KINGSTEIGNTON 1939 (UNDER CONSTRUCTION)
Kingsteignton was a village of some 3200 souls in 1939. It was still quite rural in character with most men engaged in local industries such as farming, the clay pits, the brickworks and the railway. However, it was a period of change with new housing development having taken place along Exeter Road with new roads branching off to form Hele and Firleigh Roads. A new estate had just been started at St Michael’s Road which had formerly been the home of Kingsteignton Athletic Football Club (and prior to that the defunct Kingsteignton Rugby Club). Many of these new streets housed a new phenomenon, the commuter!
Education had been on non-sectarian lines since the building of a new Senior School off Chudleigh Road in 1935 which saw the introduction of a three tier system of Infants, Juniors and Seniors in contrast to the Church and Council (previously Chapel) system which existed before. Like the rest of the country villagers had been subject to years of austerity with the Great Depression.
Wages in the clay industry had been depressed for several years and union representatives were calling for wage increases.
Religion still played an important part in the lives of most parishioners. As well as the parish church there was a Congregational Church in Church Street and a Wesleyan Chapel in Gestridge Road. There were two Brethren halls, one in Exeter Road and another at Sandygate. To a great extent everybody knew each other and there was a strong sense of community.
THE PROSPECT OF WAR
The escalating aggressive rhetoric from Nazi Germany made the prospect of a war seem ever more likely as the months of 1939 rolled on. In Kingsteignton the threat of a possible airborne attack or invasion led to the formation of an Air Raid Protection Group. As early as January 1939 the parish was split into sectors with responsibility for different areas being assigned to individuals who lived in that vicinity. In February 1939 men received training in gas decontamination as part of their training for the ARP.
The Military Training Act was introduced in April 1939 which required that all men between the ages of 20 and 21 had to register for six months’ military training unless they were in a ‘reserved occupation’ i.e. occupations that were considered as essential to the war effort.
Many young men in the village, persuaded that it was best to get some military training in case the worst fears became reality, had already been recruited into the Territorial Army. Others signed up for the Royal Air Force Reserve or the Auxiliary Air Force. Naval Reservists, many who were pensioners and veterans of the First War, were called up as the year went on whilst others waited for a letter in the post ordering them to report for duty.
Gasmasks were issued to schoolchildren in the village by the Chief Air Raid Warden. These had to be carried with them to school each day. Newspapers carried information notices instructing on the correct fitting of masks. The Ram Fair was held as usual in Whit Tuesday. Former vicar’s wife Mrs Mary Jackson, aged 90, was invited from Exeter to crown five years old Jean Edworthy as the May Queen. Mrs Jackson made her way to Kingsteignton on the bus.
In July 1939 several men from the village who had volunteered for the Territorials attended the Royal Devon Yeomanry camp at Tilshead, Wiltshire.
Kingsteignton Junior School held its sports day as usual in Berry Meadow courtesy of Mr Ward. Thereafter life carried on as normal whilst the population of the village waited
Sergeant Ernest Holland (left) trainer & recruiter Royal 1st Devon Imperial Yeomanry Tilshead Camp July 1939
(photo courtesy of Len Holland)
Right :- four of Sergeant Holland's Kingsteignton recruits
L/R Les Bickham, Charlie Igglesden, Reg Harris & sitting Len Truman
THE PHONEY WAR
With the declaration of war on 3rd September 1939 village men who had joined the Territorials were mobilised and waited for postings. Kingsteignton Junior School lost the services of teacher Mr M A Tucker who, as a Territorial, was called up for service.
Many still hoped that a peaceful solution could still be found reasoning that not even Hitler would want to repeat the horrors of World War I.
However one event, which took place exactly two weeks after war was declared, brought the grim reality of war to the people of Kingsteignton, when the aircraft carrier HMS Courageous was sunk by enemy torpedoes in the Western Approaches. Courageous was a Devonport based ship and most of her crew came from the West Country. Over 500 men lost their lives, four with Kingsteignton connections. For the friends and families of those who were lost the war as anything but phoney.
Sam Bickham was a veteran Ben Bolt another WW1 Ivor Carnell was aged 18 Bert Winser was a marine.
of Jutland in WW1 veteran served as a telegraphist Another veteran of Jutland
( photo courtesy of Dave Savage) ( photo courtesy of Bet Cousins) (photo courtesy of Tony Winser)
Tragedy struck the village again on 23rd of November 1939 when the armed merchant cruiser Rawalpindi was sunk off the Faroe Islands when she met two of the most powerful German battleships the Scharnhorst and Gneisenau.
Called upon to surrender, Rawalpindi's captain, Edward Kennedy (father of the broadcaster the late Ludovic Kennedy) refused, despite being hopelessly outgunned, and laid smoke floats in an attempt to conceal his position, but they failed to ignite. As he steered her towards the cover of a nearby iceberg the German ships opened fire. Their accurate gunnery scored hit after hit on Rawalpindi which in return, with her smaller and outdated guns, managed to inflict minor damage to the Scharnhorst. More importantly, before sinking with the loss of 238 lives, she had sent messages to the Home Fleet command informing them of her predicament and location. The Admiralty despatched numerous ships to intercept the German sister ships which, realising that they had been detected, decided against trying to make a break out into the Atlantic and
headed back to port under cover of bad weather.
News of the disaster appeared in West Country newspapers on 30th November 1939 when it was reported that 36 years old Reginald Mugridge of Sandygate was one of those lost on the Rawalpindi. Like his captain he was a reservist who had been recalled at the outbreak of war. He had originally joined the navy as a boy of 15 and after serving 15 years returned to civilian life to work in the local clay industry for the Devon & Courtenay Clay Co. In 1918 he had been at Scapa Flow to witness the surrender of the German Fleet. He left a widow and a three years old daughter.
