Hardwick Hall

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

  1. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Looking through the local paper from the war certainly shows us that we weren't all pulling together, with thefts, fraud, absenteeism from work and even misuse of petrol. And not just the public, soldiers based around Chesterfield didn't all follow the code of conduct.

    One article I did find made me chuckle after reading about the bikes that were found in Miller's Pond during the 1970s.

    0127 13.10.44.jpg

    Having passed the selection course at Hardwick, this 'kid' has survived landing and fighting in Nazi occupied France, returned home and used his 'Airborne Initiative'. I wonder if he stashed the bikes away so he could use them to return to camp or they were already in the pond! And one a child's bicycle! Shame he wasn't named.

  2. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi, I'm back.

    Been a while but haven't found anything new to post.

    I went into the Hall today as a guest of a volunteer. The theme this year is about Duchess Evelyn and her last years at the Hall and a few of the rooms have been altered to that period. I had been told there was a photo of an aircraft in the bowl of the wine-glass so headed that way and found the caption with the photo.

    2016-09-09 11.59.27.jpg
    This sits on a sill of a window that looks over the wine-glass. Someone has got their facts wrong as the airfield wasn't built for the Airborne Forces. It was No 37 SLG / RAF Hardwick Park opened in May 1941 to disperse and store large numbers of aircraft.
    Trees were removed either side of the bowl. Not sure about the Commonwealth part. Maybe a few Canadians but wouldn't expect Australia, India and other nations sending their troops over here for selection and training. I'm sure some were trained in North Africa.

    2016-09-09 12.04.50.jpg
    This is outside in the East Court as you look into the bowl of the wine-glass. It gets worse as now it says the bowl trees were replaced for the runway built for the Parachute Regiment! The Regiment got its name in 1942 and when the RAF left in 1943 the Army took over but I've only read that Paras dropped in from Ringway.

    2016-09-09 12.05.11 - Copy.jpg
    I took a photo of the board outside and managed to edit it to this. Not sure of the plane. Airspeed Envoy? Anyone can help?

    2016-09-09 12.17.14.jpg

    This is the view now.

    I played dumb and asked a few volunteers questions about the plane picture. One said the Airborne camp was set up in 1938/39 and repeated that the airfield was built for the Paras. Not their fault. At least the Hall is actually mentioning the airfield and camp but not educating their volunteers. Even their 'experts' don't know the facts.
    There were two guys from Sheffield Uni a few weeks ago with ground penetrating radar in the field were the camp was. I spoke about the camp and now have a contact who will hopefully email results of the survey. Further surveys are in the pipeline.
    Whatever the NT do is better late than never.

    For now, cheerio.
    Sussex by the Sea likes this.
  3. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Nothing new to report. Still going through microfilm of Derbyshire Times and hoping to find a report when the camp was dismantled. Up to June 1957 and still nothing.

    Been playing around with Google Earth overlay. I went for lining up the two ponds as they haven't moved at all.

    Camp overlay.jpg
    You can alter the transparency depending on how much of each image you want to show.
    This shows the the contours. If you've ever been to Hardwick you can see there isn't much flat land in the park.

    Shooting range.jpg
    Using the overlay has helped measure the distance between the parallel lines that you can see in the 1940s photo. Almost exactly 100 yards so 500 yards from the right to the left line the other side of Great Pond. I have been told there was a shooting range so I assume this was it and as the land rises to the right of pic they fired left to right into a bank.

    Guy Hudson likes this.
  4. Dale jackson

    Dale jackson Member

    Hello just to verify the picture of the tree on its side, me and a friend of mine have dug bullets out of it! I will try and find them!
  5. Dale jackson

    Dale jackson Member

    Oh I do apologise! Just seen you later comments where you have found some!
  6. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi Dale

    Yes, I've found bent 303 bullets and even a 9mm in the stump and there are bullets buried under the trunk that have fallen out as the wood rots. Did you look out for the fencing and concrete bases nearby? I've asked the Rangers to look out for concrete bases next time they are on the island.
  7. john milnes

    john milnes New Member

    came across this on the web. thought it may be of interest. BBC - WW2 People's War - Hardwick Hall, to be trained as a parachutist
  8. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi John

    Yes, one of the first items I found on the net and using this account and the overhead photo, I'm sure I've located the assault course. In the account he mentions 'triple Danart' but spelled Dannert which is a type of barbed wire or razor wire that is formed in large coils which can be expanded like a concertina (according to Wiki!). Also talks about Bell tents so this must very early in building the camp as the overhead photo shows no circles.

