War Time Memories
Alphington's Home Guard
Alphington's Home Guard, formerly known as the LDV, came into existence one Summers evening at the derelict Old Mill. They were quickly provided with uniforms and weapons including a Heavy Browning water cooled machine gun with over 1000 rounds of cartridges in belts. Eventually, Major Craig of The Lodge, Alphington became Company Commander and The Lodge became Company HQ. The Company composed of seven villages: Alphington; Exminster; Kennford; Ide; Whitestone; Dunchideock and Longdown.
The Home Guard had several pill boxes set up in Alphington. Coils of barbed wire were erected along the banks of the Alphin Brook where it ran through the playing field.
During the war a member of the Exeter Platoon of the 14th Moorland Division of the Home Guard called into The Admiral Inn for a drink. He was in uniform and carrying his 303 Lee Enfield rifle. He sat on a bench with his rifle between his knees forgetting that the rifle was loaded. He accidentally pulled the trigger and the gun fired and the bullet went through the ceiling, through the floor of the landlord's bedroom, through the mattress on the bed, through the bedroom ceiling and then lodged in the thatched roof. During the bullet's journey it went through a gerry/gozunder/chamber pot. The landlord was annoyed because of the damage and confusion that had been caused and he also wanted to know who was going to replace his favourite chamber pot!
The village Air Raid Patrol (ARP)
The ARP headquarters was at first in The Institute which was also prepared as a first aid point in case of injuries during the air raids, the windows had been sandbagged. Later the ARP moved to the basement of The Lodge. Some Alphington members of the ARP were: Mrs A. Tout, Mrs H. Brewer, Mrs E West, telephonists; Agnes Powlesland, casualty driver; Mrs E. Coles, ambulance attendant; Mr V. Sercombe ambulance driver of the ambulance, which was actually the laundry van.
When Mr Rossiter threw out an incendiary bomb that had landed on his cottage in Midway Terrace he burnt his hands so badly he had to be taken to hospital. The ambulance lacked springs and Mrs Coles had to sit on end of his stretcher to keep it in place as they drove over the numerous hose pipes; most of Exeter was alight that night.
One night Mrs Coles was going home from The Lodge in the snow. The all clear had sounded. She noticed footprints in the snow that stopped on the bridge over the Alphin Brook. She also saw camouflaged hats and wondered if she should go back to The Lodge and report it. Suddenly, she heard a voice shouting,
The members of the ARP had to report for duty immediately the siren sounded warning every one of the approaching German bombers. One particular gentleman would cycle along the roads of the village shouting,
"Is that the siren I can hear".
The people standing outside their houses answered back,
"No, it is the all clear".
Apparently, he was always too late when reporting for duty.
Rescue practices were held on Sundays and teams could keep up to date with the latest methods and equipment at Peamore House. When the weather was really cold the cylinders on the Fire Engines would freeze and crack.
After the first big blitz on Plymouth the Alphington ambulance was called to Dunsford to pick up two German airmen who had been shot down. The pilot was badly burnt and the other airman had broken arms. A policeman and some Home Guard members gave the protection that was required.
On Remembrance Sunday in 1940 there was a parade of Home Guard, Special Constables, ARP and British Legion Members that passed through the village.
Alphington paid special thanks to Dr Foulkes, Dr and Mrs Craig (The Lodge) for the lectures, the comforts of the offices and rest rooms. They also thanked Mr and Mrs S Daw of Alden Farm for all the cups of tea. No matter how many times the siren sounded and whether it was day or night Mr and Mrs Daw were always there with a brew up.
The Air Raids
It was quite common for people from different families to gather in one persons house while the air raids were taking place. In one particular house the head of the household always sat under the stairs. He would never allow any one else there, not even the cat in case it purred and the gentleman mistook it for a German plane overhead. The rest of the people in the house had to shelter under a sturdy table. Incidentally, underneath this staircase there were jars and jars of pickled eggs all stacked neatly on shelves.
Other villagers would walk from the village up Shillingford Hill into Markhams Lane and sit in the hedge until the all clear sounded.
People from the City of Exeter also walked to the village and up Mill Lane to get as far away from bombs as possible.
Fire watchers would gather in the area where Veitch Nurseries use to be situated. They were armed with stirrup pumps, which they used to put out the incendiary bombs.
A land mine exploded on Marsh Barton and the crater was so large you could have fitted six double decker buses into it.
High explosives and incendiary bombs also fell on Marsh Barton. A crater a few hundred yards from Devonia Terrace was filled in. However, a much larger crater a few fields away was left and eventually filled with water. It became home to an abundance of pond life. The field where this crater was situated became known as Crater Field.
