Lost and Found – Drakelow RGHQ 9.2

I guess its as easy to lose 93 photo’s as it to lose one (and I’m still looking for my West Norwood Cemetery Catacombs shots from 3 years ago…one day they will show up on a backup drive I’d forgotten about…)

So, I stumbled across 93 pix I shot at Drakelow RGHQ 9.2 several years ago and thought I’d post up a very small selection here, mainly cos I thought I already had already blogged them.

They were all shot on the little Lumix T76 backup camera so are not that great but they still have an interest all the same.

Air Vent
BBC Studio

RAF/USAF Alconbury

I don’t profess to be any kind of expert on airfields, not even close, but they do interest me, especially Cold War airfields. The following is a ‘cut up’ of material from a variety of locations mingled in with some of my own words. Its certainly not a definitive history on Alconbury, more of an overview to accompany the pictures.

Thanks for looking 🙂

RAF Bomber Command use (1939-1941)
In September 1939, RAF Upwood squadrons were given operational training roles and Alconbury became RAF Wyton’s satellite under No. 2 Group, Squadron Nos. 12, 40 and 139. These squadrons were frequently deployed to Alconbury, No. 139 being the first to be actually stationed there. Squadrons 15 and 40 converted from Battles to Bristol Blenheim bombers. No. 15 Squadron took up residence on 14 April 1940, when additional requisitioned accommodation was available. It flew its first raid of the war on 10 May against a German occupied airfield near Rotterdam.

In May 1942, RAF Alconbury was allocated to the United States Army Air Force:

93d Bombardment Group, 7 September 1942 – 5 December 1942
92d Bombardment Group, 6 January – 15 September 1943
95th Bombardment Group, 15 April – 15 June 1943
482d Bombardment Group, 20 August 1943 – 21 May 1945
801st Bombardment Group (Provisional), January – 1 May 1944
94th Bombardment Wing, 12–18 June 1945
2d Bombardment Wing, 12 June – 26 August 1945
1st Bombardment Wing, 26 June – 26 August 1945
1st Air Division, 20 September – 31 October 1945
406th Bombardment Squadron, 11 November 1943 – 7 February 1944
857th Bombardment Squadron, 11 June – 6 August 1945
652d Bombardment Squadron, 13 July – 25 October 1945
36th Bombardment Squadron: Attached to 328th Service Group, assigned to RAF Watton, operated from Alconbury, 7 February-28

March 1944, Assigned to: 1st Bombardment Division, 28 February – 15 October 1945.

Postwar United States Air Force use:

7560th Air Base Squadron, 7 November 1954 – 25 March 1955 (Redesignated: 7560th Air Base Group, 25 March 1955 – 25 August 1959
86th Bombardment Squadron, 15 September 1955 – 5 August 1959
42d Troop Carrier Squadron, 31 May – 8 December 1957
53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron, 25 April – 9 August 1959
10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing, 25 August 1959 – 20 August 1987 (Redesignated: 10th Tactical Fighter Wing, 10 August 1987 – 31 March 1993, Redesignated: 10th Air Base Wing, 31 March 1993 – 1 October 1994)
527th Tactical Fighter Training Aggressor Squadron, 1 April 1976 – 14 July 1988
17th Reconnaissance Wing, 1 October 1982 – 30 June 1991 (Assigned to Strategic Air Command Eighth Air Force 7th Air Division)
39th Special Operations Wing, 1 December 1992 – 1 January 1993
352d Special Operations Group, 1 January 1993 – 17 February 1995
710th Air Base Wing, 1 October 1994 – 12 July 1995
423d Air Base Squadron, 12 July 1995 – 1 July 2005 (Based at RAF Molesworth) (Redesignated: 423d Air Base Group, 1 July 2005 – present)
501st Combat Support Wing, 1 May 2007–present

The Cold War, Spy Planes & Operation Desert Storm
In 1959 with the Cold War hotting up (lame humour..), the 10th Tactical Reconnaissance Wing arrived at Alconbury and over the coming years flew many reconnaissance, electronic warfare and ‘Aggressor Support’ missions.

