Rediscovering Hampshire’s Wartime History

The rediscovered pundit code letters at the former RAF Beaulieu, Hampshire(Image: Mike Searle. The rediscovered pundit code letters at the former RAF Beaulieu, Hampshire)

Many decades after the guns fall silent and peace is negotiated, it’s intriguing to consider what echoes of war still linger amid the landscape, from ravaged combat theaters to the home front. Last November we featured the once forgotten Beaulieu Letters, which have now been restored to their former glory. In that article, we wrote:

Since the end of the 1950s, the old wartime fighter base RAF Beaulieu has steadily returned to nature, its flat expanse – now administered by the Forestry Commission – a haven for wild ponies and model flying enthusiasts. From above, the ghostly forms of three abandoned runways are still visible and the eastern perimeter taxiway is now a cycle path. But as this airfield, in Hampshire’s New Forest, has slowly returned to heathland, an even older aerodrome across the B3054 road has been partially uncovered by the local community. In doing so, the illusive ‘Beaulieu letters’ have been revealed for the first time in decades.

Click here to discover more about that wartime artefact.

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Rediscovering Hampshire’s Wartime History

The rediscovered pundit code letters at the former RAF Beaulieu, Hampshire(Image: Mike Searle. The rediscovered pundit code letters at the former RAF Beaulieu, Hampshire)

Many decades after the guns fall silent and peace is negotiated, it’s intriguing to consider what echoes of war still linger amid the landscape, from ravaged combat theaters to the home front. Last November we featured the once forgotten Beaulieu Letters, which have now been restored to their former glory. In that article, we wrote:

Since the end of the 1950s, the old wartime fighter base RAF Beaulieu has steadily returned to nature, its flat expanse – now administered by the Forestry Commission – a haven for wild ponies and model flying enthusiasts. From above, the ghostly forms of three abandoned runways are still visible and the eastern perimeter taxiway is now a cycle path. But as this airfield, in Hampshire’s New Forest, has slowly returned to heathland, an even older aerodrome across the B3054 road has been partially uncovered by the local community. In doing so, the illusive ‘Beaulieu letters’ have been revealed for the first time in decades.

Click here to discover more about that wartime artefact.

The post Rediscovering Hampshire’s Wartime History appeared first on Urban Ghosts Media.

Piranhas in the Chichester Sewers (& Associated Urban Legends)

A flesh-eating piranha.(Image: Greg Hume. A piranha, illustration only)

The sewers of West Sussex may seem a far cry from the freshwater rivers of its native Amazonian basin, but according to a report in the Telegraph, a flesh-eating piranha has been found in the Chichester sewage system. Fear not, though, good reader, as the predatory South American fish was deceased when staff at Southern Water stumbled across it.

Though it’s understood the carnivorous fish likely died of natural causes in its tank, officials told the newspaper that the “only ‘p’s that should go down the toilet were ‘pee, poo and paper.’” Exotic pets are nothing new, so its unlikely that sewage workers or those using the facilities need fear packs of angry, man-eating piranhas as they go about their business.

A piranha fish's razor-sharp teeth.(Image: Andrewself. A piranha fish’s razor-sharp teeth, illustration only)

Nicola Crichton, of Southern Water, said: “Obviously someone who owns exotic animals must have flushed it down the toilet, I don’t think it managed to migrate all this way. People will flush anything down their toilets, we once found a bed sheet at the waterworks, and find all sorts of strange things.”

Despite this, the tale brings to mind other urban legends that have thrilled and terrified city dwellers in equal measure; and in some cases, the term “urban” couldn’t be more accurate. Across the pond in the Big Apple, one enduring myth can be traced back to a New York Times article of 1935. Fast-forward 83 years and tales of alligators in the New York City sewers are as popular as ever.

(Image: .:Ajvol:.)

