Returned to England

Dear reader,

After four years living abroad in Belgium, I have returned to Cambridgeshire. I look forward to beginning new investigations and exploring the military history of this beautiful and historically rich part of the United Kingdom. Thanks for bearing with me being away and the drop off in postings over the past few years. Now, as soon as the COVID-19 restrictions begin to ease and as we all start to receive our vaccinations, I look forward to delving into new topics and then writing on them to share with you. Stay safe and well everyone!

Ypres: The Menin Gate

It is a somber place, the Ypres Salient, where so many young men perished between 1914 and 1918. I have begun a series of hikes around the many battlefields, following Paul Reed’s excellent guide: “Walking Ypres”. However, my exploration of the Ypres Salient rightly begins at the Menin Gate, a memorial to the British and Commonwealth soldiers missing from the beginning of the war until 15 August 1917. It was then that 55,000 names of missing men had been reached and additional names would be recorded on other memorials around the Salient. However, for the missing from Commonwealth countries: Australia, Canada, and South Africa, all their missing from the Ypres Salient are recorded at the Menin Gate. The memorial was built in the 1920s and unveiled in July of 1927. At the unveiling of the monument, Field Marshal Herbert Plumer, 1st Viscount Plumer, who had led forces in the Salient during the war, most notably at Messines Ridge, famously said of those with no graves: “They are not missing, they are here.”

Originally, the gate was an opening in the 17th Century walls built by Vauban which led from the medieval market town of Ypres to the town of Menin some miles away to the east. During the war, the opening in the walls led to the front, and as the war progressed, hundreds of thousands of men would pass from the town through the destroyed portal to the trenches and dugouts which surrounded the tenuous British position in the salient. Ypres itself came under increased German shelling throughout the war and was almost completely destroyed by the armistice in 1918. Soldiers passing from Ypres through the ruined walls to the trenches were said to joke: “tell the last man through to bolt the Menin Gate.”

Beginning in July 1928, only interrupted during the German occupation during the Second World War, the Last Post Buglers’ Association has played the Last Post at 8 pm each evening under the arch of the Menin Gate. In fact, as Ypres was liberated by Polish forces in the Second World War, the ceremony was bravely resumed by local firefighters while fighting continued in the town. It is a moving ceremony and a credit to the Belgian allies of Great Britain, the citizens of Ypres, who have maintained this somber tradition for almost a hundred years. Each night, traffic is stopped and visitors stand silently as the buglers play in unison the Last Post, which echoes under the gate and among the 55,000 names of the missing. It is fitting to feel overcome by a sense of loss and tragedy at such a moment.

For more information on the Last Post Buglers’ Association, or to schedule a wreath laying at the Menin Gate, visit their website:

Cambridge Military History – in Belgium!

Dear reader,

It has been a while since my last historical research posting, as you have surely seen! The reason is simple, after many years of living in Cambridgeshire, England, we have relocated to Belgium.  As any reader of history knows, Belgium’s short history from independence in 1830 through the World Wars and the Cold War, and for millenia before that, has been one of battles and warfare.  From Waterloo to Ypres, there is much to explore and write about here on the continent!  My historical explorations have already begun!

I don’t intend to change the name of the project, will continue as is so as not to lose the many readers and friends I’ve made via this site.  I’ll continue as before and look forward to sharing my research and experiences here in Belgium with you, and certainly there will be a connection to the United Kingdom throughout my future writings!


Historical Photos from the 303rd Bomb Group (H)

An amazing thing recently happened.  A friend of mine, stationed at RAF Molesworth, the old airbase of the 303rd Bomb Group (H) in the western part of Cambridgeshire, came by my office.  He brought me a box of old photographs – all photos from airmen and officers of the 303rd, part of U.S. 8th Air Force, taken during the Second World War at RAF Molesworth.  He asked if I wanted them.  Of course! I was amazed.  They are wonderful historical records.  On top of the stack of photos – there must be 70 – there was a handwritten note, which read: “Dupes of WWII photos donated by Malcolm Magid, plus copies from old JAC XO, CAPT Mewbourne.” This note tells me quite a few things, namely the photos were in the posession of the Joint Analysis Centre (JAC) Executive Officer (XO), who was a naval officer (the acronym CAPT is only used for a U.S. Navy Captain, the other branches of the U.S. military use different acronyms: Capt., CPT, or Capt).  The JAC command has only been at Molesworth since 1990 – so that gives some idea of the timeline of the photos ownership.

