Monday, 23 November 2015

Wartime Air Crash near Earlston

A Poignant Wartime Tale

Earlier this year, the Auld Earlston Group  received an enquiry from the  Aircrew Remembrance Society, who,   on behalf of the grandson of the pilot Paul “Peter” Rogge (left),   was seeking information on the crash of a German bomber at Darlingfield, near Earlston in 1943.  

Local residents recalled the event, with some children taken to see the crash site, but they were too young to know any details.  However Auld Earlston  referred the Society to the Scottish Borders Archive Service at the Heritage Hub, Hawick, who were known to hold police records relating to wartime air crashes.  

With sensitive sections omitted, the information from the Aircrew Remembrance Society website and the Heritage Hub, Hawick, forms  the basis of this tragic wartime story.

The police report read:  
 "At midnight on the night of Wednesday/Thursday 24th/25th March 1943, I received the air raid warning "Red".  At that time aircraft could be heard overhead of Earlston.   Immediately after receiving this warning and passing  it onto the Civil Defence Services,  I went out on duty with Special Constable XXXXAt about 0.10 hours,  when in the Market Place, I heard a burst of machine gun fire  right up overhead....... I heard a roar of aircraft  increasing to a high pitch.   I heard a second short burst of machine gun fire and   this was immediately followed by the abrupt cessation of the high pitch roar. ...there was a great flash of light, followed by a dull thud.     

At about 0.30 hours we received a report from XXXXX of Fans Farm, Earlston  that he could see a number of small fires in a  field  and described them as like a stick of incendiary bomb burning........We located  the site on the  farm of Darllngfield, Earlston and  reaching this field we discovered a German aircraft.  It had apparently dived  straight into the ground and parts of it were still burning in a deep crater with parts strewn over a wide area.............All the aircrew were killed.   

The bodies of the crew were  were removed by ambulance to the RAF station at  Charterthall;  personal property and documents were handed over intact to  to RAF Intelligence, Turnhouse,  Edinburgh

A report was received from  XXXX to the effect that he had discovered three bomb craters  in a plantation known as Racecourse  Plantation on the  farm of Yarlside....apparently made by heavy HE bombs....only partially detonated.  No unexploded bombs were found, and no damage had been done."  

The Aircrew Remembrance Society website relates:

 "On March 24th-25th 1943,  a German Junker plane was on a mission to attack Edinburgh.  "This aircraft crashed at 0030 hours on 25.03.43 at Earlston near Melrose, Berwickshire. Map Ref: U.0756. The cause of the crash is obscure.

The aircraft was heard flying fairly low and three witnesses stated that firing in the air was heard before It crashed and it was almost entirely destroyed or buried, the crew being killed. There are no reports of an interception in this area at the time of the crash. No bullet strikes can be found in the wreckage.

Engines; Jumo 211, these were buried but wooden propellers were traced.

Armament; Appears to be normal for this sub-series of aircraft and included a 20 mm Oerlikon gun.

Various equipment; Dive brakes were fitted and remains of a BZA 1 bombsight were located. There was evidence of a wireless FuG 10 but no opinion can be given as to whether a radio altimeter was carried or not. A Kutonase cable cutter of built in type was traced. It would appear from the wreckage examined that this aircraft was quite new."

On 2nd April 1943, "The Kelso Chronicle" featured a report headed  "Eight Bombers Down:  Enemy Attacks Parts of Scotland".  For reasons of security, the actual detail given was very vague, but includes a reference to:
Four miles from a small town in south east Scotland, where high explosives and incendary bombs fell, some damage was caused.........Not far away, the wreckage of a burned out German plane was found, as well as parts of a propeller, an oxygen breathing apparatus and a German helmet."     

All four members of the crew were killed, with the body of the gunner never found.  Their initial burial place was at nearby Fogo Churchyard, before being transferred to the German Military Cemetery in Staffordshire. 

Amazingly this photo of baby Irmtrud pictured at eight weeks old was found in the tunic pocket of pilot Paul Rogge.   All personal items were returned to his family  via the German Red Cross.

Paul Rogge's  Family - daughters Siegrun and Irmtrud and his wife Gusti

In Autumn 2015 a small memorial to the victims of the crash was unveiled at Darlingfield in the  presence of the pilot's  grandson and daughter (the baby in the picture above) who had never known her father. The moving private ceremony was led by Earlston minister Rev. Julie Wood with representatives of the Earlston community present.  

May They Rest in Peace 

With grateful thanks to Henning Hiestermann. grandson of the plot Paul Rogge,
and also David King and Melvin Brownless of the Aircrew Remembrance Society
 for granting permission to feature information and photographs from its website.  



Saturday, 14 November 2015

Earlston's Dinner for Returning Soldiers.

"Welcome home to the returned soldiers, sailors and women's auxiliary of Earlston parish and district" 

This was the greeting on  the 23rd of April 1920, when Earlston paid tribute to its serving men and women of the First World War, by hosting a dinner in their honour in the  Corn Exchange.

