Hardwick Hall

Discussion in 'Airborne' started by Drew5233, Jun 17, 2012.

  1. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Great articles. "It's a fair cop. You have caught us pinching this stuff." ... :D I wonder if those tall structures are boiler buildings each of which heats a number of huts?

    Glen I was hoping you had in mind one day putting out a book yourself? No easy matter I know. One advantage of posting here is that all your research is time stamped which hopefully prevents it being used by others without acknowledgement.

    Regards ...
  2. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Not sure what the tall structures are. Wouldn't each hut have its own heating system? Notice the parade ground to the top left with the darker tree which is still there. Still amazes me what was there and then the big National Trust cover up!

    Yes, there is a book there but not enough info yet. The Trust has the muscle to glean more info from the MOD etc if they pull their finger out.

  3. CinC

    CinC Member

    It is amazing how many of the comments about the Hardwick Camp both on this site and the Old Chesterfield photos Facebook group focus on the rowdy behaviour of the camp's inmates - both paratroops and Poles. As the young men of Chesterfield - then as now - were a peaceful lot who would never overindulge in hard liquor we must assume that any fights were down to the squadies.:D

    Here is an account from my partner's brother - the eldest son of Janek Schmidt who was at the camp in 1946.

    The soldiers were not very popular with the young men and dad tells a story of going to a dance hall (in Chesterfield?) and inevitably a fight started and the police were called. He and his pals locked the policemen in the gents toilets so they could continue the fight. One of the Polish lads went into the nearby milk depot where the floats were loaded up for the morning and drove a float round to the dance hall.They then used the bottles as missiles against the local lads.

    Dad used to talk about the discipline and punishment at the camp. He once had to scrub out the toilets with a toothbrush for some misdemeanour. Four men carried a matchstick in a blanket around the parade ground. A mound of sand had to be moved from one side of the parade to the other then moved back again.
    All good stuff!

    Would it help if we wrote to the National Trust saying we supported the idea of an exhibition about the camp?

    Cee likes this.
  4. Dale jackson

    Dale jackson Member

    That guy would be me! so have words if you must, but i actually haven't done any research at all or used any content on here without anyone's permission, at the time i was just simply letting people know that the national trust are wanting to research the camps and wanting people to get involved? i have great interest in the camps, and have found many bits and bobs laying around in the areas, but dont post that often as i clearly dont have as much knowledge of the area as some of the guys in here, im just willing and interest so please dont hate on me just yet ha. i actually believe at the time i asked you personally to get invovled?
  5. Dale jackson

    Dale jackson Member

    Here are a few of the bits i have found, i also believe i have some plate somewhere what says hardwick and a date. Anyone else got any objects?

    Attached Files:

    Cee likes this.
  6. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    The exclamation marks do show it was a tongue-in-cheek remark. At present I'm sure I've find everything there is online about the Camp and it is up to us to keep adding to it and Carl's photo is a prime example that's required to catch people's attention. It's great that you set up the Facebook page although I would prefer it to be called 'Hardwick Airborne Forces Depot and etc' as it wasn't just for Paratroopers. Have to include Hardwick as it would appear if anyone was searching Hardwick and maybe attract attention. I'll be posting articles and photos on it. There wasn't any security issues after the war, families lived in the huts so it was just like a housing estate so photos were taken there and they are in biscuit tins in cupboards and under beds waiting to be unearthed. it is a matter of getting the message out. I know about the Trust's intentions but I'll believe it when I see it. Here is a quote from the Trust website: 'Your visits help us to preserve and protect the heritage at our places and spaces - for ever, for everyone'. Whatever! At Hardwick if it isn't 500 years old or owned by the filthy rich the Trust aren't bothered.
    Everyone reading this please send an email to Hardwick saying you are interested in the Camp wartime and post-war and ask if they have displays or guided tours as you are interested in visiting.
    Email hardwickhall@nationaltrust.org.uk
    OK, there is bugger all there but if they get flooded with emails expressing an interest, surely they'll do something as visitors make money!
    You can post this on your page, Dale, but don't mention the 'bugger all' bit!

    Cee likes this.
  7. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Recently while wandering through ParaData I came across an entry on Major Derick R. Reid (Tiger). It turns out he was with the Battle School and Chief Instructor for a time.