The Telegraph also referenced a 2008 account in which “the Eastbourne Herald reported that sewer workers at Southern Water’s treatment plant in Eastbourne, East Sussex, claimed to have seen a strange humanoid shadow in the underground passages, which would follow staff.” The newspaper added: “They also reported muffled conversations emanating from behind the tunnel walls.”

Underground spaces, be they priest holes, forgotten “ghost stations” on subterranean railways, sewers or rumours of secret passages have long captured the public imagination and hold an important place in folklore. Who knows what lurks in the shadow lands beneath our busy streets? Thankfully alligators and piranhas are unlikely to be among them.

Read Next: 10 Creepiest Phantoms and Urban Legends of NYC

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Destiny Church: Formerly the New Tivoli Cinema on Gorgie Road, Edinburgh

Destiny Church, formerly the 1930s New Tivoli Cinema, on Gorgie Road in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Mr H. Destiny Church, formerly the New Tivoli Cinema, on Gorgie Road, Edinburgh)

Scotland’s popular capital, Edinburgh, is home to many abandoned cinemas that have been repurposed for new uses as the decades have passed by. One prominent example – unmistakably a former picture house – is the New Tivoli Cinema on Gorgie Road, a stone’s throw from the Gorgie City Farm and not too far from Haymarket. The 700-seat former film house is now known as Destiny Church, a contemporary place of worship that opened its doors in 2008.

Remembering the church’s heyday as the New Tivoli, photographer Mr H writes that:

…it was designed by cinema architect James McKissack, and opened in January 1934, incorporating some of the fabric of the earlier Tivoli Cinema, in particular most of the facade, which was extended upwards and eastwards. Seating was for 1200, and the plans included stage and dressing rooms. This closed as a cinema in July 1973, and from then until 2006 was a bingo hall. The 1930s sand-blasted art-deco window decorations are still visible on the exterior, and the interior retains most of its 1930s detailing. The building was B-listed by Historic Scotland in 1993.

A short distance away, in the direction of Haymarket, stands the remnants of another historic picture house known as the Scotia Cinema. The Scotia is understood to have been the second oldest cinema in Scotland. Until recently, its historic auditorium was used to store rental cars, and retained some of its original features despite being hollowed out. Demolished in early 2014 to make way for student accommodation, the distinctive facade survives today as a tattoo parlour.

Related: 10 Inspiring Examples of Adaptive Reuse

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Uncover an Obscure Devon Military Railway

The historic Rowtor Target Railway on Dartmoor, UK.(Image: Tim Symons)

The wild, windswept expanses of Dartmoor are home to a number of forgotten narrow-gauge railways from time past, from derelict mining tracks to military target railways. One of the best known of these obscure tramways is the Rowtor Target Railway, a 500-yard-long line half concealed by the long grass of the rugged Devon upland, and quietly maintained by local enthusiasts. Find out more about the Rowtor Target Railway here.

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Rediscovering Britain’s Forgotten Military Arrows

A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two.(Image: Martin Vaughan. A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two)

Across rural Britain, from southern England to the west coast of Scotland, lie myriad giant concrete arrows left behind after the dark days of World War Two drew to a close. Military historians will likely be well acquainted with them, but for many hikers who stumble across the concrete oddities amid often barren moorland, their existence may come as an surprise. Find out more about these intriguing wartime relics in our 2017 feature: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain.

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Rediscovering Britain’s Forgotten Military Arrows

A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two.(Image: Martin Vaughan. A ruined concrete arrow from World War Two)

Across rural Britain, from southern England to the west coast of Scotland, lie myriad giant concrete arrows left behind after the dark days of World War Two drew to a close. Military historians will likely be well acquainted with them, but for many hikers who stumble across the concrete oddities amid often barren moorland, their existence may come as an surprise. Find out more about these intriguing wartime relics in our 2017 feature: The Giant Concrete Directional Arrows of Wartime Britain.

