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The choirboy and the Nazi Mercedes

A visit to Newton Abbot by the armoured car once owned by Hitler’s right hand man is among the memories of the town to emerge from the Newton’s Place museum and community space project.

Hermann Goering, founder of the Gestapo and commander of the Luftwaffe, was leader of the Nazi Party. He played a prominent role in organising Germany’s police state and establishing concentration camps such as Auschwitz. He was given a death sentence at the 1946 Nuremburg International Military Tribunal but cheated his executioners by taking cyanide just hours before he was due to hang.

The Nazi monster wasn’t to know that the terror he once brought would deliver an unexpected boost for those who had fought his regime’s tyranny. The mighty bullet-proof Mercedes that had swept him across occupied Europe was captured at the end of the war and brought to England.

In the early 1950s it was exhibited as a fundraiser for the Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen Families Association (SSAFA). One of those who caught sight of the car was former St Leonard’s Church choirboy, Brian Platt.

"I can remember coming out of the church after choir practice one dark night after the war. Me and the other boys were making our way across the road to the Wolborough Hall for a few games of snooker when we saw the huge black car outside the old Western Garage. We ran over and talked to the men there and they told us it was Herman Goering’s car being stored over night. We had chills up our spines!"

The story emerged as part of a project to capture people’s memories and images of the former St Leonard’s church. Designers hope to incorporate residents’ memories and images into their scheme for the interior.

"We’re particularly keen to see people’s photos" said Newton’s Place Outreach Worker Kate Green. "Whether you got married there, celebrated a Christening or set off on a Sunday school trip, we’d love to use those images in the building’s design. Although we’re delivering something new and exciting for Newton Abbot and the surrounding communities we want to honour the role St Leonard’s played in the community for more than 150 years."

If you have any memories or photos you'd like to share, please get in touch.

Western Garage (1920-1930) - where the Mercedes was spotted!

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