Honouring artillery hut and nearby defence battery wall and bunker
- Credit: Submitted
It was the Brixham Town Council who contacted Torbay Civic Society about putting a Blue Plaque on a monument, after they had been approached by retired Captain of the Royal Army Educational Corps Mr J R Robinson, Robbie to his friends, who founded the Brixham Battery Heritage Group in 1992.
Although the majority of Torbay Civic Society's plaques tend to commemorate or honour a famous person in Torbay, a few are unveiled to honour a church or a famous building - one a viaduct - although this latest would honour an artillery hut and its nearby defence battery wall and bunker, some parts of which dated back to the 16th century.
That was a time when Britain was under threat from the Spanish and later the French in the Napoleaonic era.
Modern day coastal defence seemed vital again in the 20th century when the defence wall, bunker and other premises were used as a coast and harbour defence battery during the World War Two.
Today, the defences may still be viewed near the public car park on Fishcombe Road, Brixham.
At the end of World War Two, the coast and harbour defence battery achieved Grade II -listed building status from English Heritage, who viewed the site as an historic monument.
The Brixham World War Two Coast and Harbour Defence Battery and Artillery Training Hut - now more often referred to as simply the Brixham Battery - is today a museum and heritage centre fully run by volunteers and open most afternoons, subject to current Covid restrictions.
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It was Robbie who wrote the history for Torbay Civic Society pamphlet, given out freely to all who attended the unveiling event in November 2014.
With the chairman of Brixham Council, Paul Addison, and Robbie fronting the ceremony on a rainy morning, fortunately a large number of hardy souls turned up from the Heritage Group, the public and the civic society, to witness the formal unveiling at 11am on November 10, 2014.
All then moved inside to see the various sights of what turned out to be a huge quantity of memorabilia and documents to view. Inside the main hut we were addressed by Robbie and others, with a little background of the history of the site and the formation of the Heritage Group.
We learned that outside there was a replica six-pounder French Hotchkiss gun in a bunker plus a second gun, a No 2 122mm Japanese built gun (Vickers Armstrong) in the emplacement building, giving ranges of six miles, potentially able to protect the whole of Torbay although thankfully neither gun had ever been fired 'in anger'.
We also learned that after the British evacuated Dunkirk there were few resources left for World War Two, and that it had been Prime Minister Winston Churchill who suggested a volunteer service be established around Britain.
That spawned the Local Defence Volunteers which became The Home Guard.
George Lidstone's excellent local publication On Guard recognises the LDV was established for a specific purpose when he writes: "Even the most optimistic agreed that in the days of Dunkirk the most we could do was to delay the enemy, to give the regulars, hastily reforming after their withdrawal from Belgium valuable breathing space. Had the Hun arrived the LDVs would have gone into battle with nothing but faith in the right, broomsticks, shotguns, and a calculated determination to obtain the scalp of at least one German parachutist."
The Home Guard was extremely important in Torbay, and today a permanent monument adorns Corbyn Head, Livermead.
The Civic Society helped establish this memorial in 2005 and always said it ought to have been named a National Monument as, in fact, it was the first monument to honour the British Home Guard.
Meanwhile, our two hours with the Brixham Battery volunteers were seen by all as educational and enjoyable in spite of most awful weather.
A pamphlet about Brixham Coast and Harbour Defence Battery may be obtained by sending stamps to the value of 50p plus a stamped addressed envelope to Torbay Civic Society, 1 Palace Avenue Business Centre, 4 Palace Avenue, Paignton TQ3 3HA.