The Strategic Air Command arrived at Alconbury on 1 October 1982 when the 17th Reconnaissance Wing was activated, bringing with them the U2 and later the TR-1 Spy Plane. These assets required major remodelling of the airfield including Ready Sheds, 13 extra wide Hardened Aircraft Shelters, a Photographic Interpretation Centre and a Nuclear Hardened Command Post/Avionics Suite for the TR-1 spyplanes known only as Building 210 (later nicknamed Magic Mountain).
After the fall of the Berlin Wall and the threat of the Cold War vanishing there were rumours that RAF Alconbury would be closed down but then in August 1990, Iraq invaded Kuwait.
Some of the first aircraft to be sent into the Gulf were three TR-1A’s from Alconbury’s 17th Reconnaissance Wing and 23 A-10’s from the 10th Tactical Fighter Wing (511th Tactical Fighter Squadron) were deployed to Saudi Arabia for combat operations.

The 511th TFS A-10s flew no fewer than 1700 combat missions during Operation Desert Storm and played an important part in wreaking havoc on Iraqi tank forces, Scud missiles and other ground positions during the conflict.

In recent years things have wound down considerably and in 1995 the USAF returned the base to the MoD (but retaining the Base Support Area under USAF control). The USAF 423d Air Base Squadron and USAF 501st Combat Support Wing still operate from Alconbury.

Romney Sheds, WW2 Crew, Locker and Drying Rooms – Airfield & Technical Site.
Parachute Store (Building 51) – Airfield & Technical Site
Command Building – Airfield & Technical Site
Hercules Bomber artwork – Airfield & Technical Site
Photographic Processing and Interpretation Facility (Building 69) – Airfield & Technical Site.
WW2 Control Tower & Watch Office with Operations Room for Bomber Satellite Stations – Technical Site
Uni-Seco USAFE Control Tower – Airfield & Technical Site
Guard Tower – Weapons Storage Site
Awesome Warthog/30mm Cannon cartoon drawn by an airman
TR-1/U2 Hardened Aircraft Shelter (Building 4105) – Airfield & Technical Site
17th Reconnaissance Wing Squadron Headquarters – Hardened Area (flooded basement)
(Currently in use by Cambridgeshire Police for tactical training)
Hardened Aircraft Shelter / Tab-Vee ‘Oh Johnnie’ – Airfield & Technical Site
This was demolished by the SAS as a training exercise, took them 3 attempts to flatten it!!
The gratuitous ‘Oh Johnnie vent shot’ taken by everyone (yawn…)
‘Sally Ann’ Tab-Vee/HAS 
(most likely for A-10 Warthog or F5 Tiger…maybe even Phantom LOL!)
‘Sally Ann’ Tab-Vee/HAS Emergency Exit

Mines #46 – Time We Left

There are some trips when you wonder why you are lugging round4kgs of camera gear and probably another4kg of lighting when you get home having taken only one photo, well this weekend was one of those trips.To be fair it was an exploration instead of a exploration/photo trip, were up in the extreme top north west corner of a location looking for a straight run though to the south but after 4 1/2 hours of trying 9 different roads, most with several feet of water in, and god knows how many headings we were defeated by roof collapses at every single occasion apart from one (this will be checked on a revisit). There was evidence of previous visitors 15 years earlier in some places, others hadn’t been touched for much longer.It seems a combination of a dip in Strata and a fault line are causing all the dead ends….how frustrating but a brilliant learning experience at the same time.

Mishap of the day had me as ‘victim’ (again) as I stepped into a deep sump while already in 2 feet of water….the result was over the chest waders before, in a split second, I levitated out in fear of a wet camera (note to self: Take the Ortleib next time!!

Clocked off and never came back?

