Journalist’s online campaign for help to solve family mystery


The couple on their wedding day

The discovery of an remarkable journey by a couple in the 1950s has prompted a Richmond-based journalist to appeal for help to investigate a family mystery.

Sarah Hartley (who also started this website) first heard about the so-called ‘phut-phut flyers’ from her mother-in-law and, curiosity piqued, she started trying to find out more.

Cuttings from local and national newspapers are helping her start to piece together the story of Bryan and Joyce Hartley who set off to fly across the world back to their Cheshire home in 1957 in a plane they restored back to life themselves.

“It sounded such an incredible story – imagine undertaking such a huge journey in a tiny aircraft. I wanted to hear more. They sound like a remarkably interesting couple with links into the celebrity scene of the era (Cilla Black was once a neighbour) and even an appearance on BBC Tomorrow’s World.”

But the story has an abrupt and mysterious end at the moment – after arriving back the couple then vanished without trace some years later and now Hartley is looking for support to investigate what happened to them.

Using an American-based website called, she’s looking to raise a small amount of money to cover the costs involved in the project and plans to write regular pieces about the search as well as provide regular updates on Twitter @foodiesarah using the hashtag #phutphutflyers.

“Although they don’t have a connection to Richmond, I thought it might be worth mentioning it on the Noticeboard just in case there’s anyone who might have come across their story or is simply interested in joining me to find out more about a couple’s unusual piece of aviation history. They seem to be the sort of people who made connections across the country and even the world. Making contact with anyone who knew them could be invaluable and might just end up being the vital piece in the jigsaw of discovering what happened – after all, you just never know who might be read this.”

To support her investigation, visit or to get in touch email with #phutphutflyers in the subject line.

Special report: Soldiers on the run

3958486105_c53341b76b_zMore than 2,000 soldiers go absent without leave from the British Army every year. But why do these servicemen abscond, and what happens to them when they do? Justin Cash investigates.

Private Daniel Farr was 18 when he died under suspicious circumstances at Catterick Garrison, North Yorkshire, in 1997. Six months before his passing, he had gone to his commanding officer and requested to leave the base, at which relatives claim there was a widespread culture of bullying and intimidation.

He ended up remaining on site. Eventually, a matter of days before his death, Private Farr plucked up the courage to flee the barracks, even though he didn’t have the permission of his captain. “One day I got a phone call from him asking me to pick him up”, says his mother Lynn. “He was trying to make his own way home. He was very distressed and wouldn’t really speak to me. Two weeks later he was dead.”

Private Farr’s case is just one particularly notorious incidence of absence without leave (AWOL) from the British Armed Forces, of which more than 2,000 are recorded every year. Why these soldiers choose to abandon their positions is a matter of some debate, as is the fairness of the treatment they receive.

Why run?

Some campaigners point to the spike in absences in the immediate aftermath of the Iraq War – 2,670 soldiers went AWOL in 2001, rising to 3,050 in 2004, the year after the Iraq invasion – as evidence that it is combat stress and the trauma of war that causes many soldiers to abandon the military.

“War is a horrific experience and it is no surprise that soldiers often find it extremely disturbing. At least some of the AWOL numbers must be a result of this”, says Lindsey German, convenor of Stop the War Coalition. “The army does not like to admit that many who sign up do not want to stay in the army when they find out what it is like and the culture discourages dealing with these issues, preferring to pretend that it doesn’t have these problems.”

A little-known study into the reasons for absence was conducted by the Military Corrective Training Centre in 2010/11. More than a quarter of absentees said their primary reason for going AWOL was that they were seeking discharge from service. A further 13% went absent mainly because of a bereavement to a colleague or family member.

The most common reason for absence in this study, however, accounting for 41% of offenders, was that they had problems with family, close friends or partners. “Normally absentees are quite easy to find”, said an MOD spokesman. “Evidence suggests that most incidents are caused by soldiers’ domestic circumstances, eg family problems, rather than any wish to avoid military service. We often find they have gone back to their parent’s house or familiar places like that.”

The idea that most absences can be put down to reasons aside from the trials of war chimes well with the experience of Matthew Howden, a former adjutant captain who served in Afghanistan. “When I was deployed the boys were much more likely to go absent due to money reasons, problems with wives and girlfriends, or simply because they fancied a few days off and thought they would get away with it”, he says. “Sometimes they’d go on leave for a week and then, on the Monday morning decide they didn’t want to go back into work. Nothing really more sinister than that.”

