Part of Marldon Local History Group Social and Oral History Archive
David Best 1923 - 2002
Memories of Wartime Marldon
David was born and lived all his life in the Westerland area of Marldon, next to the land and buildings which were to become “the camp” mentioned so frequently in these memoirs. He attended the old Village School (opposite the Church) before going to Torquay Grammar School.
David committed his wartime memories to paper in 1982/83 and they were published in the Parish Magazine at that time.
We are very grateful to Mrs June Best for giving us permission to produce the instalments on our Website. The memoirs have also been produced as a booklet.
These memoirs are the copyright of June Best and may not be copied or reproduced without her permission.
Further contributions byValerie Dissington (nee Jones), Edenbridge, Kent (Evacuation 1) and Jane Cundy(Evacuation 2) of their memories of evacuation to Marldon are now included
At the outbreak of the war, Marldon was a quiet and peaceful country village, much as it had been for the previous two hundred years.
These recollections are those of a ten year old boy, just old enough to have seen a glimpse of the enclosed rural way of life which has now disappeared and willing to accept as normal all the exciting and abnormal things which would follow over the next few years. Today there is little difference between town and country life, where the same amenities can be enjoyed by all, but before the war a decade could have separated the pattern of living between the two communities. The town with its shops and services was a different world to the village which had retained an almost unchanged rural identity where personal differences were dropped only at Christmas and Harvest time when the harvest was so important that many villagers turned out to participate.
The population was quite small, about a hundred houses more than half of which were scattered up to a mile in all directions, and many built where the spring waters came near the ground surface. At other dwellings, the water would be drained from sloping corrugated iron or lean to roofs and collected in 100 gallon water tanks obtainable from all good merchants. With a smaller number of houses, the significance of the public buildings was thereby increased. Least popular to a child was the school house, with its high windows, inadequate coke stove heating and earth closets in the toilet block. It was indeed a good place to leave behind in the afternoon, and perhaps if you were lucky you could cadge a ride on a mangold cart making its way up the hill to one of the farms.
Across the way the church was kinder to little children and, more important, less hostile to small boys, although even here it was possible to pick up a cuff on the ear from an elder for letting a concealed six gun off during choir practice!
The jewel in the crown was the Parish Hall, barely four years old and still smelling of new timber. Even in those days it escaped all forms of vandalism from local lads. They might tie the pub door to the rail outside and run in fear of their lives, but the Hall was never abused. It was a place where someone truly made jam, weekly whist drives (at least twenty tables so better arrive early) dental treatments for school children, magic lantern shows and now and again dances for quite old people with ladies in long dresses. Marldon was a poor village, and many families knew something of poverty.
An incident one August afternoon brought tears of the eyes of a hardened farm worker. They were threshing corn close by Moor Tor and one of the men feeding the sheaves had for some reason taken off his new boots which had been placed for safety on top of the thresher. Somehow a fellow worker fed the boots along with the corn into the machine. The apparatus jammed immediately and ground to a halt, although the traction engine continued to chunk on. There was a bit of a row and a lot of shouting, and when they eventually fished the boots out, it was obvious that they had been ruined. The owner almost cried and they finally got him quietened down but the damage had been done. After the excitement of seeing grown men nearly come to blows, we watched the steam engine for a bit, then got fed up and went home.
Marldon had one over-riding asset in its economy – it could grow grass, and to convert the grass the red South Devon Cow. The animals outnumbered the population and in the village itself there were three working farms. As important as the grazing of cows was the movement of cows from the fields to the farms at milking time. Sometimes different herds would meet each other on the way and cows forgetting which group they were supposed to be in would go off to the wrong place. The resulting mix up would take a bit of sorting out at the other end. From time to time stragglers would go trotting off on their own pursued by some irate farm hand, and the animals would become a severe hazard not to the non-existent traffic, but to the food produced from local gardens. Furzegood could be safeguarded from these incursions by the heavy wooden gates at the entrance and this feature separating parts of the village remained for many years. Chickens would also wander down the road picking up bits thrown out for them and most found their way home again.
Despite rural isolation, technology had started to filter through. The roads had not long received the first covering of tarmac, thus enabling the second charabanc on the outing to follow in the wake of the first free from the customary swirling cloud of white dust. Several motor cars had appeared.
The vicar chose an early Terraplane, high and unwieldy and an altogether dubious vehicle, the school master more traditional in a Flying Standard and generally thought by the kids to be the fastest thing on four wheels. The first tractor had been delivered to Love Lane Farm! A late bus service had been laid on at 9pm running as far as Maidenway and this was available as an alternative to the last Marldon Bus, which left Paignton at 6 o’clock.
Builders had learned how to build in brick instead of stone and a ribbon of new bungalows had just been built from the cross-road to Five Lanes, followed by another towards the village. Hardcore had been laid to form the entrance into Belfield, but it would be many years before the developers cut the first sod. Had the events in 1939 not occurred, a few houses would have been built sooner, but the war did account for the greatest acceleration of change in the village history. The older folks with established attitudes would not change easily, but the young, quick to latch on to new fashions, were willing to accept as normal all the existing and abnormal things which were about to happen. From that time the gates would open and let in a flood of new faces from all parts of England and later from the U.S.A.
The effect was staggering in the village where even the children knew nearly all the inhabitants. The strangers would bring with them new customs, an innovation and, being for most part, young men, a good measure of vitality and glamour.
Within a few brief years, all the new faces would be gone and after 6th June 1944, an air of sadness would descend as half the population left for the beaches of France.
For a time the village slipped back into its old ways, but the aftermath of a visiting army had left its mark, and things were never quite the same again.
Part 2 - continuing a schoolboy’s look at Marldon during the War.
During the early part of 1939 the Government had foreseen the possibility that war might occur, and plans had been made for the evacuation of children from the major cities.
Devon was pronounced a safe area and even Plymouth was considered suitable to absorb the thousands of schoolchildren who would be sent to the County. The Marldon contingent arrived not long after that sunlit Sunday when war was declared, and we were sent down to the Meadow to look at the young Londoners who had arrived and were being allocated to different households. Some were very young and could have had no idea why they had been sent from one end of the country to the other. All looked scruffy after the day’s journey and, with their labels and instructions tied to them, resembled a delivery of parcels.
The war had in a small way started to affect the village. Some people resented the autocratic system of billeting and enforcement, but all the children were well cared for. Many had not seen cows or even a field before, and were quite lost in this strange world devoid of traffic and chip shops, but they quickly integrated with the village children and learned how to survive in the country.
