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Sep 13

A Civilians wartime memory of Dunkeswell

Jim Board of Colyton  was a civilian wartime veteran of Dunkeswell.

He first gave an account of an eye injury as a teenager – caused by some larking about boys which landed him in the South Street, Exeter Eye Infirmary during the Blitz of 1942. He described a terrible raid which resulted in one hundred and sixteen deaths, the Infirmary being used as an over-spill mortuary. Next day he went out into the streets and couldn’t believe the devastation. Much of the most historic parts had been completely and indiscriminately destroyed.

As a sixteen year old lad he was employed by a local company who had the contract to prepare the airfield for the American occupation.
Nothing though could have prepared Jim for sights he was to witness in his time there.

A Liberator landed once without landing gear – the sparks flying. Immediately – a fire crew jeep went screaming out onto the runway, hit a drain cover, catapulted up into the air somersaulting several times before landing and killing the four American occupants. (Not the only American jeep fatalities which I know of in the area)

On another occasion he witnessed a pilot step out in front of his plane to see it suddenly blow up and completed engulf him in flames – totally incinerating him. As Jim summed up – ‘I went there as a boy and left as a man.’

Haunting memories which I’m sure will be encapsulated in his book – ‘River Runs By’.

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