PDA

View Full Version : Melchbourne Park / Sharnbrook / Risely



Ossington_2008
08-02-2009, 19:29
Melchbourne Park / Sharnbrook / Risely gas & bomb store area?

I can't claim too much knowledge about this place, but during WW2, land on Melchbourne estate was taken over for USAAF bomb storage (Melchbourne is near Chelveston & would have fed several local airfields with supplies) Sometime during the war, poison gas was also stored there but whether as bulk stock or ready to use & decanted into small bombs I don't know but after the war, parts of the estate were too contaminated to be handed back & remained in War Office/MOD hands.
As the RAF contracted post war, outlying sites like these were forgotten/ignored/put on C&M to be parented by
another site that was, in turn, also put on C&M.
Now, is Melchbourne, Sharnbrook & Risely the same place? if not, what is the relationship between them?
I took these photos in the Summer of 1997, meaning to follow up with a ground visit but have never done so. To be honest, are they at Melchbourne?
http://i388.photobucket.com/albums/oo322/Ossington_2008/MelchbourneParkonesummer97.jpg
http://i388.photobucket.com/albums/oo322/Ossington_2008/Melchtwosummer97.jpg
http://i388.photobucket.com/albums/oo322/Ossington_2008/Melchthreesummer97.jpg
http://i388.photobucket.com/albums/oo322/Ossington_2008/Melchfoursummer97.jpg
I didn't know at the time that a gliding site was nearby. Called Sackville Farm I think.
C'mon Mr Bellamy and you AiX'ers that live locally, what can you tell us?

P Bellamy
08-02-2009, 19:37
Melchbourne Park ordnance depot (AAF Station 572), and the attached Forward Filling Depot, was renamed RAF Risely after the war from what I can gather.
Sharnbrook ordnance depot (AAF Station 583) was a seperate site, beside the A6.

I'll find my illustrations and post them up shortly.

All the best,
PB

Ossington_2008
08-02-2009, 19:43
Wow Paul! You replied in less time than I took me to scan & post the pictures! Thank You.
I take it that the final "proper" cleanup was underway when photographed. Is access allowed and is there anthing to be seen?

P Bellamy
08-02-2009, 20:26
Here's a site report I wrote back in October '08.

Sharnbrook Ordnance Depot was used as a bomb and ammunition store from July 1942, and was primarily used to supply bases of the 1st Air Division of the US 8th Air Force.
The site was home to half of the 2107th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion, the other half being based at Braybrooke Ordnance Depot near Desborough, Northants.

The living and administrative sites were alongside the A6 trunk road, supplies being delivered by rail to Sharnbrook station before being trucked to the storage areas which were open platforms beside hedgerows and public roads.
Little remains of the built-up areas, however a few buildings appear to still exist in the cattery on the A6. Pippin Wood contained a number of buildings, most likely ammunition and incendiary bomb stores. The wood today appears to be a static caravan site, using the wartime roadways and hardstandings.

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/annotpic1.jpg

Bombs being craned into stacks. January 1943:
http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/crane1.jpg

4000lb bombs stored along the roadside, those in the background covered with camouflage material. July 1943:
http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/roadstores.jpg

Belting up .50 cal ammunition. July 1943:
http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/ammobelting.jpg

Salvaging ammunition box liners and bomb fin crates. July 1943:
http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/salvage.jpg

Cobb Hall, on the road between Sharnbrook and the A6, was used as accommodation by the Sharnbrook depot staff, so the building traces visible in the field adjacent (now gardens) were presumably billets too.

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/cobb1.jpg

The Cobb Hall site was used as a N.S.H.C. (National Service Hostels Corporation) hostel after WWII.
Plans of the site formerly held by the USAF in Cambridge are now held in Bedford in a general Sharnbrook Depot file, and included in the file is the 1943 site plan for the stores in Penn Wood and Worley's Wood, part of the Melchbourne depot, plus construction drawings for the huts there. There are also photographs of the US troops at Cobb Hall in 1945 held at the same archive.

I did a quick site visit later in October.
First stop was the easternmost built-up site, at the junction of the A6 and Riseley Road.
Nothing to note here, other than a few steel fenceposts still in the hedgerow and a few small piles of broken brick and concrete. Luckily, in one of those piles was the remains of an electrical transformer (Admiralty pattern, oddly enough) dated 1944.

Next stop was the south-western corner of Pippin Wood.
The trackway into the field was metalled with crushed asphalt, and had been there a long time. A padlocked gate with a friendly "Keep Out" sign prevented me from exploring further into the field, but there is a public footpath at the other end of the field for another day.
A few yards further up Riseley Road was a small concrete loading platform, beside which was a pile of telephone cable insulators, many with GPO and a Broad Arrow, and one dated 1931.
Shame someone had been smashing them against the ramp.