The influx imposed a great strain on the village school, but as time went by and nothing happened they drifted away in ones and twos and most were back home in time for the large scale London raids which came in the following year.
When the siren sounded, we would leave the school and troop up West Lane in twos. At first this diversion from lessons was great fun and a tremendous waste of time, particularly as most of the alarms were false, but after a while it lost its attraction and we became bored just hanging around looking at the flowers. Furthermore, the lane was all right on a fine day, but it turned into a sea of mud in the rain, so the rambles were discontinued, and then when the siren sounded we hid under our desks instead. Later, when the alarms became more and more frequent, even this was considered a bit sissy, so we were expected to carry on as if nothing had happened.
During the period known as the “phoney war”, the British and French armies had come to a standstill, but the picture was very much different at sea. The Merchant Navy was taking a hammering, and in that year German U-boats sank 215 merchant ships, together with two capital ships of the Royal Navy. Survival therefore depended on producing as much food as we could and salvaging whatever raw materials were available in the country. The village played its part in this reclamation and the Council removed iron railings from many houses, although farms were generally exempt.
The school Headmaster was an outstanding organiser, and he set up squads of schoolchildren equipped with trolleys for the collection of scrap metal. The most fertile places were the farms, and we tramped many miles, from Widdicombe Farm, Occombe, then to Compton, collecting old bedsteads and saucepans and things.
At first the exercise was productive, and part of the playground took on the appearance of a breaker’s yard, but as time went by it became obvious that the best chunks of scrap required heavy lifting equipment and lorries to cart it away, so the collection service petered out. Nevertheless, the children had entered into the spirit of the occasion with gusto, as all children will, and it was felt that they had made a valuable contribution to the War Effort.
At school the curiculum included such things as operating stirrup pumps and how to extinguish incendiary bombs and making hay boxes to keep food hot, although few of us would ever have to fall back on this knowledge.
As the war progressed, tractors with foreign names such as Oliver and Caterpillar started to come through from Canada and the USA. Some of the tracked vehicles could climb mountains and there was a minor agricultural revolution as the village took on a new look when fields were ploughed which had never been touched before.
Early in the 1930’s, a collection of dog and quarantine kennels had been built on land adjoining a house near Marldon Cross. The project never really took off and in 1937 the kennels were converted into a sort of basic holiday camp with the addition of several old railway carriages in the grounds. By 1939, the camp had not been occupied, but sufficient work had been done to make the premises habitable, so they were taken over by the War Office just in time to receive elements of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) following the evacuation from Dunkirk on 4th June 1940. Marldon had become a military base and would remain so for the next four years.
Looking back on that time, it was one with little fun or social life for the troops. They had arrived tired and exhausted, an assorted rabble from different units and it was some time before they got back on their feet and in some sort of order.
After that followed a programme of intense activity and hard work as they prepared for the invasion which was expected, and indeed Operation Sea Lion had been ordered by Hitler for September 14th. The camp was ringed with gun emplacements to protect the base, and in corners of some of the fields evidence of this work still exists today.
A unit of the Home Guard was formed, and groups of villagers in this “Dad’s Army” set off in the evenings equipped with shot guns and dartboards to man strategic places. A detail of 6 men were posted in shifts on the high ground at the Beacon, and they slept at night in a hut in the grounds of the reservoir. The hut had been built as a crude workman’s store with large gaps in the sides, so one of the men from the village papered it inside with newspaper to keep out the draught.
They would patrol the hilltop for two hour periods, in pairs, whilst the others slept, and the purpose was to act as a look-out and not only keep an eye open for Germans, but to report any fires or lights in the Torbay area.
One night, the system nearly went into reverse. The Beacon, even in mild weather, became bitterly cold at night, and it was the practice to heat up bricks on the stove, wrap them in empty sandbags and use them as bed heaters. On this occasion the bricks were a little too hot, and they ignited the bags (already treated with an inflammable material to withstand the damp), and the whole lot went up in smoke, very nearly burning down their own headquarters.
Everything that has been said about that unique band of men is entirely true, and they would be the first to admit that often they had laughed themselves to sleep thinking about the antics they had been up to.
The first bombs to drop in Devon, and amongst the earliest in England, fell on 6th July 1941 at Galmpton, where production of Admiralty launches had started and at precisely 8.45 a.m. on 10th July a stick of nine high expolosive bombs fell at the Beacon straddling the roadway and damaging a small gypsy caravan. (NB. Giving the year as 1941 may have been a typing error or lapse of memory on David's part as the Group has copies of the original Reports of the Torbay Air Raid Precautions Joint Committee, which gives the year of these first raids as 1940.)
I was half a mile away, dawdling to school with two girl evacuees who had been billeted on a neighbour nearby. During the explosions we lay back in the hedge wondering what was going to happen next and the younger of the girls started to cry. After a while the noise of the aeroplane faded away so we picked ourselves up and went to school.
Later in the day we went along to see what had happened, and found several policemen keeping a crowd at bay and guarding some holes in the fields. The next day the holes were still there so they lost interest and went away, leaving the craters to the kids, who dug out bits of shrapnel for souvenirs.
On 11th July, ten bombs fell at Churston, again with no warning and on the 15th it was Brixham's turn when four high explosive bombs were dropped, one of which sank the coal boat “City of London”.
This was the period following the Battle of Britain and things were really beginning to hot up locally when at 6.44 p.m. on Tuesday 20th August, two bombers and a fighter dropped a stick of bombs on Newton Abbot railway station doing an incredible amount of damage. In 1941 events in the war had taken a turn for the worse and this incident at the time was heavily censored. The full extent of the damage was even kept from local people, but 14 people were killed, 15 seriously injured, a railway engine wrecked and extensive damage was done to the station and track.
The winter of 1940/41 brought a heavy fall of snow. At the start of the war the beach floats had been stacked at the Holiday Camp and put into “mothballs” for the duration; the troops were quick to see alternative possibilities and used them as sledges until the snow melted. Inevitably they all finished up at the bottom of fields where they rotted away and disintegrated over the next few years. Shortly after this, the troops vacated the camp and were replaced by girls of the ATS who stayed for about six months.
After the early months of 1941, it was becoming clear that Torbay was becoming one of the areas for enemy activities and in that year there were sixteen enemy raids during which a great number of houses in Torquay and Paignton were damaged. These raids were overshadowed by the heavy raids on Plymouth on the nights of 21st and 22nd March, and the glow in the sky from the burning city was clearly visible from Marldon.
After these raids a battery of heavy anti-aircraft guns was positioned at the Beacon, no doubt with the intention of picking off some of the enemy aircraft as they came in.
