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The Belverdere Tower by Dennis Bater

Many of Hatherleigh towns folk have walked past or looked ou from its turret not realising that this Folly had an important roll in WW2.
Below I will try and put together the Hatherleigh Belvidere's life 1940 through to the late 1958
The man now famed as one of the men who inspired Michael Morpurgos War Horse Captain Budgett was in charge during WW2 as a Chief Observer in the Observer corps.
Serving at the Belvedere during the war years, also serving was Bill Bishop, Percy Cleverdon, Harry Richards, and possibly Hubert Watts (post master) Fred Gooding may have also served who else was there is unclear. Their roll was to monitor aircraft and reporting the enemy bombers on the way to mainly Cardiff and Swansea from this observer post. The Belvedere post was part of 10 group there roll was also monitored R.A.F planes flying out over Hatherleigh from R.A.F. Winkleigh on their way to protect the western approaches. These aircraft could be seen rising from the runway in the site line from this post. Also the horizon is from Dartmoor in the south to north of Torrington to Huntshaw Cross. East to Exmoor beyond South Molton and Bradworthy in the west.
Aircraft from Winkleigh taking the route over Hatherleigh they would    
reach the Atlantic in about 5 minutes. many were Fairy Sward Fish caring one torpedo between the wheels.

 

 

 

The H Q for 10 group  was at Poltimore near Exeter this building is still there. the Belvdere post was connected to it by land line and the post was manned every night with a call sign November 2 throughout  the war. Such was the blackout during the war it was said that captain Budgett could be seen striking his match for his cigarette as far away as Iddesleigh. One story was Percy Cleverdon and Harry Weeks at 3am arrived at the post to relive the two on duty to find the post in silence the two on watch were sound asleep.

 

 

 

 

The top of the belvedere was covered with a wooden structure (see picture) covering the side with a roof but leaving the centre open A hole was in the centre and still can be seen that was were the circle table map was placed with a mickelthwait that judged the altitude of the aircraft a small stove was in the corner and the toilet was the near by hedge.
When I joined the R.O.C.in 1956 Bill Letheren was Chief Observer and Albert Warren Leading Observer, also there was John Hawkin,  Bill Bishop, Eric (Nobby) Alford, ,Owen Bishop, Peter Bennett, and myself, and for a short time Elizabeth Fellows.
The most interesting incident on one of these exercises was a Sunderland flying boat which had engine trouble flying to Plymouth it made it O.K.

At the Belvedere we would carry out a couple at weekend exercise a year for 24 hours  combined with the whole of 10 group. Vampires and Meteors from R.A.F. Chivenor would fly over the whole area of 10 group during these exercise giving us the chance to practices our skills
Our meeting room was at the back of the present post office a room (Now demolished)  the post master let the room for meetings there we would learn to identify the U.S.S.R  bombers as the threat was Soviet Block during the cold war.
Also the roll of the Observer corps had changed its roll to monitoring a nuclear attack to warn the population and keep the survival of some sort of civilization after an attack the out look was pretty grim through these times. In 1958 I left the post at that time it was moved from the Belvedere as the land lord would not sell land alongside Belvedere for an underground shelter  by this time the roll was predominantly just monitoring a nuclear attack.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The ministry then acquired land on the corner between Meeth and Friers Hele from the Heard family see diagram of the underground post above ground was just a man hole and an attachment for instruments (see picture) also see site being dug at the time of building.
A few years after I left the R.O.C. at about 1961 the Hatherleigh crew went into demise and the shelter was closed and a new one built in 1961 on the old airfield at Winkleigh. After the fall of the soviet block the R.O.C. Was disbanded.

Site of the underground post at Meeth



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