More importantly, Mr. Malcolm James Magid was a B-17 copilot who survived the war and passed away in Atlanta, Georgia on 16 May 2012 at the age of 88.  He was stationed at RAF Molesworth and flew 35 missions over Germany during the War.  He was highly decorated, even being made a Chevalier of the Légion d’honneur by the President of France for his aid in the Republic’s liberation. 

2LT Magid

2LT Malcolm Magid Service Photo, thanks to the 303rd BG(H) Historical Society

For the photos themselves, I asked myself what to do?  First, I thought I will scan them in and post them here as a record of the brave men who served at RAF Molesworth, and in honor of Mr. Magid.  Secondly, I will attempt to find Mr. Magid’s family (an obituary published in a local paper lists his descendants) and see if they would like these photos returned.  If that effort is unsuccessful, I will contact the U.S. Air Force Historical Society and the 303rd Bomb Group Historical Society to see if the photos can be added to their collections.  More to follow.

For now, please enjoy these photographs.  I think you may feel as I do that these men are all so very young…

2LT Magid

This appears to be 2LT Malcolm Magid standing infront of a B-17 undergoing maintenance.

Air crew in front of B-17

B-17 Crew in front of aircraft.  I am (moderately) confident that 2LT Magid is kneeling in the front row on the far left, wearing the peaked cap. The officer in the front row, third from left, is striking in how young he looks.

B-17 Cockpit

B-17 Cockpit.

B-17 Wheels Up Landing

Photo of a B-17 after making a wheels-up landing (the aircraft is in remarkable shape).

Hell's Angels Board with Colonel

Written on the negative is “COL. Heller… [illegible]” Colonel Heller was the 360th  Squadron Commanding Officer, a subordinate unit to the 303rd Bomb Group (H).

Inside the Nissen Hut

Inside a Nissen Hut.  Of note: under the cot are flying boots, uniform dress shoes, and tassled loafers.  The airman in the background is playing solitaire.



Aircraft Archeology: Mosquito Crash Site in the Dutch Countryside

During the night of 27 April 1944 a de Havilland Mosquito night attack fighter from 613 Squadron was airborne for a raid on the German fighter airfield at Vliegbasis Twenthe  (Dutch: Twente Airbase) in the eastern border area of the Netherlands. The Mosquito was on an intruder mission, a low-altitude strafing/bombing run on a fighter base in the darkness.  Coming in low and from the east the Mosquito was only two kilometers from the Luftwaffe base when (according to local accounts) search lights were switched on and anti-aircraft fire began, blinding Flight Sergeant R. J. E. Adey and his copilot K. J. Pinnell, who were brought down into the trees in the Haagse Bos (Dutch: Haagse Woods),  both men dying during the crash


DeHavilland Mosquito FB.VI of RAF 613 Squadron at RAF Lasham, June 1944. This photo was taken two months after the crash in the Haagse Bos. Notice the Recognition or “D-Day” stripes on the aircraft. By Ringwayobserver – Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 on Wikimedia commons.

This area, the Haagse Bos, happens to lie near my in-laws home in Enschede, the Netherlands, and as the years have passed, I have often found myself hiking in the woods. A small wooden marker on the path, near the forest where the Mosquito crashed on 27 April 1994 is there to remind us of the sacrifice by these two men on a night-time raid in a almost completely wooden, high speed, light bomber.  I felt compelled to learn more about the crash. I wanted to find the spot where the plane went down, aware that very little of the aircraft would remain, since the de Havilland Mosquito was designed for speed and was mostly a wooden construction bomber built around a metal frame.


I’ve oriented the below photographs onto the aerial photo from the late 1940s mentioned. #3 is the location of the Mosquito crash site. The photograph is oriented with North at the top of the photo, the Vliegbasis Twenthe is 2 km WSW of the crash site.

