Guest Blog: The History of St. Mary’s Church

(Last Updated On: October 28, 2020)

St. Marychurch- a tourist hot-spot in the Summer, with traditional sweet shops, butchers and bakers- is instantly recognisable from across the bay by its two churches, only a couple of roads
apart. However, this feature of Torbay hasn’t always been so perfect.

During the middle of the Second World War, St. Mary’s Church in Torquay was hit by an enemy aircraft. Not only did this awful incident murder people up in St. Marychurch, but the same raid also caused casualties near Torquay Sea Front.

On the 30th May 1943, many children had turned up for Sunday School at St. Mary’s Church; boys were playing outside, whereas the girls had gone inside with the women who had brought them. The teachers were ready to start their classes.

However, aircraft flew in from the sea. Bombs began to fall, costing the lives of twenty-six children and teachers.

Not only is this a genuine tragedy that so many lives were lost so young, but the children had no descendants to mourn them. The girls who came from Erskine Home (in Babbacombe) lived there as they’d lost one or both parents anyway, meaning there was barely anyone there to mourn.

Moreover, large detached houses in Petitor Road were also targeted. Unluckily, two people were out in the open in Babbacombe, resulting in their deaths by being machine-gunned.

As the raiders were leaving, one of the aircraft clipped into the spire of the Roman Catholic church. This meant that they immediately lost height and crashed into the houses on Teignmouth road. This killed the pilot, and injured at least one other person, who later died.

Furthermore, the whole attack wasn’t in St. Marychurch. In actual fact, there were casualties in the vicinity of the seafront in Torquay.

So, Torquay- a beautiful town with a plethora of beaches and shops- may not be one of the most recognised places from WW2, but even we have a fascinating, but also grievous history.

By Jessica Gregory

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