Newton Abbot – At War
Located in Devon Square on Queen Street Stands the War Memorial. which was erected in 1922 to honour those who died in the First World War. The figure on the memorial was originally designed to be erected in Courtenay Park.
Seale Hayne (now an agricultural College) near Newton Abbot was used as a military hospital during WW1. Arthur Hurst, an army major worked at the hospital and helped First World War soldiers suffering from shell shock. At the time there was little sympathy for shell shock victims and it was generally seen as a sign of emotional weakness or cowardice. Hurst used a revolutionary treatment which involved the victims being encouraged to work in the fields and use their creative energies on the farm in order to forget the traumas and miseries they had experienced in the trenches.
During the period of time between the two World Wars, Devon became a popular holiday destination for some Germans. At the start of the Second World War in 1939, many of these ex-tourists volunteered useful local knowledge of Devon to the German High Command. They believed that the County was a place of tactical importance with Newton Abbot being a key point as they thought it connected military bases elsewhere in the UK with the coast. It was thought that by cutting the line at Newton Abbot it would be possible to create a blockade of the line connecting Plymouth’s Naval Dockyard with the rest of the country. However the Germans were oblivious to the fact that an alternative route existed inland over part of Dartmoor.
At least 65 air raids took place on Newton Abbot during WW2. The town was hit by some 50 high explosive bombs and some 8000 incendiary devices. Nearly 90 people were severely injured and the death toll was 22.
Some of the Raids that occured:
20 August 1940
Three planes targeting the Railway Station during the evening. Both Station Cottages and Forde Road suffered direct hits. 15 people were killed and Forde Park was badly damaged by blast. During the attack on the station high explosive bombs were used and the area was strafed with machine gun fire. Prior to the attack a crowded train for Plymouth had just pulled out of the station, however another Plymouth train was standing at the down platform and this was attacked. There was severe damage caused to the station with 15 locomotives, 52 passenger carriages and 22 goods wagons being also damaged. 60 people were seriously injured.
16 October 1940:
A single plane flew over and dropped four high explosive bombs and a batch of incendiaries near Wolborough Church.
21 October 1940:
5 bombs were dropped at Lindridge, near Bishopsteignton. They destroyed stables and greenhouses.
18 November 1940:
A mine was dropped on Bovey Tracey near the Devon House of Mercy. Only 5 people were injured. However the Parish Church was badly damaged and the explosion was strong enough to shake a large area of Newton Abbot, causing structural damage.
12 December 1940:
A hit and run raid on Kingsteignton where high explosive bombs and hundreds of incendiaries were dropped.
10 January 1941:
Another hit and run raid on Kingsteignton but this time, little damage was reported.
14 January 1941:
Two high explosive bombs landed on Bradley Lane but resulted in minor damage only.
17 May 1941:
A 2,500 lbs bomb fell onto the the swimming pool area at the Penn Inn together with 9 smaller bombs. The large bomb measured an impressive 9 feet long by two feet wide and was so heavy that it disappeared down into a swampy area and exploded below ground. The resulting crater occured 50 feet from the main Newton Abbot to Torquay Road close to Addison Road. Glass in a nearby commercial greenhouse was shattered but otherwise there was little damage and, amazingly, no injuries.
7 July 1941:
A Heinkel bomber was shot down over Newton Abbot, ultimately crashing near Haldon. Three of the crew were killed but the pilot baled out and was captured in the village of Kenton. The plane had been carrying 3 250 lb bombs and these were discarded in the vicinity of Newton Abbot. One exploded without causing damage or injury and the other two were defused.
25 April 1942:
A major raid on Newton Abbot took place during the night. Mount Pleasant, Devon Square and the road to Torquay were hit and severely damaged. 5 people were killed and the nearby shops in Queen Street were badly damaged by blast.
20 December 1942:
Ipplepen was machine gunned and the church tower was badly damaged by cannon fire.