Bideford Bridge goes to war – Part 2.

Peter Christie continues his history of Bideford in wartime.

June 1941 onwards- More notes from Frank Whiting’s reports.

The next few months are taken up with surveying and costing the damage to the Bideford Laundry buildings (which had earlier been a collar factory) off  Northam Road that had accidentally burnt down in April 1941.   In November, however, there is a war related entry that is rather puzzling.   It reads, ‘I surveyed the damage to the Trustees property due to enemy action on Oct 28th last.’   No properties in Bideford experienced any bomb damage during hostilities but all is explained in the entry for January 1942 when the Warden noted ‘In connection with the bomb damage off the Clovelly Road, the crater is filled in and they are now putting the top covering of soil over it’, plus ‘The cow shed is nearing completion.’   Clearly the Nazi pilot in this case hadn’t been very accurate!   This brush with enemy bombers, however, probably led to the entry in April 1942 that ‘the tapestry be removed from over the fireplace.’   This refers to a piece of tapestry assumed to be of seventeenth century date that has long been in the possession of the Trust and was clearly deemed valuable enough to be put in a place of safety.

As the war progressed, so more and more men were conscripted into the forces – which caused a problem for the Warden.   Applying to the local Labour Exchange in May 1942 for a man to help clear undergrowth from the Laundry site he had to report that no-one had been available – a small annoyance perhaps, but clearly one that annoyed Whiting.   A slightly more dramatic occurrence came three months later when ‘An Army Lorry’ ran into No.41 Mill Street destroying the plate glass window and the sun blind in the process.’   The Bridge Steward we read ‘is in touch with the Army Authorities re damages.’

Final chapter next month.      (See here for Part 1).

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