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John Penny, the leading expert on the history of the World War II in Bristol and how the city was affected, has helped Blagdon Local History Society learn more about what was happening in Bristol at the time that Bristol was being flattened by German bombs. His research reveals just how lucky Blagdon was when it came to avoiding any real problems, particularly bearing in mind the decoy city on Blackdown that was intended to attract the German Luftwaffe's bombs. 

Below is a draft of a conversation by email between John Penny and Jacky Kerly of BLHS. 

From: John Penny >

Date: Mon, 2 Oct 2023 at 17:58

Subject: Re: Blagdon Local History Society

To: jacky kerly


Hi Jacky,


Thank you very much for the Americans in Blagdon odds and ends. Very helpful as I completely failed to notice that the 126th (Medium Maintenance) Company, part of the 6th Ordnance Battalion, was also in Blagdon. Old age and stupidity methinks, plus the fact that there were hundreds of American units moving about in the West in the spring of 1944, all very confusing (my excuse). Below is the sequence of events:-


The 126th (Medium Maintenance) Company was the first US unit to arrive in Blagdon, the American Order of Battle in the West Country listed the unit at Blagdon on 25 February 1944, while on 3 May it was recorded over at Devizes, before it moved down to Lopcombe Camp near Salisbury where it was listed on 4 June. It then traveled to the coast and embarked for Normandy on D+4.


Its place at Blagdon was then taken by the Headquarters & Headquarters Detachment of the 310th Ordnance Battalion, which was listed at Sedbury in the Forest of Dean in Gloucestershire on 11 April 1944 and Blagdon on 9 May 1944. Also stationed at Blagdon was their subordinated 3472nd Ordnance (Medium Automotive Maintenance) Company. Both were still at Blagdon on 31 May, but soon after they moved down towards the coast in preparation for embarkation. On D+10 they finally sailed for Normandy, where they helped relieving the ordnance units that had landed in the initial waves.


As I’ve already sent you the information I have on the 310th Ordnance Battalion I thought I’d better send what I have on the 6th Ordnance Battalion and its subordinated 126th (Medium Maintenance) Company.


 Notes on the 6th Ordnance Battalion


In preparation for ‘Operation Overlord’ the 6th Ordnance Battalion came under the larger 52nd Ordnance Group which in turn was part of the US First Army which had its HQ in Bristol. On 20 March and 18 May 1944 the 6th Ordnance Battalion HQ and HQ Detachment were listed at Yeovil, and on 31 May at Lopcombe Camp near Salisbury.


One of its subordinated units was the 126th (Medium Maintenance) Company which was listed at Blagdon on 25 February and 3 April; Devizes on 3 May, and Lopcombe Camp near Salisbury on 4 June. It sailed for Normandy on D+4, and during the ‘Lorraine Campaign’ of 1 September to 18 December 1944 it served with the 4th Armoured Division.


The other units subordinated to the 6th Ordnance Battalion were the 255th (Medium Maintenance) Company, which was recorded as being stationed at the Reservoir Camp at Gloucester on 4 March, 9 April, 8 May, and Torquay on 31 May; the 279th (Maintenance Company Anti-Aircraft) which was listed at Blandford on 5 March and 9 April, and Wareham on 8 and 31 May; in addition to the 3456th (Medium Maintenance) Company which was recorded as being stationed at Merley Park in Dorset on 9 March, and at Lopcombe Camp on 12 April and 31 May.

 Kind Regards




 On 01/10/2023 13:01, jacky kerly wrote:


 John, thank you so much for doing all the hard work sifting through the diaries. The results make a good addition to our archive and will be appreciated by other members more au fait with the aircraft and bomb types than I am. There were some Americans in Blagdon Court and others in huts at Coombe Lodge.

The American serviceman I mentioned published a book Metric 16 in 1972. I've attached some communication he had with the village.

Again, many thanks for your help. I wish you very well with your health and research.