Another Keep Out sign and gates barred the entrance to what is titled as a "Council Yard" in Pippin Wood, and the gates to the caravan site were also closed, so I carried on uphill towards the S-bends, noting a number of the typically '40s cast iron and concrete manhole covers in the road surface just like you see on any WWII airfield.

The trackway around the northern stores area was of the same crushed asphalt, and looped all the way around the field in a way no farm track would ever do.
Heading back downhill towards the southern stores area the roadside verges opened out, which would have been ideal for stacking ordnance on, especially south of the farmhouses.

The entrances to the southern stores area carried the now-familiar Keep Out signs, but the trackways were substantial.

With the drizzle starting I headed off to my next drop, checking out a dispersed stores area (Penn Wood) at Melchbourne Park Ammunition Depot and confirming that at least one building still stands and the roadways were sturdy concrete.

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/pennwood.jpg

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/Melchpk2.jpg

The site of the Forward Filling Depot (Advanced Chemical Park in AAF terminology) can be seen clearly in Ossington's photo's as a bare-earth clearing in the centre of Coppice Wood.

Entry to this area of the site is still restricted, as this shows:
http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/DSCF0025.jpg

However, public footpaths and bridleways give access to almost all of the rest of the storage areas.

From the AAF Station List, Riseley (AAF Station 541) is initially termed a Quartermaster Depot, but further digging show the units based there to have been the 756th and 763rd Chemical Depots, VIII Air Force Service Command. That suggests that this was the Advanced Chemical Park/FFD within Melchbourne Park, and would account for the site being referred to as RAF Riseley post-war.
The primary unit based at Melchbourne Park was the 2003rd Ordnance Maintainance Company, reporting to BADA.

Apologies for the messy post, I'll tidy it up when I finish the final images.

All the best,
PB

Paul Francis
08-02-2009, 22:33
Paul who was this done for originally?

Peter Kirk
08-02-2009, 22:58
Excellent. I will have read again when I have more time.

P Bellamy
09-02-2009, 02:14
Paul who was this done for originally?

Originally, for myself.
It was first posted on the UK AAF living history forum, and I mentioned it to a few of my colleagues at the Twinwood Farm museums as both sites are close by.

It's still very much a "work in progress" I'm afraid. I've not posted it up here before for that reason.

PB

Carnaby
09-02-2009, 18:26
The site of the Forward Filling Depot (Advanced Chemical Park in AAF terminology) can be seen clearly in Ossington's photo's as a bare-earth clearing in the centre of Coppice Wood.PB
Not quite correct Paul. The FFD was here (http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=52.270248~-0.481553&style=h&lvl=16&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1) (centre of shot). I visited it possibly fifteen years ago when the pots were extant. Lids had been cut off, then balanced back on top of the tanks for protection. The entire FFD was outside the wood. I have a site plan from RAFM Hendon, but it's very poor quality.

I believe the area you show as the FFD was the burning area. From my notes:
The ex USAAF base at Melchbourne Park was the next depot to receive priority for disposal, beginning in the summer of 1947. This site, now renamed Riseley, consisted of an extensive concreted area in Coppice Wood as well as the bulk Forward Filling Depot. The wood stored some 9,000 tanks each containing 55 gallons of Y3 mustard under pressure, and the disposal exercise was codenamed Operation Inkpad. This involved decanting the drums into burning pits, a process which took some eight months, after which the empty drums were decontaminated in a furnace. Again to hasten the operation a quantity of 'safe' stock was dumped at sea. The operation was completed by January 1949. Some 18 months later the site was declared clear and placed under care and maintenance, however an inspection in 1954 revealed that the site was so badly contaminated that it would remain Air Ministry property for an indefinite period. In fact it was finally declared safe in 1988 !

Clearly it still isn't safe - the burning pits consisted of inverted nissen huts sunk into the ground - probably not very leakproof. Process was also used at Spalford (http://airfieldinformationexchange.freeforums.org/spalford-wood-notts-pic-t1310.html) where they had (have!) the same problem.

Following my visit, I visited the local village and spoke to some long-term residents who remembered clouds of black smoke emitting from the woods for months on end just after WWII. On one occasion, when the wind was in a certain direction their net curtains became discoloured and then disintegrated.

Despite this slight error the rest of your report above is superb!

Graham

P Bellamy
09-02-2009, 19:25
Ta for the correction Graham.

I didn't have a precise location for the FFD, so went with where the warning notices are. I wasn't entirely convinced, as there are clearly ordnance storage pads in that area and no sign of the usual FFD buildings.
Was this FFD laid out to the same design as the others, but without a rail line?

TTFN,
Paul

Carnaby
09-02-2009, 22:13
Was this FFD laid out to the same design as the others, but without a rail line? Paul
Yes it was almost identical to FFD1 Barnham's Little Heath site, i.e. it had three 500 ton tanks and two charging buildings.
FFDs 3-5 (RAF) had two 250 ton tanks and one charging building each). The railhead was 5 miles away near Kimbolton.

