Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

World War Two

As in every aspect of village life, the war had an impact on Braunton Marshes.

Dummy Airfield

Braunton Great Field, 1947Perhaps the most surprising change and one which few people now know of, was that the marshes were used as a dummy airfield, to divert attention from nearby Chivenor airfield. Electrical cables were laid across the grassland to power lights at night and create the illusion of a runway.  Rowland Dibble recounts this amusing story of someone who was employed with a mechanical digger on the marshes:

“Melvyn, who cleans the drains out, he rang me up and said “’Ere, you’d better come down,” so I went down there and “Cor,” he said, “I don’t know what I’ve done, I’ve found these cables” and I said, “All of Braunton’s without electric.” And he said “What!!” and I knew right away what it was, you know.”

The White House

In 1843 the Marsh Inspectors had gained possession of a house known, thanks to its colour, as the White House - which is situated at the end of the toll road near Crow Point. In 1942 it was requisitioned by the war department and used most probably for the storage of ammunition and land mines, which were placed on the expanse of beach between the estuary and Saunton three miles north.

After the war, the house apparently received compensation but further payments were made to the Inspectors House and these were due, it is thought, to the heavy increase in military traffic that would have damaged the toll road. RAF and US army vehicles routinely rumbled past on their way to the south end of the Burrows where much military training took place.

The Great Sluice

The Great Sluice on Braunton Marshes 2007Rowland Dibble sheds light on a feature of the Marshes, which is located near one of its landmarks - the Great Sluice. Reached via the Toll Road, visitors can pause at the Great Sluice and look to the opposite bank, across the ditch, to see a grassy crater in the field:

“See that pit in there?  That’s where a plane crashed. He was coming in to land and I don’t know what happened because they never published it, you know, nobody knew – but he just went straight down. It was one of ours, he was coming in to land you see.” 

Braunton Great Field

Braunton Great FieldBraunton Great Field was thought to have been bombed during the war and at one time farm machinery would have been placed strategically around the Field, to stop enemy gliders from landing there. More about the importance of Braunton to the country’s war-time training programme can be found in the section about the Burrows.

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