View Full Version : Escrick / Cottingwith

03-12-2008, 19:11
The most Northerly of the forward bulk mustard gas depots. The faint line in the background was a railway line with a connection.

03-12-2008, 19:53

I've always known this as Escrick (FFD 5)

I visited in January this year, the railway line was the Derwent Vally railway, some of the stations can be still be seen nearby. Photos from my visit below, including the stations.



04-12-2008, 09:47
Yes. I agree that it is Escrick Forward Filling Depot 5. Stand-alone depot administered by 80 sub MU.

8m SE of York

The picture is taken looking almost due East.

06-12-2008, 17:19
Cottingwith was the official name of the FFD sub-site of 80MU Escrick. It's also known as West Cottingwith and opened 1.6.44 at a cost of 99,000.

(In the same way that Barnham's FFD was known as Little Heath, and Melchbourne Park's was Riseley)

Cottingwith (codenamed 'Station Site') stored 500 tons of Pyro mustard gas in 1945 in its two tanks. It was disposed of c.1955, then under 91MU Acaster Malbis, later becoming 93MU Rufforth.

I visited the site in 1989 and found the tank area surrounded by a secure chainlink fence with suitable warning notices. The tanks themselves were capped by large concrete blocks. It all appeared to be very recent in comparison with the other FFDs at the time.

The tanks seem to have gone on Ossy's pic, and the whole eastern part of the site here (http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=53.877321~-0.971335&style=a&lvl=17&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&scene=27926295&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1) now appears to be wooded.

07-12-2008, 10:16
Thanks Graham, I thought there were two separate sites until I went back through my notes and found that they were one and the same.

11-12-2008, 20:39
I thought Bowes Moor was the most northerly of the mustard gas sites?

12-12-2008, 20:08
I thought Bowes Moor was the most northerly of the mustard gas sites?
Correct - but Ossington's original post stated 'Bulk' and 'Forward'. Bowes was a Reserve depot storing generally 'filled' munitions - certainly nothing in Bulk. It also stored other chemical agents including Phosgene and Smoke Generating stuff.


12-12-2008, 20:28
And I read something in the paper about tests being done at Bowes moor about the levels of contamination.

19-02-2009, 10:14
The site of the former Escrick (aka Cottingwith) No 5 (FFD) Forward Filling Depot for chemical bombs located near Escrick, W Yorks is well known but I am trying to locate the nominal centre of the RAF Escrick Field Depot which was under the management of 80 MU. The depot consisted on bomb and ammo dumps spread across an area which, to the north had component stores in 'Sheepwalk Plantation' and a 'Bridgers Lodge'. To the NW was a 'Park Farm' to the west a 'Slade House' to the southwest a 'Seals Farm' to the southeast a 'Charity (?) Farm'

I have pored across old maps but can't find any of these features so I reckon I am looking in the wrong area.

Over to you for any hints on the location.

19-02-2009, 14:18
Sorry, I don't know how to do those linky things, but if you look on GE, south of Escrick but north of Riccall and stay east of the A19, it is that irregular patch of woodland & the fields around it. New maps show part of it as Hart Nooking holiday park!
Rail head was west of Glade farm just east of the A19, but track now lifted. I have a site plan somewhere but my loft is a colossal mess ATM being re-insulated. I have never done a ground visit but would like to know what you and others come up with. good luck.

P Bellamy
19-02-2009, 17:34
Hollicarrs Wood, at the southern end of Escrick Park, seems to be the centre.
Sheepwalk Plantation and Bridge's Lodge to the north, Park Farm, Glade House (now Glade Cottages) and Bell's Farm (instead of Seals Farm) to the west, Charity Farm to the southeast.

Flash Earth link HERE (http://www.flashearth.com/?lat=53.851401&lon=-1.03941&z=14.5&r=0&src=msl)

All the best,

19-02-2009, 23:53
Info from 'Escrick Field Depot Layout, March 1944' Site Plan

Most of the Admin Site was intact until relatively recently - MT sheds etc. I believe it's now a mini housing estate!

