RAF HARROWBEER

YELVERTON

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Miscellaneous Information

I keep getting information about the Airfield that won't fit into any of the other headings I have created! So in time honoured fashion, here is a page for all those bits and pieces that may not directly relate to Harrowbeer, but are of interest anyway!

Books: I have decided to add a page about books that have a wartime/airmen/airfield theme in them. These are personal comments/reviews about books I have read. Stephen Fryer

Flying over Harrowbeer: Some time ago (2006) we had a really nice summer! I was given a flight over Harrowbeer and was able to get some nice shots of the airfield from the air.

Wall Paintings found in outbuilding

This goes under the heading of "What ever will we find next!". The building was used as a billet (No other details yet). These paintings/murals have been hidden for many many years. Perhaps someone knows who painted them, and why???

Please note: These are on private property and we were given permission to view and photograph them. They will be covered over again to protect them and are therefore not available for viewing.

   

Studying the paintings shows that the four on the side wall may be in a different 'hand' to the two on the end wall. The musical stave visible in picture 4 plays a definite tune. Apparently this is taken from the last movement of the Piano Trio in G Major Opus 82 by Josef Haydn and is nicknamed 'The Gypsy Rondo'. My thanks to Andrew Wilson, B.Mus for working that out. There are no murals on any of the other walls.

Station Operation Record books

Squadrons and Airfields all used Operation Record Books, also known as the form 540. These recorded day to day operations of the squadron or airfield. Many have been stored in the Public Record Office at Kew and can be read via micro-film. We have been looking at some of them and fascinating reading they are too! We may at some stage add some bits and pieces from them on this website. As a starter, I found the following in the ORB of 193 Squadron. Those of us who live locally, (and know that it occasionally rains here) appreciate the sentiment!

"10/2/43 Impenetrable mist! Seagulls crawling in under the fence and Hurricanes asking for vectors to get from hangars to flights"

Mike & Lucy Hayes at Knightstone Tea Rooms & Restaurant have pains-takingly been copying out the various ORBs and recreating their original look (as a Form 540). You can view them by request at Knightstone when visiting the Tea Rooms.

Graffitti found during rebuilding work on local house

"Attached is a photograph of the basement room of a flat we have recently purchased in a house near the airfield.

The elderly lady who we bought the flat from told us that her daughter had done some web research on the numbers and they turned out to relate to US airforce service personel who seemingly were stationed at RAF Harrowbeer during the war and lived at the house which at the time was officially a hotel but in use by the military."

Footnote to the above: "They will have been US Navy or US Army as the US AirForce was not born until after the war. We know US Navy detachment was on site to cope with any US Navy ASW or AirSea Rescue aircraft ... so we could legitimately assume they might be US Navy ... until we know otherwise."
Jan 2008 - we have been unable to find any further details about the above unfortunately.

Decoy Airfield

We recently became aware that during the war, there had been a 'Decoy Airfield' laid out on the ground near the Village of Clearbrook. We don't know who drew the map below, but it seems to be a pretty accurate representation as some remnants have been found.

For further details of the decoy airfield click here

   
 

Map of Decoy Airfield

 

Ravenscroft

"Ravenscroft" is a large house alongside the airfield. It was built at the turn of the century as a family home and taken over during the war by the government. It was used at first as an Officers Mess and then later in the war, as the Squadron Office of 276 Air Sea Rescue Squadron. It is currently used as Nursing Home and has been extended considerably on one side. I am grateful to Nancy Gordy for the turn-of-the-century pictures and information about the house's early life.

Ravenscroft was originally called "Hayesleigh" and Nancy writes:-

"Edwin Piper was the builder. His brother Frederick Piper also a builder built the house next to it. There were fairly similar.. When I met a cousin, Major John Piper, from Yelverton, in 1982, he took me to Haylesleigh/Ravescroft which was at that time a Holiday House.

John told me at that time that Fred designed his house, and built it first... then Edwin copied the house..