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The Juniata Shipwreck in Inganess Bay, Orkney

The wreck of the Juniata, Orkney, Scotland.(Image: Ian Balcombe. Wreck of the Juniata, Orkney Islands)

The waters of northern Scotland’s Orkney Islands are littered with shipwrecks. One landmark hulk, clearly visible from Kirkwall Airport, is the wreck of the Juniata, which was reportedly launched as the Sprucol at Sunderland in 1918 and acquired her new name two years later. There’s also been some confusion surrounding the identity of the Inganess Bay wreck, as photographer Ian Balcombe points out:

Originally launched in Sunderland in 1918 as the Sprucol, then renamed Juniata in 1920. Some people are still confused about the identity of the wreck. This is partly caused by the huge concentration of shipwrecks in the area. In this case, a second wreck, the Loch Maddy lies further out and in deeper water. This second wreck was carrying either Oregon Pine or Greenheart, a type of wood, some of which was salvaged in the 1960s and used in a local bar, The Bothy.

Juniata shipwreck in Inganess Bay, near Kirkwall Airport, on Mainland Orkney.(Image: Oliver Dixon)

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The Locarno Ballroom on Slateford Road (Edinburgh)

The Locarno ballroom and music hall on Slateford Road in Edinburgh, Scotland.(Image: Thomas Nugent. The former Locarno ballroom on Slateford Road)

Its original purpose as one of Edinburgh‘s many dance halls may be a thing of the past, but The Locarno ballroom on Slateford Road survives today as a pool and snooker club. Though rather faded in its elegance, the building’s stone facade is an unmissable landmark amid the area’s traditional Victorian tenements, beckoning passers-by (even those of us too young to remember the popular music halls of the early-mid 20th century) to cast our minds back in time.

The Locarno, Slateford Road.(Image: Thomas Nugent)

One contributor to the EdinPhoto website writes: “I’m sure that the dance hall in Slateford Road was called ‘The Locarno’. It was built above a garage and a terrace of shops, the most westward of which was a chip shop… The street frontage was of a glossy black glass-like material. I think, too, that there was a pool hall in the upper premises.”

Another adds: “The Locarno in Slateford was… a popular place. It changed its name to Paulenas at one time, then back to Locarno.”

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Avro Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” (Preserved Forward Fuselage)

The preserved forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster DV372/PO-F "Old Fred" at the Imperial War Museum Lambeth in London.(Image: @planedailymag. Forward fuselage of Lancaster DV372 “Old Fred” at the IWM)

Despite its enduring fame and popularity among aviation enthusiasts, the iconic Avro Lancaster bomber didn’t survive the Second World War in large numbers. Many examples of Bomber Command’s mighty flagship were, of course, shot down over Occupied Europe, written-off in training accidents or while returning home, appallingly damaged, from raids across the North Sea. Many more were scrapped without ceremony after the conflict, all but forgotten by a war-weary public with little interest in or appetite for their preservation.

Among them was ED932, AJ-G “G for George”, the aircraft flown by 24-year-old Wing Commander Guy Gibson, VC on the famous Dambusters raid of May 1943, codenamed Operation Chastise. Like other surviving Dams raid aircraft, ED932 had been extensively modified to carry Barnes Wallis’ famous Upkeep “bouncing bomb”, and could never be fully returned to conventional status. As such the Type 464 (Provisioning) Lancaster was only used occasionally on operations after Chastise, mainly employed for trials and training duties. G for George was scrapped at RAF Scampton on July 29, 1947.

Today, less than 20 complete Lancasters exist around the world (mostly in Canada) with four preserved in the UK. But there are many surviving parts, wrecks and significant fuselage sections, including the forward fuselage of Avro Lancaster Mk.1 DV372, known to crews as “Old Fred”. The bomber, which was coded PO-F and served with No. 467 Squadron RAAF, makes for a superb exhibit at the Imperial War Museum’s Lambeth branch in London. Old Fred flew 45 missions with 467 Squadron and affords visitors a close-up glimpse of the forward section that’s not easily visible on complete airframes.

Read Next: The Forgotten Yorkshire Airfields of No. 4 Group, Bomber Command

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