Author Archives: woolacombemortehoevoice

Richard James Trebble 1926-1945

Richard James Trebble was born in 1926 to Arthur and Minnie of Woolacombe. The family lived at WaveCrest.

Richard along with his friends, Ray Easterbrook, Alf Yeo, Jeff Skinner and Jack Watts joined the Marine Cadets, which they attended in Ilfracombe each week.  Richard gained some publicity in the local press when he was awarded the Flight Lietenant, Michael Potier Memorial Prize:

“Woolacombe is proud of Cadet Richard Trebble on his being awarded the Flight-Lieut. Michael Potier Memorial Prize as the outstanding cadet of the year of Ilfracombe No. 722 Squadron the Air Training Corps. Mr. S, B. Tatton (head master of Ilfracombe Grammar School, to which the A.T.C. is attached said that Richard Trebble was a foundation member of the school Flight. He came in at the start and had proved himself to be one of the most loyal Cadets, having to make his attendance from Woolacombe. 

Despite travelling difficulties. Trebble had been most regular in attendance, had gained his proficiency certificate and had been promoted to the rank of sergeant. He was keen and cheerful lad, and had carried out his duties in a manner that was a credit to himself; he was great asset to the Flight. Having been accepted by the R.A.F. for aircrew duties, he was now awaiting his call-up. The prize was presented to Sergt. Trebble by the donor. Mr. O. E. Potior, who congratulated him on the success of his training and wished him the best of luck when he joined the R.A.F.”

Sadly only months later Air Gunner Richard Trebble was lost at sea on the last day of war, he had been officially reported missing during a routine flight. The Lancaster Bomber was on a local familiarisation flight lasting only 2.5 hours, the details of what happened are not known, however the seven airman on board were reported missing. Richard is believed to have been tragically lost at sea on his first flight on reconnaissance over the North Sea

In 1946 Mr & Mrs Trebble received an official communication from the Air Ministry “in view of the lapse of time and the absence of further information regarding your son Sergt. R. J. Trebble, since the date on which he was reported missing we very regretfully conclude that he lost his life and death has now been presumed for official purposes to have occurred on 30th October 1945. 

In 1946, the North Devon Journal contained a memorial to Richard: “Fond remembrance of Sergeant Air Gunner Richard James Trebble, Royal Air Force, who failed to return from a practice flight on the 30th October 1945.  In June 1948, a reredos, altar, altar cross and candlesticks were dedicated at St Sabinus Church, Woolacombe in memorial to the men of the parish who lost their lives during the second world war. The candlesticks were a memorial to Richard Trebble and Derek Worth.

Of interest, Richard’s brother Hugh also served during the war years, causing the family much distress and concern when they did not hear from him for some time, it was later learnt that he had been taken to a prisoner of war camp by the Japanese.

In 1944, they received the happiest news to start the new year, in the form of a postcard from their son, Hugh who had been serving in the RAF and had been taken a prisoner of war. Before serving, he had worked as a  reporter with the North Devon Herald, this postcard was the first written message that his parents had received from him.  It had been written a year previously. “My health is excellent, I am constantly thinking of you. It will be wonderful when we meet again. Good-bye, God Bless you. Don’t worry about me. I hope all is well. My love to all; keep smiling’ A further letter sent in 1945, was sent from a Bombay hospital:

“After reaching hospital he was delighted to find placed on his bed half a dozen copies of the Journal Herald! They provided much needed tonic after so long in a Japanese prisoner of war camp,” he stated “much to my surprise, in one of the editions I found that I was in the news, mention of the fact that I had been released from the Japanese. 

Olin Dows A United States Army artist who served during World War II in Woolacombe

“Images are my language”

Olin Dows 1963

Olin Dows was born in 1904 in New York, educated at Harvard’s Department of Fine Arts and later at Yale’s Students League. By his own admission he wanted to paint from when he was 12 years of age and throughout his life would achieve this dream. During his years attending Harvard (1922-25)  he studied art, architectural drawing and portraits – the latter being a skill that would set him up for his future career.

When the Second World War swept across the globe, Olin became a war artist and was one of the few artists commissioned by the American War Department to create drawing impressions of both combat and noncombat in various parts of the world. He would go on to serve in Europe from 1942 until the end of the War in 1945.

Enlisting in the US Army in June 1943, Olin was stationed in Maryland and sent to Officer training school. But he willingly gave this up to become a war artist in Europe. 

He was appointed to be the head of a group of artists who would go on to serve in England. Stationed in Woolacombe, his North Devon assignment was to document scenes of basic training and American troops preparing for combat.

Woolacombe beach was used by the US Assault Training centre, to train soldiers in the art of  amphibious assault tactics. All they learned there would be put to use when they were thrown onto the Normandy beaches on D-Day, 6th June 1944. Those training exercises were captured in Olin’s work ‘On the way to the assault boats, ‘LST landing training’ and many others. 

