SYC in WWII
You may recall my appeal for wartime stories. Needless to say I was not deluged with recollections. The two I had do not really concern SYC and will not add to Nigel Sharp’s research but might interest members.
The first is a nice letter from Colin Tucker, see below.
The second was a comment from John Allen who recalls being told that ships were scuttled at the entrance to the Exe and that Pole sand was used as an aircraft gunnery range. The beaches at Exmouth were mined and barbed wire was stretched along the beach.
And I can add that my father flew torpedo bombers out of Exeter and recalled homing in on the conspicuous white house we know as the Retreat. My uncles tell me I was bombed out of my pram by a German plane attacking Torquay - it may have been the same one that was shot down and crashed on the town.
Regards, Bill Croome
In response to your letter in the SYC newsletter regarding WWII experiences, I was nine years old when the war broke out and 15 at the end and therefore have many recollections.
As a boy we used to cycle around the area and I can remember going to the quay in Exeter in early 1944 and watching many men welding 8ft squares of metal together then joining them up to make pontoons. When they were completed these were pulled by barges down the canal eventually reaching the estuary. I can remember cycling along by the clubhouse and standing on the wall and it appeared you could walk across them to Lympstone. At the time we had no idea what they were for, until D Day 6th June 1944 when we assumed they were part of the Mulbury Harbour as they disappeared overnight.
Another interesting thing was that the sand dunes of Dawlish Warren (now the golf course) were used as a target practice area. As boys we would cycle down and stand on the edge by the rocks and watch flights of Typhoons peel off and dive down firing rockets at wooden “tanks” etc. These aircraft were based at Exeter Airport.
Also, one of our aircraft, a Beaufighter, crashed in a copse on the Earl of Devon’s estate half way between the club and Starcross.
German aircraft used the estuary to make “tip and run” raids, usually by FW190s, flying very low and dropping a few bombs on either the airport or on Exeter. The sirens often sounded after they had disappeared.
When he Americans arrived I can remember seeing the whole sky full of aircraft in waves. The noise was horrendous as they were only at about 10, 000 feet at the time. The usual target was the U Boat pens at St Nazaire. One plane crash landed on the way back in the Langdon Hospital grounds near Dawlish. Some other damaged ones made it to Exeter Airport where we would cycle out and watch them come in. At the time we thought it was very exciting.
I also spent a very frightening night in a shelter on 4th May 1942 when we had the main Exeter Blitz. Our house was damaged and I was evacuated to Thorverton for three months and attended school there and found out what life was like living in the country.
I hope this little sketch of life in those years is of some help to you.