The artillery unity brought with them their own piano and a full size dance band, and it was not long before they were performing in the Village Hall. No-one had seen anything like it before. The noise was deafening in a hall which had previously never seen anything much larger than a trio, and very soon the events became a major attraction.
Girls would come up from the town forsaking the thousands of aircrew trainees in the seal front hotels to dance with the soliders at Marldon, and social barriers were lowered as villagers started to accept this new life style. Surprisingly, it was the old ladies who moved with the times first. They had seen this sort of thing before, and were not going to be left out of this one, so they came along to watch, bringing with them their knitting and picnic supper. They would stay for a couple of hours, then go home to bed having thoroughly enjoyed themselves in the rapidly changing world.
In a way the evening entertainment filled a gap at a time when all the news was bad and they were merely tasting a bit of whatever life was left to any of us. However, their appearance gave the evenings an air of respectability and also gave them quite a lot to talk about the next day.
In 1941 I was confronted with a bit of a problem, because I changed schools in the later part of that year, and was expected to work harder at my lessons. Each day I left Marldon where all the action seemed to be happening to cycle along the deserted lane to Torquay (now the old Ring Road). The only relief from the monotony of the journey was the daily arrival of a squad of army engineers, who travelled in their trucks to a wooded area a mile outside the Village. Access to the project was closely guarded, but after several months the vehicles failed to arrive, so I went to investigate, some distance from the road. There was no trace or any sign of construction work. Small boys are adept at discovery, so I was able to find the trapdoor entrance , which led down a flight of steps to a bunker equipped with water tanks, lights and a telephone. I was also horrified to discover that the bunker was in fact an arsenal filled with explosives and ammunition, so I went away with the awesome knowledge of a military secret.
Many years later, it was revealed that in the early stages of the war there was a serious possibility that the country could be overrun. Winston Churchill therefore had ordered a network of hideaways, as they were called, to be constructed, and these would be manned by local people who would carry out guerilla activities against the enemy and survive as best they could.
The bunker I found that day after school was intended to be manned by the Marldon Home Guard. It is fortunate that we never experienced German occupation, for the units would have soon been winkled out, resulting in heavy local casualties.
Throughout 1941, wartime distractions from school lessons became more and more frequent. All schools were overcrowded and ours shared its premises with a complete London school of 300 pupils, together with its entire teaching staff. It was therefore necessary to accommodate the influx by attending school on Saturdays, a move which was very unpopular with the boys.All day and every day the Fairey Fulmars droned away, towing the drogues for aircraft target practice. Occasionally a Swordfish would crawl across the sky, returning to its carrier somewhere in the Western Approaches, and as time went by an increasing number of Sunderland Flying boats took time off from U-Boat hunting to touch down in the Bay and rendezvous with the R.A.F rescue launch stationed at Beacon. (Beacon Cove?).
Each night the anti-aircraft units camped out at the Beacon (where the radio masts are today) would crank up their apparatus, which would then send three powerful shafts of light rotating through the night sky. From the air the light was visible for a distance of some 50 miles and their purpose was to act as a landmark for our own aircraft, many of which were now commuting nightly from the Coastal Command Stations in Cornwall. It was a miserable and monotonous posting. Occasionally one of the airmen would come to our house for a meal, and then bang out a few tunes on the piano, but they tended to live like hermits next to their own lighthouse and surrounded by the rabbits caught up in the revolving beams of light.
The arrival of the navigation aid heralded the quick departure of the anti-aircraft guns, together with the now well known Marldon military dance band, but the fact that the light revolved unmolested throughout the war was a clear indication that it assisted the German aircraft as well as our own.
During the time the guns had been in Marldon, they had not fired once. The only time when they might have been used was when a lone enemy aircraft dropped a stick of bombs at Compton, but the gunners insisted that the artillery could not be deflected low enough to hit the low flying plane. This may have been true because the guns were heavy 3.7’s, more suitable for engaging high flying aircraft approaching towns. One day at school we heard that an aircraft had landed on the golf course on the Marldon side of the windmill, so we went along later to gawk at it. The plane was an Avro Anson, or flying greenhouse as we knew it, and it had made an incredible safe landing, missing all the tees and bunkers in the short landing space. (NB The stump of the windmill still stands at the top of Marldon Road, leading up from Paignton).
As fortunes changed in 1942, and the possibility of invasion receded, the camps emptied and the (British) troops moved away, although the Devon Coast camp was still occupied mainly by Italian aliens interned for the duration. However, in that year, a decision was made which would have a major effect on villages like Marldon. Operation Bolero was agreed between England and the United States to move two million American servicemen to England to assist in the assault on Hitler’s Europe.
The first United States troops reached Marldon in the early months of 1943. Initially the soldiers were the coloured non-combat engineers, whose job it was to prepare the camps and to lay on various services for the main body of men which was to follow. In battle their duties would include such things as following up the fighting units to clear the debris and bury the dead.
Nevertheless, in Marldon they represented the first arrivals of the American Army and were treated as absolute equals in a way which they had not enjoyed in their own homeland. The troops were a credit to the Army, and as their popularity increased social evenings were arranged for them and many were invited into people’s homes.
As the build-up increased, the young white conscripts arrived, taking over the camps and bringing with them their American brand of youthful ego, together with centuries of inbred colour prejudice. From time to time violent scenes occurred both in the village and in the towns, more often when girls became innocently involved. It was difficult for the village to understand at a time when the whole country seemed united and indeed racial discrimination was as yet almost unheard of anywhere in England.
Anyway, something had to be done, and the military authorities allocated various units to separate zones. One boundary line was drawn at Churscombe Cross and soldiers from an outside area crossed this line at their peril, whether they were walking a girl home or not.
All the American troops had an affinity with the local schoolchildren and they quickly recognised that we were the first link in the social chain. We told them such things as which part of England they were in, and where the best girls were to be found, and they responded in their easygoing manner and natural generosity, with luxuries we had not seen since the war began. Moreover, they seemed especially well-equipped with all the good things in life. Their PX (Post Exchange) unit within the camp was one of the largest and most important buildings. In this warehouse the troops could buy anything from gramophones to lipstick and nylons, and many of the goods overflowed as gifts or currency into the village.
In the pubs, trade became brisk as glasses chinked away in the evenings. If the war continued like this, life would not be too bad.
A local smallholder obtained a contract to carry away the occasional dustbin of kitchen refuse from the army camp, but as time went by so much waste was being generated that he was completely overwhelmed and eventually a special cooking centre for pig food was created at Edginswell to take the waste from all the Service establishments.