Aircraft archeology efforts paid off quickly, as the sacrifice of the two British fliers who crashed here in 1944 were quietly honored at the time and have been respectfully remembered by the citizens of the Dutch city of Enschede since.  An aerial photograph from the late 1940s identified the crash site, approximately 150 meters from a small wooden marker that records the crash.  From there, using the overhead photo and a picture from the 1980s which shows scarring in the trees from the Mosquitoes’ crash, I could vector in on the site.  It was during these exploratory efforts that we discovered a fresh bouquet of flowers last April, on a cold afternoon, lying next to the wooden marker near the site. The flowers were a moving, quiet act of gratitude to the two men who flew the aircraft from an anonymous person, left 71 years after their death.

This aerial photograph shows the area from above, taken in the late 1940s, and is the one which allowed me to locate the site.  At the time, the scaring in the trees from the Mosquito’s impact and fire was still visible.  (Remarkably, in the early 1980s, scarring in the trees was also mentioned in a local Dutch newspaper with an accompanying photograph, but by 2015 to 2016 I could not discern any noticeable change, most likely since some timbering took place in the area after the 1980s story).  The photos I’ve taken with my camera are numbered, with the number corresponding to a place on the aerial picture where I stood taking the photo. The v-shaped arrow shows the direction of the photograph, to help orient the ground images to the overhead photo. The location of the plane’s final position is a close approximation, since debris was likely spread as the plane hit the trees at high speed, but this final photo is the location of the wreck and visible damage to the woods from 70 years ago.

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Picture #1, looking north into the Haagse Bos, south of the crash site. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.


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Photo #2, the crash site is ahead. The wooden marker honoring the two lost aviators I mentioned is in the foreground. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.

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Picture #3, the crash site. Due to the Mosquitos’ almost all wood construction, little of the aircraft remains. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.

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Picture #4, the path into the Haagse Bos. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.

A few kilometers east of the crash site is  Vliegbasis Twenthe, which the Royal Netherlands Air Force maintains as a fighter divert airfield.  During the Second World War, the Luftwaffe used the airfield as a Messerschmitt BF 109 fighter airfield: the target of the Mosquito’s low altitude night-time raid.  Maintained and used by the Dutch Air Force since World War II, there are several anti-aircraft hardstands, pill boxes, and firing positions from the time it was used by the Luftwaffe which still survive.

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On the roof of one of the WWII era Luftwaffe pillboxes at Vliegbasis Twenthe is an extremely well preserved anit-aircraft gun. I am unable to identify this weapon besides seeing that it is a light anti-aircraft gun on a rail mount system. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.

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A Luftwaffe pillbox from the Second World War on Vliegbasis Twenthe, © Brandon Wilgus 2016.

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The Inside of the bunker, the excellent state of preservation is likely due to the pillboxes still residing on the Royal Netherlands Air Force Base, Vliegbasis Twenthe, with little public access. © Brandon Wilgus, 2016.


Flight Sergeant Adey’s gravestone. Thanks to

After the plane crashed, locals removed their bodies which were later identified and interred in a local cemetery. Flight Sergeant Royston John Edward Adey was 21 years old at the time of his death. His parents were Ronald John Edward Adey and Edith Rose Mary Adey, still living in their family home, Winshill, Burton-on-Trent in Staffordshire.  In St. Mark’s Parish Church in Winshill there are two boards marking the names of men from the village who fell in the First and Second World Wars, Flight Sergeant Adey’s name is memorialized there.  His final resting place lies under a Commonwealth War Graves Commission marker in the Oosterbegraafplaats Enschede, the Netherlands.


Flight Sergeant Pinnell’s gravestone. Thanks to

Flight Sergeant Kenneth John Pinnnell was 22 years old at the time of his death. His parents, Daniel John Pinnell and Mary Pinnell survived him.  Flight Sergeant Pinnell was from Coventry.  His grave is also in the Oosterbegraafplaats Enschede cemetery, the Netherlands.  He and Flight Sergeant Royston rest a few meters away from one another.  Quietly, restfully, these two brave aviators lie in a small corner of a foreign field and I’m reminded of the poet Rupert Brooke, who died on a hospital ship in the Mediterranean in 1915, and wrote:


IF I should die, think only this of me;

That there’s some corner of a foreign field

That is for ever England. There shall be

In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;

A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,

Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,

A body of England’s breathing English air,

Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.


