The second volume of an ‘epic investigation’ which aims to document all the aviation accidents in Northumberland has just been published.
Part two of Almost Forgotten – The Search for Aviation Accidents in Northumberland, by Chris R Davies, is now available from Alnwick-based Wanney Books.
Combining his love of local history and aviation, Chris discusses the location, history and stories of another 30 crash sites, dating from the 1930s through to the 1980s, as well as featuring a chapter in which he revisits some of those discussed in the first volume.
There is also a section on the unveiling of the memorial which commemorates 29 allied aircrew who were killed or injured in 13 crashes in the area surrounding RAF Acklington during the Second World War.
An immense amount of detail is included in the description of each incident with Chris having visited more than 200 crash sites, believing himself to be the first to identify the exact location of 130 to date. At each site, where there has been a loss of life, he places a poppy cross as a small reminder of what happened.
Nonetheless, he admits in his introduction that ‘all depictions of the events I have researched are as I have seen them.
‘There are many discrepancies between many of the official documents and reference books I have read. I have made my decisions based on what I believe to be the true account of each event, using weighted evidence’.
But as the title alludes to, without Chris’ research into these ‘almost forgotten’ incidents, an important part of the county’s history would be lost.
In his foreword, Air Vice-Marshal David Hurrell, writes: ‘The hallmarks of his earlier work are still very much to the fore; like all good detective story writers, he givers the reader a wealth of details.
‘And there are also the traditional red herrings, contradictions and dead ends, all of which he painstakingly sifts through to arrive at logical conclusions that inevitably give the reader the same sense of achievement and satisfaction as the author himself clearly enjoys.
‘In reading his work, one is invited to journey with him, experiencing the highs and the lows, the early starts, the muddy fields, the false trails, dashed hopes and frustrations of every kind.
‘It is this very individual blow-by-blow narrative style that brings home the sheer scale of his self-imposed mission, his search for the historical truth.
‘But this is more than a mere catalogue of where the crashes happened, searching for remains with his metal detector; Chris looks not only into the causes, but into the human side’.
Chris’ adventure began after purchasing a book which recorded aircraft crash sites in Northumberland and he noticed there were a few on the Cheviot massif.
He writes: ‘This gave me new areas to walk, some much further off the beaten track, but offering welcome new challenges. I set out to locate them. I started to look for the larger sites which were the easiest to find. However, I noticed that not all the sites had the correct location recorded, which meant I had to create a search pattern once I was in the estimated crash site area. This proved to be satisfyingly successful.
‘Having no technical knowledge of aircraft, it had never occurred to find out what had caused the crashes or whether the crews had survived, until I spoke with my colleague Dave Dunn. He questioned me about the crew of one of the sites I had located and I was a little embarrassed to be unable to provide any information. I said I would get back to him with what I could find out, which I did, and a whole new venture began.
‘I discovered that not only did I have a knack for locating sites, but also for discovering the social history surrounding the crashes.
‘I have interviewed so many interesting people with so much information stored away in their memories that I knew I needed to record what they told me. These stories were as fascinating as the official documents of each air crash’.
Almost Forgotten – The Search for Aviation Accidents in Northumberland, Volume Two, priced at £12.99 with free UK postage and packing, can be ordered online using PayPal from www.wildsofwanney.co.uk or by getting in touch by email to firstname.lastname@example.org or by post to 15 Fairfields, Alnwick, NE66 1BT.