Workers at the Soldiers’, Sailors’ and Airmen’s Families Association (SSAFA) AWOL Support Line, a confidential telephone service for soldiers who have abandoned duties without permission, also report that the most common reasons they encounter for unauthorised absence are debt and relationship problems, as opposed to the trauma of an active conflict such as Afghanistan or Iraq. In fact, they report that the number of people using their service is actually falling.

Absence punished

Regardless of the motivation for absence, the most likely outcome from going AWOL is that the soldier will be tracked down and face some form of disciplinary action. In 2011, one-third of all court martial charges involved absence without leave and it is still the most common charge for military personnel at court martial today. Since 2008, the Ministry of Defence has employed dedicated Absence Recovery Warrant Officers (ARWOs) who help track down and reintegrate absent soldiers back into the army. There are currently nine of these in post.

“The ultimate aim is to encourage the individual to return voluntarily and help as many absentees as possible back to useful service, either in their original unit or another”, says the MOD spokesman. “The ARWO will engage with families, friends and partners of the absentee to gain their trust, assist in the resolution of the problem that resulted in the AWOL and return the soldier to military duty as quickly as possible.”

Punishment for absence is not necessarily the end of soldier’s career; many do continue to serve in some form or another even after they have been disciplined. “Military justice is all about putting things behind you”, says Dr Hugh Milroy, chief executive of the charity Veterans Aid. “People often come out of it and just get on with life. I remember a colleague who actually got promoted after he went AWOL for a short time.”

Life for deserters

The reprimand for going AWOL, as opposed to deserting, where there must be a provable intention to avoid active service, varies significantly. In 2006 – ironically the same year in which a posthumous pardon was given to soldiers who refused to go “over the top” in the first world war – the Armed Forces Act upped the maximum punishment for desertion from two years to life in prison (although no deserters are currently serving this sentence, according to a Freedom of Information request to the MoD). Sheltering or enabling a servicemen to remain absent is also now a criminal offence.

“Mass murderers can only get life imprisonment, but someone who avoids a posting because they have seen the horror of war or thinks it’s wrong can get exactly the same punishment”, says Gwyn Gwyntopher, of At Ease, a confidential help service for serving and ex-members of the armed forces. “It’s ridiculous. Prior to the Afghan war, I knew a conscientious objector who said, ‘I’m leaving and I’m not coming back’. Two hours later he was taken to a detention centre and later found guilty of desertion.”

German agrees that the potential penalty for desertion is disproportionate. “There is no logical reason why desertion should be punished by life imprisonment. It is a ridiculously severe sentence.”

Maybe this is why, despite some efforts to find them, many runaway soldiers are in fact still at large. For the financial year 2012/13, around 400 soldiers were absent without leave for more than 21 days and were therefore classed as ‘long-term absentees’. Since 2000, authorities have failed to track down more than 1,000 army personnel, who remain AWOL to this day.

For Lynn Farr, the response to her son’s absence, and other absences like his, should be aimed at rehabilitation. With greater understanding from senior servicemen, she feels that soldiers with issues would be more open about them, stopping them running away in the first place. “There’s quite a few that have real problems”, she says. “Because they will need to get them sorted out, the time has to be right before they go back.”

* This article by Justin Cash was first published at the independent journalism network and is published here under its Creative Commons non-commercial share and attribution licence.

Richmond’s lowest scoring food hygiene reports revealed

Dirty chopping boards, cheese on sale past its ‘best before’ date and warm fridges – just some of the things food inspectors unearthed when they did their latest routine checks on restaurants, pubs, shops and other food premises in Richmondshire.

Here in Richmond, the inspection reports cover five premises:

Those on the map scored at the lower end of the food inspection scale being ranked two or less by inspectors. The information was revealed after a Freedom of Information request from a Mr Perry using the public transparency website What Do They Know.

At the bottom of the scale is ‘0’ – this means urgent improvement is required. At the top of the scale is ‘5’ – this means the hygiene standards are very good.

Each business is given a ‘hygiene rating’ when it is inspected by a food safety officer from Richmondshire District Council – those are the scores that are often posted outside the eaterie going from zero to five.

The rating of ‘5’ means that the business was found to have ‘very good’ hygiene standards and any business should be able to reach this top rating, says the Food Standards Agency, adding:

The food safety officer inspecting a business checks how well the business is meeting the law by looking at:

  • how hygienically the food is handled – how it is prepared, cooked, re-heated, cooled and stored
  • the condition of the structure of the buildings – the cleanliness, layout, lighting, ventilation and other facilities
  • how the business manages and records what it does to make sure food is safe

Please note, the Mount Everest Gurkha Takeaway at Catterick Garrison appears in Mr Perry’s original FoI but the documents show it has since been re-inspected and awarded the highest ranking of 5.

