The last traces of Wickwar at war

September 03 2020
The last traces of Wickwar at war

News from Yate and District Heritage Centre, with David Hardill

WITH the advent of the VE and VJ Day anniversaries this year, we have inevitably been focussing on the Second World War.

Over the course of the lockdown period we have had more opportunity to re-evaluate some of the archaeological sites in the area.

Archaeologists and local historians in and around Wickwar have undertaken a project to discover more about a well-known wartime structure near the village. The project has also unearthed new archival material shedding light on wartime activity in the village.

The structure in question is a humble Royal Observation Corps look-out post, the future of which is uncertain. The brick and concrete structure has stood proudly in a field west of Wickwar since 1939.

Generations of Wickwar villagers have walked past or played in an around the structure. With its future uncertain, it has sparked the interest of local historians.

Although aesthetically unprepossessing, surviving ROC posts are thin on the ground and therefore worthy of study and, arguably, protection.

Pill boxes (concrete military guard posts), by contrast, are too numerous to mention.

The project, in my view, has been a triumph for local history in Wickwar.

The group have located new archival information. We now know which local men were on the rota at the post from 1939 to 1945.

The records also show that the post also contained aeroplane models enabling those on duty to identify friendly or enemy aircraft.

And the project continues. The group now plan to work with village elders to obtain oral history of wartime and ARP activity in Wickwar, creating a new archive for Wickwar and the community in general.

The structure has now been entered on the Heritage Environment Record, ensuring it is in the heritage system, at least.

The project has also reminded us that Wickwar boasts a fascinating wartime heritage. As well as the ROC post, there are the remains of several blocked-up air raid shelters in the Buthay area industrial estate.

For four years, Wickwar was a wartime industrial hub, machining and assembling gun turrets for aircraft. Both the Buthay area and Cider Works (now Wickwar Brewing Co) housed Parnall Aircraft dispersal sites between 1941 to 1945 and welcomed hundreds of workers every day to Wickwar from Yate and Bristol.

Picture: The Royal Observation Corps post at Wickwar once played a key role in identifying enemy aircraft.