Yarns Around Northumberland – Starlight Snug in the College Valley.

Welcome to the fith instalment of our ‘Yarns Around Northumberland’

This month our Yarns around Northumberland is based in the stunning College Valley, named for the College Burn that wends through it. Our pretty Starlight Snug is a reflection of the huge, star littered skies you will find after dark.

Starlight Snug is a light and pretty summer jumper. It is knitted from two skeins of our Yeavering Bell 4ply (named after the distant peak in the photo above) and is a perfect light layer for warmer days or more chill evenings. As ever, the pattern is free with the yarn.

Our brand new colour this month is a beauty! ‘Beneath the Bridge’ is a rich, multi-toned blue perfect with your jeans or a pretty summer frock!

The College Valley in North Northumberland is on the northern edge of the Cheviot Hills. It is a haven for wildlife and vegetation, and also the location of Cheviot, the highest hill in Northern England at 2,672 ft. The area is rich with the remains of hill forts and ramparts, as well as round houses, all evidence of past communities who lived in the area. On a fine day there are astonishing views and breathtaking panoramas but when the weather is bad the hilltops can be inhospitable places.

Nowadays the hills are a tranquil place, frequented by walkers and home to sheep and wild goats. During the second World War however they were much less quiet as the skies were often filled with the sounds of aircraft.

The RAF ran training courses from RAF Eshott near Alnwick which flew over the Cheviot hillsides and often planes returning from Europe would be diverted for emergency landing to small regional airports such as the one at Millfileld on the northern edge of the Cheviot hills. The combination of inexperienced airmen, primitive navigation systems and often atrocious weather conditions led to a large number of crashes on the hills, many of which were sadly fatal. Amongst the hills it is still possible to find wreckages of these many planes, a sad reminder of where airmen lost their lives.

Thanks to the amazing bravery and courage of local shepherds not all of these crashes ended in tragedy. Many airmen were saved and one rescue in particular has become legendary.

On December 16, 1944. a B17 Flying Fortress with a nine man American crew was on it’s way to bomb the railroad yards at Ulm in Germany when the mission was aborted due to bad weather conditions. The planes were ordered to disperse and fly home and to jettison their bombs in the North Sea. The pilot Lt. George Kyle was unable to do this and the crew found themselves off course and about 20 miles north of Cheviot, where they crashed on West Hill in blizzard conditions.

Local shepherd John Dagg of Dunsdale and his black and white collie bitch Sheila heard the crash and made their way to site of the accident, with Frank Moscrop a young shepherd from Southernknowe.

They found that two of the Allied aircrew on-board, including Sgt Frank R Turner, were killed in the tragic incident, and discovered four airmen huddled together for shelter. Two of them were injured and two had no boots, so the shepherds used parachute silk to wrap around the airmen’s feet and and helped carry them down the hillside to safety. Hours later the bombs on the plane exploded and shattered the windows of the farmhouse far down the hillside.

The other three crewmen had believed they were the only survivors and had made their way off the hillside to Mounthooly, where they were taken in by Mr Cowens and his wife, who were relieved they weren’t Germans and took them in and looked after them.

After the crash John Dagg and Frank Mosrop were presented with the British Empire Medal in honour of their bravery. Sheila the sheepdog was the first ever civilian dog awarded the Dickin Medal for Gallantry, which was presented at a ceremony at Southernknowe in July 1945 and came with a trio coloured ribbon, her name and inscribed with the motto “They Also Serve”.

In 1946 one of Sheila’s puppies, named Tibbie went to America to the family of Sgt Roderick Frank Turner who had died in the B17 crash.


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