The dumps occupied the whole of Common Wood, Hollicarrs and Sheepwalks. Lots of Nissens and Hall huts

The Area HQ consisted of and airmen's rest hut made from aircraft packing cases.


20-02-2009, 04:53
Thanks for that posters; I knew you would come up with the answer.

I was looking in the wrong place because the location plan I have doesn't indicate that the main area was wooded although that dawned on me last night!

11-08-2009, 23:19
Have a look at the aerial photo above. Then have a look at THIS (http://maps.google.co.uk/?ie=UTF8&ll=53.849628,-1.043358&spn=0.008785,0.026522&t=k&z=16)

What a mess - at first I thought the vegetation had been removed and we were looking at the WWII bomb hardstandings.

THIS (http://www.totaltravel.co.uk/travel/north-england/vale-of-york/york/accommodation/caravan/the-hollicarrs-1/details/)is what it's all about. BING (http://www.bing.com/maps/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=53.850343~-1.038702&style=h&lvl=16&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1) thankfully hasn't been updated yet.

I'm going to propose that ALL WWII ammunition stores should be restored to their former glory - and that includes filling in the Fauld crater :lol:


12-08-2009, 10:45
Grief! My first thought was that the bases didn't match the record site plan!

Ticky tacky box development.

12-08-2009, 13:59
Ticky tacky box development.

Huge tracts of land seem to be being swallowed up in housing development of various types. Time to emigrate to Thailand?

Many years ago on a visit to the 93MU Norton Disney site there was a planning application fastened to a nearby telegraph pole. Someone wanted to turn Eagle Hall Woods (the FFD3 mustard gas site) into a children's adventure / play site. Wish I'd photographed it - I almost couldn't believe it at the time. Out of all the countryside sites in Lincolnshire, why pick a former chemical weapon store. Fortunately the development didn't happen. Can't think why!

On the other hand a TNA record re Lords Bridge reported that post war the Marsh Close (filled mustard bombs) sub-site was in a very contaminated state. The site was then inspected and the subsequent report began with the phrase, 'This site appears to have been used for chemical weapon storage'. Didn't they brief the inspectors beforehand?


13-08-2009, 06:58
Ha Ha! I would have been a real adventure for the kids. Find the mustard pots and don't forget your swimsuits!

Last time that I looked at the Marsh Close site in satellite view the area stood out from the other farmland as a deadland.

11-09-2011, 17:49
And I read something in the paper about tests being done at Bowes moor about the levels of contamination.

Read on!
45,000 rounds of ammunition found at the former Cottingworth site.
http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/8981455.45_000_rounds_of_live_ammunition_found_in_ field/?ref=mr

13-09-2011, 05:19
Plenty more caches like that remain undiscovered. But 45,000 rounds is not a lot. We found over 160,000 in one hole at Duxford in 1965.

08-06-2014, 11:03
I tripped over this and glanced at it thinking it was old then saw the date:

http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/selby_tadcaster/8981455.45_000_rounds_of_live_ammunition_found_in_ field/

airfields man
08-06-2014, 11:18
It is old ! About six weeks or so :-D

08-06-2014, 13:11
http://www.yorkpress.co.uk/news/selby_tadcaster/8981455.45_000_rounds_of_live_ammunition_found_in_ field/

States 'The site was used as a chemical filling station for RAF Cottingwith during the Second World War...'

Should say 'Cottingwith was the chemical filling station for RAF Escrick'.

08-06-2014, 13:31
Ah! I see the actual date now. It was hidden behind an irritating pop-up window that wouldn't close when I chanced upon the article. The pit that I dug out at Duxford had over three times that amount......and there's plenty more to be discovered bigger and better than SAA.....

