Lobster feasts at Cary Arms, Torquay

This summer, to celebrate the unearthing of three letters dated November 1942 and June 1943, the Cary Arms will be opening a terrace bar alongside a weekly pop-up lobster BBQ in honour of Sir Winston Churchill and members of his closely-knit war time team who visited the Cary Arms and were in correspondence with the inn’s owners (Mr & Mrs Cox) throughout the war - and in particular enjoyed the Babbacombe Bay lobster gifted by the Cary Arms.

The terrace seating area, with spectacular views across Babbacombe Bay and the Jurassic coastline beyond, has been redesigned to offer four tables of two and a sea-facing counter for eight. The Lobster BBQ will launch on Saturday 25th May and be available (reservation only) Saturday lunch times through the summer. The Bar will be open on sunny Saturdays and Sundays for al fresco cocktails and aperitifs.

Lobster BBQ at Cary Arms in Torquay

The Winston Churchill menu will be listed on the reverse side of a replica of the letter the Cary Arms holds from Winston Churchill's office in 1942 personally thanking the Cary Arms for the delicious Babbacombe Bay lobster. This letter will be inside a replica of the original envelope which the inn also possess and wax sealed with their emblem. Pol Roger, Churchill’s favourite champagne, will be available by the glass and suggested as an accompaniment to the food.

Letter from Churchill’s private secretary

Letter to Churchill

Firstly a brief letter from Churchill’s private secretary thanks Mrs Cox and her husband Mr Cox, then proprietors of the Cary Arms, for their kind gift of lobster.

Letters from Walter H. Thompson

Letter from Walter Thompson 1

Letter from Walter Thompson 2

It is however the second and third letter that brings the story to life. Firstly a personal handwritten letter from Walter H. Thompson, personal bodyguard to Churchill for over 18 years, goes into great detail regarding the gift of lobster and how two of the three were shared by Sir Winston Churchill and General Smuts, then in his second term as Prime Minister of South Africa and honorary Field-Marshall of the British Empire.

Much has been written of the friendship and mutual respect and admiration between these two great men, to picture them sitting down to enjoy a lunch of Babbacombe Bay lobster no doubt washed down by Pol Roger champagne in the midst of WWII is quite the picture indeed.

Word coming from the mysterious “Miss S”

Mysterious Miss S will write

Detective Inspector Walter Henry Thompson BEM then goes on to explain how a mysterious ‘Miss S’ will be writing separately to offer thanks herself and how she is pleased with the plants, also sent as a gift. Unfortunately if ‘Miss S’ did write in November 1942 this letter is not in our possession.

Moving forward to June 1943 and the identity of our ‘Miss S’ becomes clear whilst writing to the Cary Arms to offer thanks for another gift of lobster. This time a personal gift to Mr Thompson who was unfortunately convalescing in hospital at the time. Comparing dates it seems this may well have been after the unfortunate accident in which a faulty safety catch on his revolver resulted in him shooting himself in the pelvis after dropping the weapon. An incident that the German propaganda machine attempted to spin into “Churchill’s private bodyguard attempts suicide”.

‘Miss S’ is in fact Mary Shearburn, Churchill’s Junior Secretary throughout the war and later to be Mrs Thompson, marrying soon after the end of the war. The personal nature of the correspondence from both Mr Thompson and Mrs Thompson (nee Shearburn) to Mrs Cox at the Cary Arms perhaps allows us to picture them enjoying the first blossoming of their romance as guests of the Cary Arms, years before their eventual marriage in 1945.

How to join the lobster feasts at Cary Arms

By reservation only, this is your chance to join us and picture yourselves sharing Babbacombe Bay lobster washed down by Pol Roger champagne just as Sir Winston Churchill and General Smuts did over 75 years ago, or perhaps to imagine you are Mr Thompson and Mary Shearburn as new lovers looking out over Babbacombe Bay.

Open Saturday lunch times from May 25th to September 28th, please call 01803 327110 for more details or visit the Cary Arms website directly.


Cary Arms & Spa Restaurant
Cary Arms & Spa Restaurant, Torquay, Devon

The Best of Devon Restaurants With the freshest of seasonal produce from the south Devon Coast At Cary Arms & Spa, we serve gastro food cooked simply. The watchwords in the kitchen are fresh­ness and seasonality, underpinned by a deep-rooted respect for the sur­rounding waters and land. The specials board changes daily reflecting Devon coast and Devon country in equal measure. Expect superb Devon beef, Lyme Bay lobster and line caught seafood. Food to rival the best. Hungry walkers, families, friends and travelling food­ies - this is a place where even a pint of prawns is done with panache. Dine outdoors in the warmer months and watch south Devon life in the bay unfold.



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