Welcome to the Dartmouth History Research Group

Welcome to the Dartmouth History Research Group

The Dartmouth History Research Group is a small voluntary and community group, founded in 1991. We research the history of Dartmouth and surrounding villages and make it available to the general public through publications, events and this website, to promote public understanding of local history and heritage. The “Dartmouth Archives” section provides resources enabling you to explore the rich and fascinating history of Dartmouth and the local area, and discover more about local people and places. It contains an extensive collection of documents and records, built up by members of the Group over several years and still growing. Other sections of the website tell you more about us and about what we do.

Our next meeting

Monday 1 July 2024

10:00 am to 12:00 noon

Our meeting on Monday 1 July 2024 will be a “Business and Biscuits” session at our usual venue. There will be no meeting in August as we have a summer break and resume in September.

Everyone is welcome. If you are new to the group and plan to come, it would be helpful if you could email us by clicking this link so that we have some idea of numbers. We look forward to seeing you!

Join Us

Membership of DHRG is free and open to all and everyone is welcome at any of our meetings. We usually meet on the first Monday of each month in the Church Hall, Baptist Church, Carey Road, Townstal, 10.00 – 12.00 noon (see the “Contact” page for more details). As arrangements may change at short notice, please let us know if you plan to come to any of our meetings.

Our Books

The DHRG has published many books and booklets about aspects of the history of Dartmouth and surrounding villages. Books and booklets are sold at a price sufficient to cover our costs. Please go to the “DHRG Books” section of the website to see what’s available and for information about how to purchase our current titles. Out of print titles are free to download as PDFs from this website.


Latest DHRG News

15th January 2024          Latest Additions to this Website

The programme for the Group’s event “A History of Dartmouth in Four Houses” at the Flavel on 18 November 2023 can be found here.  As part of the preparation for this event, a detailed guidance note has been produced on how to research the history of a house in Dartmouth.  To access it, please visit our Guidance and FAQs page.

Following the sad death on 19 September 2023 of Ray Freeman, a founder and first Chair of the DHRG in 1991, we have published a page dedicated to her memory, giving an account of her life and work.

One of our publications – “A Wrens-Eye View of Wartime Dartmouth” compiled by Ray Freeman – is no longer in print and is now available as a free-of-charge download from our Books page.

Several items have been added to the Archive, including

  • cine films showing Dartmouth taken in 1947 and 1950 kindly made available by the Arnold family
  • the 1831 and 1868 reports on the proposed boundary of the borough of Dartmouth as a parliamentary constituency, taking account of population, including maps.

 


