Monday, June 05, 2006

‘Hudson Bay’ during the Second World War

A view of ‘Hudson Bay’, otherwise known as the Solway Firth, from Maryport, Cumbria looking northwards towards Dumfriesshire, Scotland

[Photograph by Joseph Ritson]

Those of our friends who reside in Canada might feel the view in the above photograph does not look like the Hudson Bay they are familiar with, and they would be right. In fact, the view is of Solway Firth, an inlet of the Irish Sea, photographed from the former Naval Battery (now a Roman Museum) at Maryport, Cumbria. At the top of the photograph is the southern Scottish coast of Dumfriesshire.

About 12 miles or so to the north of Maryport is the seaside holiday resort of Silloth. Just before World War Two Silloth was chosen, no doubt for its relative remoteness from continental Europe, as the site for one of the new Operational Training Units to train, maintain and fly aircraft in the event of war. As history tells us, the Second World War began in 1939 and so Silloth aerodrome welcomed firstly No 1 O.T.U. (until 1943) and then No 6 O.T.U. between 1943 and 1945. The supporting Maintenance Unit at Silloth aerodrome was No 22 M.U.

[For further information click on Comments below]


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

The Solway Firth, Canadian pilots and Hudson Bay

Although most people outside of the area bordering the Solway Firth may not have heard much about RAF Silloth during the war, I trust it may be of interest. Relatively little appears to have been written down about the sacrifice of airmen who died while based at this relatively remote aerodrome in NW England.

There were a large number of ‘accidents’ during training flights over the Solway Firth, including many Lockheed designed Hudson reconnaissance bombers flown by Canadian pilots. Hence, the area became known locally as ‘Hudson Bay’, a name that some Cumbrian folk still use for the Solway Firth. Although there was an Air / Sea Rescue station at Silloth, once an aircraft came down in the sea the notoriously swift tides and shifting sands made a successful rescue difficult. So, many aircraft and aircrew that went into the sea were apparently never recovered.

Because of the need for wartime secrecy, it is difficult to arrive at an exact figure as to the numbers of aircraft and aircrew lost from RAF Silloth. However, a U3A (Solway) group, among others, have done some detailed research in recent times and suggest at least 64 Hudsons were lost while No 1 O.T.U. was based at Silloth, although not all of these were in the Solway. Other aircraft were also lost during training, and the loss of life averaged two a week during the course of the war.

Many of the casualties whose remains were retrieved were laid to rest at Causewayhead, Silloth. For those airmen whose remains were never recovered, ‘Hudson Bay’ is their final resting place.

Tuesday, 06 June, 2006  
Blogger Tomcann said...

Joseph -
It might also be of some interest
to learn that the term "Hudson Bay" also referred to the oldest
trading company in Canada as they started more than 300 years ago in buying furs from the indigenious natives in exchange for riles and ammo, plus the odd bottle of "Firewater" they operated mainly in the far northern areas.
During WW2 they expanded into the cities all across Canada and set up a tremndous reputation for quaity goods and services.
In the past 20 years they have suffered from the American invasion of the BIG BOX stores who only sell at the lowest prices for Chinese made goods.
This has had it's effect and recently they have surrendered to this anomaly and have sold out to some America Billionaire... so along with Timothy Eatons, who went bankrupt - we have no Canadian Department stores left apart from Canadian Tyre whom I have suggested to change their name to Chinese Tyre ! !

Tuesday, 06 June, 2006  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Just goes to show you can even learn about pre-WW2 history from this forum! Thanks for the additional information.

Exactly who or when the Solway Firth started getting called 'Hudson Bay' I could not find a conclusive answer. What you have written about this Hudson Bay Trading Company might give a clue that it was really important to all these airmen so far from home. This, combined with flying Hudson aircraft over the sea plus so many Canadians lost in crashes might explain it.

It's a pity the network of trading stores built up by the Hudson Bay Company has disappeared in more recent times. You can't built quality back up again very quickly.

Funnily enough, given there were all these Canadians in North and West Cumbria during WW2 and many died in training flights I never seem to see many Canadian visitors. A lot of Americans come to the area, often because of links with George Washington, Fletcher Christian and John Paul Jones, so it can't be due entirely to the distance from London and southern England.

Saturday, 10 June, 2006  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Those aircrew who are buried in Causeway head their graves are well looked after, they came from differant parts of the world to give their lives to this country, we owe them a great deal,I only hope that the next generation don`t forget what these lads gave their lives for them to live in peace. God Bless Them.

Monday, 14 January, 2008  

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