Dreadful plan as mentioned above
http://i118.photobucket.com/albums/o102/grahamcrisp/FFD2a.jpg
Empties store, charging buildings and bonding (filled) stores shown in red. Pots in blue. On my visit the only building extant was the decontamination store shown green. It was locked, but through the door crack it was possible to see chemical drums (decontaminants probably). There was an unusual odour coming from the pots themselves - it wasn't garlic or mustard and I'm still alive!

The storage area to the north-west of the FFD is interesting, described as 'concrete floors for 230 tents'.
Possible holiday camp ? - 'Vacation with a difference - sleep next to 1,500 tons of poison gas' :P

Graham

P Bellamy
09-02-2009, 22:37
Thanks again, that's explained why I couldn't work out where the accommodation was.
The floors would be for the square US M1934 Pyramid tents (8-man without stove, 6-man with stove)

Also, it lets me tie in the parchmarks on the Live Maps air photo.

All the best,
Paul

PETERTHEEATER
10-02-2009, 08:27
Good stuff Paul and Carnaby.

Richard Flagg
10-02-2009, 17:26
Interesting thread.

Just a quick question, on the 4th photo you can see in the background a private airstrip? Whats it called?

Thanks

P Bellamy
10-02-2009, 17:43
Interesting thread.

Just a quick question, on the 4th photo you can see in the background a private airstrip? Whats it called?

Thanks

Sackville Farm Airstrip (http://www.sackvilleflyingclub.co.uk/info1.shtml), home of the Sackville Flying Club.

TTFN,
Paul

P Bellamy
10-02-2009, 18:03
Provision list of USAAF units stationed at Sharnbrook, Melchbourne Park and Riseley:

Station 583, Sharnbrook:

August 1942.
451st Ordnance Company (Aviation)
2nd (Provisional) Ordnance Ammunition Battalion
3rd (Provisional) Ordnance Ammunition Company
2018th (Provisional) Ordnance Ammunition Battalion
2015th (Provisional) Ordnance Ammunition Company (Aviation)
2016th (Provisional) Ordnance Ammunition Company (Aviation)
2026th (Provisional) Chemical Depot (Aviation)

1943.
1908th Ordnance Ammunition Company (Aviation) arrived 13th September.

1944.
1578th Quartermaster Truck Battalion (Aviation) departed.
2218th Quartermaster Truck Company (Aviation) arrived, 6th September.
2194th Quartermaster Truck Company (Aviation) departed, transferred to Smethwick. 26th December.

Station 541, Riseley:

756th Chemical Depot Company (Aviation)
763rd Chemical Depot Company (Aviation)

Station 572, Melchbourne Park:
Established 19th September 1942 as the VIII Air Force Ordnance Motor Park.

7th October 1942.
689th Ordnance Company

23rd November 1942.
689th Ordnance Company renamed 1689th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

21st June 1943.
1645th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1657th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1686th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1689th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company (Aviation)

14th August 1943.
1645th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company
1689th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company (Later transferred to 390th Bomb Group, Station 153)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation) (part)

30th September 1943.
1645th Ordnance Supply & Maintenance Company
2003d Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

14th November 1943
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

31st December 1943.
346th Engineer General Service Regiment, 2nd Battalion, F Company
1459th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

21st February 1944.
346th Engineer General Service Regiment, 2nd Battalion, F Company
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

31st March 1944.
346th Engineer General Service Regiment, 1st Battalion (part), HQ & HQ Detachment
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

30th April 1944.
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company
1960th Ordnance Depot Company (part)
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2107th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion, Medical Detachment, Detachment A

31st May 1944.
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1960th Ordnance Depot Company (part)
2002nd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation), Detachment D
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2107th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion, Medical Detachment, Detachment A

30th June 1944.
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1960th Ordnance Depot Company (part)
2002nd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation), Detachment D
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2107th Ordnance Ammunition Battalion, Medical Detachment, Detachment A

31st August 1944.
1718th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company (Aviation)
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

25th November 1944.
1718th Ordnance Medium Automotive Maintenance Platoon
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

16th December 1944.
1460th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Platoon
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

2nd May 1945.
1960th Ordnance Depot Company
2003rd Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)
2006th Ordnance Maintenance Company (Aviation)

Other units at Station 572, undated and/or unverfied.
734th Ordnance Armament Repair Company
1060th Ordnance Company (Aviation)
1006th Ordnance Maintenance Company
645th Ordnance Medium Maintenance Company (Aviation)
756th Ordnance Truck Company


All the best,
PB

Paul Francis
13-02-2009, 15:19
Where did this list come from Paul?

P Bellamy
13-02-2009, 16:37
It was mainly compiled by a chap in the USA from the US Army HQ ETO Station Lists, with additional notes by myself from the AFHRS unit record indexes.