Above armed merchant ship HMS Rawalpindi
Mr J Lovering director of Newton Abbot Clays Ltd hosted the company’s annual lunch at the Courtenay Restaurant at the beginning of January 1940 supported by manager Mr J Varcoe, who was also serving in the Territorials. Most of the workforce were from Kingsteignton and a number who had recently been called up turned up in uniform.
The company did well to get its lunch in before rationing was extended to food later in the month. That month also saw stricter rationing of petrol enforced. If you required petrol to run a car to enable you to get to work you were rationed accordingly. Any use of the fuel for purposes other than that stipulated could result in a fine.
Before the war started, Britain imported 55 million tonnes of goods a year and 70% of its food. Most of our imports came by sea in merchant ships which made Britain vulnerable to as disruption of this supply line. This fact had been recognised by the German government in the Great War and German submarines set about destroying as many merchant ships coming to Britain as they could. To ensure that everybody got a fair share of the food available, rationing was introduced for all - including the Royal Family. In January 1940, butter, sugar and bacon were rationed. This list was extended to include meat in general, cheese, fresh eggs, jam, tea, breakfast cereals and milk soon followed. Young children under five, under the National Milk Scheme, got one pint of milk. Pregnant women with an income of less than £2 also got free milk. Children also got extra orange juice.
More evidence that the war was anything but phoney for Kingsteignton folk came with the news that 24 years old Leslie James Harvey aged 24, serving as a telegraphist on HM Submarine Tarpon, had been killed on 22nd April 1940. He was the son of James and Mary Harvey and husband of Violet Harvey of Slough, Bucks.
HM Submarine Tarpon In March 2016 the wreck of HMS Tarpon was discovered 40 metres beneath the waves off the coast of Denmark by a Danish war museum owner, Gert Normann Andersen, and a UK marine archaeologist, Dr Innes McCartney. The divers found some of the hatches open, the glass in the periscope shattered and severe destruction below the tower where it appeared to have been hit by a depth charge. There was also evidence of a battle, with two of its torpedo tubes empty. German naval records suggest the Tarpon had fired twice at a German merchant ship before being sunk in a devastating counterattack.
The Fall of Dunkirk & the Loss of HMS Valentine
The German attack on France and the Low Countries in the spring of 1940 which culminated in the evacuation of British and French troops from Dunkirk in May 1940 often referred to as the end of the “Phoney War”.
The British destroyer HMS Valentine was attacked by German dive bombers on 15 May 1940, whilst providing AA cover to Allied troops engaged in the evacuation of Antwerp. Valentine was hit and beached near Terneuzen on the Dutch coast. Amongst the thirty one of her crew who were killed was 23 years old George Cotton of Newpark Crescent. Another Kingsteignton man, stoker Victor Pitts of Crossley Moor Road was aboard, He had been injured and had been seen being placed in an ambulance when ashore but as no news was heard of him for several months he was presumed dead. In October news came through that he was being held as a Prisoner of War.
The Ram Fair
Despite rationing a sympathetic Government Food Committee relaxed the rules to allow the people of Kingsteignton to roast a ram on Whit Tuesday 1940. “ROAST RAM AND NO COUPONS” was the headline carried in the Western Morning News with the added comment of “Age Old Custom Despite Hitler and Gang”. Four year old Sylvia Archer of Chudleigh Road was crowned May Queen with Sylvia Jones and Maureen (Mo) Saunders acting as her attendants. The ram weighed over 1cwt and the cooking took until early evening when butchers Joe Honywill and Bill Ward, assisted by Tom Whitear, did the carving and serving. It may seem strange that the festival was held with all the bad news emanating from France, but it was deemed that holding the fair would be celebrating an old English tradition and boost morale.
Ram Fair Committee Meeting 9th June
The Chairman and Honorary Secretary reported the looking over of the Fair Plant and finding that the two pans and dipper belonging to the Committee were missing and also that they had removed, with the assistance of Mr Bartlett, the Ladies & Gents Convenience - now badly damaged, which had been used by the Army now stationed in Oakford Lawn. This was taken to Mr Bartlett’s workshop who kindly consented to look after it. The Hon Sec then reported that the only other property belonging to the Fair now outside was at Mr Vallance’s, Vicarage Hill, namely the handle and biddle for repair.
The Ram Fair Committee had recently donated £5 to the local Spitfire Fund. One committee member queried why the donation was not brought to the Full Committee for approval. The following explanation was given:-
“The case in question was an urgent one and when I received the letter from the organiser of the Local Spitfire Fund, Mr I Coppin, there was (sic) only 3 days left before the same being handed in. So I went around on my bicycle after consulting on the Executive and saw the biggest majority of the General Committee who were in favour of handing over £5. This I reported to the Treasurer who handed over cheque for same.”
The general public were constantly encouraged to do their bit to further the war effort and acquire skills which would prove useful in the event of an attack.
In June 1940 the ARP gave a demonstration at Kingsteignton Senior School (now Teign School) in the use of a stirrup pump. With a plentiful supply of water-filled buckets, and one person directing the hose whilst another pumped away on the handle, it was thought this would be of great assistance in putting out fires.
HMS Glorious More bad tidings reached the village when the news came through of the loss of HMS Glorious and her destroyer escorts Acasta and Ardent on June 8th, 1940. The Royal Navy suffered one of its most devastating defeats of the Second World War when the German battleships Scharnhorst, Gneisenau and the heavy cruiser Hipper came across British ships taking part in Operation Alphabet, the evacuation of Allied forces from Norway. This evacuation from Narvik was taking place simultaneously with the rather better known evacuation at Dunkirk. HMS Glorious, was one of Britain's largest and fastest aircraft carriers (and sister ship to Courageous). The Scharnhorst opened fire from a range of 26,000 yards (14.77 miles) and scored a hit on Glorious with her third salvo knocking out her hangers and thus making it impossible to launch any air cover. Smoke screens were laid by Acasta and Ardent to shield Glorious. Ardent then took the fight to the battleships with torpedo attacks but hits from the heavier fire of the German battleships saw her go down with her front guns still firing. When the German ships broke through the smokescreen they again sighted Glorious closed in to 16000 yards and scored more hits which caused the carrier to capsize. The Acasta turned towards the much larger battleships and scored a hit on the Scharnhorst with a torpedo which caused considerable damage but the one sided fight was destined to end with the smaller destroyer sent to the bottom of the North Sea. The death toll of 1,519 from this battle exceeded any of the other great British naval disasters of the war and was made worse by the fact that the German ships did not stop to pick up any survivors. Also sunk were the tanker Oilpioneer and HMAV Orama, a converted liner.