As he went into battle himself in Normandy, Olin was reported to have taken with him a notebook, a fountain pen, a camera and a carbine. He stayed with his division as it fought through France and Germany, before it finally linked up with the Soviet army. 

Following the war an exhibition of his work titled ‘The Army at War’ toured the United States. 


Morthoe Bay, Morte Point, Rockham Bay, and Bull Point, have an evil repute in the sailors’s log. It has been buoyed with such warning as might serve to caution ships making for the Bristol Channel to give it wide berth and rather anchor at Lundy than risk too close an acquaintance with Morte Stone, or Woolacombe Sands, there is now to be stationed there a life-boat. 

The boat itself, is the gift of the Bristol captains in the African Trade who have “ clubbed together,” for theirs and others’ lives imperilled on the rugged coast. On Saturday the presence of the boat at Bristol gave occasion for grand holiday, at which thousands of people turned out. The boat has been named the Jack-a-Jack, so called after the African station where the movement was first originated about four years ago. They have also contributed towards the boat-house that has been erected Morthoe for the life boat  . 

Agrand procession was formed of sailors, soldiers, and civilians. The lifeboat herself, hoisted on her transporting and launching carriage high above the many-headed crowd, formed the focus of the picture, with Union Jack, ensign, and National Institution flag flying, and crew with their cork life-jackets on, their “peaked oars,.”

The boat-carriage was horsed by a team of splendid draught horses, which drew the eight or ten tons weight up Parkstreet with comparative ease. The public “ reception “ given to the boat was certainly a most gratifying one. 

The procession arrived at the Zoological Gardens in Clifton, where the ceremony of launching took place in the artificial lake. Mr. W. P. King made a vigorous speech at the “giving away “ of the boat. The seamen from Bristol, he said, know full well of the dangers of the beach, and, anxious to rescue those wrecked, have been doing their utmost to collect for the lifeboat to be placed on Morte Bay. 

No doubt they would be glad to have such a boat as Jack-a-Jack, but the difficulty is that no such Christian spirited and self-devoted people could be found as we have on the coast of Devon to take their share in the work of benevolence. 

Captains sailing from Bristol to the coast of Africa, as none of them never hope and few expect to be placed in such circumstances as to need the assistance of the lifeboat Jack-a-Jack. They feel that it belongs to the position that the African trade holds in Bristol (more ships go out from Bristol to Africa than to any other part of the world) to place a lifeboat on the coast of Morte Bay. 

Amidst ringing cheers the ceremony was completed. Rockets were sent when the launch was completed, and a salute was fired from the guns of the Artillery Corps, the multitude which must have numbered many thousands, then left the Gardens. 

Friday, the 17th of March, must henceforth be reckoned one of the red letter days the history of the village of Morte. It is presumed that there has not been so large a number of persons there at one time for many years.

The gift of a lifeboat, presented shipmasters and merchants of Bristol to be stationed at Morthoe, has caused a great deal of  excitement, in the usually quiet hamlet and culminated on Friday as general holiday among the inhabitants, who flocked to the shores of Woolacombe to witness the first landing and launch of the Jack-a-Jack. 

Numbers of sightseers were observed wending their way westward causing one to fancy that it was ‘race-day ‘ somewhere. On arriving at the lifeboat station at Woolacombe, the transporting carriage for the boat was found ready on the launching ways front of the boat-house. This building is of a substantial nature, and is of the pattern now generally adopted at all stations under the control of the National Lifeboat Institution.

At about 2.30 p.m. the Morte and Ilfracombe rocket carriages, appeared on the scene, of Morte being manned by members of the Morte Volunteer Life Saving comapny, whilst the coastguard, command of Lieut Williams, worked the one of ‘Combe. 

The former came directly to the beach, whilst the latter took up ground on the grassy point to the right. Shortly after this the boat rapidly pulled towards the intended landing place, and at exactly 3.30 the new boat first touched what must henceforward be called her own ground.

When the boat was fairly rehomed,  the carriage Capt. Ward made a short address to the bystanders. He said that before re-launching the boat it would be as well to say a few words reference the origination of her presentation. 

At this the scene of her first landing they were assembled to witness. It is a matter of regret that at present there was not sufficient number of skilled boatmen living in Morte to form a crew, but that the llfracombe men were all times willing to come should their services be needed. Many vessels as they were doubtless aware had been lost in that locality.

The Bristol shipmasters had now therefore liberally defrayed the whole of the cost not only of the boat, but also of the building a boathouse amounting altogether to considerably over £700, thus leaving the locality responsible only for the future maintenance of the boat and he (Capt. Ward) did not doubt, that the inhabitants of Morte and the surrounding district would do their part. 