All the best,
PB

P Bellamy
13-02-2009, 20:10
Was this FFD laid out to the same design as the others, but without a rail line? Paul
Yes it was almost identical to FFD1 Barnham's Little Heath site, i.e. it had three 500 ton tanks and two charging buildings.
FFDs 3-5 (RAF) had two 250 ton tanks and one charging building each). The railhead was 5 miles away near Kimbolton.

I wonder if the hardstandings either side of the former sidings opposite Kimbolton Station were the railhead.
They look the same on the immediate post-war air photos as they do in Google Earth today.

Flash Earth location HERE (http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=52.327361&lon=-0.402581&z=17&r=0&src=msa)

TTFN,
PB

Hallibagger
06-11-2009, 20:22
Interesting - it brings back memories.

Actually the smoke from burning Mustard gas was dense whitish fog and it really stank and it made your eyes run! It was heavy and it clung to the ground and there was considerable concern about folk's health but nothing was ever done about it. The only casualties were some sheep who are alleged to have drunk water from the local stream and died. It was between the Grange and the base so it might well have been runoff from the disposal. The prevailing wind usually took the smoke away from the village.

They had a wooden tower by Sackville Farm where they dropped incendiary bombs.

A bit down the road from Sackville towards the entrance there was a water filled concrete tank in the woods where they stored Molotov Cocktails. As kids we used to steal them and dig a hole put a rock in the bottom and throw one in. The only way to put it out was to cover it with earth. When we dug it up a week later it would re-ignite.

The Americans were really good to us kids, and the adults too, as they allowed us to go to their movie theatre where they had first run American movies long before Bedford got them. Initially they used to pick us up by truck but that died out and then they used to allow us to walk up to the base with a couple of MPs for escort. Eventually we were allowed to walk or ride our bikes up on our own. They also allowed us to go up and watch baseball games. They had 55gal drums filled with ice and Coke - all you could drink - free. For the adults they had a barrel of beer - no glasses, so we used to fill up empty Coke bottles for the adults.

Melchbourne Park was the designer and builder of the Leaflet Bomb which was barometrically controlled to explode at a pre-determined altidude to control the distribution of leaflets. Shoving them down the flare chute at 20,000 ft would have had them over most of Europe. Anyway B-17's and 24's did not have flare chutes!

We were allowed to go to the movies and the dances at Melchbourne Park in the 'Big House' as we then called it. Same method, walk up through the Riseley camp, but it was about 3 miles!

As for Sharnbrook the housing and accomodations etc were in Sharnbrook. Not on the Riseley-Sharnbrook road. The buildings at the Riseley Road and the A-6 intersection were the MP offices and the Motor Pool to which I delivered newspapers.

On the subject of the bomb dump: It was relatively rare to see anyone working along the roadside piles of bombs. The area was used as storage that could be drawn upon should the railway be prevented from delivering the bombs. The daily deliveries were trucked directly from Sharnbrook station to the Thurleigh bomb dump near Galsey Wood. Pippin Wood did have some bomb piles at the edges, I remember that a B-17 crashed on Take-off from Thurleigh and it finished up almost into one of the piles of bombs where it burned.

I cannot remember the name of the wood on the other side of the road from Pippin Wood, but that had storage huts that were full of Thunderflashes. and signal flares. Thunderflashes were fireworks had were used in military manouvers to simulate grenades. We did manage to liberate a good selection of those when VE day was celebrated. (May 8th 1945). I understand that Pippin Wood is now a nudist colony - or at least it was! The other huts along the route contained boxes of fuses, both nose and tail. Although all the stuff was easliy accessible it was not so easy to remove it as we had to go through the guard gates. Sure a Thunderflash in your pocket was possible, although they were about 10" long. But if you set it off you might find the law knocking on your door!

They must have done some weapons testing too as one of the guys picked up a beat up Thompson on the dump at Bourne End. Another guy had a .45, I guess they had something wrong with them that made them unsuitable for actual use. There was lots of ammo lying on the dump too. Me, I was more interested in the one gallon cans of food that were also dumped. We got huge cans of Peaches and other fruits which we had not seen for years. The only thing we could see that was wrong was the cans were damaged, not leaking, but 'bashed'. The other problem was they cans were not labeled, they were stamped, but if you did not know the code it was a case of open it and see!

I do remember the 4,000lb bombs, they were up the road to Harings Farm which turned off the Riseley-Sharnbrook road at the High Barn Farm. Their diameter was such that they would not fit in the B-17 and B-24 bomb bays. In fact they would not go under the B-24 to get them into the bomb bay. Both the 17 and the 24 had a catwalk down the centre of the bomb bay. The B-17 did, I believe, carry one on a inboard wing mount but the drag and the assymetric weight might have made it a problem. I did see both 17's and 24's carrying the winged bombs for the standoff attacking of the submarine pens. But it was a relatively rare event to see them carrying them.