As with the Courageous, there were a number of men from south Devon amongst the crews. Of those lost on Glorious there were two with Kingsteignton links, Frederick Blatchford of Chudleigh Road and Frederick James Davey, formerly of Exeter Road. Henry Fitzroy (Roy) Cook, who had grown up at the Bell Inn and once played alongside his brother Jack for Kingsteignton Foresters, perished on HMS Ardent. One survivor was first class stoker Fred Bastow of Victoria Terrace was miraculously picked up three days later by a Norwegian trawler having been found clinging to a raft.
SS Arandora Star
The loss of another ship brought more tragedy to Kingsteignton, when the Arandora Star was sunk on 2nd July 1940. She left Liverpool bound for Canada with 734 interned Italians, 479 interned Germans, 86 German prisoners of war, 200 military guards, plus her crew of 174 officers and men.
When she was some 75 miles off Bloody Foreland, Co Donegal she was struck by a single torpedo launched from U-47, commanded by Günther Prien. The German captain had, on 14th October 1939, caused great alarm with his daring raid on the base of the Home Fleet at Scapa Flow when he was responsible for the sinking of HMS Royal Oak.
The torpedo from U-47 hit the Arandora Star on her starboard side, flooding her aft engine room and she quickly began to sink. All told some 804 people were killed, including the Captain, 12 of his officers, 42 of his crew and 37 of the military guards plus 713 internees and prisoners of war. Amongst the military escort on board were two men from Kingsteignton, Pte Harold Lear of Crossley Moor Road and Edward Lane of Coronation Road. Two days after her sinking, Harold’s mother Bessie received notification that Harold was safe. It was not until the 21st August that the fate of Edward Lane was confirmed when his body was washed ashore at Ballycastle on the coast of Co Mayo, Ireland.
Schools Merged Well
The Mid Devon Advertiser of 29th July 1940 reported that London and Devon Scholars had merged well at the Senior School. There were eight classes in each of which five schools were represented. A London master ran the swimming club and two classes were housed at the British Legion. The spirit in which the building was put at the disposal of the school was traditional of the Old Contemptibles.
Mrs Horswill and WVS members were reported as busy with the collection of aluminium and it was hoped that Kingsteignton would make a significant contribution.
With any idea that Britain was engaged in a "Phoney War" well and truly put to bed, efforts were increased to get more men to enlist in the Home Guard. The new vicar of Kingsteignton, the Rev Robert Vlieland Parker, was appointed as officer commanding the Kingsteignton platoon.
Children's Holiday Campaign
The week beginning 5th August 1940 saw the opening of the Children's Holiday Campaign at Kingsteignton Senior School. In spite of the fact that the children were on holiday they were invited to join their teachers at school and spend part of their time upon jobs of national importance.
Kingsteignton Senior School which accommodated London and local children, had made a vigorous start encouraging householders to turn out all their waste paper, scrap iron, rags, old gramophone records and lumber and as a result two lorry loads of salvage were passed over. The girls were busy converting fabrics into pads face cloths, bandages etc for hospitals, while working parties of the older boys cleared land of ragwort, hoed potatoes, cleared hedges and helped with corn harvest. Even the infants played their part in handing in their quota of salvage and bushels of fir cones for firing. The Senior School had 950 panes of glass and each one was pasted over with butter muslin as a precaution against splintering in case of air raids.
Air Raid Shelters
At the monthly meeting of Kingsteignton Parish Council on 7th August Mr W Herd asked whether anything was being done as regards the provision of air shelters. He mentioned that he had heard evacuee children saying that they felt safer in London as there were shelters they could go into. In Kingsteignton there was nothing at all.
Newton Abbot Railway Station Bombed
On Tuesday 20th August three German aircraft, two JU88s and a Heinkel, flew in from the Channel and crossed the Haldon Hills from east to west before turning south towards Newton Abbot at a height of about 200feet. The two bombers each dropped five 250kg bombs on the Railway Station whilst the fighter strafed the area with machine gun fire.
Fourteen people were killed and seventy five injured. The flight of the aircraft over Kingsteignton was witnessed by several residents.
Newton Abbot Railway station was one of several places in Devon of which aerial photographs were taken from aeroplanes operated by German airlines in 1938.
Another disaster was to befall the Royal Navy in September 1940 when HMS Ivanhoe was lost off the Dutch coast. On 31st August she had sailed with Intrepid, Icarus, Esk and Express to lay a minefield off the Dutch coast, north of Texel. Unfortunately the ships sailed into a newly laid German minefield and almost immediately Express hit a mine which blew her bow off. Ivanhoe closed to assist her and struck another mine which damaged her propeller shafts. In her damaged state she was discovered and attacked by German aircraft which, although it did not sink her, inflicted more serious damage making it impossible for her to make her way back to port. Injured in the attacks was 21 year old James Gibson of Golvers Hill Road.
Kingsteignton Auxiliary Fire Service
The 7th September was the day Kingsteignton AFS had its first call out. They were quickly to the scene of the fire at Sands Copse. However, their hose was too short so they sent to Bovey for another, which when it arrived also proved to be too short! The firemen then set about using beaters to put out the flames as best they could. Early next morning the Newton Rural Fire Brigade arrived from Bovey with a hose of the correct length.
