Highclere Plane Search Team
10.30 am and the Highclere plane search team had congregated by the Castle tearooms for our next expedition. This time we were joined by an eye witness: Colin had lived at Highclere as a young boy throughout the Second World War and actually seen some of the planes go down into the hills and woods over the Estate.
His father, Jack, was something of a legend and had held on to the ropes of Geoffrey de Havilland’s plane as it was preparing to take off for the first time here at Highclere in 1910. I was watching Colin as we drove round, for through his eyes, he was going back down the vista of seventy years to 1942, to hard times and fun times, adventures in the woods but also running home scared along the tracks, as a 12 year boy, having found things he still cannot forget.
We firstly went to stand above where a Magister had crash landed. It was a popular training plane and Colin had heard the engine stutter and fail. He ran down towards it but luckily the Highclere keeper at the time, George Baker, was already there and told him not to go near. Sadly the pilot had died when the plane tipped nose first into a dip in the field, having nearly put the plane down successfully.
We returned to the car and I drove us on up into the top woods. The next plane that Colin remembered was more elusive. Tree lines change over 70 years and we were looking for beech trees along the edge of a field, and then burnt trees or unexpected clearings. The metal detector began to beep madly and gave us great hope. Digging down, holding our breath, we found metal. It was, however, a pipe for a water trough. The only other thing we found was an old piece of ammunition which I promptly dropped and we never found it again.
We were downcast but then Sid came racing up in his car to show us where bits of a wing allegedly were in another wood. We set off again, driving through inhospitable tracks. Unfortunately when we got there, we realised we has lost the spade. I returned to look for it and thirty minutes later I thought we were going to have to use the metal detector to find the spade until Sid announced he had found it …..in his car. More hilarity but sadly no wings.
We returned to the tearooms for lunch and the ups and downs continued – Steve tried to brush a wasp off Paul but in error threw the remains of his lunch over him. It was that sort of day. Unable to move for laughter, I was ready to give up but Paul and Steve decided to return one more time. Terry the keeper showed them where he had found a piece of a plane in a branch which had been 30 feet up a tree. It was amongst beeches near a field. Thus we found the next plane.
It is probably the Whitley, the one Colin saw. An English bomber but perhaps not a very well designed plane. If it proves to be so, then we have found where four brave young men died on December 8th 1942. As mother and a wife I find the pointlessness of it all so hard to accept, the pity of war and the undone years. It is a place to put a small cross and to remember them on our memorial.
Great story. Love the blogs. I would love to hear more on the history of Highclere.
I wanted to mention how much I enjoy your blogs and discovering the history of Highclere and the Carnarvons. I have read your immensely entertaining book about Lady Almina, and am about halfway through your book about Lady Catherine. I do hope that you continue on and are able to tell us about all the former Lady Carnarvons. I’d especially like to know about the first Lady Carnarvon. You are a wonderful writer, and your research is fascinating and thorough.
Thank you very much.
This was another day for the history books of Highclere, I so enjoyed walking round with Colin it was fascinating what he was telling us three youngster what he saw all those years ago.. Our lunch with Lady Carnarvon I was so funny I was in tears with laughter when Steve threw the remains of lunch over me its was like a Sketch from Laurel and Hardy hee hee 🙂 🙂 I so look forward to our return soon I wonder what will happen to me next time hee hee 🙂
Did the wasp sting you, Paul? What was the lunch you “wore”?
It was the remains of a baguette!
What a fascinating adventure. Although the find was interesting, it was also sad when you consider the lives lost. I think a memorial a great idea. We must not forget those sacrifices.
Wow, so much history. I have always been fascinated by WWII. Thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you so much for your beautiful, poignant and humorous writings. I count myself lucky to have been to Highclere twice on PBS trips! You continue to bring your beautiful home alive through your writings of the daily life of your estate and local people beyond Downton Abbey.
This story of what was endured during the war is heartbreaking and yet it is so wonderful that the search for these brave servicemen goes on. Thank you and yours for everything being done to celebrate your heritage and the future of Highclere and England!
Hoping to return again, maybe I will get to meet you next time.
It gives me chills to think of the history you encountered during your walkabout! It is so very cool to live someplace where there is layer after layer of stories, both tragic and happy (and every-day too)! The fun time you all had with the misadventures of the spade and leftover lunch just add to the enjoyment. Thanks for another fun window on your world, Lady Carnarvon, Colin, Sid, and friends! 🙂
This is amazing….to find little bits of history. Thanks so much for sharing the solemn and funny parts of your day…makes me feel like my life is not so clumsy!
