hard working, tough sort of man, non-emotional sort of chap, but he got tears flowing down his face and she got, she heard him saying, just look at them, poor little buggers. It’s not really part of it but part of the World War Two, the Camden girls High School were evacuated to Stamford and they shared the school, the girls were billeted in the towns and they had their lessons till 1.30 and then they did sport or whatever and the girls shared in but they moved on after a year and went to Nottingham. [unclear]
CB: I’ll stop there for a minute. Now you have a mysterious one here under the title of Winking Willy
EAT: Well, my mom always talked of Winking Willy which was, well, I’ll tell you what she said about it, she said it was part of a different location every night with no routine, it was a huge rondo on a four wheel trailer pulled by an RAF lorry and all the locals called it Winking Willy. It was manned by two or three airmen and they parked up and waited for fifty to sixty planes, she wondered if they were Lancasters she didn’t know but so these planes are waiting to land and about 1944, ’45, the pilots, this was all about 1944, ’45, but the pilots knew the location, it parked on Redhill at Morcott and sometimes on the Lyndon to Wing Road at the ranglings which is a field at Pilton at the gateway, it could not come through, she said the gated road to Lyndon so it used to go to Luffenham and Pilton towards Wing and then turn down the Linden Road. Ah yes, she then tells a little tale of when herself and the land army girl were taking tea to the chap that worked for them, they were loading sheep in the eleven acre field and Charlie was driving the tractor and pitching, Diamond was still, that was the horse, it was still pulling the blue cart which had two wheels on the rear and small ones at the front which enabled it to [unclear] sharply, now Diamond apparently was wearing blinkers but she saw Winking Willy coming round [unclear] Corner so she took in immediately left and went straight through the hedge, the car stuck in the hedge, and mom and the land army girl were stranded, so also now as part of my metal detecting routine I do go down on the Lyndon to Luffenham Road below Pasture House onto Bob [unclear] field and I pick up a lot of snippets of wire and he said there was lights in the bottom of that valley but I really don’t know much more about that. I know that mom tells the tale of the Hampden that crashed, it was, the farm worker was only, they had to share the house at one point, they were short of a cottage for him, so he was there between October ’41 and June ’42 and one winter’s evening these Hampdens were coming along the valley from Luffenham turning, they seemed to turn left as they came there and go over the manor farm house which is where they lived at Pilton and so that’s what the pilots told them, so they watched all these planes coming along and one quite simply didn’t turn and it went straight on and they saw it explode, it went into the field just again what they called Pilton bridge on the Pilton to Lyndon Road, I think they said there was four men in it and they were obviously all killed, now, mom shouted to the farm worker, who was having a meal of some sort, I think, his tea or whatever, and he ran down, in his slippers, straight down Lyndon Hill, mum was about fifteen or so at the time, she followed him and he ran straight into the field and, but mom got as far as the gateway and she heard all the bullets going off and she took fright and she ran back up the hill, back to Lyndon and that’s about as much as I know about them.
CB: Just Intriguing, it sounds as though they tried to
EAT: I have to say, I ‘m sorry to bout in, but I have to say as a metal detectress, I’ve been to that field and there is not a sign of any metal anywhere, they picked the whole lot up, gone.
CB: Interesting, right. In the early days, they flew Hampdens or other planes that would be regarded today as pretty ropey but later they had Lancasters, so what have you got on Lancaster incidents?