PETERTHEEATER
07-11-2009, 08:09
Thanks for the memories hallibagger it really adds that personal missing touch.

PETERTHEEATER
07-11-2009, 08:22
I wonder if the hardstandings either side of the former sidings opposite Kimbolton Station were the railhead.
They look the same on the immediate post-war air photos as they do in Google Earth today.

Flash Earth location HERE (http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=52.327361&lon=-0.402581&z=17&r=0&src=msa)

TTFN,
PB
I missed this.

I reckon that is a safe bet. The two parallel rail spurs are shown on a 1952 map in 'Old Maps'

http://www.old-maps.co.uk/IndexMapPage2.aspx

Type in Stow Longa, select the 1952 map and pan left

P Bellamy
20-03-2010, 22:34
I made a start on the "Virtual Melchbourne Park" Sketchup model today.

After scanning the partial site plan kindly loaned by Carnaby, I made that into an overlay in Google Earth.
Once that was correctly sized, I set it as semi-transparent and transferred the whole thing from GE into Sketchup.

Then it's a case of adding the individual buildings, with reference to the RSP Schedule.
AM designs such as the T-3 hangar, Rommney and 16' Nissens are easy, standardisation is a great thing.
However, Melchbourne has a great many buildings of "Timber. Local Design".... I guess I'll work something out.

Amusingly, the 18th Century Melchbourne House has it's own Air Ministry Drawing Number, 7749/43. :lol:

Anyhow, I've attached a quick screen grab of the progress so far.
Note this is only the MT Depot area of the park, the FFD and ordnance stores were a short distance to the south and east.

All the best,
PB

PETERTHEEATER
21-03-2010, 07:04
Very nice Paul, I look forward to seeing the finished article.

Where do you find the time?

ColinBa
28-11-2010, 16:26
The following quote is from the CWS History. It seems that the US supplied its own charging machines and sought to store 10,000 tons of munitions there.

Almost immediately after the rejection, however, scientists of the
Imperial Chemical Industries working for the Ministry of Supply and
the Ministry of Aircraft Production hit upon a simple method of leadlining
the concrete tanks to provide a seepage-proof seal. The British
quickly constructed a number of lead-lined tanks at three installations
to store some of their own reserves, and they offered to build similar
facilities for the U.S. Eighth Air Force. Working with the RAF, the
Ministry of Supply, and the Imperial Chemical Industries under reverse
lend-lease authorizations, Kellogg and Lt. Col. Albert H. Hooker,
Chemical Officer, VIII Air Force Service Command, selected sites for
advance chemical parks at Barnham, Suffolk, and at Melchbourne Park,
near Kettering, Northamptonshire, and the Imperial Chemical Industries
agreed to construct three 500-ton tanks at each location. Hardstandings
and Romney huts were also built at each site for the storage
of 4,000 tons of chemical ammunition and 6,000 tons of incendiaries.
The VIII AFSC later installed American toxic and incendiary filling
apparatus at both locations. The tanks at the Barnham site were completed
and filled by the end of 1943 and, while the Melchbourne Park
facility was not completed until the spring of 1944, 1,215 tons of toxics
were in storage there in December 1943

Carnaby
28-11-2010, 16:51
It seems that the US supplied its own charging machines...
I didn't know this - always assumed it was ICI supplied as in the three RAF FFDs. Guess it had something to do with the USAAF wanting to fill their spray tanks, as well as the 65lb bombs.

Graham

PETERTHEEATER
29-11-2010, 07:38
Interesting Colin,

The actual form of the filling (charging) apparatus I should have thought would have been standardised for both air forces. Do you know if the same type of equipment used at (say) Rhydymwyn was also used at the RAF FFD's?

MandGJH
15-02-2011, 13:23
I have just come across this site/thread whilst surfing the web and thought others might be interested to know that I was the RAF staff officer responsible for setting up the clearance of the site in 1988. At the time I was based at RAF Brampton and was taken away from my role on the RAF Support Command TACEVAL Team to organise the clearance. We used members of the RAF EOD teams based at RAF Wittering and a team of Army Royal Engineers who went down into the 3 lead lined concrete tanks to clear out a multitude of rubbish, some of which was mortar bombs and ammunition shells still containing liquid mustard gas. I used to have some video of the site but unfortunately handed those to the EOD Team at Wittering in the late 1990's. If anyone has other questions about the events of the time `i would be happy to try and answer.

Carnaby
15-02-2011, 18:16
If anyone has other questions about the events of the time `i would be happy to try and answer.
Welcome to AiX, MandGJH. I suspect myself and 'one or two others !' will certainly find some interesting questions. The first two which spring to mind are:

1) Were any buildings present in 1988? IIRC there was just one, with a lockable steel door used to store small equipment. (Can't remember the date of my first visit).
2) Were you connected with the decontamination of the adjacent Coppice Wood?