    "In November 1942 his battalion was converted to the 7th (Light Infantry) Para Bn. Promoted to Major, he spent a year as the Chief Instructor of the Airborne Battle School at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire, a time he would later recall with great fondness. Returning to his Battalion in command of B Coy in October 1944, he was soon to see active service in the Ardennes in the winter of 1944-45 as part of 6 AB Div. Only a month after returning from the Ardennes he dropped with the Division into Germany at the Rhine Crossing on 24 March 45."

    There's a group photo of Paras training on the moors dated April, 1944. I often wondered who the Officer was centre front kneeling. I'm pretty sure now after getting Michael P-C's opinion that it is Tiger Reid. The Battle School closed in March of 1944 and "a new preliminary Battle/Tactical School was set up at Dore and Totley." The photo is from the collection of Douglas Alfred Watkins and they are probably on the moors west of Totley. It was taken by F. H. Brindley, a commercial photographer from Sheffield.

    Pic_Watkins2_high-April 44.jpg Major Derick R. Reid (Tiger).jpg majdrreid_oc_b-coy,_7_para_bn_1945.jpg

    Regards ...
    Last edited: Jul 5, 2018
  8. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Chuck mentioned in the last post here about Major Derick R Reid and sent me photos of documents now in Michael Pine-Coffin's possession. One is a Battle School schedule from 1944 ran by Major Reid. I spent time typing it up on Word using 'Bohemian Typewriter', a free font that replicates old typewriter font, as close to the original as possible. problem is I can't post docs so had to convert it to a pdf which has changed the font! Still, gives you an idea of what the course involved. Chuck and I have tried to work out the abbreviations and I've added info about locations being a local an'all! I'll post others later.


    Attached Files:

    Cee likes this.
  9. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    The letters were correspondence between Major Derick Reid OC B Coy and Lt Ron Hinman 6 Plt B Coy, who was seriously wounded on the Wunstorf airfield on the 7th April 1945. The letters were given to Gordon Elliott, one of the few men to survive the explosion on the bridge that wiped out most of B Coy on the same day. In turn they were given to his friend Tony Lea, who gave them to Michael Pine-Coffin.
    The attached is Ron's interpretation of 'The Tunnels' at Hardwick. It makes great reading as Ron was obviously a brilliant word-smith.

    Attached Files:

    Cee likes this.
  10. Tanja van Zon-Anderson

    Tanja van Zon-Anderson Senior Member

    Hi All,

    Thank you for sharing all these information about Hardwick Hall.

    My uncle pte. G. Anderson was there on course 93 (29-11-1943 / 13-12-1943) for his last parachute training.
    He wrote his parents he passed the last test and was going to Manchester Ringway.

    The photo's, maps and written info gave me a small idea about the training.
    So I am very pleased.

    Tanja Anderson
  11. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi Tanja

    So Nov.29th 1943 was a Monday. Does that mean every course started on a Monday meaning Course 1 began Feb.23rd 1942? (I counted back from 93!) And, did they train on Sundays?
    What Regiment was your Uncle in before wanting to join the Paras? Are there any comments about Hardwick in the letters?
    I've posted a transcript of a letter that Derick Reid wrote to Ron Hinman back in 1993 now in Michael Pine-Coffin's possession. Even 25 years ago Derick was trying to find information on the Camp and when he says 'all the Depot records had been lost or mislaid' it doesn't sound promising today.
    So Tanja, you can see how useful your post can be to telling the history of the Depot.


    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 5, 2018
    Cee likes this.
  12. Swinderby

    Swinderby New Member

    Hi everyone,
    This being my first post on this excellent forum, I wanted to 'jump into the fray' so to speak regarding the position that the National Trust have on the subject of Hardwick Camp. Having avidly devoured all your hard detective work, which I respect and admire, I find it hard to believe that the NT have not yet made anything of the camp, certainly not to the general public, when there is this wealth of research, resources and dedicated people!
    But look at what Belton House-Grantham have achieved with their connection to the Machine Gun Corps and The First World War; publications, re-enactment events at salient commemorative dates, archaeological digs, themed board displays within the House, and even guided walking tours around the grounds showing where the camp was. Time Team may have kick-started all of this, but the NT have not been idle in losing the military history of the House and grounds. Ps. Belton was also a training camp in the Second World War for the First Airborne Division prior to leaving for Arnhem, although this element of its military heritage has not yet been acknowledged by the NT at Belton.

