By Ken L. James and Huw Daniel
The Ogmore Valley and its mountains have been my home all my life except for some four years away during 1943/1947, whilst I was serving in the Royal Navy. As a young boy, I roamed the mountains, and the love of walking, the scenery, sun, wind, snow, and even rain have remained with me ever more. Walking and even cycling are still two of my favourite pastimes and pleasures.
I mention this because I never thought in those far-off days of 70 years ago that I would be fortunate enough to still have the health and ability to maintain my favourite pursuits. Neither did I think, nor did it even enter my mind that I would one day in the future record or write the history of two terrible accidents, which occurred independently of each other on Sunday, 7th January 1940, on the mountains of our Valley.
At a meeting of the Ogmore Valley History and Heritage Society held just prior to the 61st anniversary of the accidents, it was decided by those of us present, that it would be a good idea for the history of the accidents to be investigated, and, if suitable, an account be included in our Journal of 2002.
The investigation started forthwith and continued for many months with astonishing results, with great care being taken in checking information received from all the various sources available.
The work our Secretary, Mr. Huw Daniel, with his expertise and time spent in seeking information from the Internet, deserves our Society’s special appreciation. So does the (verbal) assistance of our Chairman, also Harry Radcliffe, our oldest member, Bert Jones with his knowledge of maps and co-ordinates, and Jane our editor, in helping me with my dots and comma’s.
Certainly and most importantly, was the verbal information gained in my interviews with the only one of two remaining eye witnesses of the accidents still alive today, namely Len Stephens, and his account of the accidents deserve praise, Mr. Tommy Spratt the other eye-witness having passed away.
Unfortunately, the only two other witnesses very near to the scene, were Roy Robinson, who has suffered an illness which impairs his memory, and his friend Malcolm Lewis who has unfortunately passed away.
This article is not only a record of the accidents, but also includes passages relating to relatives of the unfortunate servicemen and two civilians who were killed, and a brief history of one, a Royal Navy Commander, researched by my daughter Lynne who visited the archives at Portsmouth. It also includes information of extreme importance of incidents, which happened during the war, involving aircraft similar to the one of two that was lost on that fateful day of 7th January 1940.
On behalf of our Society, and myself, I wish to express my appreciation to everyone concerned, without whom theKen L. James
following article in this Journal would not have been accomplished.
One of the most eventful days in living memory in the history of the Ogmore Valley occurred on Sunday, 7th January 1940, during the Second World War of 1939-45. It was a Sunday, a day that our older population will always remember, though they never really knew the facts or full story of what happened on that fateful day.
Early in the fore-noon at about 11.00 a.m., one young man who was eighteen years of age at the time (namely Len Stephens, who now resides in Oakfield Terrace) and his friend Tommy Spratt (then aged thirty nine, but now deceased), both of whom lived in Brookland Terrace at numbers thirty-one and twenty-four respectively, decided to explore a crevice on the eastern side of the mountain at
the source of the stream called Cwm y Ffosp.
The correct name of Cwm y Ffosp should be Cwm Ff s Yr Hwch, the former being a corruption of our Welsh language, which often occurs on ordnance maps over a period of time. This stream runs through Blaenogwr Farm in Nantymoel and if followed to its source rises just past an area where there are some small quarries referred to by the “locals” as Jenkin’s or Jenks’ quarries, hewn from the mountain side of Mynydd Aber.
A narrow road partially obliterated by time called the “tram road” leads down along the Southern side of the stream from the quarries. Many years ago, this road was used to carry stones to the valley below for the building of houses.
The purpose of visiting this area with their six terriers was to see if Len Stephens, the owner of one terrier and Tommy Spratt, the owner of the other five, could raise a fox. Tommy was well known as a local breeder of terriers, and a keen hunter of foxes.
Tommy had just two years previously been awarded two medals for bravery from the R.S.P.C.A. and “Tail Waggers” respectively, together with a written citation for bravery in allowing himself to be lowered by rope, fifty foot down a narrow crevice in the mountain to rescue a young lad’s dog that had fallen there.
