MAY 2023

Another quiet month has gone by.
Apart from an enquiry via the website from an 89-year-young lady in Australia who was asking if we could find her husband’s grave in the Churchyard as she wished her ashes to be buried alongside his.
This our Secretary has done and she has sent said lady a photograph of the headstone to give her peace of mind.

Just another reminder that our next Social evening ison FRIDAY 02 JUNE 2023 @ 7:30pm in the Village Hall when local historian Phil Badcott will be providing a humorous and light-hearted look at anecdotes and folklore from the nineteenth century with his talk entitled ‘Folklore of Bygone Devon’. As always, admission is free to Members with just a nominal cost of £3 for non-members.

That’s it for now – so take care and read on once again with the wartime memories of the late David Best.

Derek .. Chairman MLHG

A Critical Period.

As the war progressed, tractors with foreign names such as Oliver and Caterpillar started to come through from Canada and the USA. Some of the tracked vehicles could climb mountains and there was a minor agricultural revolution as the village took on a new look when fields were ploughed which had never been touched before.

Early in the 1930’s, a collection of dog and quarantine kennels had been built on land adjoining a house near Marldon Cross. The project never really took off and in 1937 the kennels were converted into a sort of basic holiday camp with the addition of several old railway carriages in the grounds. By 1939, the camp had not been occupied, but sufficient work had been done to make the premises habitable, so they were taken over by the War Office just in time to receive elements of the BEF (British Expeditionary Force) following the evacuation from Dunkirk on 4th June 1940. Marldon had become a military base and would remain so for the next four years.

Looking back on that time, it was one with little fun or social life for the troops. They had arrived tired and exhausted, an assorted rabble from different units and it was some time before they got back on their feet and in some sort of order.

After that followed a programme of intense activity and hard work as they prepared for the invasion which was expected, and indeed Operation Sea Lion had been ordered by Hitler for September 14th. The camp was ringed with gun emplacements to protect the base, and in corners of some of the fields evidence of this work still exists today.

A unit of the Home Guard was formed, and groups of villagers in this “Dad’s Army” set off in the evenings equipped with shot guns and dartboards to man strategic places. A detail of 6 men were posted in shifts on the high ground at the Beacon, and they slept at night in a hut in the grounds of the reservoir. The hut had been built as a crude workman’s store with large gaps in the sides, so one of the men from the village papered it inside with newspaper to keep out the draught.

They would patrol the hilltop for two hour periods, in pairs, whilst the others slept, and the purpose was to act as a look-out and not only keep an eye open for Germans, but to report any fires or lights in the Torbay area.

One night, the system nearly went into reverse. The Beacon, even in mild weather, became bitterly cold at night, and it was the practice to heat up bricks on the stove, wrap them in empty sandbags and use them as bed heaters. On this occasion the bricks were a little too hot, and they ignited the bags (already treated with an inflammable material to withstand the damp), and the whole lot went up in smoke, very nearly burning down their own headquarters.

Everything that has been said about that unique band of men is entirely true, and they would be the first to admit that often they had laughed themselves to sleep thinking about the antics they had been up to.


More to follow….

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