    So, could the NT at Hardwick follow suit? I read, in this thread; that the Trust at Hardwick are interested in pursuing some form of historical remembrance of its 'Airborne heritage' but wouldn't it be nice to see this happen before the last of the veterans 'fade' into the history books.
    I was at Hardwick today, there is still much to see, yet it is so interesting and important and a shame that little is known outside of military/social history arena.
    There is a fantastic dedicated bunch of people who could help and make this a lasting tribute and legacy. Not least the people on this forum but also the massive weight of the National Trust.

    Sorry for such a long 'first' post.

    Looking forward to future posts.
    D Moore, Cee and Owen like this.
  13. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Well, been a while but not much happening. I know a guy who had a meeting with the manager. There is 'interest' at Hardwick though the manager said a Heritage Lottery Fund would be required which could take a while! Oh dear! Obviously the National Trust can't chip in a few hundred quid to produce a couple of information boards to put in the Hall just to get the ball rolling but then they took over Hardwick nearly 60 years ago and have done diddly squat.
    I have read a book about the Hall and basically one of the conditions of taking over the Hall and the Park was to remove the Camp altogether.
    I've known of the model parachute tower for a couple of years having been showed it by the Rangers at the Park Centre. It was made by a student over ten years ago and had become dusty and broken and the original figures were 1/72 scale.
    20181203_134242.jpg 20181203_134314.jpg 20181203_134411.jpg
    Not a great deal of info on the net but there is a description and photo of a tower at Largo House used by the Polish Paras, 100 feet tall with a braking system. Redone the base and used 35mm figures and painted a couple as RAF. The tower should be lot narrower and use less substantial building materials but not a bad effort.
    I just happen to be watching the film Operation Crossbow today and saw them jumping from a parachute tower. Missed a little bit so only got close ups of the actors. Found that these scenes were filmed at RAF Abingdon. Is the tower still there?
    The tower is back in the Park Centre with a brief description I did. It's in the back room but hopefully it could be put on display. The Rangers have been told about the Hall's 'interest' and I've asked them to keep me up to date.


  14. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    There are a few short scenes in a Movietone compilation of offcuts showing men jumping from a tower at about the 3:12 mark. It looks similar in design to the one at Hardwick. I'm not sure of the date - 1942?



    Regards ....
  15. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi Chuck

    Thanks for the link. That's a film I've missed on Youtube. Early 1942 I should think as still using the step-in smocks and probably filmed all around Ringway and maybe Tatton Park. Interesting as some shots of the Horsas have houses in the background.
    Yes, I should think it was the same as the one at Hardwick. Notice how the troops queue on different floors. I suppose having it that way meant you got to the top and had to jump straight away. If you refused the tower, you wouldn't have much chance of jumping from a balloon then a plane!

  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    Some of clips may have been filmed at RAF Netheravon which was a grass strip airfield and briefly home to Squadrons formed as troop carriers. I'm not sure of the location of the jump tower and swings, but wouldn't be surprised if they were erected nearby as well.

    Regards ...
  17. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    As a National Trust volunteer we have a pre-season briefing which I never bother with but someone who did go mentioned to me a Camp project was being looked at.
    Camp Project.jpg
    I've only been volunteering 3 years but this is the first time the Camp has been mentioned. It's under the sub-heading Growing support. I've been in touch to find out who's running it and await a reply. I hope it's not a pipe dream but at least it's there in writing.

  18. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Didn't get to the Airborne Memorial Day last Sunday the 12th May as a surprise 65th birthday party was organised for my eldest brother so had to show my face!
    Chatting to a chap recently and the subject of WW2 came up and I always ask those of the older generation in my local area if they remember the Camp. This chap said his dad took some of the windows, roof trusses and asbestos roof panels when the Camp was being dismantled around 1959/1960. He said there dozens of local people there taking whatever they could transport.
    The building built with these items is still standing but he said I could take photos but not say where they were taken.
    I could only take photos of the outside of the building and posted two of the windows.
    These measure 43 by 60 inches. The left one; the top left panel opens horizontally and the top right three panels all open vertically. The right one has just the top two panels opening seperately. Even the lintels and the sills are from the Camp.

    36541227_1792461300833554_3728963290118750208_n - Copy - Copy.jpg
    The photo that Carl posted shows the windows in one of the buildings. (Probably not the actual windows!)

    There must be other buildings in the area still standing that people built with using material from the Camp.