On 9th November fifty eight evacuees from Wandsworth arrived at Newton Railway station and were sent to homes in the Newton Rural District. The group consisted of 17 mothers, 38 children and 3 supervisors. Two families were sent to Bishopsteignton, 2 to Chudleigh, 2 to Widecombe, 1 to Hennock, 2 to Sigford, 2 to Trusham, 1 to Abbotskerswell and the rest to billets in Kingsteignton.
Frederick W Full
News of the death of another Kingsteignton serviceman reached the village at the end of November when it was reported that Chief Stoker Frederick William Full, who had lived at Firleigh Road, had died on 27th November at the Royal Naval Barracks at Devonport. He had been attached to the shore base HMS Drake whilst awaiting a posting.
War Weapons Week
A fund raising campaign was held across the Newton Abbot Urban and Rural Districts in December. The returns for Kingsteignton showed a respectable £1,424 paid in at the Fore Street post office and a further £351 paid in at the post office in Exeter Road. Added to this were various sums paid in by residents to banks in Newton. Three new street savings groups were formed.
Air Raid Alert
The first air raid alerts occurred in December 1940, the children from the Junior School went under the trees at Vicarage Lawn, those being taught at the Congregational Lecture Hall were taken to Berry Meadow and those housed in the Unionist Club and the Co-operative rooms were dispersed to Oakford Lawn. On December 18th eight bombs fell between Kingsteignton and Bishopsteignton and a number of incendiaries fell in the village.
Air Raid Casualty 1941 was only just over a week old when news came through that Private Jimmy Barber of the Pioneer Corps had been killed on January 7th during an air raid in London. A few months previously he had volunteered for military service and had been transferred to London. He had a long connection with Kingsteignton Rugby Club both as a player and later as secretary. He lived in Fore Street and left a widow and two children.
House Painting Tenants of Newton Abbot Rural District Council properties in Kingsteignton complained to the council in January that the white painted walls of the properties made them conspicuous to enemy aircraft at night and that they should be repainted as was done elsewhere. Their complaints fell on deaf ears. Blackout At the Newton Abbot Magistrates Court in January 1941 Special Constable Green said that on Christmas night he saw a light showing from an unscreened window in Newton Road, Kingsteignton, and when he spoke to defendant, Mrs Ellen Best, she asked him what it had to do with him and said she had been too busy to finish the black-out. As he started to leave, defendant followed and said: "What the hell has this got to do with you? You are not a Kingsteignton special, you belong to Newton Abbot and have no right in Kingsteignton at all”. When asked for her name she replied: "I have no name," and added that she hoped that he would “fall in the brook at the bottom of the garden and not get out again”. The defendant denied that she used bad language and said she had the black-out in her hand when the officer called. Fining her £5 the Chairman of the Bench, Mr W J V Watts, told her that the magistrates would always back up the police and she was lucky to escape being sent to prison, Air Raid Several incendiary bombs were dropped on Kingsteignton on 10th January 1941. The bombs fell in snow covered fields on Golver’s Hill, north of Longford Lane in a line through Kiln Forehead towards Coombesend and Salcombe.
Mentioned in Dispatches The local press reported that Flight Lt. Yabsley of Firleigh Road had been mentioned in dispatches.
Firewatching Order Kingsteignton was named on a list of towns and villages in the southwest which would be the subject of a new Fire Prevention (Business Premises) Order. This new order, signed on February 8th, required all business premises, whatever their size, to employ men to be ready to beat the fire-bombs. Exceptions were only small shops which were combined with dwelling-houses. After the Order was signed, occupiers of business premises had fourteen days to report the arrangements proposed to be made.
Another Batch of Evacuees Fifty evacuees who alighted at Newton Abbot Railway Station on 18th February 1941 became members of Kingsteignton and Kingskerswell households. Their billeting was accomplished without difficulty or compulsion, though nearly all the available accommodation had been previously swallowed up by the 3,700 evacuees who had arrived in the Newton Rural District since the beginning of the war. "The householders to whom I took children, almost without exception seemed very ready to accept them into their homes once they had seen them." said an assistant billeting officer. "Perhaps it was because coming from another West Country town the youngsters seemed more like their own. They were certainly a nice lot of children and created such a favourable impression that I had quite a number of offers from women to take some of them in."
Fitting Them All In By the beginning of March there were some 750 evacuees in the village. Problems arose in finding billets to accommodate mothers and children together.
Digging for Victory In March 1941 it was reported that several pupils at Kingsteignton Senior School had offered to assist local farmers with potato planting.
The Loss of HMS Hood
In May 1941, the battle cruiser HMS Hood and battleship Prince of Wales were sent to intercept the German battleship Bismarck and the heavy cruiser Prinz Eugen, which were sailing to the Atlantic, to attack convoys. On 24 May 1941, in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, Hood was struck by several German shells, exploded, and sank within three minutes, with the loss of all but three of her crew. The loss of the pride of the British fleet and 1,415 men dented British morale. Amongst those lost was Herbert Willis from Kingsteignton.
On 5th June 1941 eight bombs fell near the canal banks between Kingsteignton and Newton but did no damage.
The strict laws regarding Firewatching and the importance of adhering to fire-watching duties became evident at Newton Abbot magistrates court in August 1941 when fishmonger Frank Tarr, who lived in Kingsteignton, but operated a lock up shop at 15a Queen Street, Newton Abbot, appeared before the bench. He was fined £2 with £1 1s costs for failing to notify the local authority what fire-watching arrangements he had made regarding his business premises. Mr Tarr responded by saying that he thought the forms sent to him were confusing and if any bombs dropped on the building they would hit the flats above first who no doubt had made arrangements. He added that he was already on a fire-watching rota where he lived in Kingsteignton.
