Open today until: 4.45pm

D-Day 80 Exhibition Opens at Torquay Museum

calendar14th March, 2024 by Barry Chandler

This year marks the 80th anniversary of the most important global event to ever impact Torbay - D-Day. Torquay Museum is commemorating this with an exhibition about Torbay during the World War II years and the extraordinary events in South Devon that formed Operation Overlord.  

Over the past 30 years the Museum has been collecting not only the objects and images relating to World War II but also the memories of local people, a golden generation, some of which made the ultimate sacrifice for freedom in Europe. 

The exhibition focuses on the events leading up to D-Day but it also covers life on the home front and the dangers of the German bombing raids that hit Torbay on numerous occasions. 

These raids still have a habit of making modern headlines with unexploded bombs still being discovered in Exeter and now Plymouth, a legacy of the War that is still impacting local lives. 

From June 1940 Torbay was under constant threat of air attack. These were day time raids of fighter bombers, the pilots of which were briefed to pick their own targets. They flew from France reaching Torbay in just 40 minutes and targeted the railway, industries and the gas works. We know this because one pilot lost his map of Torbay over the gas works which was collected by a local resident and can be seen in the exhibition.  

By the end of May 1944, there had been 642 alerts and 23 raids. This resulted in 168 people dead, 158 seriously injured and 332 wounded.  A total of 137 buildings were totally destroyed and over 13,000 damaged. The events of D-Day finally put an end to the threat of this type of air attack.

The exhibition displays some terrifying and moving mementos of the Torbay air raids. There are pieces of razor sharp shrapnel from the bomb that fell on St Marychurch Church on the 30th May 1943 that killed 21 children and 3 teachers attending Sunday school. In that one raid alone 21 bombs were dropped, destroying 50 buildings, killing 45 people and seriously injuring 80.

A film made by local children for the Museum commemorating the 80th anniversary of the raid can be seen in the exhibition alongside the personal diary of Aubery Brown a local schoolboy who was tragically killed in the bombing. 

D-Day 80 will give visitors a chance to see objects, original uniforms and around 100 rarely seen images of life during the war in large format and high definition. There is also recently released moving footage of the Americans preparing for D-Day around Torbay. You can also listen to local residents give their accounts of the war and handle original objects. 

The exhibition opens on Tuesday 19th March and will run into the autumn, follow the Museum’s website or Facebook page for more events that will happen around D-Day itself.  

Support Torquay Museum

Did you know that whenever you buy anything online – from your weekly shop to your annual holiday – you could be raising free donations for Torquay Museum with easyfundraising? Find out how!  

Stay Connected with Our Newsletter

Be the first to hear our latest news by signing up to our newsletter. Also don't forget to follow us on social media - @torquaymuseum.
English riviera
Torbay council
Geo Park