Council Tax increase: The case for and against


The strategy board viewed from the press bench

Setting the council tax is a complex process involving many authorites and layers of government but on Tuesday, Richmondshire District Council will be asked to finalise how much it wants to charge in the next financial year.

At its recent strategy board, the councillors basically split along political lines and spelled out two very different strategies – 1. increase the charge to taxpayers in order to maintain the council’s reserves, or 2. to hold the charge at its current level and use up its reserves instead.

The final direction will have as much to do with philosophical approach as with the balance sheet it seems.

What follows is a very simplified summary of those approaches. The debate is sure to be hard-fought on both sides and go into far greater detail when they meet again as a full council.

The case FOR an increase
The majority of councillors at the committee stage were supportive of the route put forward by the chief finance officer Sian Hansom who recommends a 1.5 per cent increase to boost the reserves.

She said: “Overall we will be getting a 7.45 per cent reduction in funding from the government in 2014 to 2015.” The suggested increase would see the charge to householders rise so that Band D households would be paying £201.40. Councillors would also turn down an offered Government grant to freeze the level of the charge. Money in the reserves is often used to fund local community projects across the district.

The case AGAINST an increase
Led by the Tory councillor Yvonne Peacock, those against an increase suggest the reserves should be utilised before taxpayers are asked to fork out any more and they would take a grant offered by the Government to help close the gap.

“We should take the freeze and give that back to the residents – it (tax) just keeps going up and up and up.”

The Council Tax Freeze scheme means the government will provide a grant of 1% to councils which freeze or reduce their basic amount of council tax compared to last year’s level.

What do you think? Cast a vote or add your comments below.

We hope to be able to stream the meeting live and it is also open to the public to attend at 6.30pm at Mercury House, Station Road. The full agenda is on our February events noticeboard.

Catterick cinema plans: 2 for….150 against

Plans to build a seven screen cinema at Catterick have drawn a large number of written objections. Richmondshire council’s planning department received 150 objections and just two letters of support of the proposal.

The letter writing is at odds to the polling on this blog where the majority of people welcomed the idea and comes after a campaign by the management of the The Station asking supporters to object.

Of course it’s important to note that letters and polls don’t carry any legal weight. The councillors on the planning committee will need to base their final decision on planning reasons laid down by statute.

The councillors who sit on that committee are:
Jane Parlour (IND) (Chairman)
John Blackie (IND) (Vice-Chairman)
John Amsden (IND)
Angie Dale (IND)
Campbell Dawson (CON)
Tony Duff (CON)
Malcolm Gardner (IND)
Mick Griffiths (IND)
Rob Johnson (CON)
Ken Lambert (IND)
Keith Loadman (CON)
Ian Threlfall (CON)
Jimmy Wilson-Petch (CON)
Clive World (LDA)

The meeting where the application is due to be heard is scheduled for March 4. All council meetings are held in public and we’ll do our best to get along to film it for you to share too.

Have you ever seen a PCSO on Castle Walk?

photoDespite the assurance of Chief Constable David Jones in his recent webchat, we have now learned that there will be no new action to address the problems at Castle Walk.

As we reported before Christmas, the lighting along the walk has now been turned off due to vandalism, a move which has also seen an increase in littering and has made one of the town’s attractions a no-go area for many after dark.

We were told during the webchat that the Richmond Safer Neighbourhood Team would be discussing the issue with Richmondshire Council.

But this week we have now been told this will not happen as the current strategy already includes patrols in the area.

Have you ever seen a PCSO on patrol there? Feel free to tweet us when you do @RichmondNYorks.Hashtag #pcsowatch

In an email (which we did query when it was first received, just in case the message from the chief hadn’t been passed on) Sergeant Helen Blockley states:

“[To this end] there is no planned meeting with the Council and (sic) this time, and our Patrol strategy already covers Castle Walk regardless of lighting being present or not, as this isolated location lends itself to a youth congreagating (sic) area for the purposes of anti social behaviour, and is already high on our list as a periodic hot spot area.”

We can only assume these patrols were also going on when £25,000 of damage was caused to the lights, offences for which there appear to have been no prosecutions brought.

Srg Blockley’s email also explains the background to the failure to keep the lights on and says they will eventually be completely removed leaving the town without one its best tourist assets properly lit.

“In short the Castle Walk is a Highway and as such comes under NYCC. The lights were originally placed by a now disbanded group called the RSVCI created by Colin Grant who was a one time town centre manager for Richmond. By default on their demise the lights then came under District Council.