Richard Drew
10-06-2014, 11:47
Peter how would they dispose of the ammunition, blow it up or dismantle and get scrap value? the brass must we worth a bob or two.

10-06-2014, 13:59
Small calbre ammo such as rifle, carbine, pistol up to 50 call is fed into an armoured furnace where the propellent heats and bursts the cases and burns. The residue might be dumped or go for scrap after inspection and certification. Larger calibres typically 20mm would need to be segregated and destroyed by explosive demolition although it could also be fed into a furnace capable of resisting relatively small HE bursts.

The reason it was buried in the first instance was human reluctance to sort it, box it and make out the paperwork to return it through official channels. Often this would be 'left overs' when closing down a wartime facility and everyone is raring to leave having formally returned everything else.

Another problem was external agencies wandering in to another service establishment with a load of surplus munitions declaring that they had 'found it' and adding it to disposal problems of that unit.

Been there. Done that!

Decades ago an Army unit kindly left me 60 pounds of plastic explosives with fuzes and detonating cord. I was literally on my own in the middle of the Malayan jungle and everyone except two RAF Regiment guys with a Landrover were left and they were my ticket home so I foolishly decided to make a trip into the local area and destroy the stuff in one go. Mr 'Clever Clogs' learned a lesson that day but that's another story!

As I said, there's plenty more to be found yet........

10-06-2014, 14:05
. Mr 'Clever Clogs' learned a lesson that day but that's another story!

Awww do tell!

10-06-2014, 14:26
Twenty three year know-it-all armourer finds a stream - having lugged 60 odd pounds through secondary jungle. Decides that it's a deserted spot and hooks up a double detonator and safety fuze. Regulations require a minimum length of six feet of fuze but hell, that will take nearly 5 minutes to burn so muggins cuts a couple of feet reckoning 90 seconds to leg it. Lights up and beats a hasty retreat and falls over a vine after about ten meters and unable to free the trapped foot so panics and stays down. Resultant detonation 30 seconds later broke two ribs and left me deaf for nearly three days but created a nice jungle pool full of floating dead fish. The two 'Rocks' drove me 500 miles north over two days stopping only at a (British) Army camp where I told the MO in sign language that I had slipped whilst crossing a stream on a fallen tree and had earlier been concussed by a nearby explosion (not of my making Sir!) He wrote a note for me to give my own base MO which, with just a little embellishment, turned me from a prat into a hero. :)

Learning the hard way is the most positive!

Richard Drew
10-06-2014, 14:36
Very Good.

20-06-2014, 14:54
Hi I have lived in the heart of Yorkshire WWII airfields most of my life and know a little about the main airfields of Burn, Riccall, and Acaster malbis but I cannot find anything about an installation at Escrick I think it was a Gas store for nearby RAF Riccall but as I say I cannot find anything as to location or indeed if it's all a myth any help would be appreciated .
Many thanks

20-06-2014, 15:02
Hi I have lived in the heart of Yorkshire WWII airfields most of my life and know a little about the main airfields of Burn, Riccall, and Acaster malbis but I cannot find anything about an installation at Escrick I think it was a Gas store for nearby RAF Riccall but as I say I cannot find anything as to location or indeed if it's all a myth any help would be appreciated .
Many thanks

Escrick was a forward filling depot for chemical weapons in WW2. It is located next to the old railway station on the York/Selby railway line.

There is a full description here.



20-06-2014, 19:11
We'll thank you very much I've only been registered a couple of hours and I get this sort of result wow!!!!!! I can remember as a kid going to the site at Hollycarr wood and can picture garages and building which look like crash tender storage. I was back recently and it's now an housing estate. The old airfield itself has gone in the most part ( at least it has since the 1960/70s) again I remember cycling fro Selby to Riccall and playing on the old runways and peri tracks , there was a shell of an Humber staff car in the wood on the peri track. We used to grab sticks and scratch around in the harmonisation mound for spent bullets I believe it's still there today. Great swathes of the airfield was swallowed up by the coal industry in 1980s.
Riccall being a OCU had aircraft dropping out of the skies on a regular basis it's surprising that they chose to put a chemical storage area so close. My father who is still alive remembers a Halifax hitting st. James church in Selby in 1944 reports that it came from Riccall on a cross country it caused many deaths my dad lived opposite the church and masonry from the accident went into his street. A few years later he was stationed at another local airfield RAF BURN when it was used for armoured fighting vehicle storage ..
Thanks again