I do know that my great-grandmother Sarah Payne Piper moved into Hayesleigh about 1897, but died shortly afterward from cancer. My great- grandfather Edwin later married the nurse, and at that time built a house in town, taking the name Hayesleigh with him. I have only seen the outside of that house.

The way I remember it, Hayesleigh became Ravenscroft...

Became a boys school
Became RAF headquarters
Became a Holiday house
Became a Nursing facility

The photo of the two women: [ see photo below] one on left is Maud Lethbridge, Edwin Piper's second wife who previously had been the nurse for Sarah Payne Piper.. The lady on the right is Clara Piper Howard... She and her husband Will Howard took over the house when Edwin moved out to the house in town.. Clara is the sister of my grandmother Jessie Piper Brighouse"

Ravenscroft Preparatory School

Founded by Henry Frederick Bailey in 1931 (approx). The school ran until sometime in 1941, when (presumably) the RAF took it over during the building of the airfield. Ravenscroft itself, together with three acres of land, was sold to the Secretary of State for Air on the 13th October 1943, for £4,800.00

The house was converted into flats in the 1950s and eventually became a nursing home in 1985.

On leaving Yelverton, Mr Bailey and his family moved to Bath where he taught at Monkton Combe Junior School from 1942 to 1944 when he left to take up a post at Mount House School in Tavistock. When he left there, he bought a house in the village of Beckington, Somerset and opened a new school - calling it Ravenscroft - which he ran until 1950. He kept the same uniform, badge and motto that he had used at the Yelverton Ravenscroft.

 

Ravenscroft - then called Hayesleigh - circa 1900.

The building just visible on the left is Victoria Lodge, now better known as Knightstone Tea Rooms & Restaurant. The building in the background is (we think) Hazelcroft. This was demolished to make way for the new road layout in the area when Harrowbeer was built. The main road today goes through where the two ladies are standing!

Ravenscroft/Hayesleigh from the rear - circa 1900

The children on the balcony are Will & Clara's. The photo was given to Nancy by one of them, Winifred, who told her they were all ill with the measles at the time

Ravenscroft today (Front view)

This view shows how the road was driven between Ravenscroft and Knightstone (behind the trees on the left). The front balcony has been replaced at some stage in the past.

Ravenscroft today (Side view)

Compare this with the second view above! The Conservatory is gone, lawns under the car park, and the first of (several) extensions snaking away from the back. The ornate top to the 'tower' has gone, as have the railings on the roof and balconies.

The Polish Gold Story!

Some time after the War, a story started circulating that during the war, gold bullion was smuggled out of Poland and hidden somewhere in the grounds of Ravenscroft by 'Senior Officers'. These Officers were killed in a plane crash shortly afterwards, taking the secret of the gold's location with them. After the war, the house was pretty much ripped apart by the owners who had heard the story and were convinced it was true. As far as anyone knows, no gold has ever been found!

Personally, I am a bit of a cynic! The fact that the Officers were mysteriously (and conveniently!) 'killed shortly afterwards' seems a bit suspicious! Two thoughts come to mind; either they did bury the gold and then faked their deaths so they could make off with it, or the story is a load of tosh!!!!

View of Dartmoor taken from the balcony of Ravenscroft

This is a terrific view across Harrowbeer, taken long before it was built. The current road is roughly where the wall and gate are. The houses then had long 'drives' that led to the road to Crapstone just visible in the distance. The houses at Leg O' Mutton are just visble in the right background. Compare this with the Typhoon picture on the Photographs page

I will try and get a couple of modern views to put here in due course.

New Road Layout - Ravenscroft Area

As per usual when an interesting photo comes to light, we became intrigued about how the area around Hayesleigh/Ravenscroft had changed with the coming of the airfield. Three large houses were demolished on this side of the airfield because they would have been in a direct line with the end of the runway. One can only imagine now, the upheveal that must have taken place in those houses, when the 'Men from the Ministry' turned up.

We have drawn the 'new' road layout over the 1906 map so that you can see the changes. 'Udal Torre', Hazelcroft, and one unamed house were all demolished here. 'Victoria Lodge' is now 'Knightstone'

 

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