And think, this heart, all evil shed away,

A pulse in the eternal mind, no less

Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;

Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;

And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,

In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.



Several very helpful Dutch webpages assisted me in this blog post and aircraft archeology effort:, and, thanks. – Brandon.

Our Special Relationship: the U.S. Military in England

One of the interesting things about living in Cambridgeshire is seeing the uniforms of U.S. servicemen and women stationed here in England.  Many of these men and women serve in the U.S. Air Force, on Royal Air Force Bases, across East Anglia and the East of England.  However, it wasn’t too many decades past when U.S. Army and Navy personnel were commonly seen in England as well, especially during the Second World War.  Even before the attack on Pearl Harbor and the United States entering the war in December 1941, there were high-level contacts at the General Staff level between the United States and United Kingdom.   In fact, as early as March 1941, the United States, United Kingdom and Canada had agreed on:  “The early defeat of Germany as the predominant member of the Axis with the principal military effort of the United States being exerted in the Atlantic and European area; and a strategic defensive in the Far East.” – this was the Europe First policy which was the basis of the Allied war effort throughout the Second World War.  So when the attack on Pearl Harbor came and the United States found itself at war with the Axis Powers: Germany, Japan, and Italy, it was only a short amount of time before U.S. Army and U.S. Army Air Corps (the forerunner of the U.S. Air Force) personnel began arriving in droves across England.

It was on January 26, 1942 that the first U.S. combat troops arrived in England.  As U.S. forces arrived in England, they were handed a publication titled: “Instructions for American Servicemen in Britain”.  Along with all sorts of useful advice to help with the large influx of Americans, servicemen were told never to insult the monarchy, and that “the British don’t know how to make a good cup of coffee, but you don’t know how to make a good cup of tea.  It’s an even swap.” It is important to note that individual Americans were serving with UK and Canadian units across England in units like the Eagle Squadrons, but the organized landing of forces of the U.S. Army did not occur until January 1942.

As the staging of forces continued from January thousands of men and equipment were staged across the United Kingdom.  These forces launched  the first allied amphibious operation from England, the invasion of North Africa, named Operation Torch.  18,500 U.S. Army combat troops were transported from their staging bases in the United Kingdom to Oran, North Africa.  These men were part of the U.S. 1st Infantry Division (The Big Red One), the 1st Armored Division (Old Ironsides), and the 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment.  Fighting would rage across North Africa, and many of these men would find themselves fighting from Sicily to the Italian mainland until the end of the War.

Americans in Landing Craft Operation Torch

U.S. Troops embarked in a landing craft for Operation Torch.  This artistic work was created by the Government of the United Kingdom before 1957 and is in the public domain.

Operation Torch Map

Map from “Operation Torch” by S. W. Roskill, from “The War at Sea 1939-1945”, Chapter XII.  In the public domain.

The close proximity of Cambridgeshire and East Anglia to the industrial heart of Germany led to the development of numerous air fields for medium and heavy bombers, as well as fighter, cargo, and airborne support aircraft, arriving from the United States to work with RAF Bomber Command in the strategic bombing campaign against the Axis Powers.

In June 1944, the long-awaited invasion of France was launched from staging points across England, with U.S., British, Commonwealth, and Allied troops storming the beaches of Normandy in Operation Overlord.  These forces would drive on to liberate France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Luxembourg, and invade Germany, meeting the Soviet Allies on the Elbe. Amazingly, onboard over 1,200 aircraft and 5,000 ships, 160,000 allied troops were landed in France on June 6, 1944.  By the end of August, 3 million allied troops were transported from England to France, a staggering feat of human achievement.


Mid-June 1944, a view of the immense logistical operation on Omaha Beach, Normandy France.  The photo is the property of the U.S. Coast Guard and is in the public domain.

By the end of the war, 1.5 million U.S. servicemen and women had been stationed in England, or passed through to combat operations in Europe.

