View Full Version : Spalford Wood / Spalford Warren, Nottinghamshire
Spalford was a bomb storage/disposal sub-site for RAF Norton Disney, located between RAF Wigsley & Swinderby railway station near the Notts/Lincs border. Wigsley A/F in the background.
Once abandoned, it became an SSSI & bird Sanctuary, open to the public. Dunno how someone can just come in and de-wood it though.
open to the public. Dunno how someone can just come in and de-wood it though.]
93 Maintenence Sub-unit opened in March 1943 to store chemical weapons. It had a mile of Sommerfeld Tracking.
An interesting site!. I first visited it decades ago as I had a plan from RAFM which showed an spot marked as 'contaminated area'. Being an idiot I went to have a look. In the centre of the wooded bit was an area almost completely devoid of vegetation. There were the broken remains of concrete fence posts scattered around and a few remnants of barbed wire. I later met a woman walking her dog and she mentioned that a few weeks ago the dog had strayed into the undergrowth. A few hours later the dog became seriously ill by fortunately recovered a few days later.
A return visit many years later. with Ossington_2008, to the same spot revealed new eight-foot concrete fence posts, chain link fencing and warning signs. The military were also performing a thorough investigation of the entire site (still completely open to the public). There were remains of 6lb incendiaries around, plus some bundles of 'Window'. Wonder what its like today?
The fenced area was here (http://maps.live.com/default.aspx?v=2&FORM=LMLTCP&cp=53.202548~-0.755348&style=h&lvl=19&tilt=-90&dir=0&alt=-1000&phx=0&phy=0&phscl=1&encType=1), and was used as a mustard gas burning site c.1951. By November 1952 it was reported as completely clear of contamination.
Guess we weren't too careful in those days.
I have the AHB records for 93MU Norton Disney, which was home to an FFD (Forward Filling Depot) for mustard gas. The records show that Norton Disney and its sub site at Spalford were completely clear in the mid 50's. The site was then made "completely clear" in the 80s......and became "completely clear" in the 90s.
I would regard the phrase "completely clear" as somewhat suspect.
I have been doing much research into 93MU. It would be an understatement to say that the MOD are uncomfortable discussing it.
Here be dragons, methinks.
Incidentally 93MU was originally RAF Swinderby. Then they built an airfield called.........RAF Swinderby so the MU became Norton Disney.
"completely clear" has a similar meaning to "perfectly safe" rather like the NHS phrase "comfortable".
Incidentally 93MU was originally RAF Swinderby. Then they built an airfield called.........RAF Swinderby so the MU became Norton Disney.
Yes weird this especially as the airfield is right next to Norton Disney, and the MU is right next to Swinderby.
This was a munitions dump as well as a store for chemical weapons. At the end of the war all the Mustard gas was burnt on site and currently the government are conducting tests on the soil due to some new EU laws. It is now a nature reserve.
So after numerous other 'final attempts' to clean the site up, this appears to be it!
Just noticed that the three contaminated burning areas are new very obvious by their fencing. LINK (http://wtp2.appspot.com/wheresthepath.htm?lat=53.20252867468284&lon=-0.7551437616348267&gz=19&oz=8>=1)
It seems that this site amy have been the RAFs equivalent of Bramley. This was a storage area for mustard gas that the army cleared in the late eighties, wonder if it was cleared by the same Sappers?
I should think so. We wouldn't risk our necks if we could get the pongos to do it:)
I think that the Sappers have the responsibility for the clearance of chemical warfare munitions.
I think you will find that DSTL at Porton Down have a special section run by Gareth Johnson to deal with any CW found in the UK.
Well as I said in a previous post the site at Bramley was cleared by the Sappers.