Len and Tommy made for the locality a little higher up the mountain above “Jenks” quarry called the “Goose’s Hole” so named by the two, on account of their having raised a gaggle of geese from there some time previously.
Two other boys, namely Roy Robinson and Malcolm Lewis (deceased), aged fifteen years and sixteen years respectively, were playing in an area called “The Meadow”, this area of ground being just below the Quarry.
Again, at the same time Elias Davies (Cap) had left his home in the Cwm, Nantymoel to go for a walk up the mountain in the direction of “Jenks” quarry. His nickname “Cap” applied to all the family and was inherited from the father (William Davies “Cap”) who worked a horse called “Captain” underground in the Ocean Colliery. Elias, now deceased, was about thirty years old at that time.
The weather was damp and a mist and fog with low cloud enveloped the crest and above on Mynydd Aber and the adjoining Mynydd William Meyrick. Meanwhile, whilst the afore mentioned men and boys were enjoying their pursuits, a squadron of RAF Hawker Hurricanes, which were the first of the R.A.F.’s new generation of high speed monoplane interceptors, were airborne from the St. Athan aerodrome situated fourteen miles away on the lowlands of the Vale of Glamorgan (bearing 171 magnetic from the triangulation stone on Mynydd Aber).
The hurricane was a very robust and highly manoeuvrable aircraft. Its armament consisted of eight Browning .303 machine guns built into the wings, four to each wing together with two thousand five hundred rounds of ammunition, which could be fired at one thousand rounds per minute. It had a speed of 315 M.P.H. and some fourteen thousand were built during the war. The squadron of Hurricanes were exercising and carrying out manoeuvres in the low cloud and mist covering the top of Mynydd Aber.
Len Stephens and Tommy Spratt heard the noise of the aircraft engines but assumed at the time it was one aircraft and that it appeared to circle overhead so close in fact, that they sought shelter in a crevice in the mountain, crouching as low as possible. The official R.A.F. records of the time stated that the squadron were banking in a steep diving turn to the left, when Hurricane L2074 crashed. Be that as it may, Len thought that just prior to the crash, just for a couple of seconds, he heard the engine of the Hurricane splutter, fade away, a swishing noise, and then the crash followed by absolute silence, except for the noise of the wind and swirling mist. The time was 12.30 p.m.
The sound of the crash so near to where they were, was absolutely frightening, but nevertheless, with great courage, both witnesses ran up the breast of the mountainside, and sought to find the crashed aircraft, which they succeeded in doing within a few minutes, they being in such close proximity to the site of the accident.
Wreckage of both wings, eight Browning machine guns, the belts of ammunition and parts of the tail plane were strewn all over the area around the main body of the aircraft. The nose, engine, and cockpit containing the body of number 42015 Pilot Officer, Alan Harry Maguire were buried in the soil and peat bog, to be taken away some hours later.
Pilot Officer. A. H. Maguire was the son of Commander Alfred Maguire R.N., who was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross on 21st May 1919 for service in action off Fort Alexandrousk in the Caspian Sea, during the Russian Revolution. He is listed as being in the Navy in 1915 and retired in April 1940, just three months after his son was killed.
The two witnesses, failing to find the pilot at the time of the accident, decided that one of them, namely Len Stephens, should stay with his one terrier whilst Tommy and his five terriers, returned to Nantymoel
to raise the alarm.
Malcolm Lewis, Roy Robinson, and Elias Davies “Cap”, had all heard the crash and within half an hour or so had joined up with Len. They waited for further help to arrive as by now the police and other emergencies had been alerted. Around this time a Lockheed Hudson bomber N7256 of 233 Squadron R.A.F., which had been detached to St. Athan’s aerodrome from R.A.F. Leuchars in Scotland had become airborne. This aircraft had been fitted with special equipment called A.S.V. (Anti Surface Vessel) for trials. This specialised equipment was highly secret apparatus, an early form of R.D.F. (Radio Direction Finder) or later on in the war to be called Radar (Radio Direction And Range) A.S.V. was to prove invaluable to the survival of this country in the years to come, especially to the Battle of the Atlantic.