The military cooperation and deep relationship between the United Kingdom and the United States, which continues to this day, remained at the end of the Second World War.  NATO was formed in response to new threats from the Soviet Union and its Allies, and the United Kingdom remained critical to Allied efforts through the Cold War.  Today, almost two decades after the end of the Second World War, the presence of U.S. servicemen and women across Cambridgeshire is a point of pride for those of us who live here, reminded of our shared military history.

For more information on the U.S. military in England during the Second World War, visit the National Archives website:


Remembrance Day 2015

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Enlisted U.S. airman from RAF Lakenheath and RAF Mildenhall and two officers (the two men on the front right with the piping on their garrison caps) prepare to lay wreaths at the Cambridge American Cemetery, Remembrance Day (Memorial Day) 2015.

Remembrance Day in Cambridgeshire. Poppies are respectfully worn on lapels, blouses, and occasionally on the front of a car. We all pause and think on the sacrifice of service members, their families, and all the overwhelming sadness of those who died in war. In this period leading up to 11 November 2018, which will be the centenary of the end of the Great War, it is important to pause and reflect on the loss of so many. I thought today I would simply post some images of the moving memorials which took place today.

Remebrance Day in Huntingdon - hunts post

Huntingdon, Remembrance Day 2015. Thanks to the Hunts Post.

peterborough 2015

Peterborough, Remembrance Day 2015.  At the War Memorial.


An image that personally touches me and the members of my village, this is our local war memorial which records the names of nine young men who fell in the Great War. It is horrific to think that in a village with a population of 280 in 1914, nine men would die in the war.

Halloween, a pagan holiday in Cambridgeshire

Halloween (or Hallowe’en, a shortening of Hallowed Evening, or the night before All Hallows’ Day) is now celebrated across Cambridgeshire to some extent – much depends on the village or the town’s desire to embrace a commercialized, but fun for the children, evening.  In my local village, a anecdotal guess would be one out of four homes are open for trick-or-treaters – the wonderfully dressed children heading around in the dark looking for candy.  In many ways Halloween is an English invention, born out of our pagan past in the Romanticism of the 19th Century, adopted and commercialized by the United States in the 20th Century, and now celebrated in England.  This is an echo of an echo, for what we now see across the shires reflects more of America’s influence than our own English past.  Where did Halloween come from?

Samhain was a Gaelic festival celebrating the end of the harvest and the beginning of the “darker” half of the year, traditionally celebrated across Ireland, Scotland, Wales, the Isle of Man and Brittany.  A Celtic day began at sundown and Samhain would begin at sunset on 31 October and continue into the first of November.  This date is midway between the winter solstice and the autumnal equinox, and the importance of it to the Celts can be seen in many Neolithic monuments oriented so that the rising sun on Samhain would shine on an opening or portal to a burial mound during the festival.

Many of our Halloween customs have come down from this event – it was a Celtic leminal time, where spirits and faeries from other worlds could cross over into our own, when bonfires were lit , and food and drink where left outside to satiate the spirits so that people and livestock would be left alone and survive the oncoming winter.  There are echoes of our own customs here, but the Samhain festival would be Christianized in the Middle Ages and developed across the British Isles.

Soulcakes, the traditional treat given to children in England on Halloween, these are a descendent of Samhain gifts left outdoors for spirits.  Notice the traditional Christian iconography of the cross. From Samantha, Haarlem, the Netherlands, in Wikimedia commons.

Soulcakes, the traditional treat given to children in England on Halloween, these are a descendent of Samhain gifts left outdoors for spirits. Notice the traditional Christian iconography of the cross. From Samantha, Haarlem, the Netherlands, in Wikimedia commons.

The Catholic Church celebrated All Saints Day on 1 November, followed by All Souls Day on 2 November.  These two festivals of the church were blended into All Hallows’ Tide, the three day feast celebrating the dead saints, martyrs, and faithful which began on 1 November.  It wasn’t a wild leap for the church to build on the Celtic customs observed across northern France and the British Isles, incorporating Samhain into a more Christianized feast.  Interestingly, it was the descendents of Celts, the Scottish and Irish immigrants to the United States in the 19th Century that brought the celebration of Halloween to the New World – with many of its more pagan aspects expanded and grew.  In England, “souling” or “guising”, dressing up and seeking out sweet cakes from the wealthy in exchange for praying for the dead, had existed from the Middle Ages.