As the camps bulged with new arrivals the roads also became saturated with military transport. Their four wheel drive vehicles were outstanding and superbly designed for the job, and convoys of all types driven by exuberant young drivers became a regular feature.
On the social front, dances were still held from time to time, but the sheer weight of numbers created difficulties in the Village Hall so the camps organised their own events which creamed off most of the pretty girls.
When the British soldiers had arrived earlier, they were, in the main, regular and older troops who had been drawn into the fighting first, and their equipment had consisted of a few trucks, an Austin 8 staff car, a Bren Gun carrier or two, and some bicycles. Much of the other equipment had either been lost in France or sent overseas for the North African offensive. In contrast, the young Americans arrived with more than a touch of Hollywood, in their smart uniforms and with a seemingly endless supply of money, goods and transport at a time when there was a general improvement in the conduct of the war. We had come through the Battle of Britain, the U-Boat menace had been beaten, and the first victory had come in the desert.
The times were tremendously exciting and the most vivid memories were those of happiness and gaiety as the visiting army whooped it up at night - and the daytime was a continuous cabaret with performing military hardware. It was an unbelievable transformation, yet the Americans had acquired an image of glamour and invincibility which they had not yet earned. This would come in the following year.
At school we came down to earth when the Headmaster read out the weekly list of Old Boys killed in action. Schoolboys who can fall into hysterics of laughter if one of their fellows breaks a leg listened impassively as the lists were read out during morning prayers. We briefly recalled the faces which we would not see again, not visualising the last moments with which each person met his death, so the next day we forgot and looked for more action on the Home Front.
The action came on 30th May 1943, during the last Torbay air raid that year, when St. Marychurch Parish Church received a direct hit. At the time of the explosions, I was cycling towards Marldon Cross with a friend, and we raced off to Torquay to see what had happened, not knowing that in those few seconds 45 people had been killed and 50 buildings demolished.
We arrived almost as the dust was settling on the rubble in the road, and we joined a few men pulling away pieces of timber and brickwork. Very soon a pair of legs appeared under the debris and I wondered how I would react to seeing my first dead body. After about 10 minutes a man was dug out who must have been walking along the pavement when the bombs fell. Miraculously, he was still alive, for he muttered something like "bloody Germans" as they carted him off on a stretcher and everyone was rather pleased.
I wonder how many of the rescuers on that day remember the hundreds of "naughty" French girlie postcards scattered in the rubble. One shop had previously been a newsagents, so they could have come from there. By present-day standards they were fairly tame, but in those times an adult rarity, so I picked up several and took them to school the next day, to the delight of the boys, but they were confiscated by a master and I got a ticking off. On that Monday, we learned that several of our friends were among those killed at St. Marychurch.
Unknown to us, whilst we were scratching away in St. Marychurch, an even greater tragedy had occurred a mile further away. As a consolation for our loss, we went along to look at the Focke Wolf 190 which had crashed onto part of a house in Teignmouth Road, and evading the police cordon, we boys managed to get at it to drag away a few souvenirs.
In 1943 there was a steady build-up of American troops and vehicles in and around the camps at Marldon and by 1944 the vast accumulation could not be bottled up any longer. There was an urgent need for additional training space, so almost without notice pieces of land were considered and the army moved in. This was wartime and anything could happen.
At school we were horrified as the American soldiers took over our playing field at Cricketfield Road and surrounded the encampment with barbed wire. Then a Headquarters unit and coloured American engineers took over land at Shiphay and moved in perilously close to the Girls' Grammar School. The next to go were the fields and gardens of Cadewell, which had previously been the grounds of a large country estate. This latest move went some way to supplement our sports activities for it was here, surrounded by the magnolia trees, that we learned to play the "Yanks" at baseball.
In the early months of 1944 when the air was crisp and the ground hard with frost, the bulldozers and cranes arrived. At the time some of the machines were a novelty in England and were still in the development stage. Without notice, they moved into three fields off Farthing Lane, the missing pieces of hedgerow today still marking the spot where the entrance was made. The Engineers would spend all day moving piles of earth around and getting used to the machines, and sometimes in their boyish ways would relieve the monotony by holding silly competitions and races with the lumbering giants. In the evening after school we would go along to the site and they gave us rides and taught us how to drive them.
The machines would be used later to clear the invasion beaches of road blocks and no doubt may have been used to bulldoze a pathway through the decimated city of Caen.
As a change from watching the bulldozer games, we sometimes went down to the quarry at Kiln Road where the combat troops practised their climbing skills. The soldiers in this area formed a major part of the American 4th Army who would go ashore at Utah beach in Normandy. Midway between Utah and Omaha beaches were the 100 foot high cliffs of Pointe du Hoc, dominating the beaches. These cliffs, thought to be heavily fortified, would have to be taken if the plan was to succeed. The cliffs rising from the sea were not dissimilar to the rockface at the quarry in Kiln Road, so any training here would be useful.
One day, a convoy of amphibious vehicles arrived from the docks at Plymouth to add to the clutter of transport already in the village. They were directed to a field behind Singmore Road, where they carried out their compass checks and had their ancillary equipment fitted, which was supplied separately in crates. The DUKWs were buillt on the standard U.S Army truck chassis and therefore had a reasonable turn of speed, particularly when coupled with an enthusiastic driver! However, the vehicles were cumbersome and in the narrow country lanes the handling qualities left a lot to be desired. It was not surprising therefore that more than one villager had a nasty fright when the monsters returned each night from their daily paddle in the sea. Later, many of these vehicles were to sink as they carried desperately needed anti-tank guns ashore through the choppy seas off Normandy.
Someone told us that soldiers were laying mines from the DUKW field down towards Five Lanes. If this was a measure to keep the kids away from the DUKWs, thereby preventing us from climbing all over them and having rides, the matter was fairly serious, so we went down to investigate. Sure enough, hundreds of light blue anti-tank mines had been laid from Occombe to Five Lanes.
As time went by, we learned that it was part of the training programme. Mines would be buried by one group one day and located by a different group the next. Of course, the mines were not filled with explosives, but some were fitted with a small charge to keep the Sappers on their toes. The detonator was relatively harmless, but could make quite a loud bang, so now and again we went into the field at night to defuse a couple and let them off the next day for the benefit of our schoolboy audience.
By a combination of being taught and just hanging around picking up lots of information, some of the school children were becoming explosives experts and, being quick to learn, knew almost as much as the soldiers who were being trained in the art.
With the approach of Spring, stocks of the real thing began to arrive, and munitions were stacked in all leafy areas away from the population. The lanes of Churston and Galmpton concealed vast stocks, but one of the biggest ammunition dumps was located in the woods at Berry Pomeroy.
