Just a few items from the areas in and around Torbay.

There are too many for us to list all here but we have added a few links and items below.








Corbyn Head in Torquay is a small promontory at the left hand end of Tor Abbey Sands, passed on the way to Paignton.

In the days of Torquay's Rifle Volunteers  a gun had been placed here to give the Volunteers a place to learn the art of Gunnery - a place removed from the town where the men could practise firing over the sea. The same spot was being used when the tragedy described below occurred 11 August 1944, ironically just a few weeks before the Home Guard was finally stood down.

The incident was first described by Captain Charles Fursdon of the Devonshire Regiment in this moving account:


"The evening of 11 August 1944 was clear. A cool breeze whispered through the trees around the Corbyn's Head battery of coastal artillery. We were there to witness another practice shoot, as was the Brigadier, Royal Artillery, Southern Command  and the Commander. Coastal Artillery, South West District.  The Spectators gazed seaward. We were proud of this detachment attached to a Regular Coastal Artillery Unit. They had earned praise for consistently good work and fine shooting and we wished them luck. 

The guns had fired and were ranging: then a delay occurred on one of them. Orders and acknowledgments snapped out. We raised our binoculars in expectation.

We heard the command "Fire!" This was followed by a muffled explosion.

The guns were firing at over three thousand yards, but the round had plunged into the sea one thousand yards away. Looking towards the offending gun, we observed a sheet of flame creeping outside the gun emplacement, devouring grass and camouflage and though the situation had not dawned upon the majority, tragedy was being enacted before our eyes.

And then realisation came. The breech of the gun had blown and men had died. Others were seriously injured or badly burned. Only the very lucky ones would escape.

And with this knowledge, things began to move. Our medical officer took charge of the lecture hut, which was rapidly turned into a dressing station, and in his quiet, efficient manner, proceeded to do his best for the injured. An ambulance was soon on the scene and other doctors came to our aid. The flames too were soon under control.

The casualties were hurried to the Torbay Hospital and a hush of horror descended on those left behind. Four Home Guards had been killed instantaneously and one Regular Artilleryman and another Home Guard later died of their injuries.

After a roll call and a few words of encouragement from the Brigadier, men manned another gun and fired it to break the spell and then we all went on our way 

To Captain Grant, the officer in command of the Home Guard detachment and Adjutant fell the duty of breaking the sad news to the relatives of the casualties."



Warrant Officer (Regimental Sergeant Major) Frederick William John  Blackett of the Royal Artillery.  Son of Frederick and Hilda Blackett; husband of Julia Blackett of Dunfermline, Fife. Died 14 August 1944 aged 38 of extensive burns and shock in Torbay Hospital. Buried in Torbay Cemetery.
Lance Bombardier, of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion of Devonshire Home Guard. Husband of Edith Wellington of Chelston, Torquay. Died 11 August 1944 aged 48. Died instantaneously of shock accelerated by burns. Buried in Torbay Cemetery.
Lance Bombardier, of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion of Devonshire Home Guard. Son of George and Harriet Fishwick; husband of Hannah Fishwick of Torquay. Died instantaneously of shock accelerated by burns. 11 August 1944 aged 60. Buried in Torbay Cemetery.
Gunner George James Duke Buckingham  of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion of Devonshire Home Guard. Son of William and Emma Buckingham.  Died instantaneously of shock accelerated by burns 11 August 1944 aged 17. Buried in Torbay Cemetery.

Gunner Wilfred Sydney Kinch of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion of Devonshire Home Guard. Son of James and Charlotte Kinch; husband of Matilda Kinch of London. Died of extensive burns and shock in Torbay Hospital 11 August 1944 aged 44. Buried in Torbay Cemetery.

Gunner Walter George Houghton of the 10th (Torbay) Battalion of Devonshire Home Guard. Son of Thomas and Alice Houghton; husband of Agnes Houghton of Torquay. Died of extensive burns and shock 19 August 1944 aged 46 in Gloucester City Hospital where he had been sent for specialist treatment. 



Gunner W. Gammon

Warrant officer (Acting Company Sergeant Major)

Lt. S. C. Gorrell

Gunner F. M. Bailey of the Home Guard

Bombardier H, V. Grills of the Home Guard

Lance Bombardier D. M. Fraser of the Home Guard


An inquest was held about a month later after a full military inquiry. The sole witness was Donald Mackenzie-Fraser, who was also the sole survivor of those who had been in the gunpit. After the incident, Donald, who lived in Chelston, left the Home Guard immediately and was accepted to work as a miner in Wales.

