THE 2ND BOER WAR 1899 – 1902

Notice of a dinner to celebrate Burnham Rifle Corps volunteers for South African campaign, February 1900.

Below left, a letter from the front by a member of the Patey printing family, printed in the local press, and right a list of local charitable subscriptions to the war effort.


Below a report of the peace celebrations in Burnham & Highbridge in 1902


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

Burnham Gazette 1914
Burnham Gazette 7th Sept 1918.

The certificate below shows a charitable gesture by one of the students of St Margaret’s school, at that time situated in Julia Terrace, in donating prize money to the War Fund.

Scan courtesy of Jenny Welland.

Shortly after the war St Margaret’s moved to the house in Poplar Rd which had been used as a military hospital during wartime (below). Hart House School was also used for this purpose.

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. Another was Albert Dyer (below). For a full list and details see  World War I casualties page.

Scan courtesy of Ann Popham.




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)

The building at the rear of the Adult School in Adam St, seen below in a photo by Glyn Luxon, was at one time part of the Civil Defence network.



On 7th September 1939, the National Registration Act was passed, introducing identity cards for everyone, including children. The card was stamped by the local registration office. Thanks to Brian Marchent for providing the example below which was issued in 1944, presumably shortly after his birth.



Highbridge Advertiser March 1940

The certificate below (image supplied by A. Young) appears to be a certificate of thanks to a local resident for accommodating evacuees or refugees.



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

The postcard below shows the poles driven into the beach to prevent enemy aircraft using it as a landing strip.



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
At the Highbridge Depot.

USA Army Fuel Depot at Highbridge

We have received information about railway facilities for the storage of Petrol, Oil and Lubricants which the US Army created on and adjacent to the Somerset & Dorset Railway at Highbridge. Alan Hammond’s Spirit of Somerset & Dorset Railway publication describes US  Army troops occupation of the fields on which Walrow Industrial Estate now stands for the storage of  1,045,000 5- gallon cans of gasoline. This was over 8% of the USA cased fuel storage in the UK . They all disappeared a fortnight before D Day!

We are grateful to John Palmer who produced the image below. Using information from the South West Heritage Trust of the R.A.F’s photographic mosaics of about 1946 and overlaying this onto the S&D Station has recreated this lost facility.

We are grateful for the Somerset & Dorset Railway Trust’s permission to use their image showing the grassed area beyond the coaches which should still have track there on the date taken 5 August 1962.

Storage drums
Dispatch room.


Commercial activity was affected by war, not only by rationing of materials but also by labour shortage:

1940: Radford’s were keen to encourage the ‘Dig for Victory’ campaign.
1942, Mrs Ridd looking after the regulars.


Ritz Cinema 1940


Warship Weeks 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. The newspaper clipping above may be from the March event (photo below).

Date suggests this was 1942. Image from Glynn Luxon Archive.

The Western Daily Press carried the following report on 12th October 1942 which mentions the adoption of HMS Burnham by the town using Warship Week proceeds:


‘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 (see newspaper report above). Parades were often organised with military representation as part of the drive.

It appears from both pictures above that The Lifeboat Restaurant was a favourite place for mounting the publicity material for all of these events. Probably because of the open aspect and space for parades  to gather at this junction.

Below is a short film  by local amateur cinematographer Norman Gobey on 9.5mm, showing a Messerschmitt aeroplane put on display to raise money for the Spitfire fund during world war II.

Burnham on Sea & District Gift Fund

Highbridge Advertiser 1940


The picture below shows the localArmy Cadet Corps in 1944

You will find scans of the Burnham Parish Magazine for September 1944 here. Of particular interest here is a warning about caution regarding the predicted end of the war and an appeal for male Sunday School teachers.

During and after the conflict there was of course a need to put a lot of effort into damage repairs. The notice below indicates that not everyone was pulling their weight.

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).

You may also be interested in information about the wartime role of Brean Down Fort which you will find here.

5 thoughts on “Wartime”

      1. My mother turns 99 in January and used to work in the Allied Fuel Depot in Burnham during the war. She married an American staff sergeant (my dad) just after Germany finally fell while on a weekend furlough. She can still remember details of Highbridge, where her family relocated during the blitz and then stayed on afterward. I can remember many stories from her, and my dad, as well as my grandparents and aunts. Happy to share if anyone is interested.

        1. Hello Geoff.
          We would love to know more of your mother’s memories of this time. Please feel free to share them here. We are especially interested in the USA POL Depot and the railway sidings at Highbridge and have been informed many USA people were billited to houses in Burnham. Where was your Mother’s home ?
          Thank you for making contact,

  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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