A postcard from 1882 showing dressed up or “souling” children seeking sweetcakes from wealthy townsmen in an English village. Titled “Souling on Halloween” by Mary Mapes Dodge, originally published in: “St. Nicholas: An Illustrated Magazine for Young Folks”, Scribner & Company, December 1882. In the public domain.

During the Romanticism of the 19th Century, Halloween was expanded and discussed across England, as fascination with Celtic mythology and druidism increased and a general rejection of Catholic feasts permeated British life.  It was in the 20th Century that jack-o’-lanterns appeared, an effort to scare off evil spirits roaming through the night, building on carved gourds and vegetables seen in Ireland and Scotland.

In recent decades, the commercialization of this ancient holiday has spread across Cambridgeshire, brought back to England from a more enveloping American culture.  The history of Halloween; however, reaches back into a pagan, pre-Christian Britain, when fear of spirits, faeries, and the dark, hungry times of winter were ubiquitous in our daily lives.


MK1 Supermarine Spitfire to be sold to benefit RAF Veterans and Wildlife Charity

MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9374 in flight over Cambridgeshire in 2015. © BNPS

MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9374 in flight over Cambridgeshire in 2015. © BNPS

On May 24, 1940 a Dornier 17-Z bomber got a lucky hit on a MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9374 during an air battle over the beaches of Dunkirk. The MK1 Spitfire, flown by Flying Officer Peter Cazenove had taken off from RAF Croydon and flown over northern France to support the fighting on the beaches of Dunkirk. The Dornier brought the Spitfire down with a single bullet, which then crash-landed gear-up on the beaches near Calais. Uninjured, Flying Officer Cazenove left the aeroplane and walked to Calais where he joined a British unit fighting in the waning days of the Battle of France. Eventually he was captured and made a POW, ending up in Stalag Luft III in eastern Germany and becoming involved in the Great Escape. Flying Officer Cazenove survived the War. The Spitfire; however, stayed on the beaches of Dunkirk along with so much British military kit abandoned in the evacuation. Remarkably, a picture survives of two German servicemen sitting on the wreckage of P9374, half buried in the sand.

MK1 Spitfire P9374 on the beaches of Dunkirk in Spring 1940 with two German servicemen on her fuselage. © BNPS.

MK1 Spitfire P9374 on the beaches of Dunkirk in Spring 1940 with two German servicemen on her fuselage. © BNPS.

Flying Officer Peter Cazenove in 1940. © Mark One Partners.

Flying Officer Peter Cazenove in 1940. © Mark One Partners.

Eventually the tides coming in and out over Dunkirk buried the aeroplane where it was preserved for the next several decades until September 1980 when the fighter appeared back above the sands. Lovingly restored and reassembled by experts and now at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford, Cambridgeshire, the Spitfire is now one of only two flying MK1 Spitfires in their original specifications (there are many other flying Spitfires of different variants).

MKI Supermarine Spitfire P9374's cockpit.  Photograph taken at IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 2015. © Getty Images.

MKI Supermarine Spitfire P9374’s cockpit. Photograph taken at IWM Duxford, Cambridgeshire, 2015. © Getty Images.

MK 1 Spitfire P9374 was built in 1939. Its Merlin III engine was completed at the Rolls-Royce Factory in Derby on October 27, 1939. The aeroplane had only 32 hours of flying time when it was brought down over France. It was one of the renowned No. 92 Squadron’s fighters based at RAF Croydon in March 1940.

MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9374 in flight over Cambridgeshire in 2015. © John Dibbs,

MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9374 in flight over Cambridgeshire in 2015. © John Dibbs,

Amazingly, this aeroplane is going on sale. On July 9, 2015 at Christie’s in London, P9374 will go on sale and is expected to fetch between £2- £2.5 million. The proceeds of the sale will be shared between two charities – the Royal Air Force Benevolent Fund and Panthera Corporation, a wildlife conservation charity Mr Thomas Kaplan and his wife, Ms Dafna Kaplan, founded in 2006. Mr Kaplan, an American billionaire investor who is a world renowned conservationist, art collector, and Oxfordian, is the generous individual behind the sale. The second flying MK1 Spitfire in the world was also restored by Mr Kaplan’s experts. Numbered N3200, he has generously donated the MK1 Spitfire to the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, where it often flies and is available to all visitors to admire.

