Some memories of World War 2 in Bideford.

REME soldiers were stationed at Instow and many families made friends with them.

The church in Bridge St on a Sunday evening hosted by various churches would put on a singsong after church services, and somehow provided simple refreshments for those troops who liked to come. On the return from war service many were presented with a leather wallet inscribed with the Bideford coat of arms, together with a letter from the then Mayor, Mr WH Chubb, and either a ten shilling (50p) or a £1 note. The wallet and letter I still have, but not the monies I’m afraid.

My elder brother was a navigator, Flt. Lieutenant in the RAF,and flew 50 bombing raids, after which he became navigator to Sir Archibald Sinclair (air minister) and sometimes Sir Winston Churchill. Another important mission was to navigate the plane which flew Rudolf Hess for the Nuremburg trials from Scotland.

Many local lads came home rather sick from prison camps, which was very sad to see. My father was in the Home Guard during which he had one nasty experience from an exploding mine.

Kath Akerman nee Langland

Although I was very young during World war 2 Peter Christie’s articles brought back a few memories. I remember the bomb crater on Clovelly road as we kids looked for shrapnel, the bigger the lumps the better. However I am interested in the crash of a RAF Bomber on “round hill” East the Water. I was there at the time and I think that there were no survivors. Can you help me with this topic? Thank you
Peter (Australia)

There is a small permanent memorial to this event by the Tarka Trail. It gives brief details of date, aircraft, and crew ; I can take a photo next time & forward it to you, if that would be of interest. (Ed)

And a reply –

Dear Editor, re letter in April’s edition from Peter Lamprey (Australia)  I have some information from the Public Records Office at Kew, that I requested as “something to do” after I took early retirement due to ill health, always being interested in local history and having heard about the crash from older residents of ETW I decided to try and find out more, and here it is :

The record class AIR 27 covers Squadron Operation’s Record Book’s (or ORB’s).   The ORB for 407 Squadron Royal Canadian Airforce at RAF Chivenor in 1945 is (PRO Ref) AIR 27/1795.   This document is kept at the Public Record Office in Kew.   The ORB for 7 March 1945 records “Tragedy struck the squadron early this evening when F/L Ernie Duckworth J.25370 Pilot and Captain of “P” Peter, taking off shortly after 20.00hrs on a routine SE Homing Flight under perfect conditions, was unable to gain height because of engine trouble and crashed into a field near Bideford some minutes later.   There were six men on board the aircraft, of whom four were casualties (three were killed and one was badly injured).   The ORB states that the casualties may have occurred when the aircraft “in skidding along the ground went through one of those four to six feet thick walls of stone, dirt and shrubs which in this part of the country is known as a hedge” (written by a Canadian).   The names of the airmen who died are provided (they were all Canadian) : F/L E.V. Duckworth J 25370, P/OC.J. Butler  J88278, P/O Andrews J90251.

The ORB records that S/L C.W. Taylor DFC, Flight Commander, wrote a short poem in the Flight Daily Diary “to Commemorate the passing of the three of the best of the 407 breed”.   The words of the poem are recorded. ( I have not located this poem).

Hope it’s of some interest, not too boring.  I enjoy the Buzz very much, keep up the good work.

Brian Lacey, Sentry Corner.

The ‘Bowden Green Bombs’.

Readers who have been following my articles on the Bridge Trust during the Second World War may recall my saying that no bombs fell on any buildings in Bideford. Well, Ronald Joy, who now lives in Tavistock wrote to me with his eye-witness account of a bomb that greatly damaged his house at Bowden Green. During the war he was living at No.33 when ‘2 large bombs hit our house sideways on’. Ron describes how these ‘blasted all our windows out, and the glass was stuck in the walls opposite our windows. All our doors that were shut were blown off their hinges’, adding ‘the worst was the lath and plaster heavy ceilings all fell down’. Ron and his brother were both in bed at the time and were hit by this plaster – indeed Ron still has a scar on his wrist to this day. Ron’s sister Muriel was home on leave from the WAAFs at the time and received some cuts to her head – leaving her with a scar as well. The bombs (thought to be parachute mines) left two huge craters; one of them some 28′ across, which Ron and his friends later used as a ‘wall of death’ cycle track! The other was opposite the town waterworks up the road a little way. Apparently the borough council officials turned up and had felt roofing material put over the broken windows, causing Ron’s father to describe the interior as being ‘Dark as a cow’s gut’ – although later they were properly repaired with glass.

I was thrilled to read this account as war news was heavily censored in the local papers, and I have never seen the near-fatal effects of these bombs referred to anywhere else – so thank you to Ron for sharing his memories with us.

Peter Christie.

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