On Remembrance Day, Sunday 12th November, a parade and service was held at Torquay War Memorial in Princess Gardens to remember all those who died during the wars. The plaques on the cenotaph list the names of 609 people killed during WWI and 454 for WW2.
Both wars caused death and destruction in Torbay. During WW1 many hotels were used as hospitals and convalescent homes to provide help for injured servicemen. In 1914 a Red Cross hospital with 50 beds opened in Torquay’s town hall. One of the volunteer nurses was author Agatha Christie who also later worked in the hospital’s dispensary – it was here that she learned about poisons. The first casualties, eight British officers and 40 wounded men, arrived by train at Torre Station.
Oldway Mansion in Paignton, originally home to the Singer family of the sewing machine dynasty, became a hospital for wounded soldiers. Queen Mary visited the hospital in November 1914. During the course of the war more than 5,000 men were treated at Oldway.
In January 1915 the battleship HMS Formidable was torpedoed by a German U-boat (submarine). More than 500 of the crew drowned, but some escaped in small boats. A small Brixham trawler called the Provident was in the area of Berry Head and despite having a small crew, including a boy; they saved 71 men who had served on the battleship. They were presented with the Albert Medal for gallantry by King George V at Buckingham Palace.
Also in 1915, King George V and Queen Mary visited the Red Cross hospital and met with British soldiers who had fought in France and Gallipoli.
In 1918 the RAF used an air balloon located at the old fort at Berry Head to look out for enemy submarines and ships. If enemy vessels were spotted they were reported to Royal Naval ships.
On 11th November 1918 there was an agreement to end the war between the Germans and the Allies, and the armistice was signed at Compiègne in France.
World War ll broke out in 1939 and Torbay prepared for invasion by building machine-gun posts and pillboxes along the coastline.
From 1939 many children arrived from London and during the early part of 1941 evacuees flocked into Torquay from as these cities were being heavily bombed.
Most of the major hotels in Torquay were taken over for military use, and in 1940 Oldway Mansion in Paignton was used for housing and training the RAF.
In April 1941 Torquay had its first serious air raid; the same time as the Plymouth Blitz. The chief air raid warden’s house in the Warberries was destroyed and two of his children killed.
The Palace Hotel in Torquay was used as a convalescent hospital and training facility for RAF officers. It was bombed in October 1942 and was severely damaged, causing 19 deaths and 43 casualties.
In May 1943 an air raid damaged many buildings including Oldway. In St Marychurch children were attending a service at the parish church and 21 children were killed during the attack. A memorial can be seen in the Torquay cemetery.
In June 1944, the military prepared for Operation Overlord, codename for The Battle of Normandy. American troops had arrived to train and prepare for the invasion of Europe. Torquay and Brixham harbours played a vital role, and in Torquay two steep concrete ramps were built to enable American servicemen and their equipment to be easily loaded onto boats. Thousands of men of the American 4th Infantry Division left Torbay by boat and headed to Utah Beach in Normandy. This day became known as D-Day.
By the end of May 1944, Torbay had been subjected to 642 alerts and 23 raids. As a result of these raids, 168 people were killed and 158 were seriously injured with 332 wounded. A total of 137 buildings were destroyed and more than 13,000 damaged.
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