RAF YATESBURY ASSOCIATION

The Lansdown Monument

By The Marquis of Lansdowne

The Lansdowne Monument was built by my ancestor, the 3rd Marquis of Lansdowne in 1845. In the 19th century it was reasonably commonplace for landowners to build cairns, monuments and follies; sometimes simply for aesthetic reasons and others to commemorate individuals or historical events. For years nobody knew why Lord Lansdowne had built it, or if they did at the time, it was forgotten. There were a number of theories - one that it marked the western edge of the Estate, another the birth of Edward VII, but it was only confirmed in 1928 that the real purpose for building the monument was to commemorate a family ancestor, Sir William Petty. This was established beyond doubt when my great uncle came across a memorandum in our archives written by the 3rd Marquis, wife. Sir William was born in 1623 in Romsey, Hampshire. His father was a clothier. He went to the local village school, and by the age of 15 was fluent in both Latin and Greek. Equipped with one shilling in his pocket, he went to sea on a merchant vessel where he had the misfortune to break his leg, and was thrown ashore off the coast of France, near Caen in Normandy. His Latin stood him in good stead as he was taken in by the Jesuit Fathers of Caen who provided him with a free education in their college. After leaving Caen he spent the next three or four years travelling in Europe, hawking sham jewellery, hair hats and playing cards. He served for a short period during this time in the Kingís Navy when, at the age of twenty, he had saved about three score pounds! Then came the Civil War. He decided to remain on the continent studying medicine at Utrecht, Leyden and Amsterdam. In 1645 we learnt that he was in Paris with Thomas Hobbs of Malmesbury. A year later, in 1646 he returned to England and found his way to Oxford, where he practised medicine, and was appointed a Doctor of Physics and a member of the Royal College of Physicians. Soon after he became a fellow and Vice Principal of Brasenose College, all within the space of about three years.

From these humble beginnings, Sir William Petty rose to prominence as a supporter of Cromwell, as Surgeon General for the Army, and was responsible for producing the first complete map of Ireland in 1653. It was, in fact, more than just a map. It was a cartogram parish by parish which Cromwell used to expropriate land from the Irish and give to his officers who supported him throughout the civil war. He later acquiesced in the restoration of the monarchy, and was knighted. He was a founding member of the Royal Society in 1662, published numerous socio-economic treaties, and died in 1687 an extremely wealthy man. His daughter, Ann, married one of my ancestors - hence the connection. The monument was designed by Sir Charles Barry for a fee of 䀈. The cost of building it was ٟ,395 which was a huge amount of money in those days. It sits on the highest point in the immediate locality at around eight hundred feet, and was therefore obviously not only a landmark, but also a potential hazard in overcast weather for pilots using the Yatesbury airfield. I had the good fortune of holding a private pilotís licence from 1959 to 1974, and kept a light aircraft both at our home near Bremhill and subsequently at Bowood. The monument, in VFR conditions, was our landmark. In low cloud it was a major hazard. Thankfully, we were always able to descend through cloud on Lynehamís radar, but I suspect that earlier pilots who didnít have the benefit of such sophisticated equipment would have always been anxious on returning to base in poor weather conditions knowing that this eighty foot monument was towering above them. I would be interested to know whether there were any actual collisions - I am sure there must have been many near misses. The monument fell into disrepair after the war. Fortunately, the National Trust purchased the land it stood on some ten years or more ago, and with the help of a grant, restored it at a cost of ��,000. Sir William would be pleased to know that this landmark was built in his honour, and his successors to this very day, are reminded of him every time they look eastwards from Bowood.

 

THE LANSDOWNE MONUMENT     
further info by
Alf Daltrey (non member)

I found the article about the Lansdowne Monument by the Marquis of Lansdowne very interesting because I was a Staff Pilot at No. 2 RFS Yatesbury in 1944.  He was correct about there having been some near misses during WW2. There were several, but, they were not accidental. In actual fact, the obelisk posed no threat to our safety because we did not fly in dangerously bad weather. Every morning before breakfast the CFI (Chief Flying Instructor) took a look at the weather and made a decision. It had to be really bad for a 'clamp' announcement which resulted in us retiring to the Mess to play poker, bridge or whatever.