He began his evidence by telling how the order to fire had been given by the Battery Observation Post but the gun could not be fired owing to trouble with the striker. He added that another striker was inserted and three rounds were fired satisfactorily. A fourth cartridge was inserted and it was found that it would not go fully into the breach. Witness thought the shell was not properly rammed and the cartridge was extracted and the shell re-rammed. Again, the breach could not be closed and then Donald ordered the crew to stand clear, and turned to report the cause of the delay in firing the round. He had turned his back on the gun detachment, picked up the phone and begun to explain when the explosion occurred and he was thrown some seven or eight feet  from the gunpit.

Answering the Coroner (Mr. Ernest Hutchings), he said cordite could not explode in an over-heated gun.

A Major from the Royal Artillery said that among the possibilities the Military inquiry had considered, were that there was always the chance of something going wrong with the chemical combination of a charge; that it might become over-sensitive; that mere shutting of the breach might set off a defective cartridge.

Telling the relatives it was one of the saddest matters he had had to inquire into, the Coroner said nobody could say how the accident happened as nobody knew for sure. He returned a verdict of "Death from misadventure" in each case.

The Royal Artillery Major said the tragedy would seem all the deeper after the news of the proposal to stand-down the Home Guard on 3 December 1944 but the work of these men had been essential and was invaluable. Other men had been released by them for duties in France and their lives had been far from wasted.

Home Guard Memorial – Corbyn Head 
By Adrian Chan-Wyles

This a page within the www.staffshomeguard.co.uk website. 

"In memory of Britain's Volunteer Army 1939 - 1944 
10th Battalion Home Guard

This granite pyramid, military monument is situated on the green of Corbyn Head, Torquay, in the Livermead area of the famous seaside resort. It was unveiled on Thursday the 11th of August 2005, following a local campaign, and serves three distinct functions, all of which remember the sacrifice and bravery of this unique volunteer force. A force comprised of those too young to take their place in the regular armed forces, or of those mature people with much experience, who wanted to form a line of defence for Great Britain, should the brutal and ruthless invasion army of Nazi Germany land on the beaches or drop from the air. The contribution to the morale of this country during that war has sometimes been obscured by the broader events of that conflict.

Nevertheless, the Home Guard formed the backbone to the domestic frontline, and found themselves involved in all kinds of vital defensive duties. This monument is situated on the spot (looking out to sea) where an artillery gun exploded during a training exercise in August 1944 (killing six), and was unveiled on the 61st anniversary of that tragedy. The gun, believed to have been an old WW1, quick firing Japanese model, with a range of three to five miles, was being used in an exercise designed to repel a German invasion of Torquay, from the sea. One of its 50lb shells exploded in the breech causing the loss of life. Torquay was a military training area during World War Two, and as a consequence, suffered many German bombing raids (at least 40), that resulted in the deaths of 168 people – three of whom served in Torquay’s Home Guard.

The various beaches of Devon’s south coast were assigned to Home Guard artillery batteries, whose duties involved the protection of these beaches, and the defence of the air above. The 10th Devonshire Battalion whose area of responsibilty was Torbay was attached to 363 Royal Artillery Coastal Emergency Battery, serving Corbyn Head and with a nominal 'call out' roll of 300 men.

The monument sits in the place of the old artillery gun manned by the Corbyn Head Battery in a commanding position overlooking Torbay.

At the same time as remembering all of those who served in the Home Guard, it remembers specifically the sacrifice of 1,206 Home Guards who gave their lives throughout Great Britain during World War Two (1939-44).  Indeed, in this regard, it is designated a 'national' memorial.

Remembering the 1,206 Home Guards who gave their lives across the country

As a local monument of remembrance, important to the Torbay area, it further commemorates the loss of five Home Guards - transferred from normal Home Guard duties, to man the coastal defences - who together, with their Royal Artillery Regimental Sergeant Major, died in 1944 when their artillery gun exploded during a training exercise, and the loss of three other Home Guards who gave their lives during enemy bombing raids in Torquay in 1942.

Remembering those who died when their Artillery gun exploded on this spot.

"Killed on active service at Corbyn Head 
11th August 1944
Gnr. G. Buckingham
Gnr. W.G. Houghton
L/Bdr. J.H. Fishwick
L/Bdr. F.G. Wellington
Gnr. W.S. Kinch 
Royal Artillery

WO1 F.W.J. Blackett (RSM)

Remembering those Home Guards who died in bombing raids over Torquay 

Killed by enemy action
Gnr. C. R. Crocker
Barton Gas Works Bombing - June 1942
Pte. A Rowe and Pte. S.J. Weeks (Ginger)

Palace Hotel - October 25th 1942


Grateful acknowledgement is made to Adrian Chan-Wyles for writing the above article and generously permitting its publication on this page.

Text and images © Adrian Chan-Wyles 2011.

