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2018 Copyright Lakeland Routes. Extracts from the story written by Richard Jennings.
John White Boot

In October 2018 Richard jennings contacted us to ask about John White Boots. He had found a WWII air crash site and found a boot. This is part of his story added to a website:

First visit to the crash site 09/08/18:

While out walking with author and linescape artist Mark Richards, I decided to visit Stone Cove to search the area for any fragments left at the crash site. Stone Cove is a depression between Green Gable and Great Gable, and like the name suggests, it is littered with scree and boulders. Mark was in the process of “re-structuring” his eight volume ‘Lakeland Fellranger’ series and invited me to join him on one of his research days. The day was fantastic for the camera; the previous weeks were dull so I was keen to develop a new route for ‘Lakeland Routes’. Mark was walking the Ennerdale skyline which included Kirk Fell, Great Gable, Green Gable, Brandreth and Haystacks, however, I asked if he wouldn’t mind me diverting to Stone Cove while he scrambled over Great Gable; the plan then was to meet again on Green Gable.

Green Gable and Great Gable from Kirk Fell
With prior knowledge that the crash site is on the Great Gable side of Stone Cove, and near the top just below Windy Gap, I began my search through the labyrinth of boulders. Normally when searching plane crash sites in mountainous areas like this, debris can be found lower down from the impact areas. This can be due to a few factors: being blown down, thawing ice, people picking it up and then discarding it, or bits falling off much bigger sections during the recovery process. So, my search began at the base of Stone Cove, and I started my way through the maze of rock on the Great Gable side of the cove, and headed upwards towards the col of Windy Gap.

Windy Gap is a narrow ridge (col) between Green Gable and Great Gable, and is a popular link for walkers wanting to climb these two Lakeland fells. From Moses’ Trod (a path that traverses below the two fells) a distinct scree path leads to Windy Gap, however, this route is less popular so I should be left undisturbed; not that I do get disturbed on the fells by the way, I just didn’t want anyone asking me what I was doing while bent over looking between the boulders.

Oddly at this site I couldn’t find any fragments at the lower reaches of the cove; not a thing, only a couple of modern day objects like water bottles, a map case and a pair of underpants! However, when I arrived at the impact area, just below Windy Gap, I did find this crumpled piece of aluminium, and I was in no doubt that it came from an aircraft; I was well chuffed because I hadn’t seen any fragments reported on the internet.

Just a few feet away, between two large boulders and partially buried in moss, I noticed a couple of eyelets. I pulled the item out of its slimy grave and was stunned to find a boot.

boot hobnailed sole
Boot found in Stone Cove
The outsole and hobnails

After noticing the hobnails, I simply thought it was an old climber’s boot and didn’t get too excited by it; after all, it’s not really what I’m looking for, so I took a few photos and placed it back where I found it.

It wasn’t till I started my approach towards the summit of Green Gable, where Mark had been waiting patiently for me, that my mind began working overtime; could this boot be from the plane that crashed in 1942? I had no knowledge of footwear worn by service men from that period, so my long journey of research begins.

Second visit to the crash site 11/08/18

After a few nights of little sleep, I knew I had to go back up there. I spent the day before searching the internet for information about service clothing and footwear, and I learnt that service boots were stamped with the War Department initials: “WD”.  In the middle of these initials there would be the ‘Pheon’ (Broad Arrow), which was as a British government property mark on War Department equipment. So, I had to visit the crash site again to check for these marks, plus I wasn’t 100% happy where I had left the boot, so my intention was to place it in a more secure location.

Once I arrived back at the crash site, I retrieved the boot from where I had left it and carefully looked around the boot parts for any markings. On the outside of the ‘quarter’, and even though faded, I could just make out the marks: “W⩚D”, which confirmed it to be the property of the War Department.

The ‘Pheon’ (Broad Arrow)
The broad arrow (⩚) was used in England from the mid 16th century, to mark objects purchased from the monarch’s money, or to indicate government property. It was particularly associated with the Office or Board of Ordnance, the principal duty of which was to supply guns, ammunition, stores and equipment to the King’s Navy. An Order in Council of 1664, relating to the requisitioning of merchant ships for naval use, similarly authorised the Commissioners of the navy “to put the broad arrow on any ship in the River they had a mind to hire, and fit them out for sea”. From the eighteenth to twentieth century’s, the broad arrow regularly appeared on military boxes and equipment such as canteens, bayonets and rifles. It was routinely used on British prison uniforms from about the 1830s onwards. Topped with a horizontal line, it was widely used on Ordnance Survey benchmarks. The War Department and (from 1964) the Ministry of Defence continued to use the mark.

It is currently a criminal offence in the United Kingdom to reproduce the broad arrow without permission.

The stamps on the boot
On closer inspection of the insole, I was astonished to still be able to see the maker’s name, “John White”, the boot size “11”, the foot width “S”, and the date “1941” which was when the boot was manufactured.

From Frederick Cadham’s RCAF Record Kit List

The last pair of ankle boots that Frederick was issued, was the 8th May 1941 while being stationed at the Initial Training School in Victoriaville, Quebec; I later learned that ‘John White’ boots were issued to all allies of WW2. The boot I found looked well warn with scars, so it’s a strong possibility that this boot is one of a pair issued on his kit list. Frederick had signed for each item issued with a simple: “FC”.

A few key facts left me with no doubt that this boot did belong to the pilot Frederick Cadham:

  • It was found exactly where the plane had crashed, and no other plane has been recorded crashing in Stone Cove.
  • The year the boot was manufactured fits perfectly within Frederick Cadham’s military timeline.
  • It is a left boot, and in all probability it was cut off as a result of the compound fracture of his left femur.
  • Though injured, all other crew members managed to walk down into Ennerdale.
  • The toe end seems to be torn/damaged and not just rotted away over time.
  • Frederick was a size 9.5 (UK 8.5) and the boot is a women’s size 11. Frederick had small feet for a male, and it is most likely that a men’s UK size 8.5 wasn’t available at the time; a women’s size 11 is equivalent to a men’s size 8.5.

Very close to where I initially found the boot between two large boulders, I buried it in a more secure location to keep it safe from the elements and any collectors; I’m sure you’ll agree this was justified.

While on my way down from Great Gable, I messaged the maker’s name to my very good friend, John Fearn. John had been researching this story with me, and was just as keen as me to learn more about this plane crash. Before I arrived back to my car at Honister Hause, John had replied with a link to the “John White” story of Northamptonshire.

Note: The link was Hearts & Soles website!

2018 Copyright Lakeland Routes.

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