21-06-2014, 13:01
Riccall being a OCU had aircraft dropping out of the skies on a regular basis it's surprising that they chose to put a chemical storage area so close

Selby, Escrick was a Forward Filling Depot. Although it held bulk stocks of mustard gas in sub-level tanks it did not routinely store CW they were stored empty and would have been filled when ordered to do so by higher authority. Following a brief period to check filled munitions for leaks (bonding) they would then have been issued to airfields.

22-06-2014, 22:34
I think that some clarification of the above is necessary as it may give false impressions.

In the early part of WWII the conventional ammunition requirements for all Yorkshire and Lincolnshire airfields were provided by three Maintenance Units / Air Ammunition Parks: 91 MU Southburn (E Riding, Yorks), 92 MU Brafferton (N Riding, Yorks) and 93 MU Norton Disney (N Kesteven, Lincs). These parks were later renamed Forward Ammunition Depots (FADs).

The distance between 92 and 93 MU was about 90 miles and due to the rapidly expanding Bomber Command, No.80 Maintenance Unit, Escrick opened in late 1941 as an FAD to fill the gap. The intended capacity was 10,000 tons, and unlike the early units, it was a 'Field Storage Depot' using mainly woodland and some roads to hold the stocks, rather than purpose designed concrete emplacements.

In common with all other ammunition depots, Escrick had a number of dispersed sub-sites including Skipwith Common, Cawood and Naburn. In July 1942 Escrick was ordered to store filled chemical weapons - these would be 65 lb mustard, and 250 & 500 lb phosgene bombs. Escrick allocated Sheepwalks Plantation as the sub-site for this task and it featured in the post-war Air Ministry inventory of 'dubious' chemical weapon storage sites.

Two years later, on 1 July 1944, another new sub-site became operational some 4 miles to the east. This was No.5 Forward Filling Depot (FFD) which, as described above, was the bulk mustard gas site. Though frequently (and correctly) referred to as 'West Cottingwith' it was still part of 80 MU Escrick.

Hence the two chemical weapon sub-sites of 80 MU were Sheepwalks Plantation and West Cottingwith FFD, which would supply c/w to all bomber stations within their area and beyond since there were only three RAF FFDs for some ten conventional FADs The main site and all other sub-sites were for conventional high explosives and SAA etc. 80 MU Escrick was not a chemical weapon storage site but 80 MsU West Cottingwith was.

This hopefully is a little clearer, but the whole Air Ministry Maintenance Unit structure was a complex organisation.

By 1953 80 MU ceased to exist and Escrick became part of the large 91 MU with its HQ at Acaster Malbis airfield. De-requisitioning began in March 1956 and the whole unit was declared inactive in 1957, though it would many many years before all clearance operations had been completed.

22-06-2014, 23:01
Elegant and precise. I learned something new.

23-06-2014, 06:02
It's worth adding that in an April 1942 report it was stated that a maximum of 20% of bomber ops could be CW drops or sprays if the order for gas warfare was given. The onset was to be met with filled muntions mostly 65 pound LC Bombs, held filled in airfield stocks or nearby maintenance units (RAF FADS). The ready-use stocks were to support around 90 days of ops and (I assume) during that expenditure the FFDs would start production by filling empties and storing them for issue to customer airfields.

Britain had an agreement with Russia that, if the Reds were gassed by Germany then Britain would retaliate in kind. That was looking likely by mid 1942 hence the 'stocking up'