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Memorial plan in bid to mark bomb blast

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: May 17, 2014

  • Fauld Crater pictures donated by John Cooper

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THIS year marks the 70th anniversary of a wartime tragedy that shook a small community.

The Fauld Explosion is one of the largest non-nuclear blasts in history and took place in an underground munitions depot at 11:11am on Monday, November 27, 1944.

Between 3,500 and 4,000 tonnes of high explosives were accidentally detonated creating a devastating explosion that was felt many miles away. The nearby village of Hanbury suffered the most, with homes obliterated, a complete farm disappearing and dozens of casualties.

Including the Italian POWs working in the RAF depot and villagers in Hanbury, around 70 people lost their lives.

A crater 400 feet deep and three quarters of a mile across was left behind.

A memorial was erected at the crater’s edge to remember those killed by the blast and for many years a service was held each November 27 at the crater.

But, as numbers attending dwindled, the annual service was stopped after the 60th anniversary in 2004.

Now Hanbury Parish Council is considering reviving the service at the crater for the 70th anniversary, if there is enough interest.

Parish council chairman Trevor Iball said: “The outdoor services began when the memorial was erected 30 year ago but ten years ago there was only three of us, including the vicar. There was one lady who lost her brother but she admitted that it was getting beyond her. It’s hard to get down through the fields to the crater.

“Even in the middle of the summer it can be hard work for some people let alone on November 27, even though we got a grant to put the kissing gates in 10 or so year ago so that people who wanted to see the crater had an easier path.”

This year the vicar at Hanbury Rev Les Rees has already scheduled a service at St Werbugh’s Church at 7.30pm on November 27 but is prepared to do another at the crater if that’s what people want.

Mr Iball said: “In the past RAF Stafford and the Italian airforce have sent representatives and there has been questions from some quarters about whether we were marking this anniversary. So we are appealing for people to let us know their wishes. If it’s just two or three people we might suggest they just come to the service in the evening but if it’s a dozen or more we will consider one at 11am at the crater as it used to be.”

Mr Iball believes that despite most villagers these days being too young to remember the disaster, he still feels that the Fauld Explosion should be remembered.

“It was a significant event and the crater is still there to be seen. Sadly the weather was often quite bad at the services in the past and those attending were very glad to get to the Cock Inn for a drink and a biscuit.

“When I first came here 30 years ago you could still see the bottom of the crater and there is a cross built in gypsum down there. But you can’t see it anymore as the conifers have self-seeded and are 20-30 feet tall so you no longer get a sense of the depth looking over the side. In the photos in the pub it looks more like the craters of the moon.”

The crater is sealed off for public safety these days and Mr Iball says that has helped it become a haven for flowers.

He adds: “There are orchids growing there that are almost unheard of anywhere else in the area.”

Anyone interested in a service at the crater on November 27 should contact the parish clerk on 01283 820420 or email hanburyparishcouncil@live.co.uk The plans will be discussed at the June parish council meeting.

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