One of the last arrivals to complete this huge army was the American 7th Field Hospital. All available places had been taken, so a few cuttings were hastily made into the field opposite the Vicarage, and it was here alongside the roadway that the medics erected their tents and set up their hospital.
Up to this time a feature of the American army had been the importance they attached to all the back-up services which made life worth living and usually they had the money and foresight to send these on in advance. This latest MASH type unit was different in that it had arrived quickly as it would have in battle, without any provision for a long stay. Moreover, this outfit consisted of nurses who had become used to a laundry service. In this respect a number of people in the village came to their aid, and as the rate of pay for the Americans was five times that of our own service people, it was to the mutual benefit of us all. We also earned a few extra "bob" ferrying deliveries of laundry around on our bicycles.
1944 was also the year of the aeroplane. No longer antiquated relics crawling across the sky, but squadrons of Lancasters from the many Coastal Command stations in Cornwall hedgehopping over the Marldon rootops and sending cows galloping in all directions. Hurricanes from Bolt Head and Spitfires from Exeter screaming in from the sea as they would do on the day, and all but clipping the chinmeys at the highest bit of land at Marldon Cross.
At school we learned that for a modest commitment of one evening a week, we could join the ATC and go to Exeter at the weekends to hitch rides on some of the many training flights. Usually these consisted of towing gliders around, and occasionally we could talk a pilot into making a diversion by flying over Marldon so that we could pick out the vast American army from the sky.
When the war had started, we had been the children who were part of the things the country thought worth fighting for. Within a few years we had grown up and suddenly it was being hinted that if it dragged on we could be the next generation of fighters, so we were encouraged to take an interest in these matters.
However, few of us now doubted the outcome. Within cycling distance of home we had seen an army of half a million men and the huge mobilisation of resources. There were similar armies too in Cornwall and on the South Coast.
By now the scrapyard of salvaged metal in the school playground had gone and was not being replaced. The anti-tank obstacles along Paignton beach were collapsing and rusting away in the sea, and we had all mislaid our gas masks. Were it not for the heavy losses still being inflicted on Bomber Command, it could almost be a time of peace.
April 21st 1944 the American troops in and around Torbay pulled out of the camps and headed for the sea. Similar movements had often occurred in the past when they were engaged in manoeuvres, but on this occasion they had not returned by nightfall. There was no sign the next day or the next, neither was there any news of a Second Front.
It was on April 29th that they re-appeared, this time coming over the hill from the Beacon. People in the village were attracted by the roar of machinery and turned out to watch the spectacle as hour after hour the largest mechanised army they would ever see passed through on the way back to the camps and marshalling areas.
In the week before, the troops had embarked in the Bay and sailed to Slapton Sands to take part in Operation Tiger, the full scale rehearsal for the invasion and now the 4th U.S Infantry division was returning, this time accompanied by tanks, guns and half-tracks from other units.
I was stopped from my normal practice of going through the Marldon Camp on the way home from school, and later, when continuing to take an interest in the troop training from the lane, was actually arrested and given a bit of a fright.The defence that it was my country anyway, not theirs, was ineffective, because by then the countdown had begun. Probably locked away somewhere on the camp was the most important date of all time, so the clampdown was justified.
The American army started to leave on 2nd June, when the tight security seemed to be abandoned. They knew now that this was the real thing, and after being shut up in the camps for weeks, were itching to go, if only to relieve the boredom. Within a couple of days they had all gone, leaving behind a few broken hearts and lots of memories.
The most noticeable effect after the departure was the uncanny emptiness everywhere, not only in the village, but throughout Torbay. After the steady build-up of troops over the years, we had become accustomed to the saturation of men and vehicles. Now, they had all left, joining other convoys and then off across the Channel to Normandy. By the close of the first day on 6th June 1944, 23,250 men of the "Torbay Army" were ashore at Utah beach, together with 1,742 of their vehicles.
In Marldon, there would never be anything quite like this again. For a short time, thousands of men from across the Atlantic had shared a unique experience and some exciting times and in the process shaken the village to its very roots.
The following year brought the day we had all been working and living for, and after the initial victory celebrations, all communities had to come to terms with the changed conditions.
In villages like Marldon, it was particularly difficult to adjust, because people had found that the extra burden on the population had not been that unattractive. The war had come as a bit of a tonic to many by moving the clock forward fifty years and it was understandable that no-one wanted to revert to the old pre-war days of the English village. Throughout the war there had been full employment and good money to be made in the many local Ministry contracts.
On the farms there were now tractors instead of horses; there were also new breeds of vehicles and engines which were reliable.
In order to plug a gap in the social life and keep alive some of the fun, a Men's Club was formed, meeting twice a week in the Village Hall. There was also a Marldon & Compton Ladies social club, meeting weekly as well as the W.I. About eight of the village boys created the first Youth Club, meeting in one of the army Nissen huts on the deserted camp. When the military authorities eventually cut off the electricity we were sunk, but it was at this point that a progressive and newly elected lay Councillor came to our aid. Mrs. H.M. Brockhurst became involved in a bitter struggle on our behalf with a now ageing Village Hall Council, who simply could not grasp that young people also wanted somewhere to meet and engage in social meetings. Partway through the meeting at which our fate was being decided, she came out to the boys waiting outside, yanked us in before the Committee and as a condition for using the Hall made us promise to cease gate switching forthwith, together with all acts of hooliganism. The real culprits were elsewhere, so we gave our word at this eventful meeting and the day was won - the first Village Youth Club opening in the summer of 1944. The decision was one of the spin-offs from the war because everyone recognised that the worst part of the hostilities had involved mainly young people.
By the following year the war was over. It had been very much a schoolboy's war and possibly that of the girls who had known some of the soldiers, but there was sadness in the village for the seven young men killed in action.
In Torbay, which had been high on the list for enemy action, there had been 642 alerts, 131 people had been killed and 122 seriously injured. 125 buildings had been demolished and 11,615 damaged.
Each part of the country had seen a different aspect of the war. In Marldon we had seen little of our own British Army, based mainly on the South Coast and who would go ashore (still accompanied by their bicycles) at their own beach, codenamed Sword. Neither, in all that time, had we seen a battleship in the Bay. I was just old enough to remember the mighty "Hood" on one of her courtesy visits in the 1930's and now she had been sunk by a chance shot from the German battleship Bismarck. In the following year after the war, I was able to stand beneath the guns of the King George V, which had sent one ton shells into the crippled Bismarck before she went down to the bottom with most of her crew of youngsters.
It all seemed a bit of a waste.