St.Marychurch May 30 1943


Children killed on May 30 1943 in the parish church  of St. Marychurch, Torquay. Is well known  But the raiders who came that day created other incidents close by.  Further down the page, after the listing of the children who died, there is another casualty list which includes adults who were also in the church as well as those who were killed elsewhere in St.Marychurch.


The church of St. Mary the Virgin which gave its name to St. Marychurch, a parish on the outskirts of Torquay, was destroyed by enemy action on Sunday May 30th 1943 in the early afternoon.

Children had begun to arrive for Sunday School and most of the girls were already inside the church, some with the woman who had brought them - the boys were still playing outside the door. Inside, the Sunday School teachers were waiting to  start their classes when aircraft flew in from the sea and bombs began to fall.

When the raid was over and the full enormity of the event was realised, would-be rescuers came from far and wide, making frantic attempts to move tons of masonry, metal, timber and glass with their bare hands but in spite of their heroic efforts, the last of the bodies was not recovered for another 48 hours. 

Different sources quote different numbers of casualties but below is the number killed as carved in stone over the doorway of the rebuilt church. This states that 26 children and teachers were killed in the church itself. Sadly, we have so far traced only 21 children and 3 adults so our search must continue.  


A memorial was erected in Torquay's Cemetery to 21 of the children, 8 of whom were buried close to the Memorial. Its corner in the cemetery looks sad and lonely today and small wonder, for who remains to visit it? 

This event occurred 63 years ago and the dead commemorated here were children - they left no descendents to mourn them and the girls who came from the Erskine Home in Babbacombe would have been in that place because they had already lost one or both of their parents. 

Perhaps someone still visits the graves of those children who are not  buried here. Adults who died in the same raid are listed on this page below the names of the children.


Three granite slabs are mounted on a double layer of the same stone. The central and largest slab is topped by a cross cut in relief. It bears the words



Matthew 5. 8







Civilian. Charles Henry Collings of 18 Princess Street, Babbacombe. Son of John and Ann Collings, of Boston Fields and husband of Emma Louisa Collings (née Cribbett) (see also William Henry Cribbett in the TORQUAY  victims list). Born in the December Quarter of 1868 in Torquay. Died 30 May 1943 at 18 Princess Street aged 75.


Gladys Hilda Beale aged 12, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of the late Seaman Beale.
Phoebe Lousia Cook aged 12, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of Ralph Cook of 120 Leesland Rd., Gosport, Hants.
Margaret Cook aged 11, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe.
Irene Davies aged 9, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of Frank Davies of 137 Riverside Mansions, Shadwell, London.
Joyce Sylvia Gifford aged 11, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of Driver Perch Henry Ralph Gifford of the Royal Army Service Corps.
Eileen Florence hare aged 10 of 10, the Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of the late Arthur James Hare.
Joan Margaret Loveday aged 13, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of Harold Nelson Loveday of 33, Ivybridge Way, Stonebridge, London.
Kathleen McDonald aged 11, of 10, The Downs, Babbacombe. Daughter of the late Patrick McDonald.


Gerald Babbage aged 9  of 16, Park Rd., St. Marychurch. Son of Cyril and A. Babbage.
(Harold) Peter Barber aged 9 of 200, Teignmouth Road. Son of Sgt. Harold Barber of the Royal Army Service Corps and Elizabeth Grace Barber.


Aubrey Harold Brown aged 10 of 18 Haytor Rd.,Westhill, St. Marychurch. Son of Mr. and Mrs. Harold Arthur Brown.
Edward Charles William Burn aged 10 of33, East Pafford Avenue, Watcombe. Son of William Henry and Dorothy Eva Burn.
Sylvia Mary Daniel aged 9 of 36 Park Rd., St. Marychurch. Daughter of L. A. C. William Richard Daniel of the RAF and D. E. Daniel.
Kenneth Norman Hellier aged 12 of 11 Daison Crescent, Westhill, St. Marychurch. Son of Herbert Harry and Beatrice Mabel Hellier.
Donald Thomas John Hext aged 10 of 19, Daison Crescent, Westhill, St. Marychurch. Son of Thomas and Frances Hext.
George Horace Lavers aged 13, of 13, Empire Rd., Westhill.  Son of James Wheeler Lavers and Florence Edith Mabel Lavers. Injured at the church; died the same day at Torbay Emergency Hospital.
Mary Lilian Perrottt aged 12 of 25 First Avenue, Westhill. Daughter of Frank Burt Perrott and Lilian S. Perrott and twin sister of Michael (see below).
(Harold) Frank Michael Perrott aged 12 of 25 First Avenue, Westhill. Son of Frank Burt Perrott and Lilian S. Perrot and twin brother of Mary (see above). Injured at the church; died the same day at Torbay Hospital
Betty Edwina Rees aged 13 of "Bellner", Shirburn Rd. Daughter of Thomas Edwin Rees.

