Archive for January, 2012

Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell

Tuesday, January 31st, 2012

This dashing chap is Flt Lt Richard Carew Reynell, an Australian WWII fighter pilot who fought – and died – on the 7th September 1940, the first day of the London Blitz over Greenwich.

I’m talking about him today because one of our furthest-flung phantophiles, Andrew Rennie, over in Australia himself, is in the process of writing a book about Richard Reynell and he’s hoping some people here might be able to help him with a little background research.

There’s no point in reinventing the wheel, so I’m going to let Andrew tell you about  Richard ‘Dickie’ Reynell himself:

Richard Reynell was an Australian born at Reynella South Australia, where his family owned large winery estates. Richard came to Britain in 1929 to study at Oxford, but ended up joining the RAF.

On the 7th September 1940 Richard Reynell was stationed with No 43 Squadron flying Hawker Hurricanes from RAF Tangmere near Chichester. Richard was a pre war pilot with No 43 Squadron and at this time was employed as a test pilot by Hawker Aircraft. He had come back to the squadron two weeks previously to look at the attributes of the Hawker Hurricane in combat conditions and had shot down an enemy aircraft by this time and a number of probables.

On the morning of the 7th he was called back to Hawkers because of the death of another test pilot, but opted to finish out the day with the squadron. In the afternoon the squadron was called out against what turned out to be the first big raid on London and the start of the Blitz. The squadron had 12 aircraft against well over 100.

Richard attacked the bombers with his Squadron Leader all the way from Beachy Head to London. At approximately 5.00 PM he was shot down over Greenwich. Dickie Reynell did not bale out but was blown out of his hurricane. The Hurricane (V7257) itself was blown into three pieces with the engine going through the roof of St Ursula’s Convent which set the building on fire.

Andrew’s been aided in his research by Dickie’s granddaughter,  niece and cousin, with whom he grew up. They have lent him hundreds of photographs from all phases of Dick’s life and many documents. These include, amongst others, the diaries of Dick’s father who was killed at Gallipoli and Dick’s own Pilot’s Logbook.

Andrew’s also contacted members of Dick’s ground crew who served with him at No. 43 Squadron at Tangmere and says he has  also ‘had the pleasure to talk to Sgt. Charles Pallsier (as he was then), who put down his survival of the Battle of Britain to the training in the flying of the Hurricane, that Dick gave him when he arrived at No. 43 Squadron.’

What he’s think on the ground for though, is eye witness accounts of the night itself, from Greenwich locals, and he’s hoping that somebody here may have witnessed the astonishing events of September 7th, or have family stories that have been passed down about it. Perhaps some old convent girls?

If you do and you’d like to talk to Andrew, drop me a line and I’ll pass you on to him. I look forward to seeing the results.

Scrummy Pubs

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Ruairi asks:

The big one’s coming this weekend. The Six Nations is starting and I hear the Queen is putting on some fireworks in Greenwich to celebrate.

As an Irish Greenwichian I am particularly grateful that she has decided to put the display on just after the Wales-Ireland match on Sunday.

I have explained this to rugby type friends who have decided to make the huge trek south of the river to experience the occasion. So, dear Phant, I am looking for suggestions for the best pub to watch the match in Greenwich before running out to the victory fireworks?

The Phantom replies

Congratulations on persuading your friends to venture South into the badlands…

Well, if the Plume of Feathers in Park Vista is showing the match, it’s a good pub and very close to two entrances of the park. That would be my personal choice.

Failing that you could try Hardy’s on Traf Road – it will be a different experience – probably a bit louder. There are sadly no pubs up Maze Hill or Crooms Hill any more – though there used to be – both the George and the Green Man are long gone. I guess there’s the Greenwich Park Bar & Grill, or whatever they’re calling the former Gloucester Arms this week, just across from the St Mary’s Gate entrance, though I don’t know if they have a TV. The Kings Arms, a little further down has one, though, I believe. The Tolly is probably a little too far for the dash.

