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 regulars which have included in the past attendees from such organisations as Chorley Ramblers, Bolton Ramblers, Bolton Holiday Fellowship Walking Group, Bolton Clarion Cycling Club, 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 140 people attend the hilltop Remembrance Sunday Service at the Bomber Memorial, including eighteen Full Team Callout list Bolton MRT members, Support Group members Teresa Gilliland and Iain Clarkson, and seven of our new Probationary Team members. 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.

This year saw for only the second time since we started this last year, the displaying of the Australian national flag at the service, with thanks to former Bolton MRT team member Peter Heeley who especially purchased it for use at last years service alongside the Union Jack. (Both adorned the actual base of the Memorial)

Our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE, reports how special it is when the two minutes silence falls upon the crowds gathered at the Memorial, with this year the very damp and muddy conditions underfoot and the earlier very heavy overnight rain and very low temperatures doing little to deter the attendance of quite a large gathering at the Memorial.

This year as with previous years saw members 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, with Chorley Ramblers member Brian Allman leading the service.

Pat Hough of Chorley Ramblers read out the letter written in 1944 by the mother of Flt.Sgt.Joe Timperon to all assembled, simply entitled “Our Joe.” This was followed by a very poignant poem penned by Jack Pilkington of Chorley Ramblers, entitled “Remembrance,” which Jack first read out at the 2007 Service, and repeated every year since : (with thanks to Jack Pilkington for allowing us to publish it here on our website)

The year was nineteen forty three
The month it was November
When six brave airmen lost their lives
So let us all remember

A training flight from Leicestershire
The night was clear and fine
The bomber was a Wellington
Number Z Eight Seven Nine Nine

The pilot was Joe Timperon
His age, just twenty four
He came from South Australia
To help us fight the war

The temperature was freezing
Upon that fateful night
And ice had formed on the aircraft’s wings
Just three hours into flight

The plane began to lose its height
And plummet through the dark
And though the pilot fought control
It crashed on Anglezarke

The crash was heard a mile away
Though rescue teams attended
They found that on that awful night
Six young men’s lives had ended

Now on the edge of Anglezarke
A memorial’s been erected
And those of us who pass it by
Can’t fail but be affected

It stands in such a quiet place
With moorland views around
Let’s hope the lads who lost their lives
Eternal peace have found

(please respect the copyright of Jack Pilkington with respect to this poem)

Despite his advancing years and continuing poor health, Eric Unsworth again valiantly managed to attend this years service, and spoke after the service giving thanks to everyone who had attended. Brian Allman of Chorley Ramblers 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 sixth year in succession we laid a wreath (in the form of a cross) at the Memorial with the Remembrance Card reading “In memory of all the military aircrew who have come to grief on the moorlands and mountains of Great Britain, including the crew of Wellington Mk1 Z8799 of 28 OTU, RAF. We will Remember Them. Bolton Mountain Rescue Team.” (Team member Diane Blakeley had the honour of laying our wreath this year). A wreath was also laid by Chorley Ramblers, 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 walkers from Chorley Ramblers, the Crown Walking Club, Bolton, 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) and Bolton Holiday Fellowship Walking Group.

Sadly missing this year was the usual attendance by the cousin of the pilot Flt Sgt Joe Timperon, also called Joe Timperon, who usually journeys down from his home just outside Carlisle especially for the service. Joe has previously 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. When present Joe takes pictures of the 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.

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 a great many people, amongst them hillwalkers, ramblers, fell runners, road cyclists and mountain bikers, continue to 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 13th November 2011, 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.)