Remembrance Sunday Service at the Bomber Memorial, Lead Mines Valley, Anglezarke

In the early hours of the cold winters morning of Tuesday 16th November 1943, a Wellington Mk 1c twin engined bomber of 28 OTU (Operational Training Unit) Royal Air Force, crashed with the sad loss of all aircrew onto Anglezarke Moor north of Bolton, in the area now designated the West Pennine Moors. The Wellington, serial Z8799, had originally taken off at around 22.50hrs on the late evening of Monday 15th November 1943, from its base at RAF Wymeswold, Leicestershire, with its full compliment of six crew members for a routine night training / navigation exercise. (Code named a Bullseye Exercise).

For reasons unknown the aircraft went into a steep uncontrollable dive, resulting according to the Court of Inquiry in structural failure of the airframe and its subsequent terrible impact onto remote moorland. None of the six aircrew survived the impact, they were the 1st pilot, Flight Sergeant Joseph Banks Timperon, aged 24yrs, from Australia, 2nd pilot Sgt E.R. Barnes, Navigator, Sgt J.B. Hayton, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Sgt R.S. Jackson, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Sgt G.E. Murray and Rear Gunner Sgt M. Mouncey.

In June 1955, members of The Rotary Club of Horwich (a nearby town nestling in the foothills of the moors) had a Memorial erected a short distance away from the actual crash site, on a hillside overlooking the beautiful moorland stream and valley known as Lead Mines Valley.

The Memorial itself consists of a former gritstone gatepost, surrounded by stone steps forming a base plinth. Confusingly the Memorials plaque bearing all the names of the aircrew killed, lists the date of the crash as November 12th 1943 rather than the actual date which was November 16th 1943. For a number of years afterwards, and to date we understand the local Air Cadets have held a wreath laying service the 2nd Sunday after each Remembrance Sunday.

In 1993, a local man, Eric Unsworth, a member of the nearby Chorley Ramblers Group, and also of the Long Distance Walkers Association, had the notion to hold a small service at the Bomber Memorial to honour the six airmen on Remembrance Sunday 1993. The following year a few more people joined in the Remembrance Sunday ’informal’ Service at the Memorial, and as each year passed its popularity amongst a small band of local hill users increased.

Eric Unsworth ended up researching the tragic crash and contacting surviving relatives of the pilot Joe Timperon in Australia. Through his researches he obtained a copy of a letter written by the mother of Flt Sgt Joe Timperon after she had learnt of his death, and it is this letter that is read out now at each years service to all the assembled crowd paying their respects. Erics contacts resulted in we believe the attendance one year of a representative of the Royal Australian Air Force, as all the aircrew were we believe Australians serving in the Royal Air Force.

At the Bomber Memorial Service, the National Anthem is played and it was thought fitting that the Australian National Anthem should also be played, but Erics problem was where to obtain a recording. Here the Royal Australian Air Force stepped in, recorded their National Anthem and posted a copy to Eric! and to this day both the National Anthem and the Australian National Anthem are played at the Remembrance Sunday Bomber Memorial Service.

In 2000, we in Bolton Mountain Rescue Team started attending the Remembrance Sunday Service, and have done so ever since, joining other regular attendees from Chorley Ramblers, Bolton Holiday Fellowship Walking Group, Bolton Cyclists, the Long Distance Walking Association and other walking groups and individuals.

In 2006 Eric Unsworth who with help from his colleagues in Chorley Ramblers had almost single handedly organised and presided over each Remembrance Sundays Service decided to hand over the running of the service due to his health and increasing age, to other members of Chorley Ramblers.

This year saw over 160 people attend the hilltop Remembrance Sunday Service at the Bomber Memorial, including 17 Full Team Callout Bolton MRT members and one member, Gillian Gregory, from our Support Group. As ever events followed those at the London Cenotaph Service, linking those on the moors with proceedings via a radio, broadcasting the start of the two minutes silence.

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes reports how special it is when the two minutes silence falls upon the crowds gathered at the Memorial, with this year the cold wind and ever present threat of rain doing little to deter the attendance of what we believe to be the largest service here to date.

This year as with previous years saw Syd Jones and Pat of Chorley Ramblers presiding over the Service, with the Lords Prayer, readings and the two hymns “Abide with Me” and “The Lord Is My Shepherd” ringing out over the moorland slopes.

Despite recent ill health Eric Unsworth bravely attended this years service, much to the joy of those who missed his attendance last year due to health problems. Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes, was again very honoured to be asked by Chorley Ramblers to read out the Dedication, “They Shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old. Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. at the going down of the sun and in the morning, we will remember them.”

