Did we help Nazi bomber escape after Shropshire air raid?

After a successful raid on Tern Hill airfield, the Luftwaffe airman had become a bit lost.

Tern Hill airfield was bombed during the war
Tern Hill airfield was bombed during the war

But a tale heard years ago by former Newport mayor David Adams suggests that the bomber pilot could have unwittingly been given helpful directions from the ground which helped him make his getaway.

David, who was born in December 1937, has been writing his memoirs and in his chapter covering the war years in Newport.

They were many trips to see his grandfather George Beeston who lived on Chester Road out of Whitchurch, and the journey took them past the airfield.

As young David sat in the back of his father's car he often noticed that there was a blackened hole in the roof and gable of the nearest hangar, just visible from the road.

"Apparently, as I learned later, on October 16, 1940, a Junkers 88 had dropped a bomb which had exploded inside destroying the roof as well as eight Ansons and two Blenheims inside," he said.

David Adams

"The damage was never repaired and the building became known as the Sunshine Hangar until it was demolished many years later.

"In 1996 I heard a strange story attached to this event from an elderly gentleman I met in a pub in Ash Magna. He told me he had been on duty as a radio operator on the night in question attached to an anti-aircraft battery.

"They had heard an explosion in the distance and also an aircraft nearby. All of a sudden a voice asked 'I am flying towards Stoke-on-Trent, which way do I go?' 'Follow the railway line' was the instant response.

"It was not unusual for pilots to lose their directions in those days. Later to his horror he realised due to the slight accent that he had instructed the German pilot."

David recalls that his favourite Newport pub in those days – he was of course only a child himself – was the old Vine Vaults in the Square.

The Vine Vaults, Newport, in about 1950. Picture: the Malcolm Miles collection.

"One evening I was left outside in my parents' car in St Mary Street, which was then two-way traffic, when a local wartime character they called 'Stringy' came out with a Vimto for me.

"Much later I learned that he was Flight Sergeant Stringfellow, the commander of Chetwynd airfield."

Academically, David's progress at the Congregational School continued to be poor. This was, he says, an outpost of the Newport High School for Girls, which used the Congregational Schoolroom in Wellington Road – later to become Trinity Church meeting hall – as a mixed infant school for girls and boys, the headmistress being Miss E P Ward.

"My own feelings towards it were not improved by being rolled into the nettles by other pupils between the pine trees in the playground," he said.

"My concerned parents decided to move me to the Church of England School in Avenue Road under the headmastership of Mr Frank Fowler, an excellent man and a strict disciplinarian."

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