Having spent almost two years at Norton Disney(93 MU) and being part of an ordinance demolition team 1951-1953 I never saw any sign of mustard gas. We would travel by wagon to Spalford Wood two or three days a week to destroy mostly ammunition, which we carried in the wagon from Norton Disney, I can't remember that anything was stored at Spalford Wood, it was an almost desolate area with deep sand pits to facilitate explosive detonation. We would destroy 20mm aircraft ammo using plastic explosives and detonators, small arms ammunition was destroyed by burning in 5000lb bomb rings. These were in stacks five high, primed incendiary bombs placed in the bottom and ammunition heaped on top of them, the rings covered with steel sheeting and weighted down with sand bags, the incendiaries would burn and the ammo would fire.....................it sounded like thousands of fire crackers going off and would burn for two or three hours at a time. I would have thought that as the site was being cleared or cleaned that remnants of ordinance would be found. In my time at Norton Disney I never saw any signs of Mustard Gas either, it could have been put there after 1953 of course. I have read also that Norton Disney was an airfield and have to say that is not true, it is was situated alongside Swinderby railway station and the name changed to Norton Disney when Swinderby Airfield was estabished on the A46 between Newark and Lincoln( I think this was around 1939), in fact the village of Swinderby was half way between Norton Disney camp and RAF Swinderby which was a Pilot training base( we would aften enjoy a pint and a game of dominoes in the Plough public house in the village). The camp was alomgside the railway station to put a siding into the camp to allow goods train wagons to be brought in to the camp, this of course allowed the transit to and from the bomb dump of heavy ordinance..250, 500, 1000lbs bombs and aircraft depth charges 250lb each, I recall working overtime preparing a consignment of Depth charges being sent to RAF Selita in Hong Kong.......we were given a weekend pass as a reward!! In August of 1953 I was posted to the Suez canal Zone were I served out my time until 1955. In the sixties I went back to see what was left of RAF Norton Disney and found almost nothing there, the billets had gone, the cookhouse was falling down and in bad condition and the what had been the CO's house at the entrance to the camp was now the home of a local gamekeeper.....................I do remember there were always lots of pheasants wandering about the place.......Partridges too. I would be very pleased to hear from anyone who may remember me from those good old days!!!
Welcome to AiX John, from one ex-RAF Armourer (1956 - 1970) to another. You must be an octogenarian now and it is fortunate for me to be connected with someone who actually worked at an FAD.
Can you confirm that the three HE Store groups were served directly by standard gauge rail spurs from the main line or was everything transhipped via a loading platform near to Swinderby station?
By Spalford Wood, are you referring to Spalford Warren? The area to the left of the latter is now extensive gravel/sand pits.
Was Eagle Hall Wood (adjacent to the north of the FAD) also used for munitions storage in temporary huts or open stacks?
Thanks for your personal memories that really help us to understand what happened here operationally.
This may be of interest:
From my notes:
The Norton Disney sub-site at Spalford became a burning and demolition area in 1951. Half sections of inverted Nissen hutting were sunk to a depth of seven foot in the soil. A concrete base was added, with six inches of sand for protection. Liquid mustard was poured into the container and incinerated. Two months later MoS inspectors from Kidbrooke and Rhydymwyn visited the site and following an inspection of the boreholes declared that the ground was very seriously contaminated, probably due to an impermeable layer.
Hello Peter......I will be an octogenarian when boxing day gets here!! As you say, there can not be many of us left who worked as bomb armourers on bomb dumps. I can confirm that we had a main line spur directly into Norton Disney and had to drag the trucks down to the bottom end of the camp with a tractor pulling them to get started and then running alongside the trucks to apply the brakes it was not a very precise method but somehow we managed. I dont really know if it was Spalford Wood or Warren..................we were just told it was Spalford. Sorry but I dont Know where Eagle Hall Wood is or was so cant help you there.......sorry. I enjoyed talking about my mermories and would be happy to add more as I remember things from those days, I have recently joined the Canal Zoners and Suez Veterans association and really enjoy the quarterly news letters and as with here I hope to contact one or two of my old friends and workmates..........sorry to disapoint ref mustard gas.....I was on demolition duty many times during my two years there and never saw or heard of it at all, in fact there were a couple of shanty huts on the site with people living in them, we had to go over to them and tell them we were about to blow and to stay inside, we also had to hoist red flags on a couple of lanes running nearby and stop traffic until the armourment officer blew his whistle to announce all clear!! One of our guys who was on red flag duty on the lane picked up a shiny object which turned out to be a 20mm round we had just sent into the sky and it exploded in his hand......................he was in hospital for weeks!!
Eagle Hall Wood was the one directly north of the most northerly bomb store; also known as Great Low Wood, here:
In the right hand window can be seen the overgrown HE Bomb Stores, top, centre (squarish) and bottom (triangular) and the track of the rail spur. Of course the wood has expanded a little since your time but did exist pre-war and with a few paved tracks through the wood might have been used for storage of SAA and Pyros and GD ammo.
Yes, the current Spalford Warren is mostly postwar plantation growth but looking at a 1955 OS map there was a small wood there during your time with old sand pits just to the south and I reckon these were your demolition sites.
You have prompted me to explain to our AiX readers that the Armament Trade during WW2 and post-war was split essentially into Armourer, Bombs and Armourer, Guns. It was probably mid to late 50s that they were amalgamated with new tradesmen being instructed on all aspects. But, the Armament Trade continued to have two skill levels, Mechanics and Fitters the difference being in the level of training and duration and subsequent qualification.