Pauline Cynthia Ryder aged 12 of 14, St. Margaret's Avenue, Westhill. Daughter of Samuel and Edith Ryder. Injured at the church; died the same day at Torbay Emergency Hospital.

We have since learnt that Pauline attended Torquay Grammar School for Girls. At the time of her death, she was in Form IIIA.

Valerie Grace Taylor aged 14 of 5, Third Avenue, Daison. Daughter of George and Lucy Taylor.
(followed by the words "Who were laid to rest elsewhere")


The destruction of the parish church and the people inside it was not the only incident in St. Marychurch on 30 May 1943. The large detached houses in Petitor Rd. were targeted and two people unlucky enough to be caught out in the open at Babbacombe were machine-gunned and killed. As the raiders turned to leave, one of the enemy aircraft clipped the spire of the nearby Roman Catholic church, immediately losing height and crashing into houses in Teignmouth Rd., killing the pilot and injuring at least one other person who later died.  During the same raid, there were casualties in the vicinity of Torquay sea front; these are included in the separate Torquay casualty list.


Charles Henry Collings of 18 Princess St., Babbacombe. The son of the late John and Ann Collings of Boston Fields and husband of Emma Louisa Collings. A Londoner, he was previously a photographer. Died at 18 Princess  Street 30 May 1943 aged 75. 
Clifford Reginald R. Cooksley of 11 Princess St., Babbacombe. He was the son of Mr. and Mrs. C. H. Cooksley and was born in the March Quarter of 1927 in Torquay. He had volunteered to be an ARP Messenger and died at 22 Princess Street aged 16.
William Henry Cribbett of 8 Silver St., Ipplepen, Nr. Newton Abbot. He was the son of Cpl. William Henry Cribbett of the RAF and Olive Mary Cribbett and was born in the December Quarter of 1928. He died at Princess Street aged 14.
Edith Kathleen Elson of 294 Teignmouth Rd., St. Marychurch. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Frederick Cyril Elson of 12, Millais Rd, Bush Hill Park, Enfield, Middlesex. She was injured in the raid of 30 May 1943 and died 5 June 1943 at Torbay Hospital aged 18. She lost her life while warning others to take cover.
Edith Rebecca Fox of "Westroyd", Ketley Bank, Oakengates, Salop. Daughter of the late Edward and Bertha Fox. She died at "Courtfields", Petitor Rd., St. Marychurch 30 May 1943 aged 58.
Marshall Gabbett-Mulhallen of "Ashton Lodge", Petitor Rd., St. Marychurch. Husband of Martha Gabbett-Mulhallen of St. Mary's. Teigngrace, Newton Abbot. He died at "Ashton Lodge" 30 May 1943 aged 80.
Alice Gertrude Jamieson of the Women's Land Army. She was the daughter of Horace and Mabelle Jamieson of 37, Alleyn Park, Southall, Middlesex. She was injured while walking on Babbacombe Downs on 30 May 1943 and died the same day at Torbay Emergency Hospital aged 26.
Herbert Stewart Marshall of "Courtfield", Petitor Rd., St. Marychurch. He was the son of Thomas and Emily Marshall of The Larches, Wigan, Lancs and the husband of Marie Marshall (see below) and had been a colliery owner in the north of England. He died at "Courtfield" 30 May 1943 aged 77.
Letitia Marshall of "Courtfield", Petitor Rd., St. Marychurch. She was the daughter of Herbert Marshall (see above) and Marie Marshall (see below).She died at "Courtfield" 30 May 1943 aged 41.
Marie Marshall of "Courtfield", Petitor Rd., St. Marychurch. She was the daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Cotton, the wife of Herbert Marshall (see above) who she married in 1899, and the mother of Letitia (see above). She died at "Courtfield" 30 May 1943 aged 70.
Theresa Ann Scanes of 25 Cary Park Rd., Babbacombe. Daughter of the late Alfred and Lucy Scanes formerly of St. Marychurch and widow of William Scanes. Injured on Babbacombe Downs 30 May 1943 and died the same day at Torbay Emergency Hospital aged 67.
Violet Victoria Blanche Scott of "Shrublands", St. Margaret's Rd., St. Marychurch. Also known as Ottewell. Born in Greenwich in 1880. She was a member of the WVS and is believed to have been a Sunday School teacher. She died at the church 30 May 1943 aged 62.
Audrey Daisy Sharkey of 90, Hartop Rd., St. Marychurch. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Rowe and wife of LAC Jack Sharkey of the RAF, Injured at Babbacombe  30 May 1943 and died the same day at Torbay Hospital aged 21.
Elsie Sheppard of 10 Orgreave Lane, Handsworth, Sheffield. Believed to be a Church Army Sister who had accompanied the eight girls to church from the Erskine Home. Died at the church with the children 30 May 1943 aged 30.
Ruby Muriel Treeby of 23 Third Avenue, Daison Heights, St. Marychurch. Daughter of John and Mary Treeby. (John Treeby was a Corporation Rate collector for Torquay). Ruby is believed to be the other Sunday School teacher in the church that day. She died there 30 May 1943 aged 56.


