A Woolpit Steam-Up


| November/December 1992



Marshall traction engine

Marshall traction engine #49725, built 1908. Rear wheel re-tyred from an American gun carriage.

11 Avenue Road Chelmsford, CM2 9TY England

In the Jan/Feb issue of the Iron Men Album I wrote an article about the Dorset Steam Fair, which is the largest such rally to be held in Britain. Perhaps readers might now like to read about a small rally, which is typical of many being held most weekends, during the rally season, throughout the United Kingdom.

One such event is staged in the village of Woolpit, in Suffolk, and I chose this one not only because of its typicality, but because of its American associations. The parish of Woolpit, covering about 1900 acres, seems to have been a thriving settlement since the first century A.D. and it has a well documented history from around the year 1005 A.D. up to the present time.

Perhaps the most detailed documentation is of the years 1942-1946, when Woolpit was the center of three aerodromes at Rougham, Great Ashfield and Rattlesden. Stationed there were, respectively, the 94th, 385th and 447th Bomb Groups and their supporting units, and therefore Woolpit is probably well known to quite a few readers. Indeed, on the day of the Woolpit rally, May 30th (it was also held on May 31st), a large party of veterans and their families were in the village being entertained at the local museum, where a comprehensive display of photographs and memorabilia were on view.

The site of the rally was on the edge of the village in a large farmyard in which there were two picturesque ponds. Many of the displays were staged around the ponds and on one of them, several radio controlled models of ships were being put through their paces.

I am generally able to get into a rally before the public is allowed in, and this is a time of hectic activity. Although many of the heavy exhibits arrived at Woolpit the day before the rally, many were still coming in on the opening day, and the opportunities were there for taking photographs not usually obtainable when the exhibits are lined up in close proximity to each other. There is also time for chats with engine drivers, during which many interesting facts come to light.