I digress a little at this point to mention the importance of the Hudson bomber to the R.A.F. Coastal Command, and A.S.V. They were American designed, twin engined, one to each wing and used by Coastal Command for Anti Submarine surveillance and ships. It had a maximum speed of 246 M.P.H. and cruised at 220 M.P.H. with a range of 1960 miles. Its armament consisted of fixed forward firing .303 Browning machine guns mounted in the nose, plus two more in a dorsal Boulton Paul power turret. It could carry four 250 lb. bombs, or ten 100 lb. bombs, also depth charges instead of the former bomb load.
Interestingly enough, it was the pilots of 224 Squadron Hudsons who exchanged the first shots of the war with the Luftwaffe on the war’s second day. Also, on 16th February, 1940, it was a Hudson MKIII of No. 220 Squadron that participated in locating and, by doing so, aiding H.M.S. Cossack, a famous war time British “Tribal” Class destroyer, to find and land in Norwegian waters, a boarding party aboard the 13,580 ton Kreigsmarine prison ship Altmark, by doing so killing four Germans and wounding five others, but freeing 299 British sailors who had been captured from British merchant ships sunk by the Graf Spee before being transferred to the Altmark.
News of this episode was flashed all around the world, and reported in worldwide newspapers. It was also a great boost to British moral.
Again, it was a Hudson of 269 Squadron on anti submarine patrol from Kaldarnes in Iceland on 27th August 1941, under the command of Squadron Leader J. H. Thomson, which damaged the surfaced submarine U570 and forced it to strike its colours and surrender. (The first U-Boat captured by Coastal Command R.A.F.)
The Hudson N7256 of 233 Squadron, airborne from St. Athan, had for some unaccountable reason strayed off course, or was flying too low for the prevailing weather conditions, and was now on a collision course with Mynydd William Meyrick which adjoins Mynydd Aber. Aboard the Hudson was the Captain, Flight Sergeant Francis Frederick Bousfield, aged 24, the son of Alice Bousfield from Chadderton in Oldham, also the navigator, Sergeant Frank Foster Hallam, aged 26, son of Walter and Caroline Elizabeth Hallam of Hillsborough. Last but not least, the air gunner and wireless operator Leading Aircraftman Arthur Wilfred Smith aged 20, son of Guy Wilfred and Hilda Smith of Hessle, Yorkshire.
Besides the crew, there were two technical civilian wireless mechanics, namely Robert Kyd Beattie, aged 24 of Altringham in Cheshire, and Peter Ingleby, aged 22 of Darwen, Lancashire.
The Hudson was flying at just below 1,200 ft. approx. on a magnetic course of 120 (approx.) when it passed and just cleared the crashed Hurricane, when those awaiting help, heard another horrific crash not all that far away. The time was 13.45 p.m. Only 11/2 hours had passed between the two accidents A search in the swirling mist was immediately organised. Len Stephens, Elias Davies “Cap” and others who had arrived at the site of the crashed Hurricane spread out fanwise and searched in the direction from which the noise of the crash had been heard.
The terrain was rough ground with small and large tussocks interspersed with peat bog in which one could flounder knee deep. The searchers kept in touch by shouting to each other.
In the mist, Elias Davies “Cap” came across the Hudson, which had hit the mountain at a very shallow angle leaving quite a long furrow in the ground before finally coming to rest. The back of the aircraft was broken but it had remained intact.
Elias kept calling for help and others who were searching round and about made their way through the mist and areas of peat bog towards the sound of his voice.
Elias, meanwhile, had opened the door at the front of the aircraft and, showing great courage, pulled the five men who were aboard through the door onto the grass. They had all been killed by the impact. Without going into specific details regarding their injuries, it is sufficient to say that the impact in the majority of cases had broken their spines besides inflicting multiple internal injuries.
20 year old Pilot Officer Alan Harry Maguire, whose body had by now been found and extracted from the cockpit of his Hurricane, was taken on a stretcher down the mountainside of Mynydd Aber, along the tram road to Brookland Terrace, thence to the Ambulance Hall situated at the northern end of Waun Wen, (unfortunately no longer in existence, although a small building replaces the old one on the same site)
The other five unfortunate victims in the Hudson Bomber were stretchered from the vicinity of the “Stinking Well”, an area just North of the source of Cwm Dimbath, westward past the Northerly point of Cwm y Fuwch, following a path which eventually led down the mountainside of Myndd Aber above John Street in Pricetown, along the back of John Street to Ff s Yr Hwch and then down to the square by Blaenogwr Farm, before joining the body of Pilot Officer Maguire in the Ambulance Hall.
