The Anstey mound where the old castle once sat is still there. And so is the moat. And also the trees just east of the property that still bear the scars where a 398th B-17 struck violently before crashing, burning and exploding. The bodies of 10 young men were pulled from the moat as the flickering beams of daylight began to reveal the horror and carnage.
This would be the lead crew of the 398ths 603rd Squadron as it took off for a mission to Cologne on October 15, 1944. These men were remembered once again when the 398th group tour party joins the community for a special service at St. Georges Church at Anstey on Sunday, June 28, 1992.
Anstey was known to the men who served at Station 131 as a suburb of Nuthampstead. They may well remember flying over the little town as it lay directly beneath the flight path on take off to the southwest on the main runway.
But Anstey was there long before Station 131 and World War II. Long before the colonies became the United States of America. Long enough to have had a castle dominate the community. Long enough to have nurtured a story that conceivably could have impact with someone from the 398th Bomb Group. Long enough to have spawned a great yarn known as The Fiddler of Anstey.
Local folks know all about The Fiddler of Anstey but others discovered it in a book by Doris Jones-Baker called, the Tales of Old Hertfordshire.
Where does the 398th fit in this centuries old legend? The answer comes in the form of a note and question from Elaine Tyler who reported - Several of us attended a talk one evening about the Castle/Moat at Anstey. There is supposed to be an underground tunnel here leading to another entrance some distance away. It has long since been lost but is now the subject of some excavations. Could it be that one of the lads working on the crash site that morning might have seen this heavy door or gate and could still pinpoint the location?
So think hard, you men who were on the crash scene that morning. The Fiddler of Anstey could still be in the tunnel awaiting your directions.
It seems that this fiddler, known as Blind George, had become quarrelsome and pot-valiant during the evenings sojourn at THE CHEQUERS. So much so that he accepted the challenge of venturing into the entrance of the tunnel at the bottom of the moat that happened to be exposed during the recent dry period. This in spite of the legend that it had never been explored and that anyone venturing inside would never come out alive. The tunnel had probably been an escape route in ancient times and supposedly led to ancient chalk pits more than a mile away.
George took his fiddle and dog and plunged into the entrance of the cave. Led by his dog, George began fiddling and the villagers were able to follow his path as they listened to an uncanny and unknown fiddle tune from under the ground beneath their feet.
Suddenly, the scrape of the fiddle rose to a shriek. And then came only silence. They raced back to the tunnel entrance, there to see Georges dog come running out as twenty devils were behind him. He was tail-less and his hair singed off. He ran off into the night and was never seen again. The entrance was then sealed off and no one since has ever tried to find out what ever happened to the The Fiddler of Anstey.
The CHEQUERS is still there. Maybe the tunnel too, awaiting word from one of the lads from the 398th.
Among the locals waiting for word is Jean Mustoe, who was kind enough to send along the book, Tales of Old Hertfordshire.
If we find the tunnel, Jean, will you lead the way?
Transcribed from Flak News by Ruthanna Doerstler, wife of Wayne Doerstler, engineer on the 602 Squadron Griffin crew.