Wakerley Quarries – Partington Steel & Iron Co Ltd

A departure from the normal program of events but I do have a soft spot for Industrial Archaeology so I hope you enjoy….Bell Bros Ltd (1911-1915)
Wakerley Ironstone Co. Ltd (from 1915)
Partington Steel & Iron Co. Ltd (from 1918)
Discussions with Bell Broshad began in October 1907 with some trial holes but quarrying did not start until November 1911. A siding agreement withLNWR (London and North Western Railway) was dated July 1913. The quarries ran for a short while before the lease surrendered and was taken over byWakerley Ironstone Co. Ltd from 1915. Gravity was used to help the loaded tubs of Ironstone reach the tipping dock and two horses hauled the empty tubs back to the pits. For some reason the earlier tipping dock was abandoned and a new one built at the eastern end of theLNWR sidings, possibly because of an improved gradient to the railway.During the operation of the quarry a row of four Calcining Kilns were built by prisoners-of-war and next to them an engine room containing a horizontal boiler. It’s believed the kilns were never actually used and in fact only two of the four were ever completed.

From 1918 and now in the hands of Partington Steel & Iron Co. Ltd the quarry was extended the opposite side of the Harringworth Road and the tramway tunneled underneath. Around this time a second tipping dock was added to the newer eastern one and this is evident today as the original one is faced with stone and the new addition is red brick. The quarry became mechanised in later life making use of a Bucyrus Class 14 Steam Shovel and a Ruston Steam Transporter.

The quarry closed somewhere around 1921, the track was taken up and the bridge under the road filled in, everything else was left which is unusual as normal practice is to restore the ground at closure. Today both tipping docks are clearly visible, as is the deep cutting of the quarry. The railway sidings adjacent to the LNWR main line are also evident and there are some remains of the weighbridge at the top of the ‘new’ tipping dock.

Sadly the Engine Room has crumbled but all four calcining kilns dominate the landscape for miles around and are in remarkable condition.

Apologies for the gratuitous use of Sunstars but my Tokina glass has a 9 bladed diaphragm which makes 18 pointed Sunstars so I couldn’t resist it…

Calcining Kilns
‘New’ twin Tipping Dock – original in stone, later addition in red brick
The next shot shows the original Tipping Dock (running from left to right towards the kilns on the center horizon). The treeline to the right of the photo is the Main Railway line and the long raised area from the camera to the kilns is the LNWR sidings.

West Norwood Cemetery Catacombs

It’s not a well known fact but there are actually two sets of Underground Catacombs present at West Norwood Cemetery and there were originally two chapels, the Dissenters Chapel and the Episcopal Chapel (both with catacombs beneath them).

At 05:12am on 17th July 1944 a V1 Flying ‘Doodlebug’ Bomb fell in West Norwood Cemetery and destroyed the Dissenters Chapel and caused severe damage to surrounding buildings, including the Episcopal Chapel. Plans from 1946 have only recently been discovered that show architect Alwyn Underdown had planned to rebuild the Dissenters Chapel but sadly after laying derelict for many years and hoping to be repaired by the Ministry Of Works, both were eventually demolished and in 1955 a more modern crematorium and chapel was constructed (also an Underdown design).

In total West Norwood SE27 was to suffer from 13 V1’s and 1 sole V2 and 47 People died in the area. As well as this the cemetery was hit multiple times by Luftwaffe bombers who used the A23 as a guide into Central London as well as many ‘own goals’ caused by unexploded Anti-Aircraft shells falling to ground!

The modern crematorium that stands today on the site of the Dissenters Chapel has the furnaces installed in the old catacombs below, they simply boarded up the few dozen internments in one of its original four aisles and installed the cremators in the remaining space. (The Dissenters Catacombs would have originally had capacity for approximately 1500 internments). Over the years the cremation equipment has been changed and upgraded but today there is now an ugly above ground Heat Exchanger in Square 51 causing much controversy due to it being placed over graves…

Across the path all that remains of the Episcopal Chapel is a Rose Garden which today lies beneath scaffolding and sheets of plastic in place to protect the catacombs beneath from further environmental damage. These catacombs have a tall central gallery and six main aisles (three on each side) containing some 95 bays (see plan below).