Hello again Peter, with regard to Armourers in my day, there were three types.....................Gun Armourer, bomb armourer and Turret armourer.............this was from the days of B46's, Lincolns and Halifax's, there were still mosquitos, Wellingtons and Shackeltons flying about. Looking at the os maps i find it difficult to remember just where everything was. I can see what was the railway station alongside Norton Disney(is the line still active?)...there is so much woodland...................I remember there was a small spinney at the bottom end of the bomb bay area.....................but now it looks like Sherwood Forrest. We had pyrotechnics at Norton Disney as well of course and in some unlocked sheds you could pick up molotoff cocktails, grenades,smoke flotes flame flotes etc................of course only authorised personel were allowed beyond the danger area barrier....but who knows who could get in there after hours? From Norton Disney we also had a team travelling to RAF Fulbeck, a disused airfield and here they would carry out routine maintenance mainly on 250lb and 500lb bombs. I was on guard there a couple of times and the highlight was catching pigeons in the hangers and eating them for supper..................there were no other facilities there, we had to bring our own san dwiches although we could make tea or coffee. I can still see trains of bomb trollies each trolly loaded with two bombs..one at each end. They were being worked on, not unlike the production line at Ford or Vauxhall.....................goodness knows what happened to all those bombs, we did steam the explosive out of some of them but it was a long process...................I( suspect that many of them were flown out to sea and dumped). Better go now......work to do in my greenhouse
Thanks, I forgot the Armourer, Turrets. Turret training was eliminated from the syllabus just as I started training at Halton in 1956 although they still had turrets in the 'shops. We were given some basics and overview on one or two types.
Yes, the railway through Swinderby Station is active and can be seen here:
Fulbeck airfield, a former operational Bomber unit is nine miles to the south of here, Immediate post war it was used by 255 MU to collect and dispose of RAF surplus stores. It is recorded that many auctions were held there in 1948. Then, your lot moved in (93 MU) as a sub-unit of Norton Disney and began the onerous task of bomb maintenance whilst the Air Ministry decided the future RAF requirements. Presumably, as with other disused airfileds used for open storage and inspection of surplus bombs, the former bomb dump was used, in particular the Fuzing Point sheds provided under cover facility for inspection. Ultimately, many bombs went to the ROF Pembrey for steaming out and recovery of explosives but more went for deep sea dumping at the bottom of the North Atlantic.
Fulbeck airfield, a former operational Bomber unit is nine miles to the south of here, Immediate post war it was used by 255 MU to collect and dispose of RAF surplus stores. It is recorded that many auctions were held there in 1948. Then, your lot moved in (93 MU) as a sub-unit of Norton Disney
In October 1946 Spalford stored 3,000 tons of weapons, but Fulbeck was already in use LINK (http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?1059-Fulbeck&p=114237#post114237)
At the time I was working at Spalford (June 1951 to July 1955) there were no weapons there...................perhaps they had already been disposed of or removed, it was after all five and a half years later. The area of Spalford where we carried out daily destruction of ammunition was pretty desolate................there were certainly no heavy ordinance storage facilities, in fact there no personel on site after we left to return to Norton Disney at the end of our day, it is of course possible that the area is much bigger than I thought. We did used to from time to time drive the 15cwt bedford truck we used up and around the metalled roads as our MT driver tried to teach a few of us to drive.........with little success I must add!! Learning to drive a wagon on metalled roads across sand dunes was not easy!! The area of Spalford we worked in was a series of deep sand craters which we used to carry out or explosions, there were a couple of minor roads passing accross the edges of the area and as I explained before we had red flags hoisted by sentries who would shelter in sandbad dugouts at the side of the road. Everything we destroyed we carried in our trucks from Norton Disney every day................we had no storage there at all, we only ever destroyed aircraft and small arms ammunition, sometimes pyrotechnics................incendiary bombs mainly
Re Post # 32; thanks Carnaby, it makes sense to me that Fulbeck would have been used as a surplus munitions store very soon after war's end. The 255 MU presence with 93 MSU would not have conflicted because the former would have occupied the Technical Area and the latter bomb store although there was probably some 'sharing' of runway/perimeter sections by 255 MU for its bulky items.
By 1957 operations at Spalford were controlled from Morton Hall, which housed 5131 Bomb Disposal Sqn and 6204 Bomb Disposal Flt.
Spalford was described as waste ground used for the demolition of bombs, and includes a burning pit for the destruction of incendiary and pyrotechnics. The site has been cleared of all buildings except a few Nissens. There was no personnel accommodation
Morton was described as: SHQ Signals and Office in converted country house, with four large Nissens. Cinema used as lecture room. NAAFI Institute, 6 acres of playing fields.
