Hestercombe at War
In July 1940, the British Army established 8th Corps to take responsibility for all British troops in the southwest of England and Hestercombe became the division's rear HQ. In early 1941 the first six Barrack Blocks were built with brick bases, concrete block walls and roofs covered with asbestos slates.
The British 8th Corps departed Hestercombe on 12th January 1943 and Hestercombe was established as the HQ of the United States XIXth district supply services. Joshua Jaffe was transferred to 19th District HQ in March 1943. 'JJ' lived in one of the barrack blocks in the woods. Each soldier slept in a 'cot' and kept all their personal possessions in a blue 'barrack bag'. The cots were steel beds with flat springs and a thin mattress.
"19th District was hub of all directions of the American Military in south west England" Joshua Jaffe
In early 1944, the US 398th General Service Engineer Regiment started constructing 16 additional barrack blocks - the 'Hestercombe Camp Addition'. On the evening of June 5th 1944 - the eve of D Day - Joshua Jaffe sat on the ha-ha on the edge of the drive and watched as planes and gliders in their hundreds flew over his head towards the south coast. "The sky was black"
Corporal Esmé lane and Private Vera Alsop were ATS (Auxiliary Territorial Service) Girls based in Taunton, attached to the Royal Army Ordnance Corps (RAOC) At the end of the war in August 1945, the Girls were billeted to Hestercombe. In the winter the Huts were very cold - they had concrete floors and no insulation of any kind. There was a single central stove in each building and it took all evening to produce any warmth.
"Our time at Hestercombe was not very comfortable" Vera Alsop
With the end of the War in Europe on May 8th 1945, the War Department no longer required the use of the House and Stables. The rest of 'Hestercombe camp' was retained by the War Department and used as billets for military personnel until 1946. Today, the ruins of just this one building are all that remain of the 'Hestercombe Camp' of 1940 to 1946. The building has been stabilised to prevent its' collapse.
This building is the last physical reminder of all the men and women who served at Hestercombe during WWII, and is dedicated in their memory.
For more information, please contact Philip White on 01823 413923