Visit by the Lord Mayor of Bristol
On 28th October 1941 Kingsteignton was one of a number of places visited by the Lord Mayor of Bristol as part of a whistle-stop tour of Devon to say thank you to those who had taken in children from his city. He brought a message to the children from Bristol emphasising that Bristol was a target for German attacks and that it was not safe for them to venture home.
Corporal Ronald Cumbley of the Royal Engineers, who lived at 10, Whiteway Road, Kingsteignton, was killed instantly on 30th November 1941 when running to the assistance of an injured boy who was stranded in a minefield on a beach near Peterhead, Scotland.
Two boys had ventured into the minefiled and one was killed instantly when a mine exploded. The other boy was injured and on hearing his pitiful cries for help Ron dashed on to the beach to try and help him and in doing so lost his life.
Death in India
The death was reported of Private Leslie Bearne, aged 26, eldest son of Mr. and Mrs. J. Luscombe Exeter Road in India on 7th December.
Aid to Russia and Parties for Evacuees
The Mid Devon Advertiser of 3rd January 1942 reported that the Red Cross collections for December for the Aid to Russia Fund amounted to £22 14s 5d with the leading collector being Mrs Strong, whose area was the top end of Exeter Road, with a total of £3 2s. All the collections for October, November and December were directed to Mrs Churchill’s Aid to Russia Fund and Kingsteignton collected a total of £82 12s 5d over the three months. To this total was added £8 10s from the parish church Nativity Play, £14 6s 4d from a concert arranged by the ladies at the Congregational Church and £3 17s 6d raised by Mrs T Cook through a competition for a box of chocolates, making a grand total of £109 6s 3d.
The same paper reported that two Christmas parties had been organised at the Senior School for the evacuee children from London and Bristol.
Allowing the light from a low powered bulb to be seen from her house in Fore Street, Kingsteignton, a woman was fined £l at Newton Abbot on 21st January 1942. The light was showing from the back bedroom window. The bulb was only five watts and the black-out was not drawn.
Red Cross Concert
On 4th March 1942 a concert was held at the Senior School in aid of the Red Cross by past and present scholars and the large audience showed their appreciation of a good programme with abundant applause. Part singing was the principal feature under the direction of Mr Rickard who also accompanied on the piano. Former pupil Jean Paddon was the soloist whilst scholars gave a display of folk dancing. The concert raised £12 10s.
An air raid directed at Newton on 25th April 1942 saw a number of bombs fall short of the town on the racecourse.
Look No Hands
The local magistrates were not amused by the antics of Mr R C F Whiteway-Wilkinson of Vicar’s Hill, Kingsteignton and a director of the clay firm Whiteway & Co, when on 19th May 1942 they fined him 10s for riding a motor-cycle with no hands on the handlebars for a distance of 250 yards. Mr Whiteway-Wilkinson was an officer in the local Home Guard.
Alive and Well Good news was received by two Kingsteignton families in August when OS Jim Holland wrote home to say that he and his former school friend AB Fred Diamond were safe and well. The families had previously learned that both had survived the sinking of HMS Repulse in December 1941 but had not heard anything about them after the fall of Singapore in February 1942. Their escape from Singapore, had led to them spending months in the jungle of Sumatra evading capture by the Japanese. Both eventually were picked up by a passing Australian ship and taken to Ceylon (Sri Lanka). Both had been posted as “Missing Presumed Dead”.
Sad News for Coronation Road Families
The Western Morning News of 5th September reported that Driver W Crabb, whose parents lived in Coronation Road Kingsteignton, was missing in the Middle East. The paper carried another mention of a Kingsteignton lad, whose parents lived in Coronation Road, with the story that young Cecil Hyatt, who had been a member of Kingsteignton Athletic’s 1938 Geary Cup winning team, had lost a leg due to an accident aboard ship.
Courage in Plymouth Blitz
Two days later the same paper reported that Bill Shapter of Sandpath Road had been awarded a certificate for his courage and devotion to duty in the Plymouth Blitz.
Photo left courtesy of Claire Casely.
More sad news followed later in the month with the news that Norman Lewis Casely pictured left in the garden of Orbita on the Newpark Estate had been killed in a flying accident on 22nd September whilst on pilot training.
Norman had flown a full tour as a navigator with 214 Squadron at Stradishall from 26.04.1940 to 17.07.1941.
He is buried in Kingsteignton Churchyard.
In 1939 Norman was living with his father in Kingsteignton working as a salesman for a sponge importer whilst a member of the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve, attached to RAF Netheravon, Wiltshire. Their next door neighbour was Ronald Cotton who died on HMS Valentine on 15th May 1940.
On the 9th October at Newton Abbot criticism of the billeting together of three boys, two of whom had been previously before the Court, was made at the Juvenile Court at Newton Abbot by the chairman, Col. P. Carew, when three evacuees were summoned for causing wilful damage to four ricks at Ware Barton Farm, Kingsteignton. The case against one was dismissed but the other two were fined 10s each and ordered to repay the cost of the damage. It was further announced that arrangements would be made for their return to London to the care of their parents.
2nd Battle of El Alamein
On 23rd October several young men from Kingsteignton serving in the 8th Army found themselves involved in the 2nd Battle of El Alamein to prevent Rommel’s Afrika Korps taking Egypt, and with it control of the Suez Canal. The artillery barrage which heralded the start of the battle was up to that date the greatest artillery barrage in any land battle in history.
The victory over Germany's Afrika Korps was described by Winston Church as, " This is not the end, it is not the beginning of the end but it is perhaps, the end of the beginning".
It was reported in The Western Morning News of 14th 1942 December that "every scholar at Kingsteignton Senior School is now a member of the school savings group. This 100 per cent membership had been achieved after a few weeks' effort and it now ranked as one of the few schools in the country with such an excellent record’.
