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200,000 BBC2 MAST CRASHES

(From an article featured in the Melton Times on Friday 18 November 1966)

The 950-foot television mast, which stood as a gleaming landmark over the Leicestershire countryside, today lies twisted and broken as if, like a toy, it had been flattened by a giant hand.

The life of the almost finished mast, due to transmit BBC2 pictures next year, came crashing to an end with the sound of a thunderclap in the small hours of Wednesday morning.  And it was the end too of the fears of a man who lived in its shadow.

Brigadier Cooper, of Waltham Lodge, was awakened by 'a terrific sound almost like thunder'.  He looked at his watch - it was 2.25am.  'The noise seemed to go on for some time' he told the Times.  'There were a lot a metallic clinking sounds.  I looked out of my bedroom window and saw the aircraft lights on the tower weren't on.  The wind was blowing hard at the time.  I didn't know for certain that the mast had come down, although I constantly feared that one day it might fall over.'

The foreman in charge of construction, Mr John Mason, had watched the mast grow since it began in March this year.  Wednesday was just another day for him.  He left his home in Melton and stopped at Waltham Post Office to pick up tea, sugar and mail.  'Did you know your mast is down ?', said the proprietor from behind the counter.  Mr Mason dismissed the remark as a joke.  He left, but returned minutes later, sitting down until he had sufficiently recovered from the shock.  Back on site when being interviewed by a Times reporter, Mr Mason looked pale and drawn as he picked his way through the jumble of metal at the foot of the mast.

'Its unbelievable' he said.  'I think everyone here feels terrible about it.  We've worked on the mast every day - even on some Sundays.'

The last people on site before the collapse were four electricians from a Huddersfield firm working on the transmitters, the last of whom left around 9.30pm.  One of them told the Times 'It was windy but nothing out of the ordinary.  When I was coming up the road, the mast looked as though it had a 'dog-leg' in it and the aircraft lights were not in line.  It was swinging and seemed to be leaning a bit at the top.  This would have been at about 7pm.'  A few hours later, the room in which they had been working was crushed by the tower.  Telephone communications were cut.  An electricity board official hurried to the scene to check the safety of an 11,000 volt cable fed into the buildings at the base of the mast.

The 200,000 tower was the first all-cylindrical structure of its kind in the country.  It weighed 250 tons and was 7ft 6 ins in diameter.  From the way it fell, the mast appeared to have buckled before breaking-up.  Several sections lay around the footings.

Permanent guy lines were hanging from the tower.  There had been a delay in fixing them into place because of bad weather conditions.  A lift had been installed inside the mast and while the weather remained poor work continued on the interior.

We checked with R.A.F Cottesmore to establish wind speeds at the estimated time of the collapse.  At a height of 10 metres the speed between 2 a.m and 3 a.m was 32 miles an hour.  A spokesman said that at 1000ft (306 metres) the wind could have reached about 60 miles an hour.  'We used the mast as a visibility point' he added.

The village of Waltham feels that the collapse of the mast is almost a personal loss.  Mrs E Gilbert, of Mainstreet, said that she felt really upset about it.  'When I looked out of my bedroom window in the morning, I couldn't believe my eyes.  I think everyone is shocked about it.  We watched the mast grow over the months.'

The BBC hopes to put up a temporary mast.  The area to be covered is bounded by Lincoln in the north, Uttoxeter in the west, right across to The Wash in the east and Kettering in the south.

 


 

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