A ‘snapshot’ of Burnham during the first week of the first world war:

Burnham Gazette 1914
Burnham Gazette 7th Sept 1918.
St Margaret’s School as a hospital during world war I


The Burnham Gazette and Highbridge Express Centenary Edition of 1964 tells us that a company was formed in Burnham to make aircraft wings during the war, in co-operation with other firms in the district. It gives no more information so if anyone can supply more please send us a comment below.


Burnham Gazette 24th Aug 1918.
Burnham Gazette 16th Nov 1918.


Thanks to Ann Popham for use of photograph and card.

Charles Sealey of Abingdon St  is just one of those Burnham residents who gave their lives. For a full list sand details see  World War I casualties page.



An account in The Burnham Gazette and Highbridge Express Centenary Edition of 1964 tells us:

“The second world war found Burnham on the route of the German bombers from Germany to South Wales and many raids were observe from the Burnham Esplanade. One raid with fatal consequences [not specified]. Propaganda leaflets were dropped on the sandhills by the Germans, many of which are still preserved. The raiders presumably thought that they were over some large city such as Bristol or Cardiff. Considerable defence measures were taken including the construction of pill-box forts and wire entanglements but fortunately they were not used.”

Burnham was home to one of the 19 Observer Corps teams which formed part of the No 22 group (H.Q. at Yeovil)

Observer Corps 1939.
Observer Corps 1939.
No 22 Group L.3 POST


Below are a number of stills from the film by Norman Gobey showing the Local Defence Volunteers.

Raw recruits.
Training near the brewery.
Training near Cox’s Warehouse.
On duty at Kinver Terrace.
On duty on the Esplanade (Low Lighthouse at right).

The first civilian casualties of air strikes in Somerset were at Burnham on 18th June 1940 when 2 people were killed, 3 injured and damage caused to 70 houses. On 14th August 2 Heinkels were shot down over Sedgemoor, one coming down in the mouth of the River Parrett from where the body of a gunner was recovered on 12th September.  (Info from Somerset at War 1939-45 by Mac Hawkins)

Western Daily Press 23rd Jan 1943

The above article was supplied by Des Parsons. Des recalled having it when purchasing a card for the 100th birthday (in 2020) of Patrick Stokes, the son of the gentleman in the article. Patrick Stokes had been  Des’s first boss at Wallbutton’s Garage.


U.S.  B17 Flying Fortress of the 351st Bomb Group at Polebrook crash landed on Burnham beach on 31st December 1943 after being damaged during a bombing raid on german held targets in France. There were no fatalities. For further information see http://www.burnham-on-sea.com/news/2013/walter-skinner-dies-28-11-13.php

Between 1943 & 1945 members of the U.S. Army Transportation Corps 202,  780th Railway Company, were billeted at Naish House and worked at Highbridge Wharf.

At Naish House. Photo courtesy of Jack Smith, Grand Rapids, Michigan




Warship Week 1942:

Warship Weeks were British National Savings campaigns with the aim of a Royal Navy warship being adopted by a civil community. A press announcement quoted the adoption of eight battleships, four carriers, forty-nine cruisers, three hundred and one destroyers, twenty-five submarines, one hundred and sixty-four corvettes and frigates and two hundred and eighty-eight minesweepers nationwide.

‘Wings for Victory’ Campaign:

Other national war campaigns included the ‘Wings For Victory’ week to purchase bomber planes, a ‘Spitfire Week’ to purchase fighter planes, a ‘War Weapons Week’ and a ‘Tanks For Attack’ week. Parades were often organised with military representation as part of the drive.


The following pictures of local parades lack detailed information.  (Photos courtesy of Bob & June Thomas).

The South West fell into the Army 8th Corps district with H.Q at Taunton. In 1943 a reorganisation created sub-districts with the H.Q. for that of Somerset being at Burnham. Can anyone tell us exactly where this was? (Info from Somerset at War 1939-45 by Mac Hawkins). 

John Strickland says “I’m fairly certain this was taken in Lynton Road with the roof tops of Rosemary Cottage on the left; the Station behind the cyclists and Abingdon Hotel behind the tree. I remember that there was still a barred gate into the coal yard during my childhood. ”

Thought to be the Home Guard in Victoria St.

In 1940 the local Home Guard was part of the 8th Somerset (Weston) Battalion. In 1943 however the 13th Somerset (Axbridge) Battalion was created to take over part of the 8th’s area, one of its 4 companies being based in Burnham  (Info from Somerset at War 1939-45 by Mac Hawkins).

3 thoughts on “Wartime”

  1. We have had a question from Jack Luxon which I post here to invite replies from anyone who may have additional information:

    “In the summer of 1944 the doodlebugs were becoming a nuisance in London and my parents decided it might be a good idea if I was to come and live with my Aunt Lizzie Lee and Uncle Frank in Phoenix Terrace. When school summer holiday started my Mum and I travelled to Burnham and we stayed for a while but when it came time for Mum to return to London I didn’t want to be left and we returned in time for the V2s.
    While in Burnham I recall British planes flying over at low level firing their machine guns, presumably at Steart Island. I think the planes were Mosquitoes. This happened more than once. I wonder if anyone else might recall this?”

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