Quite apart from the general upheaval of everything, the most vivid memory of those years was the fun and simplicity of purpose in lfe. It was a time also when villages like Marldon came to life, and it was the end of the old traditional ties with the farming system and some of the poverty which went with it. Gradually, the quality of life would start to improve, and within a few years the village had started to fill again with newcomers.
These memories of Marldon and its surroundings are my own personal recollections as a schoolboy in those times. They cannot be complete and I would like to have spoken with more people nursing their own memories. However, I thought it better to record this now, and invite comments from other people in the village who might have items to contribute which I have left out.
David Best - 1982/83.
PART 6of David Best's Memories of Marldon completes the series of articles written by him in 1982/83, and which were initially published in the Parish Magazine at that time. David was born and lived adjoining the property which was later to became the centrepiece of his articles and referred to throughout as "the camp". In the post-war years "the camp" became a flourishing holiday camp, latterly known as "The Torbay Chalet Hotel", and is now the site of the housing development opposite Cox's Garage at the junction of Churscombe Road and Vicarage Road.
The following short article by David was written in 2000, and is published here as a conclusion to his poignant memoirs. It was originally published in three parts in the Parish Magazine in August, September and October 2000. In addition to referring again, inevitably, to the camp's role during the war, this short article is all the more interesting because of the additional information it gives of the camp's pre-war history, about which relatively little was known by the Marldon Local History Group.
Dogs, Dunkirk, D-Day and Dwellings.
Recent programmes on television and radio commemorating the Dunkirk evacuation brought back memories of Marldon's involvement, sixty years ago, in the part played by the thousands of British and American troops who passed through the village before returning to Normandy to take on the very powerful German Army.
When war broke out in September 1939, the total number of houses in Marldon was little more than a hundred and most of the inhabitants knew every other person in the village. There were more milking cows in Marldon and Compton (some from the three farms in the village centre) than the entire population. Today Marldon is an attractive residential rural community. The dwellings built predominatly in the 1930s and 1950s blend well with the cottages and houses of the 19th Century and earlier. In looking at what was the garrison site in Marldon it is of interest to record some of the chequered history of the "MIDAS" development site.
A few people have remarked on the fine house which stood in the grounds prior to the building work, and which was one of the last of the old buildings to be demolished. "The Crofts", as it was known, was originally built as a dog kennels in the 1920s for a Mr. and Mrs. Durhan-Waite, and the intention was that it would be used for quarantine purposes. He was a retired colonial officer from the Assam Labour Board and prior to coming to Marldon had visited England only twice before in his lfe. They were married in Marldon Church in 1926. My father, who came to Marldon just before this, helped to construct the outbuildings. They also had a chauffeur for their Austin 16. This was pretty unusual in Marldon, although the two Miss Mellors at Westerland House also had one for their Austin 12.
In one of the fields there was a small railway carriage which one could buy at the time from the GWR when they became surplus. This arrived by traction engine from Goodrington and was made into a sort of summer house in the "grand colonial" style in the grounds. It was still there in the 1930s.
By 1936 the four acres of land - which was in fact a garden - proved a bit of a handful and the Durhan-Waites ;moved further into the village to live at Moor Tor. However, he could not stand the climate and after several years they went to live in the Channel Islands, just in time for the German Occupation (!).
Meanwhile, "The Crofts" was purchased by a Mr. Jennings, a large, impressive man who had a son of about 18. He must have had an interest in engineering because he had a large collection of electric motors and as a lad I was fascinated when he constructed a large metal windmill on the high ground in order to generate electricity. In 1939 the first work was started to replace the dog kennel buildings with chalets and this was the start of the holiday camp. The owner's son was then called up for the Forces and sadly did not survive the war.
Another change of ownership followed in 1940 when the camp was taken over by the MOD (Ministry of Defence) and was used to house some of the exhausted soldiers from assorted regiments as they shambled back from Dunkirk. I recall that even the garden shed was used to become a bedroom for two soldiers from the North of England. A sentry box was placed at the only entrance - opposite Weekaborough House - and thereafter the military kept very much to themselves. The truth was that there was a threat of invasion and the soldiers worked very hard over the following weeks to construct gun emplacements in the corners of the surrounding fields. These were the feeble attempts to defend the camp, but I don't think they had a big gun in the place. As a lad I remember following the troops around in their training to lay mines and prepare booby traps to impede the German army, whom everyone believed would come. In the end nothing happened and eventually the troops drifted back to their own proper regiments.
For some months the camp was then occupied by ATS girls, although quite what their purpose was I don't know. In any event they did not seem so friendly towards small boys and they did not have any of the exciting bits and piece of military hardward, so I kept away.
The somewhat harsh conditions were then deemed unsuitable for girls, who complained about the lack of hot water and they were posted away after a short time. However, the conditions were far better than those of the anti-aircraft units camped out at the Beacon following the Plymouth raids in the March and April that year. The guns were sited where the radio masts are today, and the cookhouse was built alongside the roadway where in a previous year bombs from a German plane had straddled the road, and we all went to look at the holes in the fields. The Royal Artillery unit was very much part of a peacetime regiment because the officers brought their wives with them and they lodged at houses in the village. The previous owner of the Beacon Kennels said to me one day that he just could not understand why he kept coming across NAAFI knives and forks !
Back at the camp, the first American coloured troops of the US Army arrived in 1943. These were the maintenance staff sent ahead to prepare the camps to American standards, and contingents of the 4th Infantry Division followed shortly after. This caused a few problems because the coloured troops had already become friends of people in the village. The Village Hall had been made available to them if they wanted to get away from the camp. The first thing the Americans did was to remove the ridiculous looking sentry box from the roadside to a more comfortable position nearer the cookhouse and space was made for their large amount of motor transport - a bit different from the Dunkirk "bike brigade"! Even in Leader Lane six wheeled trucks became a regular feature. The lower part of the colonial style house became a Mess hall and several times this was cleared for troop dances. We supplied eggs to the camp and also elderberry wine, to which the troops were addicted.
The good times continued through to 1944 until late in April the camp emptied for the rehearsal of Operation Tiger at Slapton Sands. We knew that something had happened because a week later not all our lot came back, and it was after the war that we learned that German E-boats had sunk one of the the Torbay LSTs (Landing Ship - Tanks). After this time anyway the camps were sealed. I felt a bit put out because I was chucked out without any explanation. The camp doubled in size with many tents surrounding the boundary. This caused a bit of a problem with sanitation, particularly as we had a field adjoining. Some of the surplus water from the cookhouse was actually drained into Leader Lane. Then, on June 3rd, it had all gone and with it a large amount of the glamour and excitement which is peculiar to any community alongside a military base.
