Saturday, September 29, 2012
It was on May 12th 1944 at 7:43 am that the big oak came down. Edmond Eyre had been keeping an eye on that tree on Llancadle Farm for over a year. Ian had finally given him permission to harvest the tree and it came down with a resounding crash. It was cut up into proper lengths and hauled off to the lumber mill and turned into a number of large beams. One of which was destined to shore up the thatched roof of the Green Dragon Inn in Llancadle proper. The roof had a tendency to catch fire a couple times a century and the latest owners were looking for some security from previous mishaps.
The tree itself had an interesting history. The acorn it grew from was on its way to be roasted and used for flour by another man named Eyre. This man named Eyre came from Co Galeay, Ireland. His first name is lost to history but he was one of the fortunate few to escape the Irish Potato famine of 1847.
The good ship Wanderer docked in Newport and deposited 113 destitute men, women and children with 20 of them said to be close to death. Our man Eyre was one of them and was foraging far and wide a few months later when he came upon a great store of acorns near Alberthaw. The pile of acorns was on the grounds of what would become the Boys School there. He gathered all he could in his pockets and moved on to find other edible forage to bring back to his family. Acorns could be used for flour if properly treated and many a life was saved during times of famine in Europe. Eyre knew this and was hedging his bets. On the way back to New Port our acorn fell of his pocket and started to germinate that spring on Llancadle Farm.
It was amazing to think that the huge oak just needed sunlight, water and some common nutrients to become the colossus it was. How from a little acorn no bigger than your big toe it turned into the towering shade tree that it had become. And then in another amazing transformation to the pieces of lumber that kept many a man women and child warm and out of the elements for possibly another century or more.
The tree that Edmond Eyre cut down was close to a hundred years old and was the spawn of our acorn. That 96 year old tree would have taken the life of Edmond Eyre’s distant relative, Commander Anthony Eyre on Saturday 16th, 1946. As fate would have it the huge oak was not there to send the metal rod through Edmonds heart, for all that was left was a stump. Therefore Commander Eyre’s Tempest NV787 had no obstacle to impede its progress as it plowed into the ground after a failure in the sleeve drive mechanism caused the engine to seize after takeoff.
Commander Eyre was an RAF ace with 9 victories before being shot down over France after being married for only 68 days. He was sent to the infamous Stalag Luft III for three years. After the war he was on a routine flight when the incident that should have taken his life occurred. Fate rules all and the tree that he should have crashed into was not there. Parts of it were scattered in places like the Green Dragon and surrounding homes in Llancadle. Anthony Eyre’s distant relative planted the tree that was destined to take his life. Another of his relatives cut it down thus saving his life.
Eyre was itching to get into the fight again. He had sat out the last three years of the war in Stalag III and was ready to fly in earnest once more. They offered him one of the Gloster Meteors but he preferred to stay with the Tempest for the upcoming festivities with the Soviets. Something about the roar of a propeller ripping through the air was ingrained in his heart. The high pitched whine of a jet engine just didn’t sound right to him yet just yet. He’d move on to the Meteor or Vampire soon he supposed.
After that close call with his last Tempest and the touchy drive sleeve mechanism he was a little jumpy. He had been told that his most likely opponents would be the Lag 7 and Yak 3. They had the range to fly at low and medium altitude over Group 11 and most of Group 12 with drop tanks. Both were formidable opponents flown by seasoned veterans. This would be interesting if the 5 to 1 odds turned out to be true.
He had of course crashed before, the first time in his first flight in a Gladiator. He never thought he would live that one down. The last war started in earnest and it was readily apparent that the Gladiator was obsolete with only one scoring an air to air victory against the 109. The switch to Hurricanes came just in time for Eyre to get 3 kills in May while his squadron was constantly on the move running from the marauding Panzers in France. During the Battle over Convoy Bosom in the Channel he shot down three more 109s. Being sent to Preswick for a little rest defending Group 13 became an unwelcome reprieve after only a few weeks while the battle raged on over the skies of Britain.
In December, 1941 the now Wing Commander Eyre was flying with the “Circus” and trying to lure German fighters into battle over France when he was shot down. By fighting over enemy territory you lose home field advantage and the pilots that do survive and end up jumping out of a damaged plane also end up in an enemy prison camp. On March 8th, 1944 the newly wed Eyre crashed landed once again but this time near Abbeville in his Spitfire and spent the remainder of the war as a POW.