Captain Fursdon had the last word:

"In recognition of the great sacrifice the dead had made, a full military funeral was ordered and this took place on 15 August 1944, the bodies being interred in the Hero's Corner of Torquay Cemetery".

The WW2 surprise raid that shocked Torbay.

Bombing of Brixham



The recording of air raids was done by a number of organisations

and in the chaos of war, some were far too busy on the ground

to worry about paperwork so the list below is not yet complete.

Reading various sources in 2008, one gets the impression that nothing much happened to Brixham by way of bombing. The official Civil Defence Records paint a rather different picture: raids on nearby places such as Churston are not included in the list below - these are solely the  dates of raids on Brixham itself:

15 July 1940

20 August 1940

27 November 1940

30 December 1940

17 January 1941

27 February 1941

12 March 1941

11 May 1941

19 May 1941*

11 June 1941 

27 March 1942

6 May 1942*

12 July 1942

29 Jul 1942

21 January 1942 - 1st raid

21 January 1942 - 2nd raid

29 May 1943

Perhaps the fact that only the two raids marked * produced fatalities has contributed to the legend that Brixham got off fairly lightly compared to other places in Devon but it was a nerve racking time for the inhabitants because these were mostly "tip and run" raids - i.e. the planes skimmed in over Berry Head so suddenly that there was no time for an air raid warning to sound. The BBC and Devon County Library Services have both collected a number of personal accounts of wartime experiences and we are grateful to Plymouth Library Services for this extract by a former Brixham resident whose name is not given:

"We went outside to sit on the wall above Brixham Harbour. We heard the planes but there was no air raid warning so we thought they were British. No such luck! As we watched, we saw the bombs leave the plane and we all dashed indoors. As many as possible squeezed into the cupboard under the stairs - I couldn't as I suffered from asthma. We had all our windows out and a ceiling came down as well as damage to our roof. There was a new bungalow a couple of streets away and it was demolished."

Courtesy of Plymouth Library Services

Garnet Tucker (see below) was killed working on his fishing boat out in the harbour. A house in Fore Street was struck by a time bomb and 14 year-old Geoffrey Hill (see below), whose first day at work it was, was trying to get to the Preston family who lived there when the bomb exploded and killed him. There are some references to time bombs falling on Middle Street as well but if there were fatalities, the names of those have not yet been discovered. A coal barge named London City was "sunk" at her moorings no fewer than three times, and was salvaged on each occasion.