 The Corn Exchange in the Market Square

Chairman for the occasion was Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, and the dinner  was followed by the toasts and a programme of musical entertainment, with cigarettes provided by Mrs Mitchell of Carolside. 
               This souvenir card is in the collection of Auld Earlston.  

This particular card bears the name of H. R.  Aikman, 2nd Lieut. K.O.S.B.  i.e. Henry Aikman who also gave a reply to the toast to "The Boys who Fought and Won", and was on the  Earlston War Memorial Committee. 

Henry had a very close' personal  connection with the occasion.  He, his twin brother William  and older brother James  were sons of Henry and Lovina Aikman of Brooklyn Cottage, Earlston and all served  in  the First World War with the Kings Own Scottish Borderers,   

William (below)  had worked at Rhymer's Mill, served in the Earlston Territorials as bugler, was a renowned shot and  an active member of Earlston Rugby Club, Golf Club and Bowls Club.  

But at the age of 24, Sergeant William Aiikman  was presumed killed on 12th July 1915 in the Dardanelles Campaign.  He is remembered on  the Helles Memorial in Turkey and on Earlston War Memorial.  

 Photograph courtesy of Coldstream & District Local History Society  

The eight month campaign in Gallipoli was fought by the allies  in an attempt to force Turkey out of the war, to relieve the deadlock of the Western Front in France and Belgium, and to open a supply route to Russia through the Dardanelles and the Black Sea.  However, the difficult terrain and stiff Turkish resistance soon led to the stalemate of trench warfare. By the end of the year, following a high loss of life, allied forces had withdrawn  from Gallipoli.

The Helles Memorial serves the dual function of being a  battle memorial for the whole Gallipoli Campaign   and a place of commemoration for 20,885 Commonwealth servicemen who died there and have no known grave. The 30 metre high memorial takes the form of an obelisk that can be seen by ships passing through the Dardabnell

Also named on Earlston War Memorial along with William Aikman are seven other local men,who died the same day in Turkey 331 men from the K.O.S.B.  were killed or went missing in action, with a further 209 men wounded

William's twin brother Henry Aikman died  on in 1938, buried in Earlston Churchyard. Older brother James also survived the war, living to the age of 90.  


Friday, 6 November 2015

The Unveiling of Earlston War Memorial


On the 11th day of the 11th month, 1918, 
the Great War of 1914-1918 came to an end.  

Two years later on Sunday 13th November 1921, in a service of dedication in the square, Earlston War Memorial was unveiled by Mrs Hope, wife of Colonel Hope of Cowdenknowes, chairman of the War Memorial Committee,  

 "The Southern Reporter" of 17th November 1921 noted that the memorial was designed by Galashiels sculptor Thomas Clapperton, and executed in Creetown granite  by Messrs G. Sutherland and Sons, Galashiels.  at a total cost of £650.  The report also listed  the forty-eight  men whose names were inscribed on the memorial,    the names of the fund raising  committee and details of the  service, including Colonel Hope's speech. 

 Colonel Hope looked back at the campaigns and sacrifices of the Earlston men who never returned home and concluded:
"This Memorial which we are about to unveil, will keep the nenories of thos brave men always before the minds of those seeing it from day to day , or passing by it from time to time.  We are proud also today to see so  masny of those vsaliant men who went forth from this parish and have have been spared to rturn to their homes.  And now having all pulled together to win the war........ shall we not now all pull together to  win  the true peace and prosperity which  are so much wanted throughout the world after all the devastation of the war."  

The memorial inscription reads " To the glory of God and in memory of the 48 men of Earlston Parish who gave their lives for King and Country during the Great War. Their names liveth for evermore".

Names of the fallen, as listed in the Dedication Service Programme (above) 

Aikman, William F.                  Aitchison, Alexander S.        Archibald, James S.          Ballantyne David                     George, Lord Binning            Black, Archibald  
Borthwick, David A.                 Boyd, John                          Cessford, Alexander
Dickson, John                          Duff, Henry                         Elliot, Henry
Faichney, Thomas                    Fairley, Alexander               Forbes, Henry W.
Gillie, Thomas                         Graham, William                 Hardie, James 
Hardie, John T.                        Hewitt, John                      Johnston, George R.  
Kerr, William                           Kerr, William G.                  Lees, Robert 
Lunam, David                          Milne, Alexnder                   Notman, James
Paterson, David                          Robertson, James W.           Simpson, Alexander
Simpson, George                      Slassor, Walter                   Stirling, William
Thomson, James                      Turnbull, Henry C.              Turnbull, William  
Todd, George                          Vallance, Thomas                Weatherston, James
White Robert R.                       Wilkie, William                    Wilson, Adam
Wilson, Robert                        Wilson, William                    Young, George 
Young, John F.                         Young, Robert D.                Young, William R.

Following the Second World War, a bronze tablet was added. with seven more names of those who lost their lives in the conflict 

Brown, Robert                         Colville, David                      Donaldson, Walter Scott
Falconer, Edward                     Faulkener, Robert Mason      Johnston, John t. 
Sandilands, David 

The War Memorial Today