Alnwick and District Local History Society

The Alnwick and District Local History Society welcomed Chris Davies to its November meeting in an unusual talk about his research into aviation accidents in Northumberland.

There have been a large number of accidents over the years, particularly in the Cheviot Hills.

Chris has written four volumes detailing his research, called Almost Forgotten, though only the first volume has been published so far.

His starting point was the Aviation Diary of Northumberland detailing where these accidents have occurred, but in many instances the site of the accident is not known and in others they have proved to be incorrect.

Chris set himself the task of finding the true locations of these many crashes.

Chris Davies is a great walker, particularly enjoying the Cheviot Hills, where the majority of crashes have taken place.

He takes with him his poodles, which are trained to sniff out wreckage, and a metal detector, which detects the alloy particularly used in aircraft manufacture.

Since the evidence remaining at or near the surface is often small, a find of this alloy is important to distinguish a plane from other metal finds.

The pieces are often covered in a blue or orange dust, caused by the oxidation of the metal alloy.

Sometimes, the terrain itself is a problem. Searching the area near Chew Green was difficult as he could not use his metal detector in the red danger zone.

There were also problems at Corby Crags, where there are a number of old bell pits. These are dangerous, but more dangerous were the old mortar shells. It transpired that this area is an old firing range.

Chris relies a lot on the recollections of local people, who had witnessed the crashes. One person has witnessed or was involved in the aftermath of six crashes, the first being when he was just 15 years old.

Talking about the crashes to Chris Davies has helped him with the trauma which he has suffered.

Once he has found a previously unknown crash, Chris would try to find relatives, and make contact with them. He has tried to place memorials to mark the sites of the crashes, which he makes himself. It can, however, be difficult carrying all the material needed for these.

On a few occasions, a service has been arranged involving relatives who have come from various parts of the world.

The next meeting of the Society will be held on Tuesday, January 28, 2014, when Marjorie Brown will be talking about the early years of Alnwick Cemetery.