Dear Lady Fiona,
I anxiously await each of your blog entries. You have the best of both worlds. Some days you are well dressed and playing the part of Lady Carnarvon while others you are helping to repair a stone wall or dig around in the brush for evidence of past events. Highclere is its own little world. You have the pleasure of new discoveries, wherever you turn. We hope to visit your Castle someday soon. In the meantime, I will look to my inbox to read about your next adventure. Thanks for always writing it with wit and down-to-earth humor.
Dear Lady Carnarvon
What an interesting story….what will you do with the remains of any aircraft you find? Are there plans for any kind of display/museum? I too find it hard to accept the pointlessness of war…all those lives cut short…and yet there are still wars being waged and still more lives lost…such a sad thing. Let’s hope someday there will be no need for war…a time when people can sit down together and work out their differences.
Thanks for the wonderful blog!
I am keeping some parts from each plane tucked away and then hope to symbolically include something from each plane in a memorial – plus all the pilots’ names.
I so love your history lessons. Truly enjoyable story. It’s wonderful of you to remember those lost in your memorial. Thank you for doing this blog.
Are you the first to lead these expeditions ? Has anyone before you found other remnants or remains at Highclere?
Any other eye witnesses of whom you are aware?
It that is indeed the Whitley, do you know the names of the four airmen?
This is all so fascinating.
Sorry for so many questions!
I think Colin is one of the few witnesses left now, and I feel lucky to have met him and some of the small stories he told us gave us such a vivid picture. Yes, we do now know the names of the pilots. They all looked so handsome in their uniforms, it is like looking through a window and you mind stepping through it back into time. Steve has also flown over the bombing run taking some photos for a sense of what it musty have been like.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
I was sent details of this blog by a distant relative, and was very interested to see that my Grandfather George Baker, an estate game keeper got a mention in the ‘plane search’ item. A number of my relatives were employed on the estate and in the castle, most of whom are now deceased, but I still look with interest at things that involve Highclere. I have submitted a registration to your blog so look forward to receiving other news in the future. Thank you.
Dear Lady Carnarvon ,
What a fabulous blog this was ! I so hope you all achieve your goal ! Wish you and your “crew ” all the best !
I find it so amazing that your home has been such an intricate part of history through the centuries. Your thoughts on the pointlessness of war brought to mind a poem by Jon Alan which reads in part:
And the armies
fought on always
and the war was
tired and boring
came the day of truth and judgement
and the combatants won just that.
At best, war is a struggle between liberty and autocracy. In the end, it’s nobody’s doing and it’s everybody’s fault.
This is my first installment of this blog and I really had no idea what to expect! Wonderfully written as if reading a mini-novel I was on the edge of my seat for the story to reveal what was around the next corner. Such tragedy in war and yet those brave men are why we are all still free…and not speaking German. Wonderful story and so great to have humor in the mix. Thank you Lady Carnarvon!
Retrospect is a funny thing – futility when it goes wrong yet the converse is how smiling and excited some of the men seem, about to drive the latest fighter – just like a Ferrari – in the sky.
You are right. Excited, young and brave to a fault. It was not going to happen to them. Yet almost 40,000 airmen lost their lives in WWII,
Enjoyed this most recent post. A real layer of richness and meaning is added to our lives when we remember and honor who came before us and ponder where the future will take us. I love that you constantly explore both at Highclere Castle. Regarding an older post, how are the puppies???
Dear Lady Carnarvon , do you ever take your children on some of these historic walkabout s? It must be marvelous for them to have so much history in their own backyard . And for them ti see it all first hand. I have no doubt that that they have a great teacher. And will grow up to remember all the sacrifice s that past generations, have made for us all. Desiree Creary.
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
My grandfather worked as a groom and coachman at Highclere Castle around 1900 – 1914 and we were lead to believe that he had helped build the de Havilland aircraft.
As a family they lived at Weir Cottages and his name was Arthur William Luff.
I wondered if there might be any photographs in the achieves of him either working on the plane, or as Groom or Coachman?
My mother told me he had dealt a lot with the racing horses and taking them to Arundel Castle.
Any information you could provide would be most welcome.
My grandmother used to fly in de Havilland plane when she was younger
I have a few parts recovered from the Highclere area, back in the 1970s. I would be delighted to help you interpret and identify parts. I’ve been doing so since I was 12
How interesting – thank you
Dear Lady Carnarvon,
Thank you for sharing a little of the history of Highclere.
My grandfather, Arthur William Luff and his family lived in Weir Cottages while he worked as a coachman at Highclere around 1900 – 1914
I was wondering if there were any photographs from that time that may show him or his family.
I’d really appreciate any information you may have regarding the Luff family at Weir Cottages during that time.
We are short of photographs and none of them are annotated for who is in them!