No – for my money it’s the Plume every time…

BTW I understand that the park will be open until 6.30pm on Sunday to allow for Royal Fireworks.

Heads Up for the 386

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Margo tells me that a notice on the bus stop in Greenwich South Street  today says the 386 will not run along South Street from 30th January to, she believes, 14th February. I am assuming it’s road works. I don’t know the alternative route – Google only seems to come up with alterations for the Olympics. Margo’s fed up as a lot of elderly people in sheltered accommodation use the 386 to get to the Vanbrugh Health Centre or QEH, but I guess if it’s roadworks, there’s little the bus company can do. I guess a letter might have been helpful.

New Photographs For Old

Monday, January 30th, 2012

See this? It’s Sir Spencer Wilson, opening the Maryon Park in 1909. Nice picture, eh? I just love the hats. And it’s all the nicer for its being only recently discovered in someone’s photo album and brought along to the Charlton Reminiscence Project, run by Carol Kenna (she of Greenwich Mural Workshop…)

The project, which collates history through people, is about half-way through now, and they’re having a special Reminiscence Event where they’ll be exhibiting some of the pictures, maps and ephemera local people have brought along to be scanned, sharing memories, and collecting new examples of both. They are particularly interested in stories, photos and reminiscences related to Hornfair, Charlton, Maryon Wilson, and Maryon Parks, Gilberts Pit and Barrier Park – so photos like this:

of Fairfield Road in Old Charlton are gold dust to them. Postcards, too – like this one of Charlton House in the 1890s, when it had a massive wall around it, are gratefully scanned and logged:

Carol told me that the website wouldn’t be up and running until Feb 1 but I’ve just checked and it looks great to me.

The Reminiscence Event will be in Charlton House Old Library on Wednesday 1st February and Thursday 2nd February 2012 between 9am and 4pm each day – they’ll be delighted to meet people with stories or things, but it’s probably a good place to see some exciting local history even if you don’t have anything new/old to share.

It’s Curtains For You

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Kate asks:

Do you perhaps know of anyone local who makes up curtains please? I can source my own fabric. The local curtain shops are too expensive for me, so wondered if you knew of anyone local who’s good at making up curtains?

The Phantom replies:

I have never used her services, so cannot comment on quality, but I’ve seen Sue Whimster adverts for years in the Westcombe News. Not sure what her prices are.

Can anyone else recommend a curtain runner-upper?

Make Love Not War

Monday, January 30th, 2012

Boo! Hiss!

But which Secretary of State is the killjoy? Defence? Health? Environment? From that headmasterly tone of voice it could even have come from the Sec of State for Education. I think we should be told whether it’s Phillip Hammond, Andrew Lansley, Caroline Spelman or Michael Gove who has too much time on their hands…

On the other hand, it does just say the Secretary of State. They couldn’t mean…no – surely not. This couldn’t be the Americans interfering in British matters of war again, could it?

We must be firm. Hilary, you have no jurisdiction here in Greenwich.

Angels with Clean Faces

Saturday, January 28th, 2012

Photos courtesy of the mysterious “Shaw” who lives in a little 70s timewarp, though of course in the 70s these angels would have had the traditional dirty faces…

I still haven’t seen the revealed cherubs in all their gaudy splendour yet, but they certainly look, um, clean. Perhaps the colour change is most stark from a distance:

For some reason I thought the whole portico was being cleaned, rather than the only things that, arguably, shouldn’t have been. Perhaps that bit will come later. Certainly the whole of the East end could do with a spruce up. But it’s certainly a church of many colours at the moment, what with the gleaming tower, grubby main building and gleaming cherubs. Shaw tells me there’s a layer of mottled paint around the bases to add an extra part of the spectrum.

It was always going to be a tough call cleaning the sad cherubs. Personally, I wouldn’t have bothered – surely by now the dirt would formed some kind of protective layer on their poor, withered faces. Scrubbing them up seems to have made them only look even more vulnerable. I guess cleaning the rest of the portico might make them look a little less ‘stand-out.’