SSQ was at RAF Swinderby
40 single officers, 17 SNCOs, 222 airmen
19 married officers, 2 SNCOs, 22 airmen
5 single WRAF officers
Messing for 58 + 30 + 250
Catering capacity 90 + 90 + 350
Two 15,000 gallon high-level water tanks
Two 55kW standby generators.
Morton Hall Thread (http://www.airfieldinformationexchange.org/community/showthread.php?5890-Morton-Hall-nr-Swinderby-Lincolnshire)
I joined 5131 Squadron (then at Stafford) and was posted to 6204 BD Flight (then at Debden) in 1964 so they had moved again by that time!
Thank you Carnaby, I have been trying to find out when Norton Disney actually closed down, and what happened to all the heavy ordinance there, I still dont know but Morton Hall was actually a military hospital when I was stationed at Norton Disney(51-53)..................I have never been there but knew of a couple of people who were there for a few weeks at a time. With regard to Spalford and a burning pit, we had three of four pits going there in my time, these were constucted using 5000lb bomb rings. We would stack them five high, place half a dozen primed incendiaries in the bottom and pour bucket fulls of ammunition(small arms) on top of the incendiaries, cover the top of the rongs with sheet steel and sandbags the light the incendiaries fuses....................there would be a lot of noise from the pits of all those bullets going off inside the rings..............these would burn for two or three hours during which time we would be in our dugout reading our newspapers etc...we could not leave the site until the burning was complete. We also on other days destroyed 20mm aircarft ammuntion, this was done by blasting stacks of the ammo....nose down in the sand using plastic explosive and detonators. We would spend the morning setting up the stacks, usually half a dozen all connected to the dynamo exploder and during the afternoon these were each charged and exploded with quite a big bang. We never destroyed any bombs at Spalford, it would be normal to steam the explosive from bombs rather than explode them and this was a long job. We had a lot of bombs at Norton Disney, these were stored in blast proof bomb bays, there were 250lb, 500lb and 1000lb bays, we had arial depth charges also...................................where did it all go to?? and when?? can anyone throw any light on the matter for me?? I wonder if any of my old mates are still around......Bob Biddulph, Taffy Welch, Scouse Makin.........................the CO was Flight Leutenant Duckworth, armourment officer was Warrant Officer Pape these two were of course much older than the likes of myself at eighteen yeatrs of age
As you say, the steaming out process was time consuming and the removed fillings still has to be disposed of. As far as I know, many thousands of surplus RAF HE Bombs went to Pembrey ROF where they were broken down and the HE recovered. Others, rejected due to condition or age went for deep sea dumping.
The name Warrant Officer Pape rings a bell with me but from where?
Thank you Peter, I can't imagine that they would spend too much time steaming out, I always suspected(and others did too) that most of it is at the bottom of the ocean. I remember the WO Pape retired while I was at Norton Disney, he took us all out in one of the wagons to a pub in Lincoln, we had a good night out and on returning to camp he went straight to the sergeants mess to continue boozing. We decided to send him on his way by removing his bed from his room(at the end of our billet). At about two am I awoke to find the billet in termoil with old Papie roaring at us and stamping on two fire extinguishers and spraying everyone in sight.there was a wild dash for the door at the rear of the billet with foam and whatever else dripping from the ceiling!! It took us all the next morning to clean the place up..................still the old devil came and shook hands with every member of his team before he left later in the day. Have you any idea when Norton Disney closed down...also Spalford with its huge sand pits.....................I bet there are still bits of ammo lying around there.
Hello Swindertim.......do the records show when Norton Disney was a forward Filling Depot for mustard gas? I was stationed at Norton Disney from 1951 to 1953 and at that time it was a bomb storage unit(otherwise known as a bomb dump). We had a lot of heavy ordinance there left over from the war, and a lot of aircraft and small arms ammunition......but there was never any sign or mention or warnings that mustard gas was anywhere in the area or confines of the camp, there were no emergency procedures or fenced off areas whithin the the Danger Area where the bomb bays housed the bombs. I find it hard to understand how it was never mentioned or encountered, either at Norton Disney or Spalford where we carried our explosive demolition mainly of aircraft and small arms ammuntion.......................I never came accross any mustard gas there either and spent two or three days a week there on demolition duty.I did go back to where the camp(Norton Disney) used to be in the sixties and there was nothing there apart from the cookhouse which was falling down, all the billets had gone and the commanding Officers house near the entrance to the camp was a gamekeepers house. I wonder what happened to all the ordinance and rather think it is at the bottom of the Atlantic Ocean. At Spalford there would be plenty of evidence and bits of Incendiaries and shell caseings laying about as we put plenty of it up into the sky in my time there. I would appreciate any info you can pass on to me as I wonder what became of it all and if any of my old comrades are still around to talk about it all to.
We need a Norton Disney thread. We now have one.
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