About a year later (1945), the camp was released by the MOD and purchased by Alfred Wise, who set about the holiday camp business. I recall that he clashed with my father over drainage arrangements and after several years he departed and set up a holiday camp at Barton Hall in Torquay, which is still run as a holiday camp by Pontins.
Several ownerships later Pontins acquired the Marldon camp, and it was run successfully with a good reputation. Visitors returned year after year through the magic holiday camp era. During this time the son of the original owner - still living in Jersey - used to stay there whilst on holiday. He would bring with him his collection of original photographs to show other residents the place built by his father as a Dog Kennels many years before. I don't think the management were too happy about that!
During the lifetime of the camp it brought boredom and restrictions to some but happiness and employment to many more. In its new role as a residential area a bit of the local history has come to an end.
By comparison with the rather attractive little collection of houses built at Weekaborough, it is my personal view that the density of urban type of housing now being built high on the hillside does little to enhance the rural nature and character of the village, and should stand as a red flag for those other sites threatened with development.
Contributed by Valerie Dissington (nee Jones), Edenbridge, Kent.
I spent most of the second world war in London until my uncle, a musician in the Coldstream Guards' band was killed on 18th June 1944, when the Guards Chapel was destroyed by a V1 rocket. Consequently my mother decided that my sister and I should be evacuated as soon as possible.
I don't know the exact date but it was probably during July 1944 that we were packed off to Paddington station where we joined a train full of other evacuee children. My sister was 12 years of age and I was 8. I don't think I realised that I was being separated from my mother and father for some time, as I quite enjoyed the journey, although my sister was very apprehensive, no doubt due to the the added responsibility of having been told to look after me.
My most vivid memory of the journey was seeing the sea when the train came through Dawlish. It was a beautiful sunny day and it was just a miraculous sight to me, having never seen the sea before. Eventually we arrivied by bus in Marldon village, near Paignton, Devon. With a number of other children we were taken to the village hall where many village people were waiting to take the children allocated to them. As the numbers began to diminish my sister became very upset and eventually we were the only two children left. It was clear that the people who were supposed to take us, were not going to turn up.
The billeting officer, was a Mr Moore who lived at Occombe House, and one of those helping him that day was Miss Rosalind Everard, who lived with her parents at Burrow Down, in Preston Down Road. It was decided that Miss Everard would take us temporarily to her home until suitable accommodation could be found for us. We were amazed when we were driven up to the house it was so big, and I was terrified when shown one of the family's ponies tethered on the lawn in front of the drive. We were told to call Miss Everard, Tawny (presumably she had at some time been a Tawyn Owl in the Girl Guide movement), and she transferred us to the care of the only two remaining staff at the house, a Mr & Mrs Scott, who lived in a staff cottage to the right of the house. We were to share a bedroom but we also had our own sitting room and I imagine that these rooms were staff quarters too. The family at the house were Mr & Mrs Everard, Miss Everard and a Miss White, an elderly lady, who had been an employee of some sort. Each member of the family had their own pet dog, a black Scotch Terrier, a Peckinese and a brown and white Cocker Spaniel. There were two ponies and Miss Everard had a hunter, called Judy. I felt I was in heaven when I got to know the animals, especially the ponies of whom I soon became fond. We were allowed in the big house at times and were able to read some of the wonderful books which belonged to the grandchildren of the family. There were also some magnificent jigsaw puzzles of the wild animals of the world. The garden was wonderful too, especially the fruit cages, containing raspberries, red and black currents, the like of which we had never seen in London.
On one occasion we walked down to the beach at Paignton with some other evacuees. There was still barbed wire so we walked on to Goodrington and I had my first experience of the sand and sea. I was sent to the village school when term began after the summer holidays and my sister went to a secondary school in Paignton. The school was about a mile away and sometimes the postman would give us a lift in his van, my sister getting the bus at Marldon Cross to go to Paignton. As the weather was fine we had our school dinners on trestle tables in the playground, and I remember one of the dinner ladies, with a broad Devon accent, asking me if I would like more “tetties”, and I didn't know what she meant. Tawny was very kind to us, she bought us dungarees to wear when we were playing and helping with the ponies etc. I can recall being very upset at having to give these back when we moved on.
Our parents came down to visit and my father wanted to mend our shoes (something he had always done). He asked Mr Everard if he by chance had a last (the thing on which the shoes were put enabling the new sole or heel to be fitted). Mr Everard did not know what my father meant but opened his garage door, revealing not only a big car but on the neatly stacked shelves “every tool one could need”, so my father said. Mr Everard watched in wonder as Dad mended our shoes and thought he was very clever. We were very proud.
Obviously the billeting officer was trying to find some other place for us to go as apparently it was not convenient for the Everards to keep us there. After about three months we were moved to a house at Marldon Cross, owned by an elderly couple, but this too was only a temporary measure, and after about two or three weeks we were again moved. Our third billet was in Westerland, the house being called “Farthing Cross”. The family here was a Mrs. Hamilton-Jenkins and her sister and brother Olwen and Hugh . Hugh was a school teacher and Olwen, I think, an artist. But the interesting thing for us was being told that their late father was the author W W Jacobs, one of whose books was The Monkey's paw. This house too was full of books, and to my joy many of them were stories about girls and their ponies.
Mrs Jenkins had two daughters, Jennifer and Bronwen, both of whom came home from boarding school for the Christmas holidays. They too had ponies and the grounds were, it seemed, filled with chickens and bantams. They also had goats, Prue and Anna. They were fearful nannies and always butting us whenever the opportunity arose.
I remember the Christmas we spent there as one of the happiest of my childhood. There seemed to be plenty of everything, and I can still remember the taste of the wonderful cakes Mrs. Jenkins cooked. Opening our stockings on Christmas day we not only had gifts sent by our parents, but presents from the Jenkins family. I had a book called “How to Draw Horses” and a copy of “The Rose and the Ring” from Olwen and Hugh, books which only disappeared after my own children were adults.
Unfortunately just after Christmas our happy time in Marldon was at an end. Mrs. Jenkins had to return to Cornwall to look after family there so once again we were in Mr Moore's car being transported; this time to Harbertonford. Our lodging there was in an hostel with about 15 other children and we had an unpleasant time there until the war ended in May and we returned to London.
Miss Jane Cundy, formerly of Castle Barton Farm, Compton
I was born in 1932 and my family moved to Castle Barton Farm, Compton, Marldon in about (I think !)September 1938 and lived there until September 1952.
