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15 October 2014
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The St Marychurch Bombing — 30th May 1943

by Torbay Libraries

Contributed by 
Torbay Libraries
People in story: 
Mrs Jean Carhart
Location of story: 
St Marychurch, Torquay, Torbay
Background to story: 
Article ID: 
Contributed on: 
07 December 2004

This story was submitted to the People's War site by Paul Trainer of Torbay Library Services on behalf of Mrs Jean Carhart and has been added to the site with her permission. The author fully understand's the site's Terms and Conditions.

In her story, Mrs Carhart recounts what it was like being part of the most notorious event of Torbay's war.

I had two brothers in the RAF and a younger brother of only 3. I was 10 at the time.

The morning of 30 May 1943, I had finished my household duties for mother and got ready for Sunday school in the afternoon. As I left the house my mother called “Are you taking your brother?” I said “No, I am walking with my friends after Sunday school," and off I went.

I arrived at Sunday school just before 3.00pm and had just sat on the end pew when the sirens sounded and someone shouted “Duck!”. I saw a flash at the stained glass window before I managed to dive into the upright at the end of the pew. However, I couldn’t get my legs in as well. The whole church collapsed in on us - apart from the tower - and in the rubble I remember holding hands with a friend of mine that was buried even deeper. There was dust and debris everywhere.

I was one of the first to be rescued because my legs were near the surface of the rubble but I had been there for an hour. I was asked if I would like to go to the WVS centre which was a hotel opposite the church, namely the “George Hotel”. I declined and walked home with the WVS lady as I just wanted to get home. From the four avenues where I lived (First, Second, Third and Main Avenue) a pair of twins, a boy and a girl, were killed in my avenue and another girl killed in Third Avenue. Altogether 21 children died that day and 3 Sunday school teachers. The brother I did not take with me to Sunday school that day became Britain's number one tennis player and also entered the Guinness Book of Records with the fastest serve in the world — Mike Sangster.

Other Torquay war time recollections:

I attended West Hill school and I can remember the sirens going and running to the shelters in the play ground. In the shelters we used to sing until the all clear.

I remember school holidays and being on Torre Abbey Sands. We heard the sirens and cowered against the sea wall. There was machine gun fire.

I can remember queuing at Woolworths for broken biscuits on a Saturday morning, perhaps for two hours!

I was the Devon and Cornwall high jump champion for five years - my first pair of shorts were made out of black out material!

My father worked at the Imperial Hotel for 37 years and was Head Porter throughout the war. I went to tea at the Imperial twice with Mrs D’Arcy (the Queen's cousin) as I had been buried during the St Mary Church bombing.

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This story has been placed in the following categories.

Air Raids and Other Bombing Category
Devon Category
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