The following day, on 8th January 1940, an inquiry was launched by officials of the R.A.F. in what was then the Post Office in Pricetown, Nantymoel. This building is situated on the site next to what is now the Doctors surgery in Ogwy Street, Nantymoel, but was some years ago converted into a private dwelling.
Len Stephens, Tommy Spratt, Elias Davies “Cap” and others were interviewed and their accounts of the previous day noted. Interestingly enough, the explanations given by both the main witnesses, namely Len and Tommy, according to the inquiry report published later, stated that they were on the mountain repairing and maintaining a mast. This was not so, as stated at the beginning of the saga; the two were fox hunting.
Other local people singled out by the inquiry for special praise in helping, were Emlyn Kinsey, Reg Sebburn, Ivor Thomas and Gwilym Dawe. Only Len Stephens, Roy Robinson and Reg Sebburn, now residing in Bettws, are known to be alive at this time.
By now, news of the two plane crashes had spread like wildfire throughout the Ogmore Valley and Clydach Vale on the western side of Mynydd William Meyrick. Even on the night of 7th/8th January, before the inquiry, people, young and old, made their way to the top of Mynydd Aber, and Mynydd William Meyrick.
Some went by the light of small torches, others by whatever light filtered through the clouds as the mist had lifted. One such person, namely Vera Smart, broke her leg in a fall and had to be carried by stretcher back down the mountain. Another, namely Mrs. A. Keefe, fell and broke both her wrists. Nothing like this had ever occurred before, in fact many of the population had never seen an aeroplane close by.
Perhaps the whole episode of sight seeing was rather macabre but all the respect that was due to the unfortunate victims of both crashes was given. Their bodies were taken away with the care and dignity they deserved. It was the aircraft, over the next few days that drew the crowds, and the search for souvenirs went on for weeks.
The Hudson bomber was well guarded by R.A.F officials. All sightseers were kept at a discreet distance away owing to the nature of the specialised and top-secret A.S.V. apparatus, which
the crew had been testing prior to the crash. This aircraft was taken apart and transported in sections from Mynydd William Meyrick to Clydach (a spur of the Rhondda Valley) and on to its base at St. Athan for further examination.
One of the residents of Clydach Vale, namely Elwyn Pritchard (deceased) and others were employed in this task using local welding equipment, they being welders by trade.
No mention was ever made at the time or since of the aircraft’s contents, until our research for the recording of this episode, regarding the accident that occurred sixty years ago in the Valley.
As for the Hurricane; except for the engine which was buried deep in the bog and earth, and the cockpit which was taken away, the rest of the plane’s fuselage, wings, Browning machine guns and
belts of ammunition all lay scattered over a fairly wide area. Pieces of wreckage were taken as souvenirs, including ammunition secreted away under the noses of the police and local men acting as guards. The machine guns were reclaimed by the R.A.F.
Some of the ammunition was used the following year by the L.D.V. (Local Defence Volunteers) the fore runners of the Home Guard. This was unofficial, of course, as testified by one of our older members, namely Harry Radcliffe, who joined in this escapade. The .303 rounds were the ammunition that fitted the .303 British Lee Enfield rifle. Eventually, it was issued and used by the Home Guard (not to be confused with the American Remmington .300 also issued) Interest in the two accidents gradually faded to some extent over the years, but was never totally forgotten. The engine of the Hurricane remained buried but not completely. A small part could still be seen in the crater created by the crash.