The bays were used in a variety of ways, some contain private vaults while others contain mixed internments. Other bays today contain gravestones from the cemetery above and some are totally empty.

All shots : Canon 40D & 11-16 Tokina glass – Thanks for looking

Some ‘proper’ history, © Professor Bob Flanagan, Friends of West Norwood Cemetery:

The Norwood Catacombs
By 1900 the cemetery was becoming largely filled with graves, and even some of the roadways were used for burials.  In 1915 a crematorium and columbarium were
installed beside the Dissenters’ Chapel. Sadly, both chapels were damaged during World War II, and a number of monuments were also destroyed or damaged. 

The cemetery lodge, only just rebuilt in the 1930s, was destroyed by a flying bomb in 1944.  The Dissenters’ Chapel was demolished in 1955, and replaced by a modern crematorium.  The Episcopal Chapel was demolished in 1960 and replaced by a rose garden. Nonetheless the catacombs below the Chapel still survive: those beneath the crematorium now house the furnaces, but those on the site of the Episcopal Chapel remain complete with some 2,000 coffins, unique architectural features, and a unique hydraulic coffin lift. Now listed Grade II, they are sadly closed to public access because of Health and Safety considerations.

Mediaeval tradition allowed for burial in churches for those who could afford it. Thus, at Kensal Green and at Norwood, provision was made for interment in catacombs
situated beneath the mortuary chapels.  Of the other commercial cemeteries founded in London at this time – Highgate (1839), Nunhead (1840), Abney Park (1840, wholly for dissenters), Brompton (1840) and Tower Hamlets (1841), catacombs only featured in the designs of Brompton and Nunhead, although the famous Egyptian Avenue at Highgate performed a similar function above ground level.  The Brompton catacombs, whilst still accessible, are not on the scale of those at Kensal Green or Norwood, whilst the small catacomb at Nunhead beneath the remains of the Episcopal Chapel is sealed. Catacombs were of course provided in some other English cemeteries, such as those at Church Cemetery, Nottingham, built into the site of a former quarry.

At Norwood the catacombs beneath the Dissenters’ Chapel, never very popular, have been so modified as to have lost almost all their original character as they now
house cremators and associated equipment.  The fate of the coffins they once held is unknown. The corresponding catacombs at Kensal Green have been sealed.  However, the catacombs beneath both Episcopal chapels survive.  Those at Norwood consist of a series of brick vaults supported on brick walls and piers.  The layout is regular and symmetrical, and consists of a tall central gallery, which corresponds to the location of the demolished chapel, and six corridors running at right angles to this gallery to the North and South that give access to the vaults.  Access to the catacombs is now via an external staircase to the East end.  There is a further staircase, which would have led down from the interior of the now vanished chapel above.

The six narrower vaulted passages, three on each side of the main vault, each have 7 bays on either side (see plan). Some bays contain gated vaults. Whole bays, half
bays, or any number of individual loculi could be purchased and modified either with cast-iron gates, sealed, or set with stone memorial tablets. Some were simply
left open – in many the remains of funeral tributes placed there by mourners are still visible. An estimated 2,500 coffins are located in those vaults and are supported either on stone shelves, on cast-iron bars suspended between the brick pier supports, or rest on the floor.

At the end of each of the vaulted passages there is an open grating designed to allow air to circulate through the catacomb. By law all above-ground burials must be
in lead-lined coffins. There has been much decay over the years, but generally the lead coffins are intact, although a few have been desecrated. Some massive hardwood coffins, however, remain in fine condition, although many brass nameplates and fittings have been stolen.

The central bay contains some impressive mortuary chapels with elaborate architectural detail in Portland stone and in cast iron, much of it now sadly rusted. 

