Helsby had its balloon pioneer but Weaverham also has had its occasional brush with aeronauts of one sort or another, mostly in wartime but not entirely.
The best known and featured elsewhere on the website is the bombing of Nook Farm in November 1940.
But, as revealed by memories of village life found in the Society’s Oral History Project, there are other occasions and activities that prove that the sky has had its place in village life.
“Tell us about that aeroplane? You know you were telling me last night, when you were at school and it came down then the other one came down?”
“That’s right Copley Hollis by Hartford Beach; well the first field on your right then, there is all houses on it now. A plane came down at about 11 o’clock one morning.”
“When was this?”
“I would be about 10, so if you say 1924-25. It came down of course it soon got round the school that there was an aeroplane in the field. That was something new; you didn’t see an aeroplane that came down. Then about dinnertime another one came down to assist it, whatever had gone wrong with the engine I don’t know. But the kids never went back to school until they saw the two planes go. The planes went about 3 o’clock in the afternoon, and they troop back to school then.”
“Were they RAF planes or private?”
“I remember when I started infant school, I would be 4 when I started, and I remember a German Zeppelin going over. You could have hit that Zeppelin with a catapult it was that low and all the children had come out to line around the school wall. The war was still on then. I remember from 1918.”
It wasn’t me honest!
“During the War I was in the ARP. Cyril Catley was the Head Warden and he used to get my brother and I out. Good alarm system. We used to sleep in the end bedroom and we had a tin can with a marble in and a piece of string hanging down and Cyril Catley used to come when he got the warning and jangle on there. The pair of us used to get up and scare my mother and father as we had to walk through their bedroom and we had to go on bicycles to get all wardens up in a certain area. Our headquarters was at the Ring O Bells by the church and we used to report there and we used to go out and if any bombs were dropped, we used to go out and see what the damage was and report back. I was on duty when this was blown here, a big hole in the road. Dropped two mines, one here and one opposite the entrance to Hefferston Grange. They dropped a lot of incendiaries by Mainwaring’s. They used the top of the church as an observation post. My father was in the Home Guard.”
Just to close, another flight related anecdote!
Harold Jackson – recorded February 2004 – Pigeon keeping memories.
“At the outbreak of World War Two the National Pigeon Service was formed to supply young pigeons for the services. The best fancier in the Weaverham club was its Secretary, Mr. Fred Lewis who joined the N.P.S. All N.P.S. members were allowed a ration of best pigeon corn to enable them to rear top quality birds. Mr. Lewis was the only Weaverham fancier accepted in the N.P.S. and with his expertise and good quality feed he was almost unbeatable. The remaining club members had a hard time feeding their birds and had to use acorns, porridge oats etc. and whatever they could scrounge off local farmers and shopkeepers. Groats used in the making of black puddings were also obtained off the pork butcher if you were lucky.”
Weaverham Flying Club
“Despite all the difficulties the club managed to continue with a programme of races right through the war on the South Route as far as Weymouth, and I myself, Harold Jackson, used to get a letter from home each week (I was in RAF Coastal Command) giving me the race result. Everyone in the club had to have a permit to keep pigeons during the war, I had a permit for 24 birds and once a month a policeman used to visit my lofts and my Dad would have to turn all the birds out of the loft. At the end of the war all demobbed servicemen were allowed to join the N.P.S. and were allowed a ration of corn for their birds and this lasted for a few years until the food problem eased.”
At a time when the skies have been quiet it is perhaps good to remind ourselves of the involvement that any village can have with the now “accessible realm”, and in the words of John Gillespie Magee from “High Flight”:
“Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of Earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;”