One of the greatest military aviation sites in the World is the Imperial War Museum, Duxford.  Located off the M11, south of Cambridge, on the site of historic RAF Duxford.

One of her sister aircraft, MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9372. An early photo of a No. 92 Squadron Spitfire Mk1, The GR codes date it to the Spring of 1940 and the lack of an armour plated windscreen dates it to before the evacuation of Dunkirk. P9372 was shot down over Rye in September 1940. The wreck was recovered and much of the aeroplane is on display at Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar.  Unknown Photographer.

One of her sister aircraft, MK1 Supermarine Spitfire P9372. An early photo of a No. 92 Squadron Spitfire Mk1, The GR codes date it to the Spring of 1940 and the lack of an armour plated windscreen dates it to before the evacuation of Dunkirk. P9372 was shot down over Rye in September 1940. The wreck was recovered and much of the aeroplane is on display at Biggin Hill Heritage Hangar. Unknown Photographer.

Ruins of a Roman Bath and the Foundations of a Castle – Ravenglass and Muncaster

Traveling west from Hardknott Pass (and the Roman Fort I recently blogged about) down to the coast of the Irish Sea is the modern village of Ravenglass – the Roman Port of Glannaventa.  Almost two millenia ago, this was a key port in Roman Britain.  Glannaventa connected the border fortresses with the maritime supply lines essential for supporting the garrisons with food, supplies, and reinforcements.  These forts protected the northern border of the empire before Hadrian’s Wall was constructed. The port was also necessary for the export of silver and lead mined in the Lake District to mainland Europe and the greater Roman Empire.  As is often the case with important centres of trade, the port thrived and grew alongside the military encampments, eventually leisure facilities were constructed.

Column and archway of the Ravenglass Bath House.  This area connects the into the room where the Hypocaust was discovered (the underfloor plumbing system that provided heating). © Brandon Wilgus, 2015.

Column and archway of the Ravenglass Bath House. This area connects from an area where the Hypocaust was discovered (the underfloor plumbing system that provided heating). ©, 2015.

On the outskirts of the Roman town stood a sprawling bath house or Thermae in Latin, which is remarkably still standing and carefully preserved.  Brick walls 13 feet (4 meters) high remain, with curved arches over doorways.  Under the earth are additional foundations, visible now only under the raised ground, but clearly showing the impressive size of the bath house.  The Thermae stood next to a large fort, which is now buried in the Cumbrian landscape – some of the village, roads, and a railway all cross the archeological site.  However, the initial excavations from 1881 have been expanded in recent years and it now appears the extent of the Roman encampment is greater than once believed.  Just south of the bath house, along a public foot path which crosses the rail line, work is being conducted on the foundations of barracks which once housed the garrison of Glannaventa.

Part of the Ravenglass Bath House.  The two doorways pictured lead from the area archeologists have identified as the changing area to the bathing rooms.  © Brandon Wilgus, 2015.

Part of the Ravenglass Bath House. The two doorways pictured lead from the area archeologists have identified as the changing area to the bathing rooms. ©, 2015.

Of note, a mile’s walk from the Bath House is Muncaster Castle, home of the Pennington Family and the Barons Muncaster.  The beautiful castle, occupied by the Pennington family for over 800 years, is built on an elevated wall which is now believed to have been a Roman fortification – the ruins of which were used as the foundations of the castle.

Muncaster Castle, a mile east of the Ravenglass Roman Bath House.  The foundations of Muncaster were built upon Roman Ruins 800 years ago.  © Brandon Wilgus, 2015.

Muncaster Castle, a mile east of the Ravenglass Roman Bath House. The foundations of Muncaster were built upon Roman Ruins 800 years ago. ©, 2015.

The Ravenglass Roman Bath House is maintained by English Heritage, there is free access and free parking.  Muncaster Castle is a beautiful and historic Grade I property which is certainly worth a full day’s visit to enjoy the house and gardens:

After much traveling, I plan on returning to Cambridgeshire soon… Brandon.