There was a bus service. Bus No 63 from Paignton used to come to Compton and turn in the entrance to the castle. (This would have been between about 1938-1952). The area adjoining what is now Castle Barton Restaurant was the site of three or four cottages fronting the road, with two other cottages behind. One was occupied by an old lady known as Granny Vowden. Whenever there was heavy rain the stream opposite to the cottages overflowed and flooded them badly. After the war, sometime later than 1952, they were demolished and the bus from Paignton then No 110, turned in the area where they once stood.
My father, Bertram Robert Cundy, was a tenant farmer of Castle Barton who also ran a dairy in Belgrave Road, Torquay. Milk was bottled at the farm and delivered by vans around Compton, Shiphay, Chelston, Marldon and to the dairy. If the vans broke down or there was heavy snow as in the winter of 1947, it had to be taken by horse and trap. We had to be careful on Sundays because the bells ringing in the church would have spooked the horse with disastrous consequences for the milk! I was roped in to deliver milk and have delivered many pints to most of the local families one of them being the Everard family. (This family lived at Occombe near Marldon Cross and are mentioned in the memories of Mrs. V. Dissington, in this section MLHG.)
During the Second World War my father was the ARP warden for Compton. Early one evening in the late summer of 1942 or 1943 my father received a telephone call from the Reverend Trevaldwyn’s daughter, now Morwenna Lea-Wilson, who was on holiday from London and staying in the vicarage. Her parents were out when she received a routine call from London to check the alarm system was working. She thought it was a raid and alerted my father.
My father went outside the back door and sniffing the air decided that there was a very funny smell. In his anxiety he had not taken into account the fact that we had a large boiler in the top yard boiling up the food waste from hotels in Torquay -the pigs loved it! Hastily he returned to the house, put on his gas mask and collected the rattle which he used to warn the residents of a possible gas raid.When he got outside, his faithful sheep dog Nero took one look at him in his gas mask and fled over the farm. He wasn’t seen again until the following morning!
My father made his way up through Compton twisting the rattle and making as much noise as possible. One can only imagine the worry and panic in the houses en route – particularly if there was a baby that had to be put in a ‘pram like’ box gas mask which was much more difficult! Very quickly it was found out that a mistake had been made and there were no bombers on their way. By the time he returned to Castle Barton there was another telephone call which told my father to give the all clear!
I cannot remember if my mother managed to get my sister Grace (DOB 24.7.42) in her baby gas mask, but I can remember seeing Mary (DOB 24.1.36) in her Micky Mouse gas mask- they were rather cute with a nose that could be blown up and down. I often wonder if this was the only gas attack alarm in the country during the war, albeit a false alarm?
Gas attacks were a source of anxiety for everyone after their experience of the First World War. My sister Betty (DOB 25.2.34) reminded me that during the war there was a large house in the lane between Station Square and Dartmouth Road that had a notice in its window. This notice read ‘In the event of a gas alert you are welcome to shelter in this house.’ We used to pass this every day on our way to school. Thank goodness we did not have to take up this kind offer!
The house was quite full during the war. There were my parents, an aunt, two live in Land-Girls and six children under eleven when Marion and Terry Kimberley arrived in June 1940 as evacuees. We were able to take in Marion but had no room for Terry who went to stay with the Underhill family. Marion stayed with us for about nine months. ( Note- this would be the family of Roy Underhill, who lived at that time in Furzegood. MLHG)
Meal times were highly organised as you can imagine! We did not fit around the kitchen table so an extra table was added for the oldest children. Terry would come down from Marldon to visit Marion and have tea with us.
Marion left us and went with Terry to the Harvey’s which was also a short stay. (The Harvey family lived in a small cottage at the top of Church Hill, at its junction with Ipplepen Road, so this may have been the reason for the short stay.) From there she went to a children’s home in Totnes and then in April 1943 she was moved again to Compton to stay with Miss Fawden who ran Compton Village Shop . She attended the village school and enjoyed playing with the Headmaster’s daughter Joan (Harris). From there she went to the Grammar School at Torquay. ( This is Joan Ewing, who still lives in the village and has been a member of the MLHG since its foundation.)
In the photo of the VEDay celebrations are three ladies and a man standing behind the wall. From the left are Miss Cora Wakeham, (the ‘aunt’ who lived with us), Miss Fawden, Mrs Kimberly, who had come down from Lomdon to visit her daughter Marion, and Mr Westaway.There was a prize for the youngest child. This was Grace but she did not get it as she told the judges she was 22 ! (I suppose that is what happens when you have three older sisters.) Stafford, the younger brother of Terrence, won the prize and he was one month older than Grace.
I remember the Hamilton Jenkins family at Farthing Cross. (Also mentioned in the memoir of Mrs. V. Dissington in this section) They knew the Cole Hamiltons and must have been related in some way. My mother was friends with Mrs Cole Hamilton who had very young children. Her husband was a Commander and once when he was away Mrs Cole Hamilton cut the front lawn and ran over the flex and was electrocuted in front of the children. Unfortunately she did not survive the shock.
The sewerage system was extended to Compton in June 1951. This date sticks in my mind as we had to make quite a detour for my father’s funeral as the road back up to Marldon was closed. We had to travel via Whilborough, Moles Lane, Monkshaven and down to Lovelane to the Church- that of course was way before the bypass!
In the lead-up to World War II there were fears that the Germans would attack the UK with poisonous gas, so by 1938 the government had issued respirators to every man, woman and child in the nation. More than 40 million gas masks were issued. In America there was a gas mask for children that looked like Mickey Mouse, with the character's nose and ears and even a picture of him on the gas filter. Walt Disney helped in its design. This mask is the British 'Mickey Mouse' gas mask. It did not resemble the cartoon character but it used the red and blue, like the American version and kept the name. It was given to children aged 18 months to 4 years old to allay their fears about wearing a respirator. It was also made lighter than normal masks so it was easier to wear.)
Part of the VE Day celebrations, showing the three ladies and a man standing behind the wall. These were Miss Cora Wakeham (the “aunt” who lived with us), Miss Fawden, who kept the shop in Compton, Mrs Kimberley (Marion’s mother) and Mr. Westaway.
The 110 bus to Paignton, in the turning area at Castle Barton.
CASTLE BARTON FARM, COMPTON - 1940
This photograph shows my father Bertram Robert Cunday holding the head of a handsome horse, on which are seated his three daughters. My Sister Mary (2nd left) our evacuee Marion Kimberley, (3rd left) my Sister Betty (4th left) and myself (on the end). The other 3 children are Cousins,from Norfolk, but evacuated to Kingskerswell.