Civilian Frederick Clarence Adams. of 58 Victoria Road, Dartmouth. Son of Mr. W. H. Adams and husband of Kate Adams. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works at Dartmouth aged 22.
Civilian David Bott.of 25 Crowther's Hill, Dartmouth.  Son of George Bott, of Ranscombe Road, and of the late Elizabeth Ann Bott; husband of Vera Bott. Died at Philip's Noss Works at Dartmouth aged 28.
Civilian Jack George Bustin of 25 Hill Park Terrace, Paignton . Husband of Gladys Bustin. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works at Dartmouth aged 52.
Civilian Rosie Annie Crang.of 4 Greens Court, Higher Street, Dartmouth.  Daughter of William and Lily Crang, Injured at Noss Works at Dartmouth 18 September 1942; died same day at Brixham Hospital aged 20.
Civilian  Thomas Farr of 3 Britannia Avenue, Dartmouth.Son of the late John Farr. Born in Dartmouth in the June Quarter of 1884. Died  18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works at Dartmouth aged 58.
Civilian Air Raid Warden Richard Franklin. of 183 Victoria Road, Dartmouth. Son of Lieut. G. and Mrs. Franklin, of Eversrey, Whitefield Road, New Milton, Hampshire; husband of Jennie Franklin. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth, aged 26.
Civilian Firewatcher (child) and member of St. John's Ambulance Brigade, Geoffrey Western Hill of Devonia, Mount Rd., Brixham. Son of Councillor William E. Hill and Edith Marjorie Hill, of Devonia, Mount Road, Brixham. Born in Brixham in 1927. Died 19 May 1941 at 60 Fore Street, Brixham aged 14. This was his first day at work.
Civilian Lionel Edgar Holden of 9 Ferndale Villas, Dartmouth. Husband of Lilian Holden. Born in the June Quarter of 1898. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works at Dartmouth aged 44.
Civilian Fireman in the N.F.S George Herbert Frank Little of 1 Agra Villas, Lower Road, Kingswear. Son of Frank Arthur Little and Eleanor Ruth Little. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth, aged 17.
Civilian Henry James Luckhurst of 3 Above Town, Dartmouth. Husband of Edith Emily Luckhurst ( née Swan) of Faversham. Born at Hollingbourne in the June Quarter of 1872. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth  aged 70.
Civilian John Martin of Preston Villa, Milton Street, Dartmouth. Husband of Edith Alice Martin. Born at Newton Abbot in the September Quarter of 1894. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth, aged 48.
Civilian Ernest Poole of 15 Brown's Hill, Dartmouth.  Son of Mr. and Mrs. W. Poole, of Brimscombe, Stroud, Gloucestershire and husband of Edith S. F. Poole. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth, aged 51.
Civilian member of the Home Guard Sydney James Alfred Pope of 41 Britannia Avenue, Dartmouth. Son of Alfred William and Emily Selina Pope. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works, Dartmouth, aged 17.
Civilian Ellen Goad Preston (née Ellis) of 60 Fore Street, Brixham. Wife of the late Frank Preston and mother of Ellen and Frank (see below). Born in Brixham in the September Quarter of 1866. Died at 60 Fore Street 19 May 1941 aged 74. 
Civilian Ellen Stella Preston ("Stella") of 60 Fore Street, Brixham. Daughter of Frank and Ellen Goad Preston. Born in Brixham in 1891. Died at 60 Fore Street 19 May 1941 aged 50.
Civilian Frank Preston of 60 Fore Street, Brixham. Son of Frank and Ellen Goad Preston. Born in Brixham in the September Quarter of 1893. Died at 60 Fore Street, Brixham aged 48. 
Civilian Ewart Edgar Trant of Yew Tree Cottage, Manor St., Dittisham. Son of John and Hilda Trant (née Hutchings); husband of May Trant. Born in Brixham in the September Quarter of 1915. Died at Philip's Noss Works 18 September 1942 aged 27.
Civilian of Lanarth, Indian Queens, Fraddon, Cornwall. Daughter of Mr. and Mrs. Hugh Osborne, of the same address; wife of William Cyril Trebilcock (H.M. Forces). Born in Cornwall in the September Quarter of 1914.  Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works aged 28.
Civilian fisherman Garnet Tucker of 9 Belle View Terrace, Ranscombe Road, Brixham. Son of John and Sarah Tucker of Brixham; husband of Polly Tucker (née Couch). Born in Brixham in 1880.  Died at Outer Harbour 6 May 1942 aged 62. Killed on his fishing boat near the breakwater.
Civilian of 5 Belgravia Terrace, Fore Street, Kingswear. Son of Mrs. F. K. Vickery (née Reed), of 3 Curwoods Buildings, West Exe South, Tiverton; husband of Brenda W. Vickery. Born in Tiverton in the June Quarter of 1914. Died 18 September 1942 at Philip's Noss Works aged 28.


Relating to the bombing of Brixham, the London City is referred to as a coal barge but a more correct description would be ‘coaling hulk’ as she was a real ship; in fact I have always understood that she was a former German ship that had been seized after the first World War.  She was indeed sunk three times but was not raised after the third time and broken up much later after the war. 

I have compared the list of air raids with one I made some years ago from copies of the ARP Incident Book held in Torquay Library.  One thing I noted was that the sinkings of the London City took place on 13 July 1940 at 1330, 27 Feb 1941 at 13.25 and 31 March 1942 at 1340.

That last raid is not in your list, but neither is another recorded as being on the harbour at 2050 on 11 May 1941 for which the incident book records 6 HE bombs from 8 aircraft, a trawler sunk, 2 personal injuries and 2 properties damaged.   A similar raid (in which I have a personal interest) which is not in the list is one recorded on 14 May 1942 at 1850 on the harbour and quay by 4 aircraft dropping 4 HE bombs (3 in the  harbour and 1 on the quay); a small trawler was sunk, there was 1 personal injury and 15 houses damaged.   I lived with my mother and sister in one of those properties (my father was in the RAF) and we had to be evacuated for a while until windows and ceilings were replaced and furnishings dried out from the sea water that had been blown in.  It was the bomb that blew the trawler apart that caused our damage and I later found a beam from it in our back garden, it having travelled completely over our roof.  

Another unlisted raid I copied was on 18 June 1942 at 0600 on Furzeham and I have the last 3 entries in your list as being 21 January 1943 and 29 May 1944.  As stated on the web site, there were no warnings of the tip and run raids, some of which are recorded as involving machine gun and cannon fire as well as the bombs."