“There is no plan to replace these light as they were never fit for purpose in design and there is no money for alternative lighting, and in fact NYCC are eventually planning to plate them off so aesthetically it looks pleasing.”

Castle Walk lighting to be discussed by police and council

castlewalkThe issue of the lighting at Castle Walk – as well as general street lighting – was raised at last night’s webchat with North Yorkshire Chief Constable David Jones.

We raised a question about the future for the lighting at Richmond Castle, which we’ve reported on here before, and asked if PCSO patrols could be carried out.

Here’s the answer we received

North Yorkshire Police: 
Thank you very much for raising this issue. The Richmond Safer Neighbourhood Team will be liaising with Richmondshire District Council to seek to address the issue.

That’s quite a (welcome) surprise given the lack of action before Christmas. We’ve today written to the Richmond Safer Neighbourhood Sergeant to find out when that meeting is going to take place and what plans are being discussed there.

We’ll report back here when there’s a reply.

On the separate current consultation about keeping the general street lights on at night that we reported here yesterday, an anonymous visitor at the webchat asked how the street lights switched off in other places had affected crime rates/ public safety, if at all?

North Yorkshire Police: 
Thank you. We are not in a position to evidence an increase in crime directly relating to the switching off of street lamps (although this is being monitored). A concern we do have is how this has an impact on peoples general sense of well being.

You can replay the full webchat here.

Most viewed in Feb: The Station cinema calls for action against multiscreen plan

Management at The Station cinema are calling on people to object to proposals to develop a new seven screen cinema at Catterick.

On its website it urges people to write to the Richmondshire Dictrict Council planners before the deadline next Monday.

The posting claims the new development would be ‘a significant threat to the ongoing viability of The Station Cinema.’

As part of the work to develop the area around Tesco, a five screen cinema with 640 seats was proposed.  The Station Cinema was consulted about the plans last year, and although concerned, decided this extra provision was acceptable, as it offered more choice to cinema-goers in the area.

The developers have now submitted an amendment to their original plans, asking for permission to create seven screens, with a total of 848 seats.  That’s almost one third more than their original proposal.

But would a new cinema down the road actually impact on the The Station cinema or are they very different things? There’s been some chatter on social media platforms and, so far, the reaction seems to be split.

While some don’t welcome the proposal, others point out that the new cinema would be serving a different audience drawn from the military community and further afield.

What do you think?

Have your say in the comments or cast a vote.

Richmond named as ‘walk of the month’

The Independent’s Mark Rowe took a walk through the woods and shared his experience this weekend.

He describes the route through to the George and Dragon in Hudswell as well as the birds and river views in a lyrical piece.

Hudswell Woods beckon, a magical, mature, semi-natural woodland. Looking among the oaks I pick out the cobalt flash of a nuthatch, while a flinty-looking treecreeper chisels away in the corrugated ridges of a sycamore tree. I follow a hauntingly beautiful and undulating path that unexpectedly threads past a succession of small, sandy beaches. They are overlooked by beech trees – beeches on beaches – mantled in lichens and mosses.

You can read the full article here.

Wanted: Writers, photographers, moviemakers and more

If you enjoy the Richmond Noticeboard, how about joining us. If you’re into writing, photography, film, audio or social media – we’d love to hear from you.

Whether on a regular basis – or just every now and then – if you’re interested in your town, how about joining us to help keep it connected? There’s no pressure or time commitment.

– Maybe you’d like to follow in FancyaCuppaNow’s footsteps and carry out interviews with some of the busy Richmond People who run clubs and organisations.

– Or perhaps Denis Hardy has inspired you with his regular photographic contributions.

– Sharing some of the decisions made about the town by filiming council meetings has been something I’ve enjoyed getting involved in and, judging by the number of viewings, is an activity that local people value – want to help with that?

Whatever you’d be interested in doing, we’re here to help. We can assist with equipment and training if needed or just be a sounding board over a cuppa every now and then – whatever fits in with your day-to-day.

The list below has some ideas of things that you might be interested in doing – but, if you’ve a passion for some other activity, we’re completely open to suggestion. After all, the Noticeboard is an open, non-commercial, public space provided for free for community use.

Ideas for volunteers:

– photograph the buildings, people or events in the town

- make videos showing the town or events happening here

- report on a local event or organisation

- compile information about what’s on
- review local bands, theatre or cinema

- deliver leaflets telling people about the Noticeboard

- write about the town’s history

- promote your club’s activities
- investigate stories or issues relating to the town
– film meetings at the town or district council
- use social media to connect people

If this sounds like something you’d like to get involved in, or you just want to find out more, drop me a line here via the comments below, on Facebook or email