Fairfax and Edgehill.
The hamlet of Edgehill is situated in the parish to Radley and Upton, South Warwickshire, England. It takes its name from Edge Hill, a nearby escarpment overlooking farm land to the north west.
This was the site of the Battle of Edgehill, the first major engagement of the English Civil War, in 1642. In WW2 the site was also home to an RAF bomber base, 21 Operational Training Unit, Bomber Command. There is a Fairfax connection with both separated by nearly 300 years.
In 1642 Sir William Fairfax commanded a Parliamentary Regiment at the Battle of Edgehill. In the early stages of the battle Fairfax’s Regiment came under attack from Royalist infantry and cavalry. Most of his Regiment fled leaving Sir William and 100 of his men to fight it out. The battle resulted in a bloody draw. Both sides had much to learn.
Sir William Fairfax (Born 1609 died 1644)was the second son of Sir Philip Fairfax of Steeton in Yorkshire and Frances Sheffield.. He was a cousin of the famous Sir Thomas Fairfax – Black Tom. In 1629 he married Frances, daughter of Sir Thomas Chaloner of Guisborough.
During the Civil War Sir William fought nobly for Parliament alongside his more famous cousin at the capture Leeds and Wakefield in 1643. Also at the siege of Liverpool and the major battles of Nantwich and Marston Moor in 1644. During the relief of Montgomery Castle on 18 September 1644 he was mortally wounded leading his men. It is said he received 15 separate wounds in the encounter and died the following day.
Pilot Officer John Edward Anthony Harrington Fairfax DFM, a Royal Air Force pilot, was an instructor at the RAF bomber training base at Edgehill. On the 4 October 1941 Wellington R1146 of 21 Operational Training Unit flown by Pilot Officer Fairfax took off in bad weather and flew into trees at Upton Hall near Edgehill. All the crew were killed. Tony Fairfax is buried at Leeds Lawnswood Cemetery.
Tony was born in 1919 the son of John Harrington Fairfax and Ursula Tannet-Walker of Leeds. His father died before Tony was born. The family lived in Headingley and Tony attended Leeds Grammar School.
In the early part of WW2 Tony Fairfax had flown a tour of 33 operations with 9 Squadron on Vickers Wellingtons. He held the rank of Sergeant and, on completion of his tour, he was awarded a Distinguished Flying Medal and commissioned as Pilot Officer. He proved himself a fine courageous pilot and was only the second pilot in the RAF to drop a 4,000 pound “blockbuster” bomb.
Tony is commemorated by a window in the chapel of Leeds Grammar School. It includes the line - 'For Tony, from Mother.' When the school moved to Harrogate Rd the window was transferred to the new location.
Two Yorkshire Fairfaxes connected by the small village of Edgehill in the Midlands nearly 300 years apart. One fought and lived, later to be killed in battle, and one crashed and died on the field. Both fine warriors who fought bravely for their cause. David W Fell.
Writer’s note - We will be interested to know if anyone has any information or photos of Pilot Officer John E A H Fairfax DFM. If so please contact the author David W Fell on my gmail here.