A Spitfire down the Holmsley Line
During World War II, Mrs Ventham, nee Bishop, lived with her parents, Mr. and Mrs Bishop at No.14 Bagnum Crossing near Ringwood. There were many soldiers and airmen billeted in the area and some of the servicemen even slept in Mrs Bishop’s front room! Mrs Bishop, would also do the washing for many of the airmen.
During this time, a Spitfire Mk VB was carrying out practice interceptions, at sixteen thousand feet. Unfortunately, as the aeroplane approached the south of Ringwood, it lost height and crashed onto the railway line. Mrs.Ventham, upon hearing the plane crash, ran along the line to warn the oncoming train, as she was eager to prevent a further disaster. For this brave act, she received a small reward. This is how the Southern Railway reported the incident. Note the wartime vagueness!
‘One day in April a British aeroplane came down on the railway obstructing both up and down lines in the New Forest area. Mrs Ventham, the daughter of a crossing keeper, seized a red flag and ran a distance of 670 yards waving it to warn the enginemen of an approaching passenger train. Attracting the attention of the driver, the train was brought to a standstill about 15 yards short of the plane. In his report respecting the occurrence, the guard expressed the opinion that the lady “undoubtedly saved the train.” Mrs Ventham was commended for her action by Mr. W.H.F. Mepsted, the Divisional Superintendent, when handing a cheque from the railway in recognition of her resource.’
Mrs Ventham’s father retired from the railway after 42 years service at No.14 Bagnum Crossing. His pension was 4/2 (now 21 new pence) per week. Mr Bishop had been transferred to Bagnum Crossing, because he had contracted arthritis from loading brewers’ drays in wet weather. Due to his arthritis, he was unable to get in and out of air raid shelters. Luckily, the Southern Railway officials never did find out that he had broken a company rule!