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Though an extraordinary achievement, D-day itself was only the beginning of fierce fighting in the Normandy campaign. The road to liberation in France and eventual victory in Europe was long and hard. Many men who landed safely did not survive. Two of those who landed on Gold beach, but were killed in action soon afterwards, are commemorated on Dartmouth's War Memorial. On 8 June 1944, Trooper Sydney Hearnah of the 24th Lancers died in fighting around the village of Putot-en-Bessin. On 10 June 1944, Private William Chase of the 1st Dorsets was killed defending the village of Audrieu against counter attack by 12 SS Panzerdivision.Meanwhile, Naval forces defending the D-day supply routes also sustained losses. On 15 June 1944, Petty Officer Norman Corby of Dartmouth was killed when the frigate HMS Mourne was torpedoed in the Western Approaches, and her forward magazine exploded. RN Coastal Forces based in Dartmouth were involved in intensive attacks on German shipping around the Channel Islands. On 26/27 June 1944, the 52nd MTB Flotilla sustained casualties in an attack on German minesweepers. Able Seaman James Hindley of MTB 673 died of his wounds later that day in Dartmouth and was buried in Longcross Cemet#DDay80D#DDay##localhistorys#dartmouthmouthThis concludes our series of posts marking D-day 80 years on. If you're interested in finding out more about Dartmouth during the Second World War, we have several publications which cover this period in our history. Details are on our websitedartmouth-history.org.uk/group-books/ ... See MoreSee Less
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The D-day convoys leaving Dartmouth carried Force U, the American troops due to land on Utah beach. H-hour on 6 June 1944 on Utah was 0630. As Major Norbonne Gatling, US Army, remembered: "As dawn broke slowly we could see the extensive activity of dozens of vessels ... The troops in the leading waves had already gone in for the landing ... troops on the later waves were already being loaded on to smaller landing craft and artillery, tanks, jeeps and trucks were being loaded onto Rhinos and other smaller vessels."The swell made things difficult and mines took their toll (despite a huge minesweeping effort). But by 1230 around 8000 men were ashore. At about 1330 Major Gatling landed himself, using a Rhino ferry. Despite the beach being shelled, he and his men got off safely and by 1730 had reached their planned position at a farmhouse one mile inland. By 1800, over 20,000 troops, 1700 vehicles and nearly 1700 tons of stores had been landed on Utah beach. #DDay80 #DDay #Dartmouth #localhistoryPhotograph shows troops transferring from landing craft to Rhino ferry during training for D-Day; from US Naval History and Heritage Command. ... See MoreSee Less
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On 5 June 1944, after a postponement of 24 hours caused by bad weather, the last two invasion convoys left Dartmouth. Meanwhile, at 0415, General Eisenhower and Admiral Ramsey met the weather forecasters again. This time, as Admiral Ramsey put it in his diary, "the prophets came in smiling." The invasion would go ahead - though conditions were not good and "Forces will have an uncomfortable initial journey", the storm was forecast to moderate. The fleets in their temporary harbours had been told to get ready and there would be no last minute recall.In Dartmouth, people remembered the eerie silence and the empty harbour after all the ships had gone. The D-day memorial on the Embankment records that 485 ships of the US Navy and the Royal Navy left the port to join the largest amphibious force in history.#DDay80 #DDay #Dartmouth #localhistory ... See MoreSee Less
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80 years ago today, the weather was on everyone's mind. The D-day landings were planned for 5 June, but early on 4 June the weather had begun to change, with high winds, heavy swells and low cloud. At 0515, General Eisenhower postponed the landings for 24 hours. Fortunately Admiral Ramsay, in charge of naval operations, had already planned for this contingency. Most of the convoys which had left Dartmouth the day before found anchorage in Weymouth, but one, convoy U2A, did not receive the postponement order. Two destroyers were sent at top speed to prevent them attempting to land on their own! They barely got back to Weymouth in time to refuel. Meanwhile, in the Dart, ships still loading and due to depart were held in harbour overnight. As Captain James E Arnold, USNR, remembered, "each sixty minutes of those delayed hours was an eternity ..."#DDay80 #dartmouth #localhistory #DDayPhotograph from US Naval History and Heritage Command shows vehicles reversing into US landing craft being loaded on Dartmouth Embankment. ... See MoreSee Less
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80 years ago today, D-day invasion convoys began to leave Dartmouth harbour. The slowest convoys left first - at 1543, 1743 and 2058. Wren Margaret Blackwell handled the ships' secret sailing orders. She remembered that, as the convoys left:"Some of the boys waved to us but not the usual greeting - this was a goodbye wave. And from then on it was one continual stream of landing craft ... they never ceased all the afternoon and on into the night."The photograph, from the US Naval History and Heritage Command, shows D-day shipping clustered in the Dart on 2 June 1944, as the convoys were loading. For more on the build-up to D-day, the involvement of Allied naval and land forces based in Dartmouth, and local memories of that time, see the DHRG's recent publication, "When War Came to the Dart", available from the Community Bookshop, Dartmouth Museum, Dartmouth Visitor Centre and Browser Books, and directly from us at:dartmouth-history.org.uk/dhrg-books/when-war-came-to-the-dart/#dartmouth #localhistory #DDay80 #DDay ... See MoreSee Less
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