Explore Braunton - The Most Biodiverse Parish in England

World War Two


Braunton village was, along with the rest of the country, affected by the onset of world war.  It was a destination for many evacuees and a typical evacuee’s experience is described by Margaret Alexander, who was lucky enough to love the countryside she ended up in:

I had a lovely bedroom overlooking the fields, which seemed to go on for miles. There was a field next to the house where there were cows. My brother and I had never seen live cows before.”

Read Margaret’s full account at the BBC web-site.

Andre Potier

For other Braunton families, the war was responsible for less cheerful experiences. Andre Potier was born in Braunton and lived here, in Chaloner’s Road, for many years. He had three brothers, one younger and two quite a bit older. One of his older brothers had volunteered to join up and was in the RAF, Bomber Command:

“One day in the summer of 1941, the telephone rang and my father answered it to find it was Michael. He was returning from a bombing raid on Brest in France and had called in to Chivenor to re-fuel on his way back to his base in East Anglia. My father asked if there was any chance of seeing him.  Michael said he couldn’t leave the station but that when he took off he would fly over the house.

We all went out into the garden and about half an hour later heard an aircraft which we recognised as a Blenheim. It was flying lower than any aircraft I have ever seen and although it is hard to believe I remember quite distinctly that as he flew over in a deafening roar you could see him in the pilots seat, waving like mad. He flew up the valley towards Knowle and a short while later returned slightly higher this time and ‘waggled’ his wings as he flew over.  Neighbours and other people in the village talked about the scare of such a low flying aircraft for days. ‘Typical Michael’ were the comments.

There was a sequel but if you don’t like unhappy endings don’t read the rest.  At the time he was waiting to leave the squadron and go to train to fly large four engine bombers. It was put off for a few weeks as the squadron were sent to Malta for a fortnight to relieve the squadron there so they could have some leave. On the tenth day they were ordered to bomb the Italian fleet in Tripoli harbour. A volunteer was needed to fly in front and deliberately attract the gun fire from the ships to make it easier for the rest of the squadron. Michael immediately, to no-one’s surprise, stepped forward. They flew in but found the barrage from the guns heavier than anticipated and they were badly hit. So bad he ordered his two crew members to bail out but although terribly wounded managed to turn the Blenheim and crash it into one of the large ships. He died instantly, a fortnight after his twenty-first birthday.”

WVS

Andre’s mother Gracie is pictured here, in the WVS.

Mike Inglis

For some people, although the war was dangerous it did provide opportunities that might not otherwise have occurred. Mike Inglis, Major, retired (Bomb Disposal) remembers:

“I will never forget the first time I came to the Braunton area. In May 1947 I was posted to the Beachmine Clearance Detachment then based in the Saunton Golf Clubhouse. I clearly remember the first view of Saunton Sands from the lay-bys on Saunton Down followed by going round Downend and seeing the glorious view of Croyde and Baggy Point. The impact was all the stronger as I had just come from snow and flood rescue work in York. The very next day I met a wonderful Braunton girl at Lake’s Private Hotel where I was billeted and we were engaged three weeks later!”

Glos RFA leaving Braunton Station circa 1914Lake’s Private Hotel once stood on the corner of Saunton Road and what is now Caen Street Car Park, opposite the newsagent. Mr Inglis also remembers the milk train arriving in Braunton and the engine sitting across the level crossing in the middle of Caen Street. He has lived in nearby Croyde since 1987 and says he would not ever move from North Devon!

Roy Lucas

Braunton home guard at the parish hallAnd finally, if further proof were needed that Braunton has a magnetism all of its own, Roy Lucas explains how he fell in love with Braunton:

“In 1955 I was posted to the MT [Mechanical Transport] section at RAF Chivenor. My trade was a driver, MT mechanic and HG and crane driver operator. I went with the boys from the MT to a dance at Braunton Parish Hall and that was when I met my girlfriend, Doris. I proposed to her soon after but was posted almost immediately to Germany. Doris carried on working at the doctor’s surgery in Braunton until, in 1957, I was able to return. It was difficult to find enough leave, but I managed to combine home leave, continental leave, a 48 hour pass and a 36 hour pass to give me enough time for the wedding and honeymoon although money was tight – I had approximately £6.00 per week!   I married Doris in St Brannock’s church on 21st September, which was also my 21st birthday. To be back in Braunton with my new wife was great.”

When Roy came out of the RAF in 1959, he tried to find work in Braunton but to no avail and he and Doris had to move to Dorset. They returned to Braunton ten years later and have lived here ever since.

Roy has gone on to do a great many things – as well as working locally and later owning his own business, he spent 20 years in the Devon Fire Service, working his way up to Officer in Charge at Braunton Fire Station. He has also been a parish councillor and, since his retirement, a district councillor and chairman of the Royal Air Force Association – organising the RAFA wings appeal.

Roy’s busy life has included work with Braunton Museum, the Marsh Drainage Board, Southmead School and St Brannock’s Church as well as Barnstaple Town Football Club and the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital.  He’s a useful man to know!


 
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