Graham

PETERTHEEATER
16-02-2011, 03:09
Welcome MandGJH, it's always useful to have first hand accounts.

How were the filled shells that were recovered disposed of?

ColinBa
16-02-2011, 20:25
Interesting Colin,
The actual form of the filling (charging) apparatus I should have thought would have been standardised for both air forces. Do you know if the same type of equipment used at (say) Rhydymwyn was also used at the RAF FFD's?
I am fairly sure that all of the charging machines used at the manufacturing factories Rhydymwyn, Springfields and Randle were provided, modified and monitored by Porton Down. The logical conclusion is that they also provided for the RAF FFDs.
As the USAAF had plans to charge US type SCIs at their FFDs, I believe that the machines for those weapons would have been imported.
There is looming in the background the role of Sutton Oak, which was the sole source of mustard gas in the first months of the war. It was the test bed for 50 tons/week Runcol (discovered by Foster Neville Woodward in 1932) plant and presumably had a charging capability.
It is possible that they had a part in the design and testing of charging machines, they definitely had the capability.
I would warmly recommend the link to this part of Steven Wainwright's Sutton Beauty website. http://www.suttonbeauty.org.uk/suttonhistory/poisongas.html
Finally, there was a large amount of phosgene manufactured at Rocksavage (7,000 tons was recovered from decanted weapons post WWII) and I am unaware of where the charging for that took place, maybe at Rocksavage?
PS The charging machines used for Operations Pepper pot and Spring Onion in the early 1950s were under Porton's Control.

PETERTHEEATER
22-02-2011, 11:04
Excellent link Colin, thanks! I shall study that tomorrow. Meanwhile, the garden is calling.......

MandGJH
22-02-2011, 16:08
Welcome to AiX, MandGJH. I suspect myself and 'one or two others !' will certainly find some interesting questions. The first two which spring to mind are:

1) Were any buildings present in 1988? IIRC there was just one, with a lockable steel door used to store small equipment. (Can't remember the date of my first visit).
2) Were you connected with the decontamination of the adjacent Coppice Wood?

Graham

Graham,

Just got back to this after a few days away. The only building standing was the one that I think you are referring to which was inside the wire fence surrounding the 3 pots. Of interest, at the time of the emptying of the pots this was the first building opened and was found to contain mainly old drums of bleach slurry; however, there was a small demijohn type container that one of the RE privates thought looked interesting and planned to take for his own use. Before they entered into the area the REs had set up a full cordon and all leaving the cordoned area had to pass full decontamination procedures. The major ic stopped the private and confiscated the container. It was found to have a small quantity of mustard gas inside!!

The pots themselves were either partially or, in one case, almost full of water and this had to be pumped out. Initially it was taken away in tankers and checked for contamination. It was found to be harmless so was pumped out into the surrounding Copice Wood area. But because this is a clay area it took a long time to soak away and there was a small lake there for some days.

As well as the munitions I previously mentioned the pots were full of old respirators, and other decontam clothing, as well as various bits of small man-handling equipment. We assumed that when the first decontam had finished all the kit that had become contaminated was thrown into these pots and covered with bleach slurry, then when all was supposedly finished the munitions were found and thrown into the pots so that the job could be completed (so called).

As the staff officer ic it fell to me to give the operation a name, so I called it Op Coleman Keg (ie mustard gas pots) a bit cheesy I know, but I was a much younger man in those days.

Mike

MandGJH
22-02-2011, 16:13
Welcome MandGJH, it's always useful to have first hand accounts.

How were the filled shells that were recovered disposed of?

Hi,

Sorry for the delay replying, been away. All the items that were found by the REs were first checked for explosive safety by the RAF EOD team (air dropped so the RAF's responsibility even though the REs could probably have done this!) and then taken away to Porton Down in a "Powder Wagon" under escort. At Porton I understand they incinerated the contents in their very very high temperature ovens.

MandGJH
22-02-2011, 16:17
Welcome to AiX, MandGJH. I suspect myself and 'one or two others !' will certainly find some interesting questions. The first two which spring to mind are:

1) Were any buildings present in 1988? IIRC there was just one, with a lockable steel door used to store small equipment. (Can't remember the date of my first visit).
2) Were you connected with the decontamination of the adjacent Coppice Wood?

Graham

Graham,

Just realised I have not covered point 2. Other than the old burning area Copice Wood had already been cleared and our remit was to only deal with the pots. The burning area was fenced off and I think this is where the signs shown in previous posts are still located. We identified that this area was still badly contaminated and were told to leave it alone.

Mike

Carnaby
22-02-2011, 17:32
The only building standing was the one that I think you are referring to which was inside the wire fence surrounding the 3 pots.
When I visited there was no evidence of the wire fence. The lids of the post had been cut off and replaced - supported on 1.5 inch steel 'L' section girders (or something like that).
It was possible to (just) see inside the locked building which contained a couple of modern-looking plastic chemical drums.

