Seventy years ago, just about within living memory, the skies above the Blackdowns were less than peaceful. The roaring engines of scores of Liberator bombers, manned by US Navy aircrew, disturbed the rural peace as they flew long, dangerous missions from Dunkeswell hunting Nazi U-boats.
Now those stirring times have been brought powerfully to life by a new online resource called Dunkeswell War Stories. It features WW2 film clips, video interviews with both US aircrew and local residents, and archive photos and maps.
High, flat land close to the Atlantic and the English Channel gave the Blackdown Hills unique strategic importance in the Second World War. It was the ideal base for air crews protecting supply ships from attack by German submarines.
Local farming families talk about how their grazing land was suddenly taken to build runways and long-retired airmen recall gruelling missions out across the stormy, grey ocean. Overall, the website is incredibly atmospheric in recreating both the danger and the innocence of that era.
Dunkeswell War Stories was developed by the Blackdown Hills Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) Partnership and produced by Dream Machine Media, thanks to a £39,600 grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund with additional funding from local sources.
AONB information officer Katherine Findlay, commented: “The response from local people, American veterans, schoolchildren and local history groups has been phenomenal. There is an enormous amount of interest in the vital role Dunkeswell played in the Second World War and we are delighted to provide a resource which will help people all over the world to learn more about it.”
You can find Dunkeswell War Stories at www.dunkeswellwarstories.com It will also be permanently available on special touchscreens at Allhallows Museum in Honiton, and at the Aviator café on Dunkeswell airfield.