Monday, 5 September 2011

North Weald Bassett, Essex

Because of the nearby airfield St Andrew's churchyard is packed with CWGC headstones commemorating, mostly, members of the RAF who fell in World War II but also to nine members of C Company, The Essex Regt who were killed on 24 August 1940.

The 7th Battalion of the Essex Regiment had the task of guarding the aerodrome against ground attack, their quarters being the MT hangar on the eastern end of the technical site. When the air raid warning sounded, the tannoy ordered: ‘All army and air force personnel man your aerodrome action stations!’

The soldiers of ‘C’ Company, all young recruits aged between 17 and 19 years old, ran out of the hangar towards the shelter which stood near the end of the nearest H-block barrack. A stick of bombs began falling parallel to the main road, the thundering explosions rocking the ground. Just as the last man reached the shelter, a bomb scored a direct hit, blowing Private Nathaniel Miles into the overhanging oak tree, killing him and eight of his mates.

The nine dead soldiers were buried on August 28, eight in St Andrew’s Churchyard and Private Stephen Shuster in the Jewish cemetery at Rainham.

St Andrew was locked with no keyholder listed which is annoying as it sounds interesting.

ST ANDREW. A church mainly in the Dec style, see the arcade of octagonal piers with double-chamfered arches and the flowing tracery of the S chapel windows. The E window has the unmistakable hall-mark of ogee reticulation. The W tower is Early Tudor, of brick, with diagonal buttresses and battlements and W window of brick with Perp panel tracery. The N windows are C19. - SCREEN. The dado has linenfold panelling, an uncommon motif. The tracery was altered in the late C17 or the C18. The coving of the loft with rib-panelled underside is preserved - the only case in Essex. The screen is inscribed: ‘Orate pro bono statu Thome Wyher, diacon’. - STAINED GLASS. In the S chapel SE window C14 tabernacles. - In the S chapel E window glass by Tower, 1909. - PLATE. Cup of 1563; Plate of 1682. - BRASS. W. Larder D. 1606, wife and children (N wall).

 1940 The Essex Regiment NR Miles 17
NORTH WEALD BASSETT. Dominated by the bold tower of its church, it lies scattered between Ongar and Epping, named after that Norman Ralph Bassett who was Chief Justiciar to Henry the First, the king who gave us good laws. The tower, 66 feet high, is an excellent example of early brickwork, built in 1500 with a corbel table of tiny arches. The lofty brick tower arch inside frames the west window effectively. Though Roman tiles are dotted about the walls, the church, except for the chancel, belongs to the 14th century. The chief pride of the church is its 16th century screen of five bays. It has moulded posts supporting a fine canopy with traceried heads divided by pendants. The rail has running ornament and a prayer "for the good state of Thomas Wyher, deacon." The door has ornamental hinges 600 years old, and there is some 14th century glass, a 15th century bracket carved with oak leaves and a face, a huge wooden lock, 15th and 17th century carving on chairs, and a curious candlestick.

Engraved on brass are the portraits of Walter Larder, who was laid to rest here in 1606, and his wife and their five children. There are memorials to the Cockerells who lived in the vicarage for nearly a hundred years. The east window is in memory of Henry Cockerell, vicar for 52 years last century; and the glowing glass in the tower window showing the Presentation in the Temple is in memory of his son Louis, who succeeded him.

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