  9. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Glen with regard to bell tents,

    There are small objects spaced out in a regular pattern to be seen in a couple of your aerials as pointed out in the attachments. They are round in shape and of a light colour unlike the trees and bushes nearby. They may rise to point by the small shadow cast, although that is hard to determine with the quality available. I just assumed these were bell tents, though I could be wrong?

    Hardwick Camp 11 Aug 45 Crop.jpg Hardwick Camp.jpg

    Regards ...
  10. Capt.Sensible

    Capt.Sensible Well-Known Member

  11. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi Cee

    You can't tell on the overhead pic but these circles are on land that slopes down to the pond and the sewerage works (top left) and using the overlay on Google Earth and the ruler you can use, I worked out the rectangle huts for soldiers are about 60 feet long. I don't think the circles are big enough for bell tents and not pitched on sloping ground. Might be smaller tents but not sure.

    CS I've got these photos. They only show were the airfield was and the replanting of the lime trees for the 'Wine Glass'.
    Capt.Sensible likes this.
  12. CinC

    CinC Member

    Hi. Great to read about the Hardwick Camp. The post-war Polish Resettlement Corps camp might be a bit off-topic but of course these were soldiers who had been in the 2nd Polish Corps and fought in Italy. My partner's father was one of these and married a local girl and settled down in the area. He worked at Pleasley colliery where he died in 1976.
  13. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Hi CinC

    I do know about the Polish Resettlement Camp. If you haven't already you should check out POLISH RESETTLEMENT CAMPS IN THE UK 1946
    There were loads of these camps throughout the UK. I have been in touch with Zosia who runs the site as I have been going through copies of the Derbyshire Times and sending him any articles I have found. These are from 1946 when Blackwell RDC were discussing what to do with the camp up to the late 1950s when the camp was removed. Mostly Polish but there was a mix of other eastern Europeans. The camp was raided by 150 police in 1948 after an Estonian night-watchmen was shot. Rumours from locals were that the camp was full of weapons but the police found none! Virtually all the articles when Polish men were named was when they had been in trouble and that also goes with Hungarians who came to the area after 1956.
    I knew nothing about the camp until a couple of years ago and growing up there were Poles who lived in Shirebrook where I was born and I even went to junior school with a boy called Lazlo! Wish I'd known about the camp then.
    There must be more accounts of the camp out there and photos taken which I'd love to see. As I've mentioned previously the National Trust have never been bothered about the camp and its history and with so many new Polish living and working in the area they could attract more visitors if only someone pulled their finger out. There is nothing to see now but a display of photos and a list of tenants could attract those looking for relatives.
    This year, August 1st, marks the 75th anniversary of the formation of the Parachute Regiment. I doubt anything will be done at Hardwick or more likely anyone knows!

    If you want to see any of the articles I have about the Poles I can email them to you.


    PS My dad worked at Shirebrook Colliery and my sister lives about 100 yards from Pleasley Colliery.
  14. CinC

    CinC Member

    Hi Glen
    Thanks very much for responding. I have seen Zosia's web site and the book that she has recently published. I don't think that Hardwick is mentioned in the book but my partner found it very moving as many of the stories in the book echo the experiences of her father. Her father Janek was born in the Polish region of Pomorze in 1922 and was 17 when Germany invaded. This was in the part of Poland that was annexed by Germany and his family had to declare themselves Volksdeutsche or face being sent to the concentration camps. He eventually was able to escape and join up with General Anders 2nd Polish Corps fighting in Italy. He served in the 2nd Warsaw Polish Division operating Sherman tanks.

    After the war in 1946 his unit was sent to the UK and he ended up in the Hardwick Camp. He never spoke much about his time in the camp but he did attend dances at the Hardwick Inn where he met his future wife, the daughter of a coal miner from New Houghton. They married in 1947 and had three children. Janek wanted his children to be completely English so they never learnt to speak Polish. However he maintained links with his family on Poland and took his children to visit them in the 1960s.

    If you are in touch with Zosia Biegus we would be happy to share information.

  15. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member


    Been nothing to report for a while.
    Found these two articles while searching for Doe Lea which is located nearby:

    Memories of Stainsby - Francis Frith

    Polish Paras
    A Memory of Doe Lea

    Mother and me (few months old) joined my father, Leonard Sowiec, at Miners Hostel, Hardwick Camp, Doe Lea in Septemer 1947 having travelled down from Peterhead, Scotland where my father was previously stationed (Polish Free Forces, Parachute Brigade, Theatre of war Market Garden). I visited Hardwick at a recent WW2 event and no one could remember anything except that they caused a nuisance by 'stealing' locals' bikes to return to camp after a night out. I was told that it took quite some time to empty the lake/s at Hardwick of quite a number of bikes!

