Death of an Airman in Berkhamsted, 23 September 1942
Schoolboy David Russell of Castle Hill Avenue was in his garden when he saw, through his telescope, the fighter plane ‘either a Tomahawk or a Mustang’ approaching. It seemed slow for a fighter and fairly high up. It did two rolls as it crossed over the town where it lost speed and turned on its back. He saw smoke coming from the plane. It righted itself but was at an odd angle with its nose at 45 degrees.… More
‘… Common ’tis named/And calls itself, because the bracken and gorse/Still hold the hedge where plough and scythe have chased them’ ‘Up in the Wind’ by Edward Thomas
In 1866 Lord Brownlow, the young and fabulously wealthy owner of the Ashridge Estate, erected iron fences to enclose (privatise) about 400 acres of Berkhamsted Common. Resistance was led by the Commons Preservation Society which had been formed the previous year. The fences were taken down in a celebrated moonlight raid and, after a lengthy legal battle, stayed down.… More
Oh, dear. I’m enjoying not blogging every week too much. Maybe it’s reached a natural end. And, well, we have plans: more on which later. Perhaps the blog needs ditching or reinventing. I’m also enjoying getting back into music: which is great, but a time-drain. First-world problems, perhaps. Meantime, I shall carry on posting older stuff. For the next month or so, I shall publish the original version of a deep dive into the 19th-century history of Berkhamsted Common.… More
The airship crew called their incendiary bombs, twenty-five pounds of thermite wrapped in tarred rope, ‘fire buckets’. At 10:40 they dropped five of them on a field at Decoy Farm in Hendon. The farm took its name from a duck decoy built for the Abbots of Westminster just below the point where the Dollis and Mutton Brook combine to become the Brent. The lake, in Brent Park, is still a feature of the modern landscape.… More
Two post-mortem writings on a Hertfordshire airman. Monday 9 March 2020 [7min read]
The photo was in a
book called ‘Talks with Spirit Friends, Bench, and Bar: being
descriptions of the next world and its activities by well-known
persons who live there, given through the trance mediumship of the
late Miss S. Harris to a retired public servant, and recorded by
him.’ I’m not sure if copyright law extends the other side of the
I realised when I posted ‘Trouble in Mind’ on my blog that the version published in ASON, the Graham Greene newsletter, had gone out without a couple of corrections. These related to the ‘sunken’ cottages at the bottom of Castle Street. They weren’t, as Greene thought, alms houses. I had removed references to them as such in the final draft.
Not the biggest of big deals, but difficult for an auty.
Last weekend at the excellent Graham Greene International Festival, I suddenly heard my dad saying ‘That’s not the same man you wrote about’.… More
A hatchet faced photo of a dozen Berkhamsted School Prefects in the Summer of 1922 shows my grandfather, Dennis Goffey, on the far right, standing. Charles Greene, headmaster & father of Graham, is in the centre, and Claude Cockburn, the writer, and friend of Graham, seated (appropriately, he was once denounced as the ‘eighty-fourth most dangerous Red in the world’ by Senator McCarthy) on the far left.
The photo may or may not explain my interest in Berkhamsted’s most famous literary figure – I mean after Ed Reardon.… More
The rifle range on Berkhamsted Common: A journey with maps.
For a couple of years now I have helped my father, Brian Shepherd, lead a walk for the Graham Greene Festival. The walk tracks the Berkhamsted author over the common of his childhood and teases out references from Greene’s autobiographical writing and his fiction especially his later novel, The Human Factor (1978), which is partly set in Berkhamsted.… More
Berkhamsted Gazette ; Sat Nov 24 1917 ; Local War News
Further information has now been received bearing upon the accident which resulted in the death of 2nd Lieutenant J.W.D. Needham, R.F.C., reported in last week’s “Gazette.” (27.3.2017) The following letter from his commanding officer explains the sad circumstances:-
Dear Mr. Needham,-
It is with very great sympathy and regret that I have to write you about the death of your dear son, Joseph, which occurred at about 11 p.m.… More
Oddly enough I had switched off the Today program on Wednesday morning (22 March). I only ever listen to five minutes whilst I’m making porridge so it has to be pretty bad for me to hit the off button early. I objected to the casual Moslem-bating tone of someone taking the piss out of the idea of virgins in heaven. I wondered what Christians do up there all day long. I couldn’t quite imagine them listening to the Today program.… More