Malhamdale Local History Group
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The Malhamdale ARP volunteers
Air crash on Black Hill:
One foggy day an aircraft crashed on Black Hill and the cries for help were heard at Capon Hall Farm. Mr Blades went to investigate taking a rifle and a bayonet, not knowing whether it was a British or an enemy aircraft. It turned out to be a British plane with a Polish pilot and a WAAF who fortunately were both unhurt. They were taken to the farm and given tea around the fire, while someone went to Low Trenhouse to phone the authorities. Later the plane was taken away.
Malhamdale at War
Air Raid Precautions
ARP wardens enforced the blackout, no light had to show at all. This was important as German bombers could be heard at night on their way to Liverpool. One farm had battery hens in a loft outside and lights were switched off at night – only just in time on one occasion. Some people felt that as their rooms overlooked fields no one would see the lights but a visit by the warden put them straight. Gummed paper was fitted across the windows in case they were blown in and a farmer from Hetton was fined for not extinguishing a bonfire before dark.
Car lights had to be covered with a device which only let the light through in slits, called a Hartley Mask. Horse drawn carts also had to have shaded lights for driving in the dark. To help people get about at night white lines were painted on Malham bridge and other bad corners. But petrol was rationed so there was little traffic. All milestones and village markers were removed and buried in case of enemy invasion.
William Nelson and Bernard Swinbank were ARP wardens in Malham and Bob Taylor in Airton. Mr. Taylor was the senior warden in the Dale and his daughter, Ethel, was an ARP messenger. Any messages concerning air raids were phoned through to the Taylor’s house and it was their job to notify all the other villages. Ethel had the job of contacting all the ARP members in Airton and they would meet in the Chapel schoolroom. This was not easy at night in the blackout. Quite early in the war she caused a stir by being the first girl in the area to wear an ARP uniform. Sparth House, then the Airedale Hotel, was used as the phone centre for ARP duty.
The ARP Headquarters were on Station Road in Settle and items such as gas masks had to be collected there and distributed in the Dale. Babies had a gas mask incorporated in a small cot arrangement. There was a meagre petrol allowance for these extra journeys.
Mr. Taylor kept a sealed envelope which only had to be opened in the event of an invasion and his daughter thinks he would probably have had the responsibility of organising food distribution if that had occurred. But these things were never discussed.
Mr. Sharp was also an ARP warden along with Norman Bolland and Mr. Proctor was the head warden. In the event of the phone message of an alert coming to the Sharp’s house a message was sent round and the wardens would meet in Kirkby Malham village hall in case they were needed to put out fires or do other duties.
Airton had a fire service of sorts. It consisted of a pump on a trailer and it was kept at the blacksmiths in the village. Arthur Parker had a petrol allowance in case the pump was needed and to take it to the river to test it regularly.
A siren could be heard in Airton but it was not local – probably Gargrave or Skipton. It was also possible to hear the one at Rolls Royce, particularly when they tried it out at the weekend.
Life was not without its exciting moments. Edith Carr remembers returning to her house one day on a path which ran along the hillside when she became aware of a black shape. This turned out to be a small German plane circling the valley and so close she could see the face of the pilot. It went off back down the Aire valley and was said to have dropped a wreath at Morton, outside Keighley. The plane was eventually intercepted and the pilot taken as a prisoner of war.
German bombers could be heard during the night going over the dale usually between 11pm and midnight and appeared to use the tarn as a marker on their way to Liverpool. The Messerschmitts were followed by Spitfires attempting to intercept them. One night a German bomber was successfully intercepted and jettisoned its load of twelve bombs in a straight line on Black Hill on Malham Moor. The military came later to detonate them. This was no doubt a terrifying experience, not least for the Home Guard stationed on Kirkby Fell. It was also an alarming situation for the Carr family of Malham Moor as their only air raid shelter was the dining room table! Mr. Carr alerted neighbours and travellers and advised them to be on the lookout for Germans who could have parachuted in.
One night a bomb was dropped at Coniston Cold and the roads were packed with people coming to see the crater it left. But this was only very small and presumably the bomb had been jettisoned or an attempt had been made on the railway line.
From a high point in the Dale it was possible to see the barrage balloons of Liverpool and, when the bombing raids were successful, the sky glowed red with the fires from the city. Edith Carr remembered how they used to feel so sorry for the people made homeless by these raids. The sight made everyone feel afraid that the war was getting closer and invasion imminent. People became more prone to panic and were on the look out for strangers.
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