The somewhat strange name of Jack-a-Jack had been given to the boat at the request of the donors and was so given reason of its being the name of part of the African coast retorted to by traders chiefly of Bristol.

The National Lifeboat Institution now has boats within the neighbourhood, one at Ilfracombe and the one they had come to see. 

The photograph of the boat and crew, together with members of the committee and others was then taken by the Messrs. Catford after which the boat was launched and pulled a short distance seaward. 

There was some difficulty experienced with the horses as they objected to the water, and the crew had eventually to jump out and launch her themselves, assisted by the bystanders. The water, with the exception of a small breaker, was perfectly smooth. 

Whilst the boat was afloat the crews the rocket apparatus under the command Lieut. Williams, fired several rockets with the line attached seaward, and the whole process, showing the means by which life is saved with this excellent invention, was practically illustratad, several youngsters making an ariel voyage from the cliff to the beach, very much to their own delight and the amusement of the spectators. 

The boat was now replaced on her carriage and conveyed to the boathouse, after which cheers and were given for the boat, the donors, Capt. Ward, Local Committee and Sir Bruce Chichester who had most geuerously presented land for site for the house, and material for its construction. 

People Behind the Names Sub-Lieut Derek Worth 1920 – 1941

The Worth family lived in Woolacombe, Frederick, Derek’s father,  worked at the Woolacombe Bay Hotel during the second world war, as their own house had been taken over by the army when Woolacombe was used as a training base for the American Army.  The family had rooms in an annexe of the hotel, whilst their belongings were stored at nearby Watermouth Castle.

A wonderful feature in the BBC’s WW2 People’s War by ‘Woolacombe Girl’, recalls the family and how “Mr Worth proudly brought his son in his newley acquired Pilots Wings to talk to the young men soon to follow in his footsteps. Derek was always popular and highly regarded by his peers”.

Sadly in 1941 during a training excerise in Scotland, Derek would die in a terrible accident. The news was reported on the 27th November 1941 in the North Devon Journal:

Death of Sub-Lieut Derek Worth 

Woolacombe Parent’s Sad Bereavement.

“The parishoners of Mortehoe and Woolacombe extend sympathy in fullest measure to Mr. and Mrs. F. J. Worth of Devonia, Woolacombe in the loss through death of their only son Sub-Lieut Derek Worth of the Fleet Air Army, who gave his life in his country service. He was aged 21.”

His funeral a few weeks later conducted at Woolacombe’s parish church  was attended by the entire village and included a detachement of the Home Guard, Naval Air Arm, Special Police and regular forces.


In 1887 an event took place in Mortehoe that would be later reported in the press as ‘The Strange Proceedings at Mortehoe’, it would be a case that would end at the House of Commons and receive national press.

On the land where Ada’s Terrace now stands, opposite the Methodist Church, there used to be a small chapel and burial ground. This was owned at one time by Mr. T. Smith of Duckpool Farm, Mortehoe, the land having been given to his sister Mrs. M. Irwin of Dukes Cottage. It was she who had the chapel built, with the ground later being used for family graves. These can be seen in the far corner of the opposite picture. The land and chapel would later go on to be inherited by Mrs Irwin’s daughter, Mrs Agnes Coad, on the death of her mother.

Whilst in the ownership of Mrs Coad, it was discovered that the leasehold to the land was actually held by the Chichester Estate, and duly Mr and Mrs Coad tried to buy the land on which their chapel and graveyard were located.

In what became a very nasty dispute, the Chichester’s bailiffs decided that the Chichester Estate should have total possession of the land and what stood upon it, which in turn meant the chapel and the graves would have to removed. The shocking events that followed this, resulted in a case being taken to the House of Commons and later reported in the national press:

“It was reported by Mr and Mrs Coad that on the discovery that the leasehold belonged to the Chichester’s, that an agreement had been made many years previously between Mr. T. Smith and Sir Bruce Chichester, whereby Mr Smith exchanged some of his land for some of that belonging to Sir Chichester.

This land included that which the chapel and burial ground were sited, however as no paperwork verified this, Mr and Mrs Coad who had since inherited the chapel made attempt to buy or rent it from Miss Chichester.  The bailiffs for the Chichester’s refused these offers, and concluded that ‘the chapel must be pulled down for aesthetic reasons, and the buried must be dug up.”

A few days before Christmas an undertaker left Barnstaple at midnight with three coffins, arriving at the burial ground at two o’clock in the morning.When opening one of the graves, where a son and daughter lay, they found one of the new coffins was not large enough and after taking up the corpse, it had to be put back again into the existing grave. The other two bodies were carried to the parish churchyard, and left, above ground for two days before being buried.

