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Remembering Crewe's hidden wartime heritage


AS WE approach Armistice Day (or Remembrance Day), we look to remember those lost in conflicts past and present.

The significance of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month is given extra impact this year. 

It's the first time since the First World War's end in 1918 that the year has been an 11. Obviously, it's going to be another 100 years until we get the same 11am on the 11/11/11. That'll be 2111. Who knows how many more lives will be lost in conflicts by that time. We can only hope as few as possible, praying the legacy to our children and childrens children will be less immediately oriented around war and conflict than that of the last 97 years.

Thinking or remembering, and its opposite, forgetting,  there are intriguing pieces of hidden wartime heritage in Crewe which are largely forgotten. The problem is they are hidden in plain sight. Can't see the wood for the trees, you could say. Or the buildings for the bricks.

The biggest piece of such surviving wartime heritage is in the West End of Crewe, and as far as my research suggests (which I acknowledge is limited), it is completely unique in its survival in Britain.

Going out of Crewe along West Street towards Merrills Bridge on the left hand side are some towering walls. They are now part of Bombardier Transportation, once part of the much bigger Crewe Works.

By bigger, we are talking about two and a half miles of almost continuous workshops stretching from the north side of Crewe Station, arcing north and west to the West End.

Now, look carefully at the wall opposite Eleanor Close, past Minshull New Road, to the bus stop at the end of the wall. There you will see
large squares and rectangles faintly visible upon it, interlinked by sloping patches of slightly darkened bricks. They are clearly visible
on Googles Street View - see www.tinyurl.com/CreweWalls

These are part of an optical illusion to deceive pilots of the Luftwaffe - the German air force. The trick was to get them thinking what were trains workshops and munitions factories contributing to the British war effort, were in fact residential houses and streets. This made them less likely to be bombed. 

A railway junction town where six lines meet. One direct hit, lots of transport disruption. Add to that the railway workshops, Rolls Royce making Merlin engines for the RAF. Crewe was already target enough.

Enquiries on archaeology discussion lists suggest that all other World War II aerial optical illusions have completely perished in the UK. Does Crewe have something rare or even a one off survival, here? It would seem so.

A West End saying is that the West End is the Best End. Indeed, it has some unique heritage to help us reflect as we remember those who
have paid the highest cost, on Remembrance Day.

*If you wish to book on any of Tim's Ghost Tours on Crewe Station, Crewe centre or Nantwich, you can visit www.historyandmystery.co.uk or
phone 07905 597 242.