On 12th July 1943 two Grewelthorpe boys, John Ashby &, Alan Calvert, were killed by a bomb or other ordinance that they had found near the village.
This article is taken primarily from the inquest report and was compiled by Barbara Bradley.
The inquest of John Ashby &, Alan Calvert was held in Grewelthorpe and present were the Coroner Mr W.H. Coverdale. Mr Malcolm Scott of Leyburn representing the War Deptartment &, Superintendant Cockroft &, Inspector Darbyshire &, Sergeant Shilton representing the Police. Two officers also present from the Army. Evidence of identification was given by Mrs Annie Ashby of Greystones, Grewelthorpe, mother of John Ashby and by Mr Edmund Calvert of Grewelthorpe the father of Alan Calvert.
Mrs Ashby said that Alan Calvert called at the house at about 12:45 on Monday afternoon and he and her son John went out together. In reply to Sgt Cockroft she said that John had nothing in the nature of a bomb in his possession, nor had she ever seen anything of the kind. He had nothing in his hand when he went out.
Mr Calvert said he last saw Alan about 12:40 on Monday. He was just going out after dinner. He had never seen him with bombs or anything of the kind in his possession. Maurice Harland of Avosa Cottage Grewelthorpe said that on the previous Saturday he and Alan Calvert walked to another village. As they returned they found 2 bombs. He kept one and Alan kept the other. He said one was identical with one produced by the officer at the inquest, and the other was similar but of a different colour. He kept his bomb in the house, and on Saturday night he and Alan tried to take them to pieces. They took the cap off his bomb back into the house, and left it there. When he heard of the accident he buried the bomb in the garden, but had since handed it to the Police.
In reply to Supt. Cockroft Harland said the bombs were a little dirty but not rusty. He knew the Army had been exercising and he went out to look for some of these things. Dr Harvey said he was called to the village at 12:55 by telephone. He was told that there had been an explosion and that 2 boys had been killed. He arrived at 1:10.Both boys had received multiple injuries and death must have been instantaneous.
Robert George Bain of Spring House Grewelthorpe said he was at home on Monday about 12:45 when he heard a loud report which seemed to come from across the street. He went over to Greystones and found the bodies of 2 boys in the backyard. He afterwards picked up 2 pieces of the bomb. PC Kitchen said he was called about 1:10 and found the doctor there on his arrival. Both bodies were lying flat on their backs in the yard at Greystones. The doctor handed to him part of a bomb, and on making a search he found a bottle lever and a penknife. Bain handed to him some pieces. He made enquiries as to where the bomb had come from, and about 6:30 the same day he interviewed Maurice Harland, who told him that he and Calvert had picked up 2 bombs. He had made a thorough search in company with the military authorities and no other bombs had been found. Neither could they find any unit responsible for the bombs.
An army officer produced a bomb similar to the one found by Harland, and he explained its working. He said that when explosives were used in practice the officer in charge, who was issued with the weapons would have to account for them all. and would also have to certify to his CO that all explosives had been fired or exploded in a normal manner, or that any “,blinds”, had been destroyed. His own unit had not used that type of bomb this year and had not used it where the boys found it.
The Coroner said that the boys had met their deaths from injuries received from a high explosive bomb which they were trying to dismantle. The verdict was instant death caused by an explosion of a bomb.
There is a memorial to John Ashby in the churchyard.
John was the son of Robert &, Annie Ashby and Alan’,s parents were Edmund &, Agnes Elizabeth Calvert and they lived at Westfield Cottage.
Here are photographs of the boys taken around 1940. Alan Calvert is on the left and John Ashby the right.
Memories from Maurice Harland September 2015.
Alan Calvert and I found the two mortar bombs on the moor on Masham road. The moor was used as a training area by troops stationed in Masham and also in tents on the moor itself , also round metal sheds were in position all the way on the verges on the moor road however we took the bombs to the village and the same evening several of us visited the local quarry on Ripon road unscrewed the nose caps off the bombs and tossed them in to the quarry, which was quite deep, expecting an explosion but nothing , I took my bomb home and put it in the sideboard drawer. Next day we intended trying the quarry again , I went to school on the day and only was aware of the tragedy on my return I have no memory of burying the bomb. I did accompany the local policeman Mr Kitching to the moor to show him where we found the bombs and I attended the inquest in the chapel school room . Luck was with me on the occasion but I seemed to bear the burden of the tragedy with a distinct feeling with the attitude in the village that I was to blame, perhaps I was wrong, I hope so.
See the letter from Jack Cook at the end of the article about evacuees in the History section. He remembers this incident.