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Days at Denbury

The following are reminiscences of Denbury Camp in 1946 by Terry Fitzpatrick, Criccieth, Gwynedd, Wales.

Early summer 1946 and the War Office required all the telecomms equipment used in Territorial training establishments to be inspected.  As a Tels Mech in REME I was chosen to carry out this inspection over the south west area [Dorset, Somerset and Devon].  A mobile workshop fitted out with tels test gear was provided plus that other essential — a qualified driver.
Given a list of target Territorial Depots the instructions were to proceed to each in turn, inspect the gear and then seek the nearest army unit to demand bed and rations.
We ran out from Bovington first to nearby Blandford Forum.  Then on to Shepton Mallet, Bath and eventually arrived in Newton Abbot. Here we did our work and as usual asked directions to the nearest army facility.  They suggested we try Denbury Camp.
We drove up the steep narrow lanes and found the camp.  Checking in at the guardroom an unusual number of female personnel were noticed but we focussed on getting a billet for the night as usual.

The allotted room was close to the NAAFI canteen — nice and comfortable and complete with curtains.  With our bed places sorted we cleaned up after the days 'work' and went looking for some food.
On entering the mess the true nature of our discovery was revealed — the place was filled with masses of women — it was an ATS depot!!!  Around 300 females with male staff guessed to number less than 30.  A dream come true for two 19-year-old soldiers!
And now the curtains were explained — they were provided in the mens quarters for privacy — to be closed at dusk to prevent prying female eyes!!

A quick check of our planned work schedule showed the next inspection objectives were to be in Totnes, Torquay and then Exeter — all within a few miles of this desirable accommodation.
Decision — we should make this depot our temporary base — do Totnes tomorrow and back to the joys of Denbury for the night — do Torquay the next day and return again to our new-found female friends.
Then luckily it would be the weekend — so it would be next week before we regretfully moved on to Exeter.

What a happy few days in the life of a couple of teenagers.  Eating at table with four or five girls — chatting with another group in the canteen — getting male precedence in the queues — generally being the central interest of ladies galore.

Eventually a change of scenery was thought to be needed so on the Saturday we went down to Newton Abbot.  Returning on the last bus we duly alighted with most of the passengers to assist its under-powered climb up Denbury Shute!  Then a visit to the village pub [can't remember the name]#.  This provided the chance to get acquainted with genuine Devon cider.  Guess the scrumpy had made an impact.  Either I took the wrong road in the village or decided the stagger back to the main entrance to camp was too much effort — anyway a more direct route back to the billet, through scrub/hedge and fence, was devised [not repeatable into the present day prison facility I guess!].

Monday morning we said goodbye to our friends and drove away back to the reality of the inspection tour and ultimately back to base in Bovington — with very happy memories of the brief stay in Denbury.

Terry Fitzpatrick

# The record written by Darrell Haugh reminds me that the pub was the Union Inn — his account also may suggest that perhaps the US influence was responsible for the comfortable accommodation in Denbury Camp — compared with that in Bovington Camp.

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