Putsborough Bombing Range

About this route

The North Devon coast provided important training grounds for Allied forces during the Second World War.  The area also saw the temporary influx of large numbers of American troops using the wide sandy beaches to prepare for the D-Day landings in June 1944, when it became known as the Assault Training Centre.  The significance of this role throughout wartime has led to several relics of this era being afforded protection by Historic England as Listed Buildings.

One such site is the former bombing range at Putsborough, established in or before 1942, where the Royal Air Force practiced low altitude air-to-sea bombing runs, primarily to counter the increased threat of attacks on the British coast from the sea.  The site consisted of a concrete-built arrow, set into the ground and pointed at a timber and cork target buoy anchored in Morte Bay.  Accuracy of bombing was determined by triangulation from associated concrete observation posts, crewed by the Women’s Royal Air Force, one of which stood adjacent to the arrow and two others were positioned further along the bay, at Barricane Beach and Marine Drive, Woolacombe.  Both the arrow and observation post at Putsborough survive.

The bombing range was used by Spitfires to practice dive-bombing of which a number crashed into Morte Bay during training.  However, the range was mainly used by squadrons based at the nearby RAF Chivenor, including No. 172 anti-submarine squadron who, flying Vickers Wellington bombers, were pioneers in the use of the Leigh Light.  The Leigh Light was a high-power searchlight that was used to highlight target U-boats on the surface at night and partially resolved the range limitations of Air-to-Surface Vessel Radar, which could not detect targets within 1km and so gave the enemy time to dive before being seen.  The Leigh Light was turned on just as the radar signal was about to be lost, so giving the bombing crews ‘eyes on target’.


Interreg Atlantic Area and TIDE logo

Getting Around

By bus: Stagecoach Service 21A between Appledore and Georgham stops at Croyde. Putsborough is a 1 mile walk along country lanes from the centre of Croyde.  For latest times visit the Travel Devon website.

By road: From Barnstaple take the A361 to Braunton, then the B3231 to Croyde and then follow Jones Hill, Stentaway Lane into Vention Lane at Putsborough.  There is a large privately-run pay and display car park at Putsborough Beach, and the target indicator and associated observation post can be reached by walking a short way uphill from the beach along Vention Lane.


On foot: The target indicator and associated observation post are adjacent to the South West Coast Path, heading west from Vention Lane.



Public toilets and a café are located adjacent to the beach.