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Second World War (1939-1945)

We have collected our information about Thornbury during World War Two from a wide variety of sources.  There are various memorials around Thornbury to those who gave their lives and websites that give details about the the war record of many local people, generally men, who served in the armed forces.   However we have also tried to collect details from newspapers of the time and from personal accounts about the day-to-day life of the civilian population, from rationing to fire-fighting.   People came into Thornbury at this time in surprisingly large numbers, official and unofficial refugees, soldiers and prisoners of war.   We have made extensive use of the Gloucester Archives for research on those topics as we have for so much more.

Soldiers, Seamen and Airmen – snippets of information about people from Thornbury and the surrounding areas who served in the armed forces during the Second World War.   Click here to read more

St Mary’s Church War Memorial – we have transcribed the names listing the Thornbury men killed from the memorial in the Church.  You can click on any of the underlined names to read what we know about each person and his family.  Click here to read the names

Thornbury Grammar School – Thornbury Grammar School had to make changes as war broke out.  Small examples of the effects of war are noticeable in the school magazine ‘The Thornburian’.  The issue for 1941 was greatly delayed and when it was published it lacked a cover and the number of pages had diminished.  Paper rationing came into force with the outbreak of war in September 1939 and gradually became stricter.  By 1941 Speech Day presentations were also affected as books could no longer be given as prizes.

Some events were forced to cancel as they took place in the evening and not all rooms could be effectively ‘blacked out’ in accordance with the new regulations.

The boys began to be involved in filling and carrying sandbags for the air raid shelters built in the Combe next to the school.   Boys also helped in the Home Guard and A.R.P.  The girls apparently were more employed in more lady like activities.  They were attending a session on Tuesdays after school to knit useful garments for the Old Thornburians in the forces.  Both sexes however were involved in fire watching and all were encouraged to join the National Savings Scheme and to collect Waste Paper.

In response to the ‘Grow More Food’ scheme implemented by the government the boys formed a gardening club and took over some of the school’s land for growing vegetables.  The upper area of the school grounds was fenced off to pasture sheep, apparently at least in part to save the use of petrol in mowing the grass,

The staff began to change as more of the male teachers went to serve in the armed forces or government establishments.

More seriously ‘ The Thornburian’ began to list the former pupils known to have enlisted and those who were killed or taken prisoner as a result.  The issue printed in July 1945 lists the former pupils of the school who were serving in the services and those who had been killed at that time.  These were listed under the branch of the service in which they served.   Read the names listed in The Thornburian

A Memorial Clock was erected on the outside of the building facing the playing field and a memorial tablet was erected in the former Thornbury Grammar School listing the names of the Old Thornburians who had perished in the War.   Read about those listed on the Memorial

The Maritime Regiment – the unit known locally as ‘the Maritime Regiment’ had its headquarters in Kyneton House, Kington.  Several properties in and around the town were used by the Regiment for accommodation and training between 1941 and 1945 when the unit was disbanded.  Thornbury & District Museum has on display a 6th Regiment Roll of Honour which carries the names of 181 dead.  This was formerly displayed at Kyneton House until the closure of Westwing School in 2001, and is a copy of an original which hung in Thornbury parish church until 1980.

We have an account of the Maritime Regiment written by Mr. E. Frank Biddle, a well known Thornbury resident who served with the Regiment during the War.  Click here to read that account

We also have two papers written by Adrian Rose who spent many years researching the history of the Regiment.  The first paper provides a general background to the Army’s defence of merchant shipping during the Second World War. Click here to read that document

Adrian’s second paper describes the Regiment’s impact on Thornbury and the surrounding areas.  Click here to read that document

Tortworth Court –   outside of Thornbury Tortworth Court played an interesting roll during the war years.  At the start of the war the 5th Earl Ducie who owned Tortworth Court was resident in Australia.  It seems that he first offered the property to the Royal Australian Navy as a hospital.  The offer was initially accepted but Commonwealth troops were sent elsewhere for their treatment.  The Royal Navy took it over in 1940 and it became known as H.M.S. Cabbala.  We understand that it was a secret signals  and  and coding training establishment.  We have read on the internet that ‘secrecy was so tight that the daily “Colours” ceremony (hoisting the ensign ) was conducted in what is now the hotel reception area so as not to be seen by the public.’

Doreen Cooksley has also told us that landing craft called ‘ducks’ were tested on Tortworth Lake.  It seems that they were either built or tested in a purpose built shed on the edge of the lake.

In 1942 HMS Cabbala was relocated to Lowton St. Mary’s in Lancashire.  The house was then taken over by American servicemen.   A hospital was built in the grounds (staff were housed in the Court itself) and there the American wounded from the North African campaigns were treated.  We understand that ‘on the 26th November 1943 the 91st and 128th Evacuating Hospital Units arrived with hundreds of wounded from the North African Campaign. ‘  Trains would arrive at Charfield and Thornbury  full of wounded Americans.  From June 1944 until March 1945 other American General Hospital units, including 224th and 225th, were temporarily stationed in Tortworth Court.  The Americans also had a hospital at Frenchay and after the war they donated their equipment to England.  Equipment left at Tortworth Court was apparently sent over to Frenchay.

Home Front

Civil Defence – we have collected information about the groups providing first aid, fire and rescue services and even hot meals to local people under the threat of bombing and perhaps invasion.  T