News From the Far East & Germany
Although 1943 started relatively quietly for Kingsteignton it did not take long for bad news from the war to filter through. On 12th February the Western Times reported that Gunner Frank Manktelow of 77 Crossley Moor Road had been taken prisoner by the Japanese. Like many prisoners of the Japanese Frank suffered from malnutrition whilst a prisoner which was to affect his health. Many in the town will remember him for the wind powered garden ornaments he made, such as windmills and a man sawing wood, which were displayed in his garden.
More bad news was reported in the Devon and Exeter Gazette of 26th February with the story that 20 year old Flight Sergeant Donald Bishop of Vicarage Hill had been reported missing on an operation. He was educated at Newton Abbot Grammar School and had been on many raids over Berlin, Cologne, Hamburg and Italy. It was later confirmed that he had been killed on 13th February.
HMS Raleigh Casualties
First War veteran George Savage based at HMS Raleigh died in hospital in London on 18th March. He was aged 53 and held the rank of Petty Officer. His widow Annie lived at 10 Greenhill Road. This was a second tragedy for Annie as in September 1939 she lost her brother Sam on HMS Courageous. George is buried in Kingsteignton Cemetery.
Another serviceman from Kingsteignton serving at HMS Raleigh was to lose his life on 26th March. Engine Room Artificer Apprentice Leslie Cornall was aged 15 when he was killed. He was the son of Alec and Vera Cornall of Church Street and is buried in St. Michael's Churchyard, Kingsteignton.
HMS Raleigh Casualties
Above left : George Savage (photo courtesy of Mike Savage) Above right grave of Leslie Cornall
Pilot Officer Corrie
Robert Corrie of Horsemills Cottages, Chudleigh Road, was killed on active service on 12th April 1943. He was the son of Robert and Amelia Ward Corrie. Before the war he attended Newton Abbot Grammar School and was a Flight Sergeant in the Newton Abbot ATC. Whilst at school he had played football for the school 1st XI as well as being a member of the school relay team which won the inter school relay cup at Torquay. Not surprisingly he had been captain of his house. As soon as he was old enough he joined the Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. He is not recorded on the Kingsteignton war memorial.
National Fire Service Casualty
Another Kingsteignton man, Cyril W Palk of The Gables Rydon Avenue, who was serving with the NFS in London, was reported as having been killed on 9th May.
2nd Airborne Casualty
Kingsteignton losses continued to mount when Herbert Pyne, the son of Ethel Short of Preston, who was serving as a corporal with the 2nd Airborne Battn of the Ox & Bucks Light Infantry was reported as having been killed on 11th May.
Eight Grandsons Serving
On 22nd May Mrs Elizabeth Murrin of Myrtle Cottage Gestridge Road celebrated her 95th birthday. She came to Kingsteignton to work for the Rev & Mrs Comyns at Blindwell House and later married Charles Murrin. Her son Fred was killed in WW1. At the time of her 95th birthday she had 12 grandchildren and all her 8 grandsons were serving in the forces.
More grim news about Kingsteignton personnel came through with the news that 20 year old Peter Toms of Sandygate, an air gunner with 49 Squadron RAF VR, had been in an aircraft shot down over the Netherlands on 15th June. He is buried in Uden War Cemetery in North Brabant. Ten days later Len Seal a sergeant in 50 Squadron RAF was reported as killed.
Invasion of Sicily
The 9th July saw the commencement of the invasion of Sicily by Allied Forces. Several Kingsteignton men serving with the 8th Army were involved. It was hoped that an Allied invasion would remove that fascist Italian regime from the war, secure the central Mediterranean and divert German divisions from the northwest coast of France where the Allies planned to attack in the near future. After 38 days of fighting, the U.S. and Great Britain successfully drove German and Italian troops from Sicily and prepared to assault the Italian mainland.
The Allied success saw Hitler, cancel a major offensive at Kursk to divert forces to Italy, resulting in a reduction of German strength on the Eastern Front. The surrender of Italy necessitated German troops replacing the Italians in Italy and to a lesser extent the Balkans, resulting in one fifth of the entire German army being diverted from the east to southern Europe, a proportion that would remain until near the end of the war.
Three days after the landings Lance Sergeant Frederick George Bovey from Kingsteignton serving with 50th Squadron, the Royal Tank Regiment, was killed in Sicily. He is buried in Syracuse War Cemetery.
Taking part in the commando landings as part of the invasion was Kingsteignton milkman Frank Edwards. Former Kingsteignton parish councillor (and ramroaster at the Ram Fair), Arthur Brimmicombe, sustained a shrapnel injury serving with the Durham Light Infantry in the bitter fight for Primo Solo Bridge. He carried a piece of shrapnel lodged in his thigh around with him for the rest of his life.
Girls Training Corps Receive Their Colours
The first provincial presentations of colours to the G.T.C. was made at Oakford Lawn on Sunday 25th July 1943 to the Kingsteignton and District Company by Mrs. Walter Raleigh Gilbert of Compton Castle. The colours were presented to the company by Mrs A C Adams; the salute was taken by an American Army officer. The colours were carried by Chief Section Leader Betty Browning, and the colour guard were Section Leaders Jean Pope and Molly Douch. A United States Army band was in attendance along with officers of the local Home Guard. Companies of the G.T.C from Bovey Tracey, Chudleigh, Dawlish and Teignmouth were present.
The photograph above (courtesy of Philip Irwin) shows the GTC groups above at Oakford Lawn with Betty Browning in the centre holdingthe flag. Note the kennels of the Haldon Hunt to the rear left of the picture.
Official Opening of Stover Camp
On 25 October 1943, the 316th Station Hospital officially opened in the Southern Base Section (SBS) as an 834-bed unit.
Devon was a scene of massive Invasion manoeuvres throughout the autumn and winter of 1943 and the Hospital served as a vital support base for the thousands of US troops billeted in south Devon. A number of African-American units were attached to the unit and based at a tented camp at East Golds. Over the following months people in Kingsteignton became used to US Army GIs who would drop into shops in Kingsteignton to purchase goods. Some enterprising businesses such as F White’s Bakery in Gestridge Road traded with the base, sending his van there with freshly baked bread.