Pride of place goes Sir William Tite (1798-1873) himself, who is interred in Catacomb 90 together with his wife. Vice-Admiral William Young ( ?-1847) has an impressive catacomb chapel part sealed behind an open ironwork door. Young was an officer in the Royal Navy for nearly seventy years, and was at one time in charge of Deptford Dockyard.  ‘He was distinguished not less for zeal, ability and courteousness in the discharge of his public duties than for simplicity of manners, love of truth and practical benevolence in private life. Erected by widow and children to testify their affectionate and reverential attachment to his memory’. He was a Vice-Admiral of the Blue and lived at Denmark Hill, Camberwell.  He was buried on 19 February 1847, aged 85.
Elsewhere in the catacombs are stored various items such as Victorian grave diggers’ spades and the memorial plaques removed from the chapels and arcades when they were demolished, including that to Sir William himself. There is also an attractive carved wooden plaque to Pilot Officer Edmund H(ugh) C(raft) Theobald RAFVR (1915-1942) that records that his Hurricane fighter-bomber of 30 Squadron was shot down during ‘Operation Crusader’, the final relief of Tobruk, on 28 December 1942.  He is buried at Halfaya Sollum Cemetery, Egypt.

The Norwood Coffin Lift
In the middle of the central gallery is a unique hydraulic catafalque by Bramah & Robinson dated 1839, which was used to transfer coffins into, and presumably out of, the catacombs – it is thought that the catacombs had a subsidiary function in providing temporary interment for some coffins whilst vaults or mausolea were completed in the cemetery grounds. A major advantage of the hydraulic system was its silent operation, but reliability may have been a factor in view of the problems
encountered with the screw-jack coffin lift at Kensal Green.

Norwood – The Future
In 1965 the South Metropolitan Cemetery was compulsorily purchased for £6,000 by Lambeth Council, using Public Health Act powers. A condition of the deed of transfer was that the rights of existing grave owners were to be maintained, and the Act of Parliament establishing the cemetery and governing its operations was never
repealed.  The importance of the cemetery and the quality of its monuments were emphasized in 1978 when it was included within a conservation area, and in 1981 when the entrance arch, gates, walls and railings and 44 monuments were listed (seven Grade II*, the rest Grade II – a further 21 monuments have since been listed). 

It has been recently been awarded Grade II* status on the English Heritage Register of Historic Parks and Gardens. Despite this apparent protection in law, the cemetery was subjected over a couple of decades by Lambeth Council to a programme of ‘lawn conversion’. During this period, well over 10,000 monuments were removed, ignoring rights of grave owners and keeping no proper records of the position of graves.  Moreover, nearly 1,000 private graves were resold illegally for new burials.  The destruction was eventually stopped in 1991 (by which time two listed monuments had disappeared and several others had been badly damaged), by the Archdeacon of Lambeth who referred the matter to the Consistory Court of the Diocese of Southwark (80 percent of the cemetery is consecrated ground). The power of management of the cemetery was delegated to a Scheme of Management Committee composed of representatives from both the Diocese and Lambeth Council.

As ordered in the judgment, the Council has restored/repaired the disappeared/damaged listed monuments, and a landscape management survey has been carried out.  In the past few years, a concerted effort by the Council, English Heritage and the Friends of West Norwood Cemetery has resulted in the restoration/repair of numerous monuments, as well as parts of the wall and railings; plans were in hand for improvements to the drainage system and, perhaps eventually some restoration of the catacombs. But the Council is currently aiming to undo all this good work, remove monuments, and reopen the cemetery for burials. This despite the its unique place in the history of London, and indeed in the history of British cemetery architecture. Sadly the future for the catacombs looks increasingly bleak.

