Guest Post: The March of Time – Part I – Julian Evan-Hart

Some thirty-four years ago a rather spotty youth with lots of hair styled in a typical 1970s centre parting (me) crawled through the lush green grass on the edge of a small wood. There was on that far off day an air of excitement that was being generated by two important factors. The first was that the wood was in the prime pheasant rearing area of an estate fiercely patrolled by ‘Ron the Head Gamekeeper’ – I did not have permission to be there and if I was caught then all hell would break loose. The second factor was that that for some years previously I had heard the story of how a bomber had crashed into the wood during the Second World War. In fact, just a year before, as a beater during a pheasant shoot, I had heard some of the older men recounting the incident and, through the soaking brown clumps of mist drenched dead brambles, I had even seen what some of them had said was a bomb hole.

But back to me crawling through the grass on the edge of the wood…it was, I will admit, something of a nerve-wracking experience, but I was determined. I lay on my back, carefully eased myself under the lamb’s wool and horse hair festooned barbs of the rusted wire fence, then…I was in! Standing up, I was almost shaking with adrenaline, for this was forbidden territory indeed, but I was determined to have a look around.

To my then very untrained eye the large torn shreds of riveted alloy that I came across on that day in the woods could pretty much have come from anything, as could a tattered old leather boot and the electrical parts that lay all over the mossy woodland floor. However, they planted a seed in my mind that has flourished from that day back in 1979 to a passion that is still with me 34 years on. That was my first venture into aviation archaeology and the first of many trips into that woodland, a location which has a rich history of aviation incidents.

I have researched the collision over Weston Park of two B17 Flying Fortresses for just over three decades now. This has resulted in some fascinating finds ranging from a Lieutenant’s cap badge, cockpit instruments, burned and twisted old pennies and tattered sections of parachute. It also gave me the chance to talk to eyewitnesses in the village, and much further beyond, who recalled that terrible day when 14 USAAF airmen and two civilians died in the collision. It has been a great privilege to meet and correspond with members of the families related to these airmen, as well as the civilians who were living in the area at the time. It was a shock to learn just how terrible the effect was on people in losing a loved one.

Another incident that played out in the same wood and came to play a significant role in my life involved the plane Ding Dong Daddy and the same patch of land I was crawling through in 1979  – you can read all about this in Part 2 of this blog.

About Julian Evan-Hart
Julian is from Hertfordshire, England and has always been interested in fossils and antiquities. Julian has written a number of books on metal detecting, and is an avid user of Minelab products.

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