Places with Second World War connections in the South West

From Agatha Christie's holiday home, which was requisitioned by the US Coastguard, to coastal defences, several places we look after in the South West played an important role during the Second World War.

The library at Greenway in South Devon

Greenway, Devon

Greenway was requisitioned during the Second World War and used first to house child evacuees, and then from 1944 to 1945 by the US Coastguard in the run up to the D Day landings. In the Library there's a souvenir of this time; a frieze painted by Lt Marshall Lee, a member of the US Coast Guard stationed at the house. In the garden an air raid shelter is still intact.

A coastal meadow with a row of old oak trees dips down to the Helford River

Glendurgan Garden, Cornwall

Trebah beach, on the North Helford coastline, was where American troops departed for Normandy on D-Day. Many wartime relics remain along the coastline, including gun emplacements and pill boxes.

Second World War concrete dragon's teeth defences at Studland Beach, Dorset

Studland Beach, Dorset

Studland Beach was used as a training area for troops before D-Day. The marks of this chapter in its history still remain, including the Fort Henry observation bunker and devices built to foil a German invasion such as ‘dragon’s teeth’ anti-tank defences and pill boxes.

A picture of the grass path leading through the flowers and peat terraces of the garden in the wood at Knightshayes

Knightshayes, Devon

Knightshayes became a USAAF Rest Home in 1944, with space for 40 officers from the 1st Bomb Division. The grounds also served as an airfield for two small military spotter planes attached to the army artillery unit whose staff headquarters were based here. It became customary for those who had convalesced at Knightshayes to fly over the estate and dip their wing as a salute. On 1 May 1945, Lieutenant Albin Zychowski, set out to fly over Knighthayes and tip the wing of his P47 Thunderbolt in a 18 strong plane formation, but tragedy struck when his plane clipped the top of a tall pine in the grounds. The pilot's parents sent roses to be planted at the base of the tree he hit, which inspired what is now the 'garden in the wood.'

Replica Dig for Victory allotment at Trengwainton, Cornwall

Trengwainton, Cornwall

Trengwainton played host to the Women's Land Army during the war. Every available green space was given over to food production and in one year 40 tonnes of rhubarb were grown. A Dig for Victory allotment has been recreated in the orchard (complete with replica Anderson shelter).

The Coastwatch station at Froward Point in Devon

Brownstone Battery, Devon

Brownstone Battery is one of the few surviving Second World War coastal defence positions. It was built in 1940 to protect the Dart Estuary and nearby beaches Slapton and Blackpool Sands, and manned by up to 300 soldiers. Their time was spent training and waiting for an invasion that never happened.

The air raid shelter constructed from concrete at East Pool Mine

East Pool Mine, Cornwall

At East Pool Mine, the air raid shelter made from concrete during the Second World War is still very much evident. If you look closely at the shelter, you can see how the concrete structure was reinforced inside by drill bits. Not drill bits from your local hardware store, but the kind that drilled rock in the mine.

Second World War inspection pit at Saltram

Saltram, Devon

Devon played a key role in the Allied preparations for D-Day and a WWII Sherman Tank inspection pit still survives on the Serpentine Walk at Saltram. It was built by American troops stationed at mansion during WW II, and there is still evidence of graffiti carved in the stone by GIs. The area has now been surrounded by a hedge made up of North American scented Osmanthus to commemorate the US presence.

Churchill serving in France

More places with Second World War connections 

From coastal defences to the sites of secret wartime operations, find out how some of our places in the rest of the country were involved during the Second World War, and see some of our wartime collections.

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As a charity, we rely on donations. With our places temporarily closed, vital funding has disappeared. Your donation will help us look after special houses and collections for everyone, for ever.