Duncombe Park Army Camp

About 3km after crossing Rievaulx Bridge with its opportunity to gaze at the majestic abbey, the Cleveland Way crosses a concrete road at Griff Lodge. Here the National Trail bears left to Helmsley avoiding Duncombe Park.

The concrete road is a reminder of the military presence during WW2 at Duncombe Park. Following it through Park Plain Wood reveals more evidence. Hidden among the mature beech trees are concrete and brick foundations for the Nissan huts. A solitary hut remains, “a steel rib from the roof survives, though not in situ”1“Heritage Gateway – Results.” Heritagegateway.org.uk, 2015, www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1517158&resourceID=19191. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.. In Blackdale Howl Wood, I found a brick sump which I assume to be associated with sewage treatment.

Sewage treatment tank?
I guessing this is part of the sewage treatment system.

The camp was occupied by the 11th Armoured Division when it was formed in 19412Wikipedia Contributors. “11th Armoured Division (United Kingdom).” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 21 Mar. 2021, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/11th_Armoured_Division_(United_Kingdom). Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.. There is surprisingly very little history available online about the camp. A photo in the Imperial War Museum is captioned “… the Prime Minister inspects Valentine tanks and crews of 11th Armoured Division at Helmsley …” which has been identified as Duncombe Park3“THE BRITISH ARMY in the UNITED KINGDOM 1939-45.” Imperial War Museums, 2021, www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205198206. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.4“Military and Related Organisations – HA08149 Winston Churchill Inspecting Troups in Duncombe Park – the Helmsley Archive.” Helmsleyarchive.org.uk, 2013, www.helmsleyarchive.org.uk/displayimage.php?album=6&pid=3212. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.. There is a couple of interesting oral histories at the Imperial War Museum which confirms Duncombe Park and point to other types of tanks being stationed there: Covenanters, Crusaders, Comets, Cromwells and Centaurs5“Lock, Gerald (Oral History).” Imperial War Museums, 2021, www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80021530. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021.6“Duckworth, Peter Alexander (Oral History).” Imperial War Museums, 2021, www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80018087. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021..

Standing in a scout car, the Prime Minister inspects Valentine tanks and crews of 11th Armoured Division at Helmsley in Yorkshire, 6 November 1941.
Standing in a scout car, the Prime Minister inspects Valentine tanks and crews of 11th Armoured Division at Helmsley in Yorkshire, 6 November 1941. © IWM (H 15377)

At some time later in the war, the 22nd Dragoons were stationed there7“Duckworth, Peter Alexander (Oral History).” Imperial War Museums, 2021, www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/80018087. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021., and later still Canadian troops. When these had left, they were followed by the Polish 4th Armoured Regiment and the 2nd Warsaw Armoured Brigade8“Heritage Gateway – Results.” Heritagegateway.org.uk, 2015, www.heritagegateway.org.uk/Gateway/Results_Single.aspx?uid=1517158&resourceID=19191. Accessed 5 Apr. 2021..

Rievaulx Bridge
Here’s a photo I took six years ago showing a tank crossing upstream of Rievaulx Bridge which was too narrow for the tanks. The far bank is now a private garden.

Now here’s a challenge for you. Where was this photo taken? Presumably on the North York Moors.

THE BRITISH ARMY IN THE UNITED KINGDOM 1939-45
Valentine tanks of 11th Armoured Division gather near a church during an exercise in Northern Command, 16 October 1941. © IWM (H 14738)

6 Replies to “Duncombe Park Army Camp”

    1. I don’t think so, Bob. Church looks different unless it’s been rebuilt in the last 60 years.
      St. Mary's, Goathland
      I don’t know the answer by the way. Ran out of time last night. I suspected it be one of the villages on the Tabular Hills plateau. Old Byland or round about there.

  1. Your church challenge required some serious detective work and lateral thinking involving 23rd Hussars, churchyard yews and background limekilns. All of which eventually led me to All Saints Church at Ryal in Northumberland.
    Following the 23rd Hussars link led me to some interesting images on the IWM site (H13032, H13033 & H13037 in particular). I think these may have been taken on Wheeldale Moor and the beck in the photos is possibly Rutmoor Beck. Which leads me to ask are the remains at SE7855996100 related to the military training activities on the moor in WW2?

    1. Well done. Looks a good fit. I’m a bit surprised at Northumberland.
      Ryal

      Where do the 23rd Hussars come from?

      Rutmoor Beck looks interesting. Never been there.

  2. The photo you posted is one of a sequence of 7, each one has written description (brief due to wartime censorship). On H14733 somebody had scrawled 23rd Hussars as an afterthought. Checking the internet I found a brief history which said the Hussars had been in Exercise Percy up near Hadrian’s Wall on 9/10/1941 returning to the Whitby area 16/10/1941. The officer who took the photos also took some in Edinburgh the same day. I also found a photo of tanks on railway flat cars in Newcastle 17/10/1941. Finding the church was a chew which is where the churchyard yews came in. I should also add that I am now a world renowned expert on the architecture of the churches of Northumberland. 🙂

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