EAT: My dad always used to talk of the Lancaster that crashed in, well, he called it stackyard, just fifty yards behind this house now, it was on a training flight apparently, on a cross country training flight and there was apparently eight on board which is unusual and I’m not terribly well informed on planes but it came in a bit further down the runway than it should’ve done apparently and for some unknown reason it hit or it was always said that it hit a naffy tea wagon which destabilized it somewhat and the guy had to, I’m not into planes I don’t know technical terms how to get this thing back in the air and try and do a circle and re-land but in doing so he clipped as he came into Edith Weston, he clipped the trees, some very high trees at what we call Gibbs Pitt and he must have clipped those and brought it down immediately. Now how he got it parked into that stackyard, it was such a small area, we got the barns on the left, a barn in front of him and two big old beech trees on the right hand side and it’s always said that if it’d had kept going, it’d had took the church and now [unclear] Melbourne, in front of this there are some houses on what is now King Edward’s Way and apparently [unclear] Melbourne he was born in the house there, she was busy looking out of the bedroom window and she saw it coming straight to her and she absolutely petrified and then it just disappeared behind the woodyard buildings and that was the end of that. George Oliver, he was an evacuee who came to Edith Weston and lodged with Mr. and Mrs. Woolhead with his two brothers, he was nineteen at the time, had a job with Mr. Moxlow a farm which is immediately a house behind this, where this thing crashed. On that afternoon he rode his bicycle into the paddock and propped in on a haystack and at the time of the crash he was milking the cows literally in a shed, literally a walls width from where this thing crashed, he heard a tremendous noise and he came out of the shed and he saw the plane crash through the trees and explode as it hit the ground, he said flames were shooting out between the buildings straight at him, he thinks, this was his comment, he thinks the plane flipped as it landed and it threw the gunner out of the plane [unclear] sat on the curve in Church Lane, he was very badly injured, George is now 91 years old, he lives in Hertfordshire and this is dated 2016, he claimed on his insurance at the time and he got ten pound compensation for the loss of his bicycle. Raymond Connington, he was in the, he was the son of the landlord of the Wheatsheaf pub and he was in the kitchen when he heard the noise, oh, bear in mind this was a Sunday afternoon that this happened and he looked out of the window and saw the Lancaster approaching and he just heard the crash and he ran down and jumped on his bike and when he reached what is now called Church Lane, the plane was well ablaze and the bullets were spraying everywhere. The plane crashed near to the bar and when they looked at it from the church, there was a good stip of grass on the left hand side which is such a small paddock and these beech trees had survived and the paddock itself was full of hay and strawcobs which were all on fire and Mrs., it wasn’t Tyler’s property at that time, it was Mrs. [unclear] home farm, she fed her hens and when she saw them later, they were shuffled up to the size of tennis balls and the snacks smoldered for about a week, another lady’s son, [unclear] who was Sonya Dobinson at the time, her father was in the RAF and they were lodging at Grange Cottage at one point and she said that the smog and the smoke just covered the village for about a fortnight, it just went on, it just never stopped. Winnie and George, Winnie Ball and George [unclear] and Eileen Davis were all in number five Edith Weston which is now 10 Well Cross, they were all playing cards and their mom and dad had gone on to Humbleton to see a relative, all these folks, they were used to hearing the planes going overhead and didn’t take a lot of notice, until this one came, it got louder and louder and there was a huge bang and the walls of the cottage shook, they all ran outside and saw smoke and flames and within minutes the airmen from the base were running down through all the gardens across Well Cross, anywhere, whatever they could get through they went through any access to get to the crash site. And by the time George and Winnie and Eileen reached Church Lane, the road close signs were in place. Oh, and years later, funnily enough, I don’t think I’ve got a picture of this but in years later, in about 2010, ’08, ’10, sorry about that, the barns were sold and they were taking the covers off one of the windows and they couldn’t understand when they got this timber boarding off this particular window, why the thick timber window frame was black and burnt and but that would appear to be damage from the crash and it’s the only evidence that we’ve got. That’s it.
CB: Subsequent to that, research was done and a memorial was eventually, so what’s the story of that?