The Cottage situated in Ide Lane opposite the entrance to Midway Terrace was hit by a stick of incendiary bombs and the straw forming the thatched rood had to be dragged off into Ide Lane to help control the fire. The building was completely gutted and the walls were levelled to about six to seven foot to make it safe.
Fires started by incendiaries in two houses in Shillingford Hill, one was easily put out. The second incendiary bomb went through the roof of another house and landed in a feather bed and was smothered by the feathers. A few days later the lady of the house returned home to discover the mess.
A German aircraft was brought down near Ide Lane and one of the German airmen was held at the policeman's house in Devonia Terrace.
German bombers flew over the village on their way to bomb Exeter.
Rows of buses, ambulances and fire engines would park in Alphington's Lanes each evening.
After the raid on Exeter on the 4th May 1942 many homeless families were seen walking along Church Road carrying what ever they had salvaged and could carry from their bombed out homes. All the villagers made their homes available to provide help and accommodation for those bombed out, many Alphington houses were very crowded.
Also after this raid a chared piece of the Lord's Prayer were found on a garden path of Devonia Terrace.
Ack Ack Guns
An ack ack gun stood where Raglans is today and in the mornings following the nights that the gun had been fired the Dawlish Road would be littered by shrapnel that had fallen from the shells. Villagers would go out and collect it as mementos.
There were also gun emplacements in the corner of The Elms and at the Cowick Lane-Alphington Road junction. Tank blocks also stood across the lane in this area.
Evacuees to Alphington
A survey was made of the houses in the village in order to find suitable accommodation for the evacuees. Members of the WI cut out and made almost 100 nightdresses and pyjamas for the evacuees.
The first evacuees arrived from London in September 1939.
In July 1940 more evacuees arrived from the Parish Church School of Croydon.
In the early part of 1941 two parties of evacuees arrived from Bristol.
Dig for Victory
Women were working on the land harvesting fruit and vegetables and also at local nurseries. Some of the nurseries were: Wills, Physick, Pike, Mitchells (the Canal banks) and Grimes. Jam making and fruit packing was carried out in the village hall.
On Thursday 18th December 1941 a talk was given at The Institute at 3pm entitled 'A Garden goes to War'. Villagers learnt how to make use of every inch of ground on which to grow vegetables.
In 1943 a gift of vegetables seeds arrived in the village from Canada and those with gardens drew lots for a chance to win a packet.
In 1940 Mrs R. K. Foulkes started a Spitfire fund.
At one time during the War the Army were exercising in the village. They placed a large gun on the Green and fired a blank, all the windows in the old school situated opposite the Green shattered.
Prisoners of war
The garden of Osborne Cottage was large covering the site where a well-known supermarket stands today. During the War German prisoners worked in the grounds. One of them was a young chap called Hugo and they all came from a camp at Whitstone. One year the residents of Osborne Cottage invited these prisoners to Christmas dinner.
The end of the War - VE day celebrations
VE Day was celebrated in the village by the ringing of Alphington Church's bell, bonfires and a free dance at The Institute. Jack Sanders supplied the ice cream
All the families of Cross View and Devonia Terrace held a party on the Green behind their houses to celebrate the end the war in Europe. There was a massive spread of food on trestle tables and a large bonfire. The heat from the fire was so great that the window in the nearby policeman's office cracked.
In 1946 the victory celebrations continued with a fancy dress parade, sports, a comic football match and teas and food.
Alphington's War Memorial
A Parish meeting had been called 'to inaugurate a scheme for a war memorial' in Alphington on 26th May 1919. The meeting was attended by about 70 people and the Rector, as Chairman of the Parish Council' took the chair.
The Chairman gave a short opening speech in which he 'reminded the meeting of the ready response the Parish had made to fight in the cause of Freedom, Justice and Truth in the Great War. Alphington has reason to be very thankful that so many have returned but the memory of those who have made the Great Sacrifice, must be perpetuated.'
Many suggestions were made as to the form the memorial should take. In the end it was decided that a cross should be erected on The Green and also a tablet produced showing the names of those who had died in the service of their country. A Committee was elected to go into the details of the scheme.
It was decided that the head of the memorial cross would be formed by a head of an old Devon cross that Mr T. Wippell had found while alterations had been done to his garden. An expert had told him at the time that it was a genuine old cross at least 500 years old. I(t was proposed to erect this old cross head on a shaft on three or four steps. Mr Herbert Read was consulted about the design and position. Fund raising then started.
Copyright © Rowena Kirkpatrick