Open days at Langsett Barn.
Displays on the Tank Ranges, Shells and Ordnance of the Shooting Ranges and Defenses around Langsett and Midhope.
Over the last few weeks Woodhead Mountain Rescue Team has been involved in a number of operations with the Royal Logistics Corp in the hills above Langsett and Midhope.
The recent heavy rain had exposed 70 year old munitions which, up until now, had been buried deep in the upland peat. The result was a series of rather large bangs and a couple of new geological features.
Few people nestling in our valley realise the extent of the military activities seen close by. In World War Two considerable portions of the area were pretty much no go areas for civilians; swathes of the countryside and many farm buildings were commandeered for army camps, tank ranges, artillery testing and training grounds.
The area contained a number of potential targets for German bombers. Not least among these was Langsett Dam. The reservoir had famously been used, along with Derwent and Ewden, in preparation for the Dam Busters raids. It was however the risk posed to Sheffield, and in particular the manufacturing industry so vital to the war effort, that caused most concern. A direct hit on the dam wall would have released a tidal wave capable of wiping out critical production capacity. As a result steel cables supporting vertically hanging chains and girders were strung across reservoirs, supported by huge pylons; the idea being to prevent low flying aircraft mounting a Dam Busters style assault on our own reservoirs. The concrete footings for the pylons supporting the cables, called Catenary defences, are still visible today.
Tales of tool shed innovation in the war are now legendary, and indeed tanks made from wood and canvas that moved around on rails were used as targets on the shooting ranges around here. One of the more bizarre tales however involves the creation of a mock village on the moors. If an attack was expected, the plan was to dispatch a military unit that would set off powder charges and oil filled barrels at the site to give the impression to the bombers that they had found the steel works. The only problem was that, when dispatched, the army was unable to find the ‘village’ in the dark.
These hills were not just used for training, tanks and guns though. They were also used as a test range for experimental shells.
Which brings us back to recent events involving Mountain Rescue and the Royal Logistics Corp.
Shells found on the moor are old and unstable. Some are fitted only with a fuse but are still capable of removing an unwisely positioned hand. Others contain high explosive and can remove much more. A few were experimental shells and, as such, even the Royal Logistic Corp do not know exactly what they are. So a word of warning, if you do come across a shell or ballistic looking item, do not pick it up, do not attempt to move it. Please contact the police, giving details of the location, as soon as possible so the area can be sealed off until the Royal Logistics Corp arrive to create a new depression in the landscape.
If you are interested in learning more about the war time history of the area an event will be held on 3rd and 4th November at Langsett Barn. There will be displays, photographs and exhibits of items found on the hills (don’t worry, the shells have been declared safe by the Royal Logistics Corp). The event is the first stage of a Heritage Lottery Fund backed project to catalogue the military history of the area. The aim is to produce information and walking guides to encourage people explore the heritage of these hills.
The organisers are keen to hear from anyone with memories, artefacts and particularly photographs relating to the defence activities around Langsett and Midhope of that time. Please email Langsettatwar@btinternet.com or telephone Ian Winterburn on 07586 486761 for more detail. Further information and photos can also be found on the website and Facebook page of Everything Outdoors.