Bruce Peeke


Let me introduce myself. I am Pierre Logghe. I was  a Belgian refugee during the war, in Brixham. I can consider myself a Brixham boy. I first went to the National School in Bolton Street, then went later to Furzeham School in the afternoon and the Belgian School in the morning. I was 11 years old when the war broke out.

On Wednesday 15 July 1940, I happened to be present at the bombing of the London City (mentioned by Bruce Peeke in his article). A friend and I were on the beach, at the beginning of the breakwater when we saw a twin-engine plane diving at us. We plunged under a stone staircase. All this happened in five seconds. We heard an explosion, and creeping from under the stairs we sae black smoke rising from the London City and could see she was sinking. To give a reference to the time, this happened at midday because we normally had our dinner at 12.o'clock and I lived at 25 King Street and had to be home for dinner. That was our first bomb after our escape and the bombardment we passed through in Dieppe.

A month later, we went to live in Overgang Street. The London City was refloated in 1941 and a few days later bombed. But the bombs passed through her after deck, and out through the stern without damaging her seriously. In 1942, the Belgian School had a classroom in the cloakroom of the Town Hall. We were having a French lesson when we heard bombs falling. Our teacher was so afraid that he left us so we ran to the harbour to see what happened and there was the London City sinking with a gap in her side where the engine room was.

On Monday 19 May 1940 while I was again attending the Belgian School (this time in a room in the Sunday School of the Baptist Church). we heard explosions and smelt gas. Everyone left the school and I had to scramble over the brick-strewn Middle Street.  One bomb fell near the gas tank which began to leak.; another fell on the off-licence  in Fore Street, killing the parents of a National School friend of mine. When I lived in Overgang Street, the planes flew at the height of our cellar window when they flew in, following the line of the New Road.  They attacked the shipyard with poor results.

Only one time bomb fell on Brixham. During the night, we were awakened by the siren and we went to shelter in an old shed built into the rocks on the street. A German bomber passed by and later on the all-clear sounded and we went home. An explosion was heard in the morning and a row of houses on the other side of the harbour to where we lived was damaged. I remember too being woken up in the night by the explosion in Furzeham.

Once, I was with my father and other fishermen on the Overgang Steps (where the Customs and Harbour Master's offices were). It was in the afternoon when suddenly  four yellow-nosed Heinkels came into view, dropping bombs on the ships lying at anchor. Everyone went behind the wall; when we peered over it we saw a sinking fishing boat nearby. Another vessel, which had been moored alongside a fishing smack, was now without masts and the mast of the other smack was sticking out of the water. Luckily, my father's ship was far from where the bombs dropped. As it was high water, some boats in the inner harbour started their engines and put themselves on each side of the sinking N45. Passing steel wires under the damaged vessel, they brought her into the inner harbour. They then brought in the fishing boat without its mast.On board was the owner, who, with his son, had been working on the engine at the very moment the bomb exploded on the smack which had been alongside. The boat without masts never sailed again. It was docked in the inner harbour in front of the inner pier, and later, during another aeroplane attack, a bomb fell in front opening all the planks. I remember a friend of ours who lived in the New Road in front of the paint works. He was afraid and moved to the Parkham Road to be safer, and later on, a bomb fell in front of the house where he lived but in the lower part near Bolton Street, without causing any damage. 

Three times, German planes gunned my father while he was fishing, but the last time was the worst. My father's ship was the O.280 Pierre, War Number 128 - previously it had been the old Brixham smack BM1 Superb. He saw the German planes passing and entering the River Dart. A moment later, they were back and unfortunately he was in their path. When he saw the planes coming he rushed below deck; there was the sound of cannon fire and the motor started running on one cylinder and water was flooding the ship. Coming up on deck. he found half of the mast shot away and a hole in the hull just on the waterline. My father had, by way of precaution, made a sort of shelter  on the fore deck by placing iron ballast ingots. These ingots slipped to the starboard side, causing the ship to list, so the hole on the port side came above the water level. They were then able to plug  this hole with a wooden tap they used to close the screw shaft when in repair. On another Belgian ship, the skipper had, that same day, run for cover from the  helm and lost his leg - he died later in hospital. Two ships were lost through mines and the third by an explosion in  their net; they managed to get to shore but their boat then sank. 

Hoping this was some contribution to the history of Brixham

Pierre Logghe

Retired deepsea fishery Captain

June 16 2012


The Palace Hotel Torquay

The Palace Hotel at War...

With the outbreak of hostilities in 1939, many hotels found themselves commandeered for military use. With its excellent communications and equable climate, Torquay was an obvious place for the War Ministry to look for a building suitable for conversion to a military hospital. The Palace was selected as a hospital for RAF Officers. 