The death of Flight Sergeant (Navigator) Alfred William Turpin of the RAF Volunteer Reserve occurred on 28th October. Alf was part of the crew of a Lancaster bomber which crashed during a night-time landing exercise at RAF Branton near Doncaster. He was the son of William and Rosa Turpin and is buried in Kingsteignton Churchyard. Another RAF casualty from Kingsteignton was Leading Aircraftsman Ronald J Tarr.
Sergeant (Air Gunner) George Edwin Boucher aged 23 of 101 Squadron, the RAF Volunteer Reserve was reported as having been killed on 3rd November. He was the son of Albert and Lena Boucher of Sandygate and is buried Reichswald Forest War Cemetery.
Penny a Week Collection
The Penny a Week Collection for December 1943 was £58 11s 6d. The total from May 1943 to December 1943 was £286 19s 1d which averaged out at £35 16s a month which translated into an average of 71 parcels being sent to POW’s by the people of Kingsteignton each month. Miss Deller had raised £4 from the proceeds of her knitting, Gwenda Mullins raised £4 8s from a draw for a doll and Mrs Bickham had raised £1 7s from a competition for a dish of oranges and lemons.
News of POW
In early January 1944 news that LAC Gordon Holland was being held as a POW by the Japanese reached his wife at 10 New Park Road. The notification on a postcard written by him had been posted more than 12 months before at Christmas 1942.
Death In India
News of the death in India of 22 years old Peter Lear Browning, a Warrant Officer in the RAF, on 15th April 1944 was received by his relatives in Kingsteignton. He is buried in Gauhati War Cemetery in the capital of Assam.
POW Dies in Captivity
The 4th June, just two days before D-Day, saw the death of Robert Pearson aged 37, of 4th Btn, Gordon Highlanders, whilst being held as a POW by the Germans. He had been taken prisoner in France in 1940. He was the son of Thomas and Mary Pearson and husband of May Gwendoline Pearson. He is recorded on the Dunkirk Memorial.
The 6th June marked the start of the invasion of France and local people woke to find that nearly all the American troops who had been a regular sight in the area had disappeared as quickly as they had arrived. But it was not just Americans who took part in the Normandy landings. On the 6th June more than half of the troops taking part in that historic event were British and Canadian and included amongst those were a number of local men.
Tom Hewings who lived in Exeter Road was one of the first Kingsteignton men to lose his life in Normandy. He was serving as a private in the Pioneer Corps. On 7th July 1944 as his unit made its way eastwards it came under attack by German fighters and Tom jumped into a ditch for cover not realising that it had been mined by the retreating German forces. In the confusion of war he was originally posted as "missing". His parents had to suffer the humiliation of a visit to their home by military police demanding to know his whereabouts. It was some weeks later that his remains were found and his army record amended to show “killed in action”. No apology was received by his parents for the heavy handed action of the military police. He is buried in Hermanville War Cemetery.
Influx of Evacuees
On Saturday 15th July the billeting authority for the Newton Rural District was faced with an influx of 270 children and mothers which it managed to house at Bovey Tracey and Kingsteignton.
Village Butcher POW
The Mid Devon Advertiser of 15th July reported that notification had been received from the War Office and the Red Cross that village butcher Bill Ward was a prisoner of the Germans. His wife was carrying on the family business in Fore Street.
Another Exeter Road Casualty
In August 1944 Sid Spear, who had grown up a stone’s throw away from Tom Hewings in Exeter Road, was killed serving in the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry in Normandy. The confusion and ferocity of the fighting that he was involved in is reflected in the fact that he is attributed as having died between 12th and 13th August. He is buried in Banneville La Campagne War Cemetery.
Tragedy At Sea On 20 August 1944 HMS Kite was escorting the aircraft carriers Vindex and Striker, which in turn were escorting convoy JW-59 to Northern Russia when the convoy was sighted in the Barents Sea by German aircraft. Soon a pack of U-boats was detailed to attack the convoy. One U-boat was sunk by Fairey Swordfish aircraft from one of the carriers and two more were sunk by other destroyers. At 06:30 on 21 August, Kite slowed to 6 knots to untangle her "foxers" (anti acoustic torpedo noise makers, towed astern). The decision to do so, rather than severing the foxers' cables and abandoning them, sealed her fate for at that speed Kite was a sitting duck. She was struck by two torpedoes on the starboard side and keeled over to that side immediately. The stern broke off, floated for a few seconds, and then sank.
The bow remained afloat for a minute then sank at a steep angle.minute then sank at a steep angle. Of Kite's crew of 10 officers and 207 ratings, 60 survived the attack, but from the freezing Arctic water only 14 sailors were picked up alive by HMS Keppel. Five of the rescued died on board Keppel leaving only nine to make it to shore. Two men from Kingsteignton perished. One was 20 years old AB Walter James Glanfield, the son of William and Annie Glanfield. The other was AB Frederick Northcott Monson, the son of Everett and Fanny Monson and husband of Florence Monson. Both are recorded on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
In September it was announced that Mr R C Molland BSc would be taking over as headmaster at the Senior School after Christmas following the retirement of Mr Hugh Hosegood.
Relaxation of War Regulations
September saw the suspension of evacuation plans and some street lighting was allowed in certain places not visible from the coast. With its position at the head of the Teign Estuary Newton Abbot was kept in the dark.
As the fierce fighting to free Europe from domination by Nazi Germany continued it was reported that 22 years old Frank Lentern, serving with the RAOC, had been killed on 11th October. He was the son of Frederick and Hilda Lentern of Gestridge Road and husband of Hilda Lentern (nee Rendell). He had married in 1942.