    I've been looking for exisiting buildings similar to those at Hardwick on the net and a few photos come up. They must have been a standard size and further research says that each person was allocated 60 square feet of space; 10 by 6 feet.
    I've read Wimpey and Laing were amongst those contracted to build camps.

    MNA109118 | National Trust Heritage Records

    The link has records of the Camp and mentions Balfour Beatty supplying electricity. Would like to find out which company built the Camp though.

    Cee likes this.
  19. redtop

    redtop Well-Known Member

  20. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    I’ve been in touch with Jacqueline L Wachlarz. She wrote a piece about the Camp when she was at University 1998/99. Her father-in-law, Eugiemiusz, and mother-in-law, Michalina, lived in the Polish Camp from 1949 to 1957.
    She interviewed a few locals who knew and had links with the Camp and it’s these recounts that bring about new information. I’ve picked out a few:

    ‘Dorothy Brunt, whose father John had been the Head Forester for Hardwick Hall Estate during the war years … stating that the MOD had built in error in the grounds of Hardwick Hall and that the intention had been to build at Hardwick Village in Clumber Park. She went on to say that the building had begun during the night with the Dowager Duchess of Devonshire becoming aware upon waking. Keith Payne, local to the area, was a young boy when he saw the first indication that, “Something was happening.” A platoon of soldiers arrived and camped up at The Grange, “They had a Lewis gun with them.” These cockney soldiers would encourage fighting amongst the local youths with ‘prizes’ of a large piece of beef put between two large pieces of bread and served with roast potatoes.”’

    ‘Keith Payne was to divulge that relationships and friendships were encouraged between paratroopers and the local population. In I938 Keith Payne’s father had suffered a crushed back in an accident at Glapwell Colliery but having recovered and returned to work he, like most of his colleagues, enjoyed Saturday night drinking in the Glapwell Hotel. “Invariably Dad came back with 2 or 3 paratroopers who would stay for supper, which was the Bramley Vale popular dish of cow heel and tripe stewpot with pearl barley and wheat. The large brown stewpot would be topped up with onions and carrots. Home made bread with the flour sieved through a muslin head scarf, to make the bread white instead of mucky brown, would be served also.”’

    ‘Keith Payne was to go further in identifying tensions which existed within the cloying confines of the military camp. One incident he witnessed in 1942/43 erupted whilst he and three friends sat upon railings outside the Hardwick Inn one evening. A NCO, “A rough swine - hard man” went too far in needling one of the paratroopers and a gang chased him from the Hardwick Inn punching and kicking him to the ground. “We ran off frightened but with the men confined to barracks for about a month we knew something was wrong. When a regular, Taffy, came for tea about a month later, he said the NCO had died that night.” David Mellors, Secretary of the Chesterfield branch of the Parachute Regiments Ex-servicemen’s Association (who also collates information for the Parachute Forces Museum) relates a similar story where he heard that, “An NCO was thrown down the quarry to his death."’

    ‘The Administrator (National Trust) Hardwick Hall on 23 June 1983 goes on to say ... “the glass pane inscribed by one of the ‘old and bold’ in 1941 (is) of historical interest since, if nothing else, it fixes the date of the first captive balloon flight and presumably jumps at Hardwick as 18 December 1941...You said it was eighteenth Century glass but where was the window in the building from whence it came?....Would be interesting to know how someone ‘got’ to a window to do this!“’

    ‘Whilst the children were at work (potato picking) Keith Payne and Dorothy Brunt recall that soldiers would be training in their platoons, sometimes under order breaking the ice on the lakes to swim nude, which reveals the harshness of the regime. One young recruit was to ‘accidentally’ shoot his foot off in order to escape the confines of army training and active service recalls Keith. On their runs they would single out a couple of lads and encourage them to fight; rewarding them with emergency rations (a tin containing six sweets; concentrated fruit, banana, apple, orange - all in waxy coatings. “I got many a black eye for a box of toffee.” It was also an improvement on the laxative chocolate which was supplied by Dorothy Brunt’s mum in the little store she ran.’

    I'd already heard that the Camp was built in the wrong place and Hardwick Village looks a better location; flatter and also having the lakes nearby. The National Trust took over Clumber Park in 1946 so I assume would have wiped out any trace of that Camp as well!
    As with the graffitied glass pane, a friend of mine is being trained to do the roof tours of Hardwick Hall and says the inscription is on one of the outside windows of the Chapel which could have been reached by climbing on to veranda at the back of the Hall.


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