    Incidents Remembered
    A Memory of Doe Lea

    Doe Lea was near to Hardwick which during the Second World War was an Airborne training camp, we could go into Hardwick and watch troops jump out of a balloon, they had to jump from a balloon a few times before jumping from a plane, I remember a lad had picked up some shrapnel which he had put into his pocket which burned a hole in his jacket.
    The incident I remember very clearly was when one evening a group of us children were playing on the top row of Doe Lea, it was during the evening, two lads came running towards us saying they had found a hand grenade, one of the lads had it in his hand. As he showed us, one of the lads grabbed the grenade and pulled the pin, it started smoking so it was dropped and we all scarpered, it exploded but no one was hurt, a piece of shrapnel went through a window of a house and smashed a picture on the wall.
    Another incident I can recall the troops from Hardwick were always marching down the lanes, in the winter we would lay in ambush and pelt the soldiers with snowballs and get away with it as there was no retaliation until! one day as we started throwing the snowballs the sergeant dismissed the troops and they gave chase, they all but buried us in the snow, that day the troops won.
    I have travelled the world quite a bit, holidays and 11 years at sea, the place I remember most is Doe Lea.

    A memory shared by Ernie Martin on Apr 16th, 2011.

    I've been volunteering at Stainsby Mill near Hardwick Hall for a year now, the management at the Hall are pushing a theme called 'People's Hardwick' which includes living memories of the estate and the Para Camp will be part of it. Yes, at last you might be able to visit Hardwick and be shown where the camp was together with photos and accounts. Hopefully the Resettlement Camp will be mentioned also and there is more detail about what the soldiers actually did there.

    If I'm asked I will get involved. My next step is to find more information but not sure where to go next. Would the MOD have information on the plans for the camp, the courses held, more photos etc and would they release that info? Has anyone tried this?

    Cheers for now

  16. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron


    According to the short history of the Airborne Forces Depot on ParaData Hardwick Hall was the home of the 1st Parachute Brigade during it's formation in 1941-42 before their move to Bulford. There are WDs of the various units from this early period available for purchase through the Pegasus Archive. Whether or not they contain information on the build up of the camp with regards various facilities is another question.

    Once the Hardwick Depot was officially established in December of 1942 various training schools came into being. Besides the Depot Company there was a Pre-Parachute Training Company, a Battle School, an Airlanding Training Company and a Holding Company. All of them must have kept records of their activities and the men that passed through. The question is where are they and did they survive the years?

    Unfortunately John Greenacre's book "Churchill's Spearhead" doesn't go into the sort of detail on the creation of the Hardwick Depot you are looking for. Otherwise it is very well sourced and may contain some leads to follow.

    Regards ...
  17. BruceLee230

    BruceLee230 Active Member

    Thanks Cee

    I'll contact Pegasus Archive. I should think the National Trust would have more weight behind inquiries than I would and surely this information ought to be willingly released to get the forgotten Camp back on the map.

  18. WW2Nation

    WW2Nation Member

    Hi Cee,

    I am guessing these are photos of the Airborne Forces in training at the AF Depot at Hardwick Hall during the War?


  19. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    Hi Lawrence,

    Yes I'm pretty sure they were all taken at the Hardwick Depot. Glen who has identified the location for most of these and would have corrected me if amiss. I'll attach a slightly better quality photo of men entering the Whitley fuselage.

    Static drill  Whitley bomber.jpg

    Regards ...
    Last edited: Aug 21, 2017
    WW2Nation likes this.
  20. Cee

    Cee Senior Member Patron

    I couldn't find an IWM number for the photo of the parachute doctor checking a man for air-sickness. One blog gives this description:

    "1942 - Training of paratroopers in England by R.A.F. instructors and Army Cooperation Command. Shown here is “parachute doctor” checking pulse of trooper who has just been given an air-sickness test, 20 minutes of continuous swinging on a high swing."

    The Officer shown looks very much like Lieutenant D. D. Howell, RAMC, standing extreme left in group photo of Officers with Major General F. A. M. Browning at the Hardwick Depot in 1942.

    Hardwick Motion Sickness Test.jpg Lt. D. D. Howell RAMC.jpg

    Regards ...
    WW2Nation and brithm like this.

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