Photo left courtesy of Val Dart
Home Guard to be Stood Down
On 8th November it was announced that the Home Guard was to be stood down as from 3rd December 1944. At the farewell dinner held at the Courtenay Restaurant, Newton Abbot , 2nd Lt H G Filby of Kingsteignton proposed a toast to A Company 9th Battn, Devon Home Guard. Captain C Austin, the Commanding Officer, paid special thanks to the assistance he had received from Captain R C F Whiteway-Wilkinson of Kingsteignton and to the Seale Hayne and Kingsteignton Platoons who had regularly travelled to Newton to attend drill sessions. He made special mention that the Company had won a cup at a training exercise at Maidencombe which involved live firing.
Far East Death
The terrible treatment meted out to British POW’s did not become apparent until the war was ended. The Japanese kept meticulous records of how prisoners had died. One victim of their treatment was Harold Murray of 34 Ley Lane who died in a POW camp on 19th November on Labuan Island off the coast of Borneo. His records show that he died of malaria and beri beri, a malnutrition disease caused by lack of vitamin B1. It was common amongst POW’s in the far-east whose sparse diet would consist mainly of white rice. He had been taken as a POW in 1942 whilst serving with the Suffolk regiment. He is recorded on the Singapore Memorial.
The final parade and church service of A Company 9th Battn Devon Home Guard took place on 3rd December 1944. The Rev, R V Parker, of Kingsteignton and chaplain to the company took the service.
Dig For Victory Effort Acknowledged
In December local newspaper carried the story of how Kingsteignton had been awarded the Boots Cup for the area with the best domestic horticultural production in the county. The cup was accepted on behalf of the village by postman Ike Coppin, who in his spare time, doubled up as chairman of the parish council.
One of the reasons Kingsteignton residents were able to achieve such levels of domestic production was the availability of allotments, some of which were privately rented and others publicly owned and administered by the parish council.
Blackout Restrictions Eased
In January 1945 an announcement that blackout restrictions were to be eased in the parishes of the Newton Rural District (which included Kingsteignton) was warmly received by residents as a sign that things were getting better. However, there was no let up for buildings in the Newton Urban District.
On 15th February another Kingsteignton serviceman died. He was 30 years old Wilfred Gilbert Winget Medland a private in the Royal Army Medical Corps. He was the son of Joseph and Emily Medland of Kingsteignton and husband of Lydia Medland of Kingsteignton. He is buried in St. Michael's Churchyard, Kingsteignton.
Mrs E Bowden received good news on 12th March when she learned that her son Reginald had been freed from a German POW camp by Russian troops. He had been taken prisoner in May 1940 during the defence of Calais.
Questions in the House
Questions about the export of ball clay and its effects on the pottery industry were answered in the House of Commons by the President of the Board of Trade, Mr Dalton on 21st March. He said that he had been in touch with the Minister of Labour and that everything would be done to develop the pottery industry as soon as possible, whilst it was realised that there was a need to export this material.
On 7th May 1945 the German leader, Admiral Doenitz ordered General Jopl, the Chief of Operations, to sign an instrument of unconditional surrender at Reims of all German forces on all fronts and so bring the war in Europe to an end. Three days before, on Luneburg Heath, Field Martial Montgomery had accepted the surrender of all German forces in the Netherlands, northwest Germany and Denmark. The surrender came in force at 11.00pm on 8th May. Celebrations broke out across Europe. In Kingsteignton there was a rush around the local shops for flags and bunting when news came that VE Day had arrived. With nothing officially planned, except for a Church service, a victory march was held around the village streets. Hurriedly organised street parties were arranged at different venues around the village and crowds gathered and danced around the Fountain in the evening.
Welcome Home Fund
At a public meeting to decide how to proceed with the cash grants for returning servicemen the Chairman, Mr D H Howe, raised a matter which was being discussed in the village that Oakford Lawn should be purchased as a Memorial Playing Field. Mr Howe said that he understood the owner was willing to sell the site under a covenant. Mr S Morris of Pottery Cottages said that he had come up with the idea as he thought this would be a better memorial to those who had served than a relatively small amount of cash. A parish council member said that he had spoken to some servicemen who were already home and they preferred the idea of a cash grant. Mrs Parsons was of the opinion that if the money was used to purchase the Lawn then the collectors had been raising money under false pretences.
The Devon and Exeter Gazette of 20th July 1945 reported how Miss B Fulford, had informed the Devon Federation of Women’s Institutes that a new Institute had been formed in Kingsteignton.
The beginning of August saw another fund-raising event for the Welcome Home Fund with a fete at Sandygate at Abbrook Meadow with the field kindly loaned by Mr W Davis of Abbrook Farm. A variety of sports and a Grand Tug-o-War featured in the entertainment provided.
V J Day
On 15th August celebrations started breaking out across the country with the news that Japan had announced its surrender. The VJ celebrations in Kingsteignton were a stuttering affair with nothing officially arranged on the actual day apart from ringing of the church bells. Some street parties were held in the evening but the main celebrations took part the following day with sports held at the recreation ground and teas served to over 160 village children. The main celebrations of the day were centred on the Fountain in the evening with a non-stop dancing session organised by the Civil Defence Band. The band were assisted by Mr Edgar Kitt and Mr Gorwyn Partridge whilst Stella Groves gave a demonstration of tap dancing and Hilda Rich provided the singing.
Left VJ Day Party at Oakford Lawn
(photo courtesy of Sandra Full)
Junior School Log Book
The entry in the Junior School Log Book for 3rd December 1945 reads:- "Mr M A Tucker reported for duty today at 9.00am after being absent on duty in HM Forces since September 1939".
Mr Tucker had been in the Devon Yeomanry prior to the outbreak of war and was mobilised in September 1939. Many of his former Yeomary colleagues had to wait several months before they were demobilised. Others found that their country still needed them in places such as Germany & Palestine and had to wait even longer before they could come home.