Let me introduce myself. I am Pierre Logghe. I was a Belgian refugee during the war, in Brixham. I can consider myself a Brixham boy. I first went to the National School in Bolton Street, then went later to Furzeham School in the afternoon and the Belgian School in the morning. I was 11 years old when the war broke out.
On Wednesday 15 July 1940, I happened to be present at the bombing of the London City (mentioned by Bruce Peeke in his article). A friend and I were on the beach, at the beginning of the breakwater when we saw a twin-engine plane diving at us. We plunged under a stone staircase. All this happened in five seconds. We heard an explosion, and creeping from under the stairs we saw black smoke rising from the London City and could see she was sinking. To give a reference to the time, this happened at midday because we normally had our dinner at 12.o’clock and I lived at 25 King Street and had to be home for dinner. That was our first bomb after our escape and the bombardment we passed through in Dieppe.
A month later, we went to live in Overgang Street. The London City was refloated in 1941 and a few days later bombed. But the bombs passed through her after deck, and out through the stern without damaging her seriously. In 1942, the Belgian School had a classroom in the cloakroom of the Town Hall. We were having a French lesson when we heard bombs falling. Our teacher was so afraid that he left us so we ran to the harbour to see what happened and there was the London City sinking with a gap in her side where the engine room was.
On Monday 19 May 1940 while I was again attending the Belgian School (this time in a room in the Sunday School of the Baptist Church). we heard explosions and smelt gas. Everyone left the school and I had to scramble over the brick-strewn Middle Street. One bomb fell near the gas tank which began to leak.; another fell on the off-licence in Fore Street, killing the parents of a National School friend of mine. When I lived in Overgang Street, the planes flew at the height of our cellar window when they flew in, following the line of the New Road. They attacked the shipyard with poor results.
Only one time bomb fell on Brixham. During the night, we were awakened by the siren and we went to shelter in an old shed built into the rocks on the street. A German bomber passed by and later on the all-clear sounded and we went home. An explosion was heard in the morning and a row of houses on the other side of the harbour to where we lived was damaged. I remember too being woken up in the night by the explosion in Furzeham.
Once, I was with my father and other fishermen on the Overgang Steps (where the Customs and Harbour Master’s offices were). It was in the afternoon when suddenly four yellow-nosed Heinkels came into view, dropping bombs on the ships lying at anchor. Everyone went behind the wall; when we peered over it we saw a sinking fishing boat nearby. Another vessel, which had been moored alongside a fishing smack, was now without masts and the mast of the other smack was sticking out of the water. Luckily, my father’s ship was far from where the bombs dropped. As it was high water, some boats in the inner harbour started their engines and put themselves on each side of the sinking N45. Passing steel wires under the damaged vessel, they brought her into the inner harbour. They then brought in the fishing boat without its mast.On board was the owner, who, with his son, had been working on the engine at the very moment the bomb exploded on the smack which had been alongside. The boat without masts never sailed again. It was docked in the inner harbour in front of the inner pier, and later, during another aeroplane attack, a bomb fell in front opening all the planks. I remember a friend of ours who lived in the New Road in front of the paint works. He was afraid and moved to the Parkham Road to be safer, and later on, a bomb fell in front of the house where he lived but in the lower part near Bolton Street, without causing any damage.
Three times, German planes gunned my father while he was fishing, but the last time was the worst. My father’s ship was the O.280 Pierre, War Number 128 – previously it had been the old Brixham smack BM1 Superb. He saw the German planes passing and entering the River Dart. A moment later, they were back and unfortunately he was in their path. When he saw the planes coming he rushed below deck; there was the sound of cannon fire and the motor started running on one cylinder and water was flooding the ship. Coming up on deck. he found half of the mast shot away and a hole in the hull just on the waterline. My father had, by way of precaution, made a sort of shelter on the fore deck by placing iron ballast ingots. These ingots slipped to the starboard side, causing the ship to list, so the hole on the port side came above the water level. They were then able to plug this hole with a wooden tap they used to close the screw shaft when in repair. On another Belgian ship, the skipper had, that same day, run for cover from the helm and lost his leg – he died later in hospital. Two ships were lost through mines and the third by an explosion in their net; they managed to get to shore but their boat then sank.
Harold Wood celebrated his 100th birthday on the 16th of February 2019. Here he recalls his wartime service in the Royal Canadian Airforce specialising in radar defences around the coast of the UK, arriving in Brixham to help with the D-Day preparations.
My mother and I walked down to Bolton Cross to see what was going on and saw all the GIs in jeeps, tanks, bulldozers and ducks making their way down Fore Street to the harbour. I can remember their faces and their looks, not laughing, cheering faces we had seen before as they passed; their faces were sad and grim. Some did wave, knowing maybe they were going to their deaths.