This prompted some young men and boys of the Valley in the early 1960’s to visit the site with thoughts of seeing if it was possible to excavate the engine from the crater in which it was buried. David Banford, Haydn Perkins, Peter Parkhouse (deceased) Gareth Harris and Brian Cannon (deceased) took part. Armed with shovels, picks, and a buller (a local name for a pulling device), which had been
borrowed from the local colliery workmen employed on a waste tip near by, they proceeded with the work in hand. The ‘buller’ was attached to the engine with ropes, then to a stump of a
telegraph pole in the ground some fifteen yards away. It was a toss up which would come out of the ground first, but after much toil, sweat, and hours of arduous work over the next few days, the young men extracted the engine out of the crater where it had lain for some twenty years.
It was pushed and pulled, and rolled down the mountain to the vicinity of “Jenks’” quarry, where it was dismantled. Parts, such as the twelve pistons, crankshaft, nose cone and propeller gearing unit being distributed to, or found by, individuals, and kept to this day as souvenirs.
The engine’s propeller gearing unit was traced by Steven Jones of Tai Canol, Cwm Afan, who kindly returned it to the Valley’s History Society, who hopefully will get it restored for it to be then used as a part of a proposed monument to all the aircrew killed that day.
To end this episode, last but not least, the names, rank and burial sites of these four airman and two civilians are listed herewith:-
Pilot Officer 42015 Maguire, Alan Harry aged 20.
Buried at Llantwit Major Cemetery – Section C – Grave 3.
Flight Sergeant 565845 Bousfield, Francis Frederick aged 24.
Buried at Hollinwood Cemetery, Oldham Lancs. – Section K5 – Grave 110.
Sergeant 564213 Hallam, Frank Foster aged 26.
Buried at Loxley United Reformed Chapelyard, York, Leeds – C Grave 76.
Leading Aircraftsman (Air Gunner) 550814 Smith, ArthurWilfred aged 20.
Buried at Hessle, Yorkshire – Grave Camp 53 – Plot 14 – Grave 1.
Civilian Wireless Mech. Beattie, Robert Kyd aged 24
5 Hale Rd., Altringham, Cheshire
Civilian Wireless Mech. Ingleby, Peter aged 22
36 Earnsdale Ave., Darwen Lancs.
Peter Ingleby was actually employed by the Air Ministry and at the time of the accident, researching A.S.V. equipment, and was flying as a scientific observer, not as stated by the R.A.F., a wireless technician. He
was a brilliant “academic” and had won a number of scholarships before taking his B.S.C. degree with first class honours in physics. Even after taking his degree, he was awarded a further research scholarship.
His brother Joe, and Joe’s wife Hilda, who are in their mid eighties are the only living relatives who we are able to trace from those killed in the air crash.
As a fitting tribute to those four airmen and two civilians who lost their lives on that fateful Sunday (7th January, 1940 – over 60 years ago) preparing for the Battle of Britain, and the longest single battle of the war, namely the Battle of the Atlantic, on behalf of the joint effort of those concerned in the Ogmore Valley History and Heritage Society, I will end this episode of history by quoting the well known lines from “For the Fallen” written by Laurence Binyon in September, 1914.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old;
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them”.
Can you help?
The Society are currently attempting to gather all the names of any Servicemen or women that were either born in the Ogmore Valley or who were living in the valley and were killed serving the crown, though we may expand the scope of the project to include all servicemen and women from the valley whether they were killed or not.
Using all the available sources, we have so far accumulated 220+ verified names of Servicemen that were either killed serving the crown or have been commemorated on a Valley War Memorial.
Naturally we would like to make this as complete a list as possible before we publish our findings which is expected to be for Journal 2004.
Project leader is Huw Daniel, whose contact details can be found on the inside Front Cover, and we would much prefer to have double the information on someone than to presume we already have the information from another source and so miss out on the details. An absolute bonus for us would be any photographic records of the service personnel.
Sources used so far:
Local War Memorials (Horeb Chapel, Nantymoel Memorial Shelter, Conservative Club, Llangeinor Parish Church and Blackmill War Memorial), Headstones in Pwll-y-pant and Blaenogwr Cemeteries, Commonwealth War Graves Web site, Soldiers Killed in WWI CD Rom, Soldiers killed in WWII CD Rom, The Cross of Sacrifice Vol IV, Regimental Records of R.W.F. and S.W.B., Clippings from Glamorgan Gazette and information from friends, comrades and relatives.