Team Leader meets with members of Chorley Ramblers to ensure continuity of Lead Mines Valley, Anglezarke, Bomber Memorial Remembrance Sunday Service

In the early hours of the cold winter 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 24years, from Ardrossan, Australia, 2nd pilot Sgt Eric Raymond Barnes, aged 22 from Nottingham, Navigator, Sgt Joseph Banks Hayton aged 34 from Whitehaven, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Sgt Robert Sidney Jackson, Wireless Operator / Air Gunner Sgt George Earnest Murray from South Sheilds and Rear Gunner Sgt Matthew Mouncey aged 19 from Leeds. (the team is grateful to Stuart Clewlow of Euxton Chorley for the additional research details on the aircrew, their ages and home towns.

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 year’s service to all the assembled crowd paying their respects. Eric’s contacts resulted in we believe the attendance one year of a representative of the Royal Australian Air Force, as the pilot Flight Sergeant Joseph Banks Timperon was a member of the Royal Australian Air Force. The other five crew members were all members of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. (again with thanks to Stuart Clewlow for this updated information.)

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 Eric’s 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! 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, Wigan 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.

In talks last year with Chorley Ramblers at the end of the service, it was realised that the organisation of this annual service, primarily and very capably by Chorley Ramblers is actually on an informal basis, with the risk (however slight) that with the organisation (such as it is) vested in only a few people, there is always the risk that information on organising the service could be lost.

In a similar manner though we in the Bolton MRT gladly provide all the service / hymn sheets, the Union Jack and National Flag of Australia, and a reader for the dedication, again it is on an informal basis.

It was therefore felt that a meeting between Chorley Ramblers and Bolton MRT to record each others contributions to this annual service, and to guarantee its continuity would be in order.

This morning our Team Leader Garry Rhodes MBE met with Chairman Brian Allman, Development Officer Barbara Williams and Syd Jones, all of Chorley Ramblers, at the Chorley home of Barbara to discuss this years service, Sunday 10th November 2013, and future services.

It was decided to collate all the information available on organising the service, including three poems read out sometimes together, sometimes just two out of the three, at the service; ‘Our Joe,’ ‘Poem by an Air Force Gunner,’ and ‘I Am Not There.’

For this years service the Bolton MRT has agreed to share reading out the poems with Chorley Ramblers, alongside our usual reading of the ‘Dedication.’

It was further decided to ask at this years service if perhaps the other organisations present would also like to take part in the readings from 2014 onwards, therefore helping to share the input in the service and contributing to its continuation.

The service commences at the Bomber Memorial in Lead Mines Valley, Anglezarke, with visitors and organisations present assembling at 10.40hrs, on Sunday 10th November.

All are very welcome to attend to pay their respects, from the young to the not so young, whether by foot or bicycle.