Best wishes



On Sun, 1 Oct 2023 at 10:51, John Penny wrote:


Hi Jacky,


I’ve been through my information on the County of Avon during World War Two, and from the day by day diary of the Luftwaffe attacks on the area I have saved you the trouble and have extracted all the incidents that mention Blagdon. It appears that the parish had a charmed existence as very few incidents are listed! Lucky you. I have also dug out my notes on the 310th Ordnance Battalion which was temporarily stationed at Blagdon in the summer of 1944, and local searchlights, again not much, but you might find them useful. This is about all I have on Blagdon, but hopefully every little helps.


 Kind Regards






2/3 December 1940


 Extract from German reports


Target Bristol - 132 aircraft (Heinkel He 111s; Junkers Ju 88s; Dornier Do 17s) were dispatched. One Do 17 crashed soon after take-off; two aircraft aborted and returned early; eight aircraft attacked alternative targets. During the evening the crews of 121 aircraft reported over Bristol between 18.20 and 22.30 hrs claiming to have dropped 120.9 tonnes of High Explosives; 1 tonne of Oil Incendiaries; and 22,160 one kilogramme magnesium incendiaries.


 Extract from British reports


Bristol - official casualty figures were 156 killed, 149 seriously injured, 121 slightly injured. Bombs also fell in North Somerset, but no fatalities were reported. Incidents included High Explosives which were dropped between Blagdon and Wrington.


 3/4 January 1941


Extract from German reports


Target Bristol – 202 aircraft (Heinkel He 111s; Junkers Ju 88s; Dornier Do 17s) were dispatched, the crews of 178 of which subsequently reported over the target, while 24 others either aborted their missions or attacked alternative targets and one Do17 crashed on landing. The first phase of the operation took place between 18.35 and 00.38 hrs, with the second phase lasting from 01.40 until 05.51 hrs, and during the night crews claimed to have dropped 152 tonnes of High Explosives, two tonnes of Oil Incendiraies and 53,568 one kilogramme Magnesium Incendiaries. In addition, 12 LMB parachute mines were laid in the Severn Estuary.


Extract from British reports


Bristol - official casualty figures were 149 killed, 133 seriously and 218 slightly injured. Bombs also fell in North Somerset, but no fatalities were reported. Incidents included those at Blagdon and Redhill where at 03.12 hrs, hundreds of Magnesium Incendiaries and a few High Explosives were dropped, while the two High Explosives which fell at Holt Farm caused some damage to outbuildings.


 4/5 July 1941


 Extract from German reports


Target Birmingham - 52 aircraft (Heinkel He 111s; Junkers Ju 88s) attacked. During the night Bristol was also attacked by one Ju 88 crew who had been briefed for Birmingham, but because of technical problems had selected Bristol as an alternative target at 02.03 hrs.


Extract from British reports


Bristol - official casualty figures were 2 killed, 2 slightly injured. Incidents were also reported at Blagdon at 03.53 hrs, where four High Explosives were reported at Pitminster, probably dropped by aircraft returning from Birmingham.


 30/31 October 1941


 Extract from German reports


Target was the Bristol Channel and off the South Coast between Portland and Falmouth. During the night about 36 aircraft (Junkers Ju 88s) undertook aerial mine laying and anti-shipping operations.


 Extract from British reports


North Somerset – At 20.30 hrs a Parachute Mine fell at Ellick Farm, about half a mile south of Burrington. As a result six houses were damaged, while a parachute was found nearby. At Blagdon slight blast damage was also caused to houses.


 27/28 March 1944


 Extract from German reports


Target Bristol – 139 aircraft dispatched (Junkers Ju 88s; Junkers Ju 188s; Dornier Do 217s; Heinkel He 177s), the crews of 116 reported over target, 16 aborted their missions, 6 attacked alternative targets, 11 failed to return, 2 crashed in occupied France. Bomb load unknown.


