In the early 1940’s a soldier walked into Lapford Stores and purchased nine postcards of the village. He had recently been stationed at the military base in the village centre and was keen to write home to “52 Bank Road”1 to describe his new surroundings. He pencilled notes on the back of each card. More than eighty years later, the postcards still reside in the village (now located in the village archive). We can only presume that the postcards were never read by their intended recipient but, fortuitously, they left the village with a rare contemporary wartime record. The name of the soldier remains unknown.

Lapford’s military base, located in the village centre, co-ordinated searchlight operation stretching from Tiverton to Okehampton. Twenty-three hill-top patrol units operated out of the base, part of a countrywide network of anti-aircraft defence. At times during the war, the base was supporting about 200 men, bringing significant change to village life (the village population was previously less than 400). The operation was assisted by members of the army’s voluntary service for women, the ATS. The Victory Hall, the Congregational Schoolrooms and part of the Malt Scoop Inn, including Malt Scoop Cottage, all came under military control. Bibhay, a large field to the east of the Sunday School, was rapidly transformed into a busy transport hub with a regular flow of lorries, trucks and motorcycles — a dramatic change for a village more used to the passage of horses, carts and bicycles. Rows of Nissan huts provided accommodation for soldiers whilst the Malt Scoop housed officers. Additional Nissan huts were erected for “ATS girls” on the opposite side of Eastington Lane. The Bibhay base became today’s Moorland View and the site of the women’s huts became Park Meadow.

A succession of different battery units manned the base, so our soldier would almost certainly have moved on from Lapford in a matter of months. It is something of a mystery as to how the postcards came to survive in the village or, if they ever left, how they found their way back!

1. The Sunday School Chapel

Our quartermaster has this chapel for his stores. The opening to the camp is immediately on the right of the chapel. Gives you some idea of the types of houses. Mostly thatched and many very old.

The lane descends very gradually from here to the main Crediton-Barnstaple road and has similar houses here and there on both sides.

2. The Lych Gate

About 50 yards lower down the village church which standards back. The door just on the right of the memorial is ‘The Old Malt Scoop Inn’. The house just under the lamp is also being used as stores. The ‘Victory Hall’ where we mess (built 1919) is obliterated by the left side of the porch, is opposite the ‘Malt Scoop’ which by the way is a most unusual name for a ‘pub’.

3. The Stores

A few yards past the memorial which you can see in the picture is the main village shop where these cards were obtained. Has a remarkably large stock of almost everything. But no Milky Ways or chocolate or matches, and we’ve just exhausted the stock of cigs & tobacco. The village also boast[s] a butchers & confectioners & bakers up past the chapel, and another bakers and bootmenders lower down than this view.

4. The Smithy

Still further down are a few more cottages. Then the road twists left and drops towards the post office at the bottom where a wide stream runs alongside the railway and road to Exeter-Barnstaple. You can rarely see further than the length of road on the picture owing to the road turning so often.

5. The Mill

The bottom of the hill just before you reach the bridge and the main road road shown of the next card. Here is the old mill and what was once a farm house. Now it does duty as a post office.
Looks as though the place would be rather damp doesn’t it? It probably is. No doubt there will be hundreds of rats too.
Such cottages and places look nice in the cards but I’d rather have 52 Bank Road.

6. The Main Road

Here we have the main road. Turn right over the bridge, left, left again, sharp right, left, right and you have the camp. You can see the church tower just under the left arm of the signpost (which of course is not there now).
This view is taken from rising ground so you get the impression that the road to Lapford is flat whereas it rises also.

7. Barnstaple Road

This is all you see for miles until you reach Barnstaple

8. The Bungalow

The owner is retired with about £10000 a year. Don’t think there will be any rats here.

‘The Bungalow’ was home to John Sheridan, the great great grandson of the playwright Richard Sheridan. John was heir to the 10,000 acre Frampton Court estate in Dorset with 103 cottages, 12 farms and 40 bedroomed Court House.

9. The Clapper Bridge

Lower down the stream.

  1. Possibly either 52 Bank Road in Atherstone, Bootle or Matlock []

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