Others notable catacomb interments at Norwood include
(i) Hon Colonel Sambrooke Anson (1778-1846). Gazetted Lt-Colonel on 15 September 1809, he commanded the 1st Foot Guards in the Peninsular Campaign, 1809-13.
(ii) Edward Charles Mackintosh Bowra FRCS (?-1874). One of the first British Commissioners of the Chinese Customs Service.
(iii) Major-General Charles Alfred Browne (1801-1866) (Catacomb 16 D), son of William Loder Browne, merchant, of Kennington. He joined the Madras Army in 1826 and was gazetted Major-General in 1862 (see www.fownc.org/newsletters/no52.shtml for further information about the Browne family).
(iv) Sir George Carroll (1784-1860) (Catacomb 11 North). Carroll was a stockbroker in1811 and also a contractor for the State Lotteries until 1826 (when lotteries
were abolished) with offices in Cornhill, Oxford Street, and Charing Cross. He was Sheriff of London and Middlesex, 1837-8 and was knighted in 1837. He was Lord Mayor of London, 1846-7, and died at Loughton, Essex on 19 December 1860. [In total there are 17 Lord Mayors interred at Norwood.]
(v) Sir John Cowan (?-1842) (Catacomb 36).  Lord Mayor of London, 1837-8.
(vi) James, Lord Hannen (1821-1894). A barrister and judge, Hannen was educated at Heidelberg University and was called to the bar, Middle Temple, in 1848. He became Junior Treasury counsel (government prosecutor) in1863 and was made a Judge of the Court of Queen’s Bench in 1868.  He was knighted in 1868 and appointed to the Privy Council in 1872. A judge in the Courts of Probate and Divorce from 1872 and President of the Probate, Divorce and Admiralty division of the High Court, 1875-91, he was made Life Baron and Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1891.  He was President of the Parnell commission, 1888-9, and an arbitrator in the question of the Bering Sea seal fisheries, 1892. He lived at Kingswood House, Sydenham, later the home of John Lawson Johnston (1839-1900, ‘Mr Bovril’), also buried at Norwood (grave 29,462, square 38). Hannen is commemorated on the family monument in the cemetery (square 61), but is interred with his wife and the cremated remains of his daughters in the Catacombs.
(vii) John LOCKE (1805-1880) (Catacomb 31 North).  A barrister and politician, he was MP for Southwark, 1857-80.  He introduced a bill to give witnesses in criminal
cases the right to affirm as in civil cases, 1861.
(viii) Sir Chapman Marshall (1787-1862) (Catacomb 37). Lord Mayor of London 1838-9.  He died at Pembridge Crescent, Bayswater on 9 January 1862.
(vii) Major John George Richardson (1786-1867). A Royal Marine, he was severely wounded in the mouth, in an arm and a leg on board HMS Africa in action with a Danish flotilla of gun and mortar boats while becalmed near the Malinor Channel, Sweden, in 1808.  He died on 25 January 1867.
(ix) James Bogle Smith (?-1870). A director of the Union Bank of Australia (now ANZ Bank), a post he held from 1837-70. From 1840 the UBA helped to finance settlers to New Zealand.  Smith was also London agent for merchant-shipowners William Smith and Son of Liverpool, a trustee of the National Life Assurance Society, and Prime Warden of the Goldsmiths Company. He lived at Lavender Hill, Wandsworth.
(x) Francis Sheppard Thomas (1794-1857) (Catacomb 34). Secretary to the Public Record Office, Chancery Lane, 1826-57. He wrote A History of the State Paper Office, 1849; Handbook to Public Records, 1853, and related works. He died at Croydon on 27 August 1857.

Image Credit: Subterranea Britannica

More new toys….

My trusty Panasonic Lumix TZ6 has produced every picture you can see on this blog, in fact i’ve taken over 10,000 shots with it, but it has limitations, in fact it has many pluses too such as its size and weight and the awesome Leica lens. However if I want to take better pictures then I need better toys so I dumped a bunch of stuff on eBay which paid for both of these guys. I’m still gonna keep the Lumix as its a great shooter but really want to start to sue these more.

Canon EOS 40D, bought in October last year from a friend and sat on a shelf gathering dust while I sold more stuff on eBay to pay for some quality glass. Two hours ago DHL showed up with the glass, an Ultra Wide Angle Tokina 11-16mm  F2.8, all the way from Germany. This is where the fun starts as I have to learn how to use these guys properly…..