About half of the sixty or so pilots at Yatesbury were elderly veterans who had completed one or two operational tours in Fighter or Bomber Command. Some of them were at least twenty five. The other half were youngsters like me, raring to go and much aggrieved to have been sidetracked into a six month stint as a Staff Pilot before going on to an OTU (Operational Training Unit). I was barely twenty years old and mad keen to get involved on the war raging full blast in Europe and the Far East. Instead there was I stooging sedately over the Downs in an equipment laden Proctor while my WOP/AG aircrew cadets carried out their air to ground wireless training. It went on day athey flew tens of thousands of prang free hours in WW2. Not so the Yatesbury Tiger Moths. They were there to enable the pilots to carry out their mandatory monthly instrument flying practice. Two pilots per session taking turns to spend half an hour flying blind under the hood while the other acted as a safety pilot. Observers in the more remote areas of the Downs would have often witnessed a Tiger Moth pilot demonstrating some remarkably skilful 'blind flying'. Impressive low level aerobatics were common and the 'last minute' hedge hopping was often spectacular. Unfortunately Tiger Moths were not very good at flying through large trees, as occurred twice during my time at Yatesbury.

At long last I was posted to an advanced flying training unit from where, eventually, I was posted to a Mosquito OTU - on the day the war ended!

Half a life time later, my attitude to my war record as a non combatant Staff Pilot at Yatesbury changed to one of gratitude. If my youthful wish for a speedy posting to 'the action' had been granted, I might not be writing these words, nearly sixty years on, about how young WW" pilots mock attacked the Landsdowne Monument - for a lark.

I'm glad we never hit it!  
fter day, weather permitting, weak after weak, month after month. I looked for opportunities to relieve the monotony, as did some of the other younger pilots. One such opportunity cropped up when our landing flight path was over the Monument. I deliberately flew as close to it's top as I dared. The nearest I achieved was about ten feet which was not very good according to some of the other pilots, particularly the Aussies. (They were a bold lot, but that's another story).

 

I would stress that Proctors were very reliable aircraft. To the best of my knowledge,  they flew tens of thousands of prang free hours in WW2. Not so the Yatesbury Tiger Moths. They were there to enable the pilots to carry out their mandatory monthly instrument flying practice. Two pilots per session taking turns to spend half an hour flying blind under the hood while the other acted as a safety pilot. Observers in the more remote areas of the Downs would have often witnessed a Tiger Moth pilot demonstrating some remarkably skilful 'blind flying'. Impressive low level aerobatics were common and the 'last minute' hedge hopping was often spectacular. Unfortunately Tiger Moths were not very good at flying through large trees, as occurred twice during my time at Yatesbury.

At long last I was posted to an advanced flying training unit from where, eventually, I was posted to a Mosquito OTU - on the day the war ended!

Half a life time later, my attitude to my war record as a non combatant Staff Pilot at Yatesbury changed to one of gratitude. If my youthful wish for a speedy posting to 'the action' had been granted, I might not be writing these words, nearly sixty years on, about how young WW" pilots mock attacked the Landsdowne Monument - for a lark.

I'm glad we never hit it!  
 

 

 

Keith Hopwood

In March 2009 I met Keith in the bar of the Lansdown Hotel Calne to talk about Yatesbury.  After he had completed his National Service he had various jobs in electronics and has spent most of his working life abroad returning to this country about eight years ago. He has now had four books published.

The first book is entitled Alister's World Tales about Africa

Yatesbury Pilots

Some while ago I managed to contact one of the pilot who flew the training aircraft at Yatesbury his name is Reg Paterson and I will be putting his memorie of his time at there onto the site. I received the following e-mail from John Woodhead-

To RAF YATESBURY ASSOCIATION - Station History 1

I am archiving my fathers RAF papers and have the attached Dominie photograph with a bit of background. You may already have it, but knowing who the pilot is gives a little more detail.

The attached pdf has more information and more but poor quality photos of what I think is Yatesbury. If you would like a High resolution copy of the Dominie, I will put it on disk and send it to you.

He is no longer with us so I can not clarify anything in detail.

