March 3, 2009

Bill Charlton; Bellingham memories: Crashed planes

Northumberland, history, WWII, crashed planes

By Bill Charlton

Crashed Mustang on Hareshaw

During the war years we kids used to go out to view the crashed planes and collect souvenirs if we could. We'd push bike out to Hareshaw Head late in the afternoon then walk over the moors to get a glimpse of a plane which was about a mile from the road and over some quite boggy ground.

We came across the aircraft only the tail was visible above ground as it had gone into a very boggy part of the moor and we were told it was a Mustang. Returning to our bikes after a bit of a hike over the moors, it was good ride home again as it was all down hill to the Village.

Crashed Wellington on Dunterley fell
The next aircraft we visited was a Wellington bomber which had come down over on the Mesling. So off we went on our bikes over Dunterley fell to the quarry, where we left our bikes and started hiking westward and after 2 or 3 miles we came across the wrecked plane down by the stream. You could see where the plane had first hit the ground, and then bounced over the stone wall which had never been touched before diving into the side of the stream.

We saw plenty of 303 ammunition in belts scattered about, also a small bomb which we later learned was a marker bomb used to mark the position of enemy submarines, and gave off a stream of orange smoke if one was sighted on the surface while they were on their way home.

A timer was set to release the smoke plume at the required time of arrival of our torpedo Bombers to do their job. Souvenirs were collected bits of perspex etc, then off we’d head for home until the next afternoon and off we went again, This went on for a few afternoons and was fun - except for the poor pilots who ended their young lives on these boggy Northumberland moors.

The Home Guard firing range
Every Sunday we kids used to visit the target range as it was called, while the Home Guard were doing target practice. They used to run a shooting competition with the .22 rifle over 25 yards with the prize being 'winner take all'. It cost a tanner (6 pence) to enter and brother Cliff and I used to hope they would ask us to enter. One day they did, and we were over joyed and happily paid our tanner entry fee.

The end of the competition saw Sergent Major Jackie Johnston and me left in the final. After shooting it out 3 times, I won it on a ½” group and collected my prize.

Invited to join the Home Guard
Later they asked if we would like to join the home Guard as we could once we became 16 years old. I was to become a radio operator and had to learn the Morse Code etc in the upstairs rooms of the Railway Hotel on Tuesday nights where Harry Glass (the publican) was our Captain.

We were issued uniforms and a .303 rifle plus a clip of 5 rounds of ammunition. Every Sunday was our Parade Day and we were very proud of ourselves now we could shoot the bigger rifles on the range. We were well prepared to defend Bellingham and the North Tyne from any advancing German hordes.

Further reading
Air Crash Northumberland (2009).
By Russell Gray, Jim Corbett, Jonathan Shipley, Neil Anderson
Countryside books. Email (

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