Reliving the War

Reliving the War: 6 War-Related Activities You Can Visit in Devon

Devon offers many possibilities for exploration. The county is steeped in history, and the legacy of the Second World War can be felt everywhere. But how do you know what you want to visit first? What’s overblown and what’s under-appreciated? 

Well, below are 6 war-related areas in Devon worth your consideration. They aren’t listed in any particular order. They are all glimpses into Devon’s dark history. So if you ever find yourself there, wondering about the past or interested in the war or just plain bored one day, here are some potential sources of entertainment.


  1. The Royal Albert Memorial Museum, also called the RAMM, is a museum in Exeter. Visitors can enter the building and walk through time, from Devon’s pre-history to the modern day. With extensive displays for Roman and Christian Devon, and even a small section for the Second World War, the RAAM offers something for everyone. It might not be the most lavish museum ever, but it is free, so if you ever find yourself with a free hour or two in Exeter, consider giving the RAAM a quick look.


  2. Brixam Battery and the Battery Gardens, located, shockingly, in Brixham, comprise a popular site for people to watch trawler races. In the past, however, they were a little less…civilian-friendly. The area was first used as a Battery (meaning a compilation of artillery weapons and soldiers) in the conflicts with Spain in the 16th century. 116 emergency Batteries were built in 1940 to help with WWII, mainly to defend Britain’s beaches from enemy invasions, though they also included anti-aircraft weaponry. Today, only 7 of those remain, and Brixham’s is the most complete. While no major battles occurred there, there were small skirmishes against bombers. Today, the area is an English Heritage site, with some of the structures and weapons still there, not to mention an absolutely stunning view of the bay.

Image taken from Brixham News, permission granted.


     3. Red Coat Tours, also situated in Exeter, offer a fascinating way to both explore the city and study its rich and vibrant history. Commonly found at the Royal Clarence Hotel outside Exeter Cathedral, the red coat tour guides operate year-round and, even better, are completely free. Tours typically last around 90 minutes, but the whole experience is a journey that spans both history, from Medieval Exeter to its partial destruction during the Second World War, and fantasy, offering both Halloween and even mythological ghosts and legends tours.  

     4. Speaking of Exeter, and since we’re already situated right by the Cathedral, how about the Cathedral itself? While that does cost a little bit of money, the Cathedral offers a solid and awe-inspiring way location to spend an hour or two. It has a nice café where you can relax and enjoy iconic British teas. Its beautiful decorative glass windows and old statues imbue the setting with centuries of history and art. Plaques spread throughout the Cathedral commemorate the deaths of British soldiers in World War I and the Boer Wars, among others. More has been written about Exeter Cathedral’s link to World War II here but the Cathedral is also a bastion for older history and artifacts. You’ll want to make sure there’s storage space on your phone before coming here!

    5. The Cobbaton Combat Collection is a museum located in North Devon. Its opening hours vary, but as of this writing, they are open Tuesdays and Wednesdays from 10-5. If you decide to visit there, it would be advantageous to check their website first. This military museum primarily focuses on the Second World War, containing a veritable arsenal of British (and American, Russian, and even Canadian) weaponry and military supplies, ranging from tanks and uniforms to ration books and gas masks. There are over 50 military vehicles and artillery pieces, not to mention thousands of smaller firearms. For those interested in the more militaristic aspects of the war, the Cobbaton Combat Collection is a must-see!

     6. The South Hams are tricky to get to, and you’ll most likely require your own vehicle. If you have the opportunity to go there, however, definitely take advantage of that. The South Hams have been written about extensively here and here, so I won’t harp on them too much. They’re completely free, unless you choose to park right alongside the beach, and they constitute a natural and beautiful way to see both the English countryside and the war history stitched into it. The tank sitting near the bay and the monument overlooking the beach serve as very real reminders that war affects everyone. Numerous small towns sit nearby, so you can pop into any of them and find lunch in an authentic rather than commercialized British pub. Coming out to Slapton isn't an experience you'll soon forget.

So if you ever find yourself looking for a fun little activity to do in Devon, or if you have any interest in the region's textbook-worthy history, or if you just like guns, bombs, art, or tea, then feel free to consider some of the places on this list.


Text © Ben Koses