In a report prepared for the House of Commons, Mr Coad’s statement read as follows:

“This is how it was done ; the bones of my dear wife’s mother were picked up and put into a bucket, and thus brought from the tomb. The coffins of my dear son and daughter were taken up, and then was found that one of the new coffins brought in at midnight from Barnstaple was not large enough, and the dear girl’s corpse was put back into the grave again.”

The House of Commons ruled that permission had been given to do this, in what was a heated argument, the disagreement was played out in the National Press for some time afterwards

Woolacombe, Mortehoe and The Chichester Family

The Chichester family had a strong and important connection with Woolacombe and Mortehoe. The family owned much of the North Devon Coastline including their home at Arlington Estate. Woolacombe beach and the surrounding land was owned by the Chichester family for over 800 years and was later sold to family friends or donated to the National Trust. Whislt the Manor of Mortehoe was bought by the Chichester’s on the 20th April 1618 from Hugh and Arthur Pollard for £600.

The family had many links to Woolaombe and Mortehoe, including their ‘Mortehoe Clothing Club’ set up Lady Chichester, the development and opening of Woolacombe School, the building of St Sabinus Church and the donation of Potters Hill and Morte Point to name just a few.

Annual Distribution of Clothes

Mortehoe Clothing Club was set up by Lady Chichester. On being asked about the club a local villager said “It is like this, if me or any of us poor folks put in a shilling a month and then the lady put in a sixpence to our shilling.  Yes ‘tis a great help for us that have got families and never could have any clothes otherwise. I have bought up nine of my twelve and I can assure you I have had enough to do.

The village treated it as a festival. “As Lady Chichester’s carriage approached, cannon were fired and the church bell set ringing. All the women belonging to the club and all the village school children met the carriage about a mile outside of Mortehoe and followed the procession, carrying evergreen branches along with flags and banners. Twenty sturdy mechanics then took the carriage horses out of their harnesses and physically hauled the carriage to the Chichester Arms public house in the village, on the way the passed under four arches stretched across the road, profusely decorated with evergreens and banners bearing suitable inscriptions.

A little later the actual distribution of the clothing took place ‘when all the demonstrations of rejoicing were renewed with still great hilarity. The village cannons were again discharged with ‘seven musketeers’ adding their well sustained volleys to the heavier metal, and a brass band from Braunton marched around the village playing as they went. 

The clothing was given out in a room in the public house along with tea and cake for all the club members. Lady Chichester, also gave every woman half a pound of tea ‘to keep Christmas at home’. 

The distribution of clothes over, the members of the club formed into sets of four and began dancing the ‘Brixham Reel’. This was an impromptu forerunner of what was to come later the same day. Over the door of the club house had been hung a notice ‘Lady Chichester invited the members of Mortehoe Clothing Club to meet her at Woolacombe this evening at eight o’clock at the ball’ The ball was held in the manor house which had been tastefully decorated and was lit by several chandelier’s.

St Sabinus Church


The original church of St Sabinus, was located where the current  Church car park is now situated and was known as the Iron Church. Prior to the building of the new church, worshippers attended services in a club room lent to them by the late Dowager, Lady Chichester of Arlington. 

The Iron Church was considered cold in the winter and insufferably hot in the summer, it soon became too crowded, and overflowed during the busier months as many visitors to the area would use the church. It was deemed time to build a new church on this site.

The new church was funded by Lady Chichester who gave the land for the building of the church. The foundation stone of the the new church was laid by Miss Chichester, the event was attended by a large number of residents, visitors and church goers. 

Woolacombe School

In 1916 the key to the school was presented to Miss Rosalie Chichester during the grand opening ceremony. The event was reported locally:

“The new County Council School, which was opened amid general rejoicings. It was quite in accordance with the fitness of things that the ceremony should have been performed by Miss Chichester, of Arlington Court, inasmuch as it is to this noble hearted lady that Woolacombe is indebted for the magnificent site on which the School stands. To the generosity of Miss Chichester, indeed beautiful Woolacombe owes largely the facts of its rapid development of late years; and it was only natural that in recognition thereof the warmest of tributes should have been paid to her in Saturday’s proceedings.”

Amid rousing cheers Miss Chichester proceed to unlock the main door at the Woolacombe end of the School, and the company they adjourned to the adjoining large classroom.

Potters Hill and Morte Point


Miss Rosalie Chichester gifted Potters Hill to the National Trust to commemorate the Silver Jubilee of King George V. The gift of some 30 acres of land was given in 1935 and has only been revealed by the placing at the entrance to the ground of a granite block bearing an inscription recording that the land had been handed over as a gift. No official ceremony marked the placing of the stone.

Previously Lady Chichester gifted the headland of Morte Point to the National Trust, totalling some 180 acres of land.

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