>Sets Neat Prints Into The Snow

>Royal Wedding Day, Upper Wharfedale. Union Jacks flutter with Yorkshire flags in the late spring sun. Trestle tables are being set up on village greens, cakes brought out from ovens in ancient stone cottages. You couldn’t have asked for better weather, everyone said.

Unless you were up Buckden Pike, like Our Lad and me. The Pike wore a thick mist, which blew in like a sinister blanket from Kidstones, directly to the North. The temperature was several degrees colder than the valley bottom. Walls and bog dissolved into grey after only 50 yards or so. Still, fortified by our miraculously still-warm pies from Lunds we found what we were looking for.

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This memorial commemorates the crew of Polish Air Force Wellington N2848, which crashed here in a blizzard on 30th January 1942. The only survivors were the wireless operator Sgt Jan Sadowski and the rear gunner, Sgt Jozef Fuzniak. Wrapping the badly-injured Sadowski in his parachute, Fuzniak attempted to make his way down the mountain for help. He had a badly smashed ankle, not a clue where he was and it was snowing heavily. Fuzniak limped off in agony, using a broken wooden strut as a makeshift crutch. After a time he noticed the tracks of a fox heading in the opposite direction. Knowing that the animal would seek shelter and food, Fuzniak followed the pawprints, an action which undoubtedly saved his life. He emerged from the Pike several hours later and almost delirious with pain and hypothermia near the White Lion at Cray. The weather was so bad that rescuers could not find the wreckage for another two days. Help came too late for Sgt Sadowski, who had succumbed to his injuries.

“Joe” Fuzniak returned to flying, and was again a sole survivor when his Wellington was shot down on a raid over Duisburg later that same year. He survived the war – including the Death Marches – and settled in Bexleyheath, where he still lives.

Assisted by several locals, Joe built the memorial to his comrades over three days in 1972, camping on the fell as he worked. Set into the base is a bronze fox’s head, its nose rubbed shiny by hundreds of visitors.

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About teninchwheels

Designer, photographer and Vespa-fixated pub bore. Born in Yorkshire, living in that London these past 20 years. Get in touch at teninchwheels@gmail.com, especially if you'd like to send me some free beer.
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