By: Blonde Two
Today’s blog title refers to 617 Squadron and the 70th anniversary this week of “Operation Chastise” or as we know them, the Dambusters raids. The music that we associate with the Dambusters film was written without lyrics and was not originally intended for the film – it later became the tune for the hymn “God is our strength and refuge” but before that lyrics that began “Proudly, with high endeavour,” were added to the tune.
Sadly, many of the men who went out on the Dambusters raids did not return. Some of the Lancaster Bombers did not even make it to the dams. Many of our mountainous areas in the UK are the sites of WWII crashes. Some are recognised on maps, some are commemorated and some go quietly unnoticed.
Sadly, Dartmoor has its fair share of war time crash sites and memorials. There were airfields on all sides and not everyone made it safely back to base. If you walk along Hameldown ridge, you will see evidence of wartime defences – there are the remains of rotted posts which were erected to prevent enemy aircraft from using the area to land. Hameldown was itself the scene of one of the crashes. A Hampden from 49 Squadron Group Bomber Command came down on March 21st 1941.
There are stories of people hearing and seeing aircraft in the spot that the crash occurred. I have been up there many times and never heard those but there is something strange going on up there. The area would appear to be very easy to navigate, open hillside, clear ridge etc but unless you keep a close eye on your compass, you will find yourself walking in the wrong direction and heading down the wrong side of the ridge.
At this crash site, a rough memorial to the four airmen who lost their lives has been inscribed on a granite boulder. The engravings show a cross and the following letters;
A plaque was added by the Aircrew Association on the 50th anniversary of the crash which explains the incident and commemorates all airmen who perished on Dartmoor. There was another crash on Hameldown in December 1943 at Two Barrows only a mile away.
All of Dartmoor’s war time crashes were tragic but in some ways the final resting place of these poor fellows seems fitting. Dartmoor has been a place of memorial since the Bronze Age, some memorials are large and, for their time, ostentatious, others are small and quiet. All of them are special and are part of what makes Dartmoor’s landscape so beautifully unique.