On the 25th October 1942, a German bomber scored a direct hit on the East Wing, severing it almost completely from the rest of the building. Tragically, the hotel was full at the time with 203 patients. The result was that 64 people were killed, including nurses, with one person missing. The hospital was evacuated and a care and maintenance party installed while a decision was made regarding the building's future. However, on the 8th January 1943 there was another raid resulting in a direct hit and so the Palace was abandoned for the remainder of the war.

Most of the major hotels in Torquay were eventually taken over for military use. The RAF came first, arriving in Babbacombe in June 1940 to set up a Training establishment, followed by another at Torre Abbey in September 1941. Several hotels were commandeered for accommodation purposes and the Training establishments extended to the Grand Hotel and Castle Chambers. The Palace Hotel was to  become important as an RAF Hospital and, of course, the whole harbour area was later to provided a rehearsal ground for the D-Day Landings. Looking at areas eventually bombed by the German Luftwaffe, it is fairly clear that they had reliable intelligence and were not  trying to scare the local population with random bombing. They struck at the Babbacombe area more than once, targeted the area surrounding Torre Abbey and finally, directly attacked the Palace Hotel twice notwithstanding the red cross painted on its roof.


The list below is not a complete list of all of Torquay's air raids but does include those in which loss of life was high. It is believed that, in all, 168 civilians were killed (although the list below contains  only 134 names*) with 158 others being seriously injured and that 137 houses were completely destroyed; the number of war-damaged properties is not known but was high.

August 20th - Eight small bombs were dropped on Babbacombe Road.

22nd April - Lower and Middle Warberry Roads - a number of properties destroyed among them the home of the Chief Air Raid Warden - two of his children were killed.

May 4th - 31 High Explosive bombs were dropped in Forest Road, on Daison Heights and at Maidencombe.


April 24th   Salisbury Avenue, Hele.

June 7th - Tip and Run raid - the Regina Hotel was badly damaged St' Luke's Road. St Luke's Park.

August 3rd -  St. Marychurch Road, Hingston Road, St Luke's Park, Warbro Road Babbacombe.

September 4th  - 31 killed . FW190 shot down on the beach by anti-aircraft gunfire from the shore. Targets included that part of Chelston near RAF Torre Abbey, the Regal Cinema, Tor Hill Road etc.

October 25th - Lindridge Park, St Paul's Church. This was the first raid on the Palace Hotel (requisitioned in 1939 for use as an RAF hospital. A large red cross was painted on the roof of the hotel according to the Geneva convention). The vicinity strafed by gunfire. Hospital full of service personnel at this time 19 killed, 45 injured  and one person missing. Other parts of Torquay were attacked and a gas holder at Hele set on fire.

December 30th - Palace Hotel attacked again hospital repeated - centre portion of the building severely damaged.


January 8th - Barton Hill Road

February 13th - Chelston

May 30th. St Marychurch completely destroyed. Petitor Road, Teignmouth Road, Babbacombe Downs etc.,  Torquay Sea Front.

May 29th - Park Crescent, The  Bay Court Hotel,  Park Place, Victoria Park Road Babbacombe, Bronshill Road.


* Many of these "missing" names appear on other listings. This is because, for example, badly wounded casualties may have been taken to emergency hospitals in other places where they later died; members of the various civil defence groups were often drafted in from other areas - if they were killed in action,  their deaths would be recorded there.

Brixham Railway at War

In WW2 Brixham railway station staff were issued with gas masks and steel helmets. Many staff members became involved in civil defence and Home Guard duties. Security around the station intensified during the 'invasion' crisis following the Dunkirk evacuation in May/June 1940. Staff were issued with 'pink slips' ID cards that had to be shown when challenged by Home Guardsman and Police. Gas masks and ID had to carried at all times.

Home Guard staff included Sgt Percy Wadham, Corp Dick Stancombe and Privates George Baker and Rod Saunders. Fire Watchers included station master Cecil Williams and Charlie Ashton. 

The railway supplied engine spares for the Royal Navy and ammunition, torpedoes, explosives and depth charges. Deliveries were made to Brixham from the naval store at Keyham, Plymouth. 

Camouflage paint was produced by the Brixham Paint Company and 40 gallon drums were dispatched by rail to airfields across the country. 


Little Belguim Brixham

Over 2000 Belgians were refugees in the fishing port of Brixham - even having their own school

Torbay June 1944

327th Glider Infantry Regiment - Torbay - 02/06/1944 - D Day Operation Overlord

Exercise Tiger

The D-Day rehearsal, codenamed Exercise Tiger, was a disaster on a grand scale with the loss of life greater than the actual invasion of Normandy just months later. But the true story was to remain a secret for decades to come.

These are a few of many links you can find online .

Also the book by Ken Small is a very good read on the subject .