Useful info - thanks.

Graham

P Bellamy
25-05-2011, 19:14
Kimbolton Station Sidings, railhead for Melchbourne Park FFD:

Entrance and hut. Original gates?
Note also the 6' high concrete fenceposts which remain all along the northern perimeter of the site:

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/KS1.jpg

Closeup of the hut:

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/KS2.jpg

Looking straight down the line of the rails.
Two sidings ran in the centre, with the concrete roadways on the outside:

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/KS3.jpg

All the best,
PB

P Bellamy
27-05-2011, 21:54
Just trying to get an idea of how the railhead may have looked while in operation, with the tanker lifting gantry in place:

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/KSlt3.jpg

http://i89.photobucket.com/albums/k227/ramc181/KSlt4.jpg

PB

PETERTHEEATER
28-05-2011, 05:42
Wot! No buffers!:)

Thanks for the pictorial Paul, it helps build a visual picture of what the site looked like.

http://i329.photobucket.com/albums/l366/PRACHUAP/KimboltonrailheadforMelchbourneFFD2011image2.jpg

P Bellamy
28-05-2011, 12:53
No buffers yet, nor rolling stock either, until I get around to building them from scratch. ;)
Unfortunately I haven't been able to find any further details of the AAF Road/Rail chemical tank, so the size and arrangement of the gantry is all guesswork except for the footings.

All the best,
PB

PETERTHEEATER
29-05-2011, 07:40
Paul, see my PM also I will interrogate (!) my railway anorak contacts re Tank rail trucks.

I opine that the rolling stock flat bed would have been standard but carrying the 5 ton capacity CW tank; something like this:

http://www.ws.vintagecarriagestrust.org/ws/WagonInfo.asp?Ref=3782

Rather drink milk than eat mustard:)

Ossington_2008
29-05-2011, 12:00
I have always imagined something similar, but with two axles, either all black, all maybe with an equally anonymous mustard yellow tank.
Anyone know where such things were serviced? They must have needed specialist cleaning/decontaminating, beyond the capacity of the usual railway depot I would have thought.

P Bellamy
29-05-2011, 12:17
I don't know whether the dismountable tankers used in the post-war cleanup program were the same USAAF-pattern ones, but it would make some sort of sense if they were.

A photo of a trainload of them can be seen at the top of the page HERE (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/l/little_heath_forward_filling_depot/index2.shtml).
Two of them can be seen on road carriages, hooked up to the burning test rig, in the top photo HERE (http://www.subbrit.org.uk/sb-sites/sites/l/lords_bridge_ffd/index2.shtml).

All the best,
PB

Ossington_2008
29-05-2011, 20:16
Thanks P. Anyone know what colour they were? I feel a railway mania coming on...

ColinBa
30-05-2011, 00:41
Looks like white

http://i472.photobucket.com/albums/rr82/ColinBa/RailTank.jpg

PETERTHEEATER
30-05-2011, 09:06
Records talk of '5 ton capacity' but it seems that was the usual load; the maximum capacity of the tank was around 7.5 tons (not tonnes as captioned in the photograph, we were firmly British Imperial Measurement in those days!

The tank dimensions are reported as 11 feet 8 inches long (domed ends) and 4 feet 6 inches in diameter made from 3/16 inch Mild Steel plate; lead lined. I should have thought that any standard railway flat-bed could be adapted to the relatively light load.

When it comes to road transfer, I would ask the question, 'What towed the trailer?' If a common commercial tray bodied lorry was used then another tank could have been carried on the lorry bed.

ColinBa
30-05-2011, 10:34
Here is a link which answers some questions. I have somewhere detailed info on the various tanks but I can't remember where.
http://www.ryhdymwynvalleyhistory.co.uk/index.php?option=com_k2&view=item&id=140:vesicant-transfers-from-randle&Itemid=152&lang=en

docholliday
01-08-2013, 07:06
Melchbourne Park ordnance depot (AAF Station 572), and the attached Forward Filling Depot, was renamed RAF Risely after the war from what I can gather.
Sharnbrook ordnance depot (AAF Station 583) was a seperate site, beside the A6.

I'll find my illustrations and post them up shortly.

All the best,
PB

Hi,
My Grandfather was station master at Sharnbrook in WW2. He told many stories, eg of 'sheltering' under a train-load of bombs during a 'lone wolf' attack by a JU88.
He died in 1985, but my Mum is still around - I'll see her this lunch-time! She was only a child but can remember much of went on. Still not keen on American 'donuts' as the USAF guys delivered them by the sack to the house....... funnily enough, she's diabetic now..... :-o.
Nan made her a dress from a purloined USAF parachute at some point for a big childrens' party at the base.
Still using a 0.5 ammo box for my watches etc in my wardrobe.
Several others in shed full of tools etc.