EAT: Well it was [unclear], well, I decided to start doing some village history, not particularly old, I was looking sort of anything of mid eighteen hundreds to ninety, well pre reservoir really and so I went on and tried to get some photos and bits and bobs, which I did, and of course it resulted in a village reunion which is where I’ve met all these people and got all these stories from but I wrote a book at the time it was A Village called Edith Weston, it was published in 2008 I believe and in it there’s just a couple of lines about this crash and Mrs. [unclear] the chickens and then because, you know, we’ve got a lot of RAF or ex RAF now settled in the village, what rank I have no idea but Mr. Jury from St Mary’s Close
CB: Squadron leader
EAT: Squadron leader, he got in touch with me, came round one evening, we had a little chat and decided we’d probably get a plaque upon this. So he set about doing the official RAF bits and I set about doing the witnesses and the people that we wanted to come to the service, they weren’t actually here at the time, you know, all these little lads that were telling these tales of sitting on the wall and dodging the bullets and mum and dad shouting at them to come off and all the rest of it and then going desperate for a bit of, what is it? The broken airplane
CB: Yes, bit of the wreckage,
EAT: Wreckage
CB: Yeah
EAT: But of course they couldn’t get it
CB: Yeah
EAT: Trying but these lads couldn’t get in so, anyway this is how it started, I went to see the vicar, I think Mr. Jury saw the vicar, whose name just escapes me at the minute, and we had difficulty to getting it on March the 4th cause it was short notice, it was only about end of January, February time when this was going on and, but in the end we did and we had it on the 4th, Friday the 4th of March 2012
CB: Brilliant, yes.
EAT: So we had
CB: And what sort of turnout did you get?
EAT: Oh, we must have had forty or fifty, sixty people, I think. We started off at the pub, the service was at three o’clock I believe. Now, the one chap that wanted to come was Thompson, who lives up Sunderland direction, I’d found him by looking in the church records, funnily enough he’d been diverted off the M1 motorway and he came pretty close to Edith Weston and he thought, oh this was years ago, about twenty years ago, and he’s thought he’d take a ride past, and he called in the church and funnily enough he called in this house at the shop and the shop directed him to my mom and he came and had a word with my mom as to what she remembered about the Lancaster crash and she filled in a few bits and bobs because hers was hearsay as well of course because she wasn’t living here at that time
CB: No
EAT: [coughs] excuse me, and he’d gone to the church and he’d put his telephone number down on the church visitor’s book, so I rang him up and it was his uncle that was the rear gunner. Now, Thompson was desperate to come down for this but unfortunately on the, as this was on the Friday, on the Wednesday his father-in-law died, so he couldn’t come, so he sent a huge bouquet of flowers, which was put in the church and, but he just couldn’t come, he’s got a lot of history on it
CB: Fascinating, yeah
EAT: Since then I’ve been out to Lutterworth church and found one of the graves and took some pictures of that and I intend really to go to, Cambridge has got three, the Australian between Cambridge I believe and Kirby Muxloe rings a bell, I think there is one there, but the one up north we are struggling to find it at the minute, so, but I will get it done
CB: Because very often the burial was at the site or the, near enough to the graveyard
EAT: Yes
CB: Near the crash
EAT: No, there’s not one of them here, there’s none in, we have no, we have a couple of military in Edith Weston but there’s quite a war graves place in, at North Luffenham church but none of these airmen are buried there. Three Australians definitely in Cambridge, one’s in Lutterworth, one went back up north, Sunderland direction, one went back I can’t remember to the left, Lancashire, across there somewhere and one’s in Leicestershire
CB: Did somebody from the Canadian
EAT: Australian
CB: I’m sorry, the Australian High Commission come?
EAT: I believe he did but for that you really have to talk to Mr. Jury because I’ve got the photos but I’m really not into the military
CB: Ok
EAT: I didn’t do that, there was a chap who came from London with his wife
CB: Yeah
EAT: And a man came from a magazine, I can’t remember that either
CB: Ok
EAT: But I have the details, I think I’ll forward them
CB: Tell us about the plaque. How did you put it together?
EAT: Well, Mr. Jury did all the plaque organization, I, he came to me and we decided on or he decided on the layout and then we changed it slightly but then it went away and he dealt with all of that. The only thing I did was pay for it. I can’t remember exactly how much, it was three hundred and forty five, or three hundred and twenty five pounds and I said, I’ll pay for it out of the proceeds of the book that I’d written because I had put it, the money all into a separate account to do something for the village, buy a bench or something, so the plaque money came out of that
CB: Brilliant. So just describe the plaque, could you? What’s it made of, how did you produce the, looks like stainless steel?