 Extract from British reports


Although no bombs whatsoever fell on Bristol during the night, in North Somerset about 10,500 small Incendiaries of practically every kind known to have been in use were dropped. These ranged from the ordinary one kilogramme magnesium type, through all the variations of steel nose, explosive nose and explosive tail, to the new 50 kilogramme Phosphorus Incendiaries. This was the first time phosphorus bombs had been dropped in the area. Many Incendiaries were reported to have fallen at Blagdon, Chew Stoke, Ubley, and West Harptree, but no damage was caused.


 Notes on the 310th Ordnance Battalion, US Army, stationed at Blagdon, APO 230


In preparation for ‘Operation Overlord’ the 310th Ordnance Battalion came under the larger 72nd Ordnance Group which in turn was part of the US First Army which had its HQ in Bristol. The 310th was entirely a vehicle centric battalion. They were mechanics, welders, drivers and equipment operators, etc. They focused on vehicle disbursement, recovery, repair, and the issuing out of parts and supplies to maintain vehicles. In addition, there would also be administration personnel for each of the companies.


On 31 May 1944 the 310th Ordnance Battalion was listed at Blagdon (map reference VT9580), along with its subordinated 3472nd Ordnance (Medium Automotive Maintenance) Company. Its other subordinated companies were dispersed locally, the 18th Ordnance (Medium Maintenance) Company at Failand; the 178th Ordnance (Depot) Company at Taunton; the 332nd Ordnance (Depot) Company at Beckington; the 334th Ordnance (Depot) Company at Stanton Drew; and the 995th Ordnance (Motor Vehicle Distributing) Company at Gloucester.


The 310th landed at ‘Omaha Beach’ on D+14 and assumed all ordnance duties for the First Army, relieving units already set up on the beach head. The 310th was put in charge of the First Army’s motor-pool, and by 14 August 1944 the 310th was made up of four primary companies. These comprised three Depot Motor Vehicle Distributing Companies and a Heavy Maintenance Company (Field Army). They subsequently supported the Army through France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany, while during the ‘Battle of the Bulge’ the commander of the 310th, Lieutenant-Colonel Lyman Oscar Heidtke, had organized the successful the evacuation of the depot stocks from the town of Aywaille in Belgium. For this the 310th Ordnance Battalion, Headquarters and Headquarters Detachment, were awarded the Battle Participation Credit for the Ardennes Campaign.




There were no anti-aircraft guns installed locally, but to begin with the 66th Searchlight Regiment R.A. was responsible for manning the searchlights around the Mendip (538 area). In fact it was the responsibility of their subordinated 449 Battery, and on 17 October 1940 the searchlights were deployed at the following places:-


53811 – Priddy Hill


53812 – Ubley


53813 – East Harptree


53814 – Dinder


53815 – Wookey Hole (HQ)


53816 – Westbury sub Mendip


53817 – Nempnett Thrubwell


53818 – Compton Martin


53819 – Draycott


538110 – Priddy


538111 – Henton


538112 – Wells


In November 1941 the local searchlights reduced in number and re-organised within a new and larger CLG Area, while the 449/68 was replaced by the 455/68 Searchlight Regiment, the HQ of which was at Bristol. In August 1943 the 349/37 was manning the area.-


CLG 13 – Durley Hill, Keynsham


CLG 14 – Iwood, Congresbury


CLG 15 – Redhill


CLG 16 – Chew Magna


CLG 17 – Pensford


CLG 18 – Compton Dando


CLG 19 – Ubley


CLG 20 - Hinton Blewitt


CLG 21 - Clutton


 On 26/09/2023 11:24, jacky kerly wrote:


Dear John,

I wrote to Clice Burlton recently and was delighted to hear that you are much better after some ill health last year. Although I know you have passed over much of your material to him, he regards you as the authority on WW2 in Bristol. In Blagdon we are hoping to put on an exhibition and/or talk related to D Day next year. We can find no direct link with any of our servicemen and women, but did have a company of Americans here for a while prior to the landings.

I am wondering if you have any suggestions from your film archive which would be relevant? Clive tells me you have given him a box of WW2 artefacts which he could display at some point but probably not in June.

Thank you in anticipation and with good memories of your visit to us,

Best wishes

 Jacky Kerly

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