Thanks, John
--
John Woodhead

This was forwarded to Reg who replied-

Hello John: My name is Reg Paterson and from Oct 43 to May 45 I was a pilot flying at Yatesbury. I was in the RCAF but attached to the RAF. I remember your father very well. We didn't chum around together but in a small mess where you were all doing the same job your paths naturally crossed a lot. I spent all my time there flying the Procters. These were single engine airsraft that the students came on to after they had a few flights in the Twins which were used as a flying classroom. I was at Yatesbury after a spell in Hospital with a medical catagory for light aircraft only. In May of 43 I got my medicl back and left and went into the training program for heavy bombers. I ended up on 101 Squadron at Ludford Magna but of course it was some time after your father was there. I was shot down on the 23 of march 45 on my last trip while leading a raid on Breman.

As you say the pictures in you letter are hard to really make out. The picture of the two fellows in the window of the Flying Control shack I recognised because I have that same picture. The one on the left was the flying control type name of Whiteside. Prior to the war he had been a billiard champion of some repute. So it wasn't wise to play against him. I think the one that is trying to look like a flying statue with his arms out is Roger Blitz a Free French pilot. The one with the fellow standing in front of the Shack is Philip Wilmet. Philip and Roger and I were good friends there. Philip had been in his last year at University for a Lawyer when the wa broke out. He joined the Army and was rescued from Dunkirk as a 2nd Lieutenant. He later trained as a pilot on army co-op aircraft. He did a tour on Mustangs. Somewhere along that road he ended up in the RAF. There are a couple of other people in the pictures I recognise but can not come up with a name. Just getting too old I guess.

I realize that nothing I have said here is of much use to your project but I just felt I should say hello. I did send some pictures to Bill, he may still have them around smewhere. So best wishes to you... Reg.

From F/LT P. Woodhead's Flying records-

One of the pilot's is F/LT P. Woodhead.

Aircraft Flown-Tiger Moth, Oxford, Anson, Hampden, Lancaster (I), Lancaster (III), Proctor (I) (II) (III) (IV), Dominie, Master (II), Swordfish (II), Barracuda.

Total hours flown 1,962hrs 20mins

P Woodhead RAF Service Record

Background

This photograph was taken after his tour of operations flying Hampdens with 144 Sqdn and before his secondment to 737 sqdn RNAS. He has his DFM, but I can not confirm the location nor the other RAF personnel. A crash in Hampden AE395 on 31 Jan 42 may have triggered the back problem (Ankylosing spondilitus) diagnosed at Cambridge in 43. The inability to fly long hours in Lancasters meant he was quickly moved away from operational flying to a new posting at Yatesbury. Although debilitating this condition most probably saved his life, many of his contemporarys who camethrough their first tour, did not survive the heavy bombing raids of 44 and 45.

P. Woodhead is third from the left. The photo can be dated as in 1942 or later as he is wearing the DFM ribbon awarded in that year. The location is unknown although it is likely to be a training station as they are all pilots. Can anyone supply the other names or the location?

 

Aigraphs

                                                                          

During the war, the GPO introduced the Airgraph Service for messages between servicemen and civilians. The message was written onto a special form that was then given an identification number and photographed onto microfilm.

The microfilm was flown to its destination, developed into a full size print, and posted to the recipient. Sending 1600 airgraphs on microfilm weighed just 5oz compared to 50lbs for the same number of letters. Copies of the microfilm were kept so that if they were shot down the messages could be resent.

The first airgraph was sent from the Queen to the Commander-in-Chief in the Middle East. The Queen is shown on this page examining an airgraph microfilm.

The airgraph service from Britain to the Middle East began in 1941 and gradually extended to other war zones. The service ended on 31 July 1945. During these four years 135,224,250 airgraphs were sent.

                                                                            

                                                   

Actual size is about 4.25 X 5 inches (107 X125 mm)

Published with permission from- © The British Postal Museum & Archive (BPMA) - Freeling House Phoenix Place - LONDON WC1X 0DL - Tel 020 7239 2570 - The BPMA is the public identity of The Postal Heritage Trust - Charity No. 1102360 - Company No. 4896056