Hugh
20-01-2014, 21:50
Hi folks,

I was part of the RAFEODteam that carried out some of the excavations and clearance of the large bare area in coppice woods. I also dug the burning areas inside the chainlink fenced area (known as 10a) .

If anyone has questions etc, I will endevour to help if i can. I worked there on and off from 96 to 99 (between many other jobs). The teams used to like working there, as we got "rates" which meant more cash to stay in b and b ! One of the few perks on an unpleasant job!

Hugh

Parsley
20-01-2014, 22:21
Hi folks. Especially Hugh (I was your team leader!!!).. Just joined having found this site whilst doing research on Risely. Anyone know how to find the BBC documentary, part of which was filmed there. No joy on the BBC archive site!!

Regarding transportation of Mustard Gas, when I get time I will post a photograph of the identification plate from a trailer specifically made foe Mustard Gas. I've tried to get information from the USA regarding this but did not get very far!!!

Hugh
21-01-2014, 04:28
Hi Chris!

I have to dig out some of my old photos also.

If I can find any - the divorce lost a lot of my stuff! lol

Hugh

PETERTHEEATER
21-01-2014, 04:33
Parsley, welcome to AiX. One of our threads has drawings of Y agent transporters but I can't remember where. I shall take a look when I have time.

Parsley
21-01-2014, 15:56
Parsley, welcome to AiX. One of our threads has drawings of Y agent transporters but I can't remember where. I shall take a look when I have time.

Thanks. You never know, we might have served together!!

Not wishing to hijack this excellent thread but am keen to find out more abour Risely. In the meantime I've photographed the ID plate from the Transporter that we unearthed and hopefully I'll upload it here. I'm hoping that I can get some info' on it as I had no luck when I tried the USA.

http://i1232.photobucket.com/albums/ff372/Parsley19/RiselyTrailer_zpsf8e2d5a8.jpg (http://s1232.photobucket.com/user/Parsley19/media/RiselyTrailer_zpsf8e2d5a8.jpg.html)

Hugh
22-01-2014, 08:07
I remember that plate coming out of the ground! It looks much nicer now!

I just did a patent search online and found some information for you! -

Heres what I found http://www.google.co.uk/patents/US2033298

Strangely, the results came from google .co.uk and not my regular .com one here in the US.

Ill do some more fishing for info
Hugh

ColinBa
18-02-2014, 15:48
At the end of Operation Coleman Keg in October 1988 all of the articles in the three pots were removed and the liquids pumped out and dispersed. It was then reported
Sections of scrap metal fencing have been welded to the top of the pots. This has been done for two reasons. Firstly, to allow the odour from the pots to disperse and secondly for safety reasons so that no one could fall into the pots after we had left the site.
Is there any record of what happened to these pots subsequently? Are they still present and breathing?

ColinBa
23-03-2014, 12:37
We are trying to document the disposal of all of the post-war CW and FFDs one of which was Riseley. The overall view is currently as below.

1945 All of the mustard gas contents of the weapons and pots at the FFDs were decanted or pumped out and graded into I,II and II all of the grades II and III were tanked by rail to Rhydymwyn where they were charged into redundant 55 gallon US style drums for dumping at sea mainly in the Hurd Deep. This left the pots at the FFDs full of Grade I mustard (1,500 tons at Riseley)
May 1947 Operation Inkpad which was at Riseley the burning of 9,000 x 55 gallon drums containing mustard gas (?). Dangerous as containers pressurised. Drums will be decanted into a large tank connected by pipes to burning pits due to start in September
14.7.53 Operation Pepper Pot commences. This is the disposal of FFD 1 Little Heath Site, and is likely to take ten months. The site will have Technical, domestic and Admin sites built thereon. Actually Pepper Pot then continued to dispose of all British FFDs including the removal of all mustard gases from FFDS (including Riseley) and transmission by rail to Randle
1953/1954 Operation Spring Onion was the charging at Randle of the mustard gas from Pepper Pot into 10,000 1.000 bombs. These were new bombs casings were ordered from Luxfors with the correct shackles to fit Canberras. An additional small order for bombs charged with marker chemicals was shipped to West Freugh and Boscombe Down
October 1986 UKAEA Harwell with the support of Porton and the services assessed the extent of the contamination by mustard of the site at Riseley (AERE R12542). There was particular concern about the two fenced off burning areas for Ink Pad which were treated and the three pots which had not been removed as the British ones had. The pots were secured.
July 1988 Operation Coleman Keg was to open, inspect, clear and demolish the three pots. While the opening, inspecting and clearing took place The Royal Engineers could not demolish the pots and they were re-sealed with railings welded in place to seal entry but allowing the empty tanks to breath.
1990 Riseley visited and tanks still in place

We are most interested in completing the Riseley story and any help with the subsequent demise of the pots would be welcome.