For the fourth year in succession we laid a wreath at the Memorial with the Remembrance Card reading “We will Remember Them. Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.” (Our Chairman Ken Oakes had the honour of laying our wreath this year). A wreath was also laid by Chorley Ramblers, Arthur Helsby and two very special guests at this years service (see below) with many others leaving their poppies and crosses on the Memorial.

Amongst the very large number of people present at this years service, very young to the more senior, were a very large group from the Bolton Holiday Fellowship Walking Group, Chorley Ramblers, Fylde Ramblers, West Lancashire Long Distance Walkers Association, a large contingent from 25th Bolton Scout Group, a representative of United Utilities Rangers Service and members of Bolton Clarion Cycling Club, including valued friend and team supporter Doctor David Bisset. (We rescued his son in a climbing accident in August 2005) We also met up with Arthur Helsby again (and his wife). Arthur is an ex Royal Air Force Mountain Rescue Service member who saw service with the Royal Air Force Leuchars Mountain Rescue Team between 1955 and 1957.

Also present again this year was the cousin of the pilot Flt Sgt Joe Timperon, also called Joe Timperon, who had journeyed down from his home just outside Carlisle especially for the service. Joe recalled he only saw his cousin Flt Sgt Joe Timperon the once before he died in the crash, whilst he was on leave in the Lake District visiting family members. Joe once again took pictures of this years service, and the Memorial adorned with the wreaths, poppies and crosses, he then sends them onto the sister of the pilot Flt Sgt Joe Timperon who still lives in Australia.

This year two very special and honoured guests joined the service, as with Joe (above) having close family connections to Flight Sergeant Joe Timperon. Husband and wife Nigel Stein and Heloise Forbes from Melbourne, Australia taking advantage of Heloises’ current work which has seen her based in Birmingham, visited todays service.

Heloise Forbes is the great niece of Flight Sergeant Joe Timperon, her great uncle and along with her husband Nigel found the service very touching and moving, they in turn laid a wreath.

This year was even more special as following the singing of the national anthem by the assembled crowds, Heloise and Nigel both sang out proudly the words to accompany the Australian National Anthem.

We believe this Remembrance Sunday hilltop service is very unique, as nobody can recall a hilltop Memorial to a crashed aircraft and its crew where such a service takes place on the actual day of Remembrance Sunday every year and has done so with continuity since 1993.

That every year more and more people, amongst them hillwalkers, ramblers, fell runners, road cyclists and mountain bikers attend this service to honour the memory of the six crew of Wellington Z8799 and those fallen or wounded in the service of this country in conflicts and wars since 1914 is worth highlighting. “We will remember them.”

The Bolton Mountain Rescue Team wishes to express its thanks to Chorley Ramblers for continuing to organise and officiate at this very special service, and keeping the memory of the crew of Z8799 alive.

Next years service will take place on Remembrance Sunday 8th November 2009, commencing at 10.45hrs at the Bomber Memorial in Lead Mines Valley, Anglezarke, West Pennine Moors. (Hymn sheets are provided by the Bolton MRT for all who attend, which also includes an account of the crash)

(As a footnote, a great many military aircrew have come to grief or injury upon what is now termed the West Pennine Moors, some paying the ultimate sacrifice. Small pieces of wreckage still remain at many of the moorland crash sites reminding all of the price of freedom. Military aircraft that have crashed upon the local moorlands, include in 1928 an RAF Atlas Biplane on the lower slopes of Winter Hill, a Fairchild Argus of the USAAF in 1942 on Winter Hill Summit, Wellington Z8799 in 1943, an RAF Airspeed Oxford on Winter Hill in 1943, a Boeing B17 bomber in 1944 on Crowthorne moor with four fatalities, two Hurricane fighters of the RAF in 1945 near Scout Road, (both pilots killed) a Mustang III of 316sgn RAF on Darwen Moor in 1945, (Polish pilot killed), in 1953 two Gloster Meteor jet fighters of 610sgn RAuxAF crashed on Crowthorne moor killing both pilots, and the last crash involving a military aircraft on our moors in 1965 when a Chipmunk T10 trainer of the Manchester University Air Squadron (RAF) crashed on Smithills Moor, fortunately the two crew survived despite the trainer aircraft ending up upside down. There have also been a large number of civilian aircraft crashes on the moors, the worst being a Bristol 172 Wayfarer that crashed onto Winter Hill in February 1958 resulting in the death of 35 passengers, the latest being the crash of a Robinson R44 helicopter in February 2000, with three persons on board killed when it crashed onto Brinscall Moor, the Bolton MRT playing a major role in the search and rescue operation.)