Memoirs of Derek Ball

I recently received this letter through the post, and after reading was reminded of the tale my Gran once told me concerning incendiary devices. She recalled waking up one morning in her house in Westfield Road and smelling roast beef. Apparently an incendiary device was dropped nearby and landed on a cow. She went on to say that Mow Cop was targeted as a pointer to the docklands as Derek points out, but also to Astbury sidings and of course Radway Green munitions factory in Alsager, just a few miles away.

Reference to the history of Mow Cop of which you enquire and going back to the comparative recent history of 1940. I well remember as a young lad standing on the Fox Rocks with others, and to listen to German bomber planes flying over, en route to bomb Trafford Park at Manchester and the dock-land area at Liverpool: the engines of these Dorrier and Heinkel aircraft had a distinct sound….. an almost frightening throb! One cannot help but feel that, having bombed the target…including the destruction of Liverpool Cathedral, the young bomber crews felt a sense of euphoria as they headed home. But with Spitfire and Hurricane fighter plane revving up on the airstrips of Lincolnshire waiting to engage them as they approached the North Sea…many…a great many would never see the Fatherland again!

1940 as a particularly hot summer and the big Wood area at Roe Park on the Cheshire side of Mow Cop caught fire. Whether or not this was an accident of nature or set alight by a German Incendiary bomb when perhaps the fire could be used as a marker for the incoming Luftwaffe night bombers we shall never know. But it did pose a few problems for local fire brigades who had a difficult time in trying to put out the blaze. Fire hose had to be run down to the canal at Ackers Crossing. Big Wood was fortunately less dense and hitherto with many large older trees felled for use in industry etc. However some 150 years earlier Big Wood was something of a forest covering many more acres and it is thought that highway men used it as a shelter and resting place during daylight hours before setting off at night to attempt hold ups of stage coaches travelling the Cheshire roads. Of these quite a number were arrested and hanged at Deansgate Gaol, Manchester.

One could say that the tenuous existence of highway men, German bomber pilots or even wee mice scurrying through the undergrowth of Big Wood, the non-survivors had something in common and it was their destiny!

Yours sincerely