EAT: Yeah, no, the plaque was definitely Mr. Jury
CB: Yeah
EAT: It was done and dusted, I came and he bought it here and that was it, I had nothing to do with the plaque
CB: And where is it been installed?
EAT: It’s now to the left of the church gates, there was a little bit of aggravation on the fourth because we were not quite quick enough, Mr. Jury wanted this to happen in the summer on 2016 but I felt, if we gonna have it, we gotta have it on the 4th of March, it was as simple as that, it had to be done on that day and the vicar agreed with me. So, but we did have a rush so of course on the actual day the plaque, the ceremony was, the memorial was done, which as I say, I keep saying was the 4th of March, the church hadn’t given us permission to put it on the wall, so it had to be propped up just for the ceremony and there was a slight disagreement but then they found a suitable stone just to the left of the gate, which was absolutely ideal for him and that’s where it is today
CB: So you can see it if you drive past in the car
EAT: Indeed, you can
CB: And it has the names of all eight of the crew
EAT: It does, it has some logo at the bottom
CB: Yeah. Now, what other, when these things are being decided, then you get two things, principally one is an option, a number of options, as to where to locate them and the other is the opinions that go with the options so what other places were considered?
EAT: Well, it was the far end, as you’re looking at the church stand, looking at the church, it was the far end on the right hand side of the wall, on the right hand, at the far end that it wanted to go to, and everybody seemed quite in agreement about that but again I disagreed with it to be honest because to me that was getting towards the lines and whilst the chap at the lines said, oh, I don’t mind it being on my wall, I felt that in time, when the lines is sold and hopefully the plaque will outlive most of us here, so I felt there might be trouble on that and then I said, no, it really ought to come onto the church wall, I think the idea of putting it on the lines, the house called the lines wall was the fact that it can be done quickly, we could’ve done that on plaque day, but this was more longer term to me, so it had to go on the church walls, therefore you had to have the diocesans permission from Peterborough which we couldn’t get in time, six weeks paperwork I believe
CB: How were you deciding the options in terms of, cause the crash was in the rickyard
EAT: Yeah
CB: Or the yard with a lot of hay in it
EAT: I have an aerial photo of that paddock
CB: Right
EAT: Whilst it was still a paddock, you can see how small it was, it’s now the six houses on it now, which is Church Lane, the barn’s still there although it’s now a house and converted but the original little tractor shed has come down, it’s no longer there but it was really quite a tiny, tiny, tiny place
CB: Yeah
EAT: How on earth that Lancaster landed
CB: Extraordinary
EAT: And missed everything I have no idea. But the trees it hit were only just across the way of course, very tall trees and it came down within a few yards really.
CB: And for many years there was just the stump of a burnt-out tree nearby so, what happened to that?
EAT: We assume when the six houses arrived, which I think was about 1972-ish, that the beech trees survived, the original beech tree outside number twelve, of course it’s now gone although it got a TPO on it, it’s gone because there was, I think they said it was foundations that were being a problem but of course we now have the near extension and yes the tree is gone and yes we can now see Rutland Water
CB: GPO being
EAT: Tree Preservation Order.
CB: Right
EAT: We now got a twig stands in its place. Give it a couple of hundred years it might replace it [laughs]
CB: Right, that’s very good.
EAT: I’m sorry, I’m not, I was not into that tree coming down as you probably got the drift, I said it survived that bloody Lancaster crash and now because [unclear]
US: [unclear]
EAT: No sooner done it and he sold it, that’s what he wanted, he couldn’t get a placid view of the water, you see, with the tree there, bought it there the tree quite happily
CB: No. So
EAT: Still I really can’t, I’ll find you that picture, you probably got it but it’s such a small
CB: I think it would be good to see. The, there was a service associated with this [unclear] fight afterwards so what were the considerations in doing those, how did you decide on the order of service?
EAT: I think the vicar took charge, I can’t remember what his names was, John or somebody [unclear], [unclear] vicar, vicar, we got one there
CB: He’s
EAT: Brian Nichols has died
CB: Oh
EAT: Brian Nichols, he was vicar a long time. I had nothing to do with this
CB: But was there a committee formed to
EAT: No, no
CB: Make a decision or?