Just to remind you, this is what the pitiful putti looked like before the transformation:

and here is Shaw’s pic of the newly-revealed version:

Based on the flashes I got on Wednesday and these pictures, I’m really not sure about how the sad cherubs have turned out. But hey – perhaps they look better in real life…

Work in Progress

Friday, January 27th, 2012

At last, Building Site Greenwich seems to be reaping at least some rewards. The wraps are off the restored cherubs at St Alfege Church (jury still out on that one, I couldn’t get a good enough look as the workmen were still taking down the boards when I was there but I’m a little worried).

And Cutty Sark Gardens actually appears to have – heavens – some actual gardens going in. There’s soil and everything:

The bit that we’ve got so used to there being just a narrow alleyway between the ship and the houses that it’s hard to remember it being open once is now a little more cramped as beds are going in there too:

Hope the sides are going to be a bit more interesting than breeze blocks…

At the other end, the wraps are still on the foot tunnel domes at both ends, but there surely has to be progress on them now?

As for the Cutty Sark herself, well I was last there on Wednesday and my photos are already out of date. The rigging crew are working like mad at the moment

so fast, in fact, that I can’t keep up.

so the last pics are cheats – taken by Rod, who has the pleasure of seeing it all happen every day from the comfort of his own home.

I’m telling you – it’s tall up there now:

But at last it seems everything’s coming together. The new architectural school on the Stockwell Street site is taking its time – but to be fair they did start after everyone else and do proper archaeology and everything.

Now, if only the ‘Heart of East Greenwich’ could take some notes…

Topping off the main mast

One Tree Less at One Tree Hill

Friday, January 27th, 2012

Graham, our resident expert on everything Meridian, is getting fed up with gloomy stories about mouse-droppings and muggings (though I have to say I’ve been enjoying the comments on the crackling joint effort between Mr Dring and the Old Bill chasing the wurst tea-leaf in the world whose poultry decision to rob a mobile dog & bone in front of Royal Hill shoppers couldn’t have been rasher. What a carrion, eh…) and decided to cheer me up with this beautiful photo he took back in 2009 of – you guessed it – another angle of the Meridian Line, from the Eliza benches at One Tree Hill, then ruined it all by telling me that the fabulous, contorted branches of this particular specimen are no more.

No – it’s not the Olympics – it’s just plain old age – and a very blowy night sometime in the past few weeks. It would seem that no one was around when it fell – maybe it didn’t even make a sound.

Graham tells me it was still standing just before Christmas, but when he went past the other day, it had all been cleared away; all that remains ”is a rather rotten looking trunk and a temporary barrier on the hillside below it while the fence that it smashed into is repaired.”

So a beautiful picture, but a less lovely story. Think I’ll go back to the greasy cookers,  mouse-droppings and bad meat puns…


Greenwich Then and Now (6)

Thursday, January 26th, 2012

We haven’t had one of these for ages, so I thought it was about time we looked at another old postcard. This one was sent exactly 99 years ago today – 26th Jan 1913. I’d tell you the contents, but I’ve deemed them not for general consumption as I don’t condone casual racism even if it was written nearly a century ago. It’s a real shame as it’s all in copperplate writing and nicely presented – but hey that’s how it is. Like turds, you can’t polish prejudice.

But hey – to the front, which I don’t think is offensive to anyone. It’s taken from the top of Crooms Hill and is a general shot down towards what is, nowadays, Our Lady Star of the Sea but, if the caption is to be believed was just ‘Lady Star of the Sea’ then.

And actually, apart from a bit of building, the view hasn’t changed that much. I think I may have got the point a little wrong when I took this (why didn’t I just take the postcard with me?) and taken it a little too high up the hill, choosing the wrong building on the right to line it up with. It all looks a bit far away, now I put them together.

Ah well, No one’s perfect…