EAT: Didn’t seem to be
CB: How did, so, the vicar decided on the form of the service
EAT: I think during, the vicar, I’m not, I don’t actually no whether these men that, I think and I might be wrong, you have to see and if you’re going to see Jury, that’s not switched on, is it?
CB: It is at the moment
EAT: It is?
CB: It’s alright
EAT: Mr. Jury is not well
CB: I know, I’ve spoken to him
EAT: I think, I may be wrong but I think there is a procedure, so I think once the military folks got involved in it, the procedure kicked into gear really with the vicar
CB: Yes
EAT: John, I can’t remember his name but John, he lives at Empingham but I think it seemed to evolve at that point, I’d gone off meanwhile to get all these witnesses, trying and get them in from Norwich and Bourne and
CB: How did go about that?
EAT: I’m sorry?
CB: How did you go about getting the witnesses? Did you
EAT: Well, there were people I’d known through the book, that had given me photos for the village, so I am pretty well in contact
CB: Did you write to them at first or did you
EAT: No, I got on the telephone.
CB: Yes
EAT: One lives in Norwich, one lives in Bourne, there’s one just at Caldecott, the, it was too late a thing for the evacuees, they’d really gone past the point of driving up from Welwyn Garden City so they couldn’t come, Mrs. [unclear] had died, so, yeah, we all just got them together really, and one or two of the old villagers, they were like me really, offsprings of those that were there at the time, so we all gathered together so
CB: It was good event
EAT: We were very lucky actually, just before the pub burnt down [laughs]
CB: Yes. Well, that’s a good point
EAT: It was. I don’t know what we’d have done otherwise. [unclear] something in the village hall, I think
CB: Yes, probably. Well, it’s a very good village hall.
EAT: Yeah
CB: What about the church procedures, because by implication for what you said earlier there was what was perceived as foot-dragging in again the church administration so, so what
EAT: Well, the vicar did his best but he couldn’t, it’s a standard, a bog standard thing that had to be either six or eight weeks notice given for this and we just, it wasn’t, by the time six or eight weeks was up, it was well after, it was into March but me missed it by a fortnight, couldn’t do anything about it, just couldn’t, it’s, that’s the way it works and that was it, there was nothing we could do
CB: Yeah. Ok, right
EAT: So I believe, I don’t know quite where it was propped, it was propped somewhere on the church wall at the time, I think and whilst these Australian and one or two of us stood in front of it, so
CB: There are plenty of pictures supporting that anyway
EAT: Oh, lots of pictures, lots of pictures
CB: Yeah, good. Just pause there, thank you very much
EAT: We did, we did incidentally whilst,
CB: [unclear]
EAT: We did have, Peter [unclear] used to live in the village, he used to live at number 12 Well Cross after the war, I must admit, but he knew a chap in Stamford, one of his ex next door neighbors, and this is former neighbor Robert Renard, who lived, now at King’s Road at Luffenham, he was formerly in the RAF at Cottesmore and Wittering
CB: Right
EAT: But he always plays the last post
CB: Oh, does he?
EAT: So, we were very lucky, we got in touch with him and he was absolutely delighted to turn up and do just that for us, so very lucky with that
CB: I think it was supported by the British Legion and the RAF Association as well
EAT: I believe it was, yes
CB: Yes, good. Stop there, thank you. The additional information about RAF North Luffenham is that it was constructed by engineer’s main contractor John Lang & Son and it comprised grass runways initially but it had a B1 hangar, it had two J type hangars, and three T3s. Early on it opened in December 1940 and was closed in 1998. The elevation is 350 feet and the pundit code was NL, November Lima. The first squadrons were 61 Squadron of Hampdens which came in 1941, followed by 144 Squadron which was also Hampdens. It’s significant that this, the Tylers witnessed a number of these planes crashing in the valley around North Luffenham. That’s it.

Citation

Chris Brockbank, “Interview with Elizabeth Anne Tyler,” IBCC Digital Archive, accessed October 19, 2020, https://ibccdigitalarchive.lincoln.ac.uk/omeka/collections/document/11743.

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