The Atlantic Hotel, Tenby

Link to French translationThis hotel combines three houses which were built in the 1870s. All three were originally as tall as the right-hand section of the hotel is today.

The pair of houses on the left, where you now enter the hotel, was bought by Warren de la Rue for his retirement. His family fortune came from a printing business which produced postage stamps, railway tickets and playing cards, among other things. He removed the houses’ top storey and remodelled the frontage, including the new central entrance.

Notice the horse’s head carved in stone above the entrance. It depicts a successful racehorse named Trayles, which Warren owned. He named the house Trayles after the horse – see the inscription above the head.

Across the road, he had a terrace excavated on the clifftop before the First World War. The terrace is now the Atlantic Hotel gardens. He made mathematical observations of the movement of the tides from the terrace.

Trayles became the Atlantic Hotel after his death in 1921. The hotel expanded into the taller building next door in 1960. The railings there are in a different style from the ones in front of the former Trayles.

In May 1940 the Atlantic Hotel became the headquarters of the free Belgian armed forces. Soldiers and airmen who had escaped the Nazi invasion of Belgium and France started to regroup in Tenby to assist in the Allied war effort.

The hotel was the base of General Victor van Strydonck de Burkel, who had distinguished himself in the First World War. The exiled Belgian government appointed him commander-in-chief of the free forces in October 1940 and he put together a well-trained battle group.

Another Belgian, Viscount Arthur de Jonghe d’Ardoye, recruited Belgian special agents in Tenby from 1942 to 1944. After intensive training, they were sent into occupied territory, some by parachute. See the footnotes for more about the Belgian forces in Tenby.

The Atlantic Hotel was re-established as a hotel after the war. A plaque to the Belgian Free Forces can be seen inside the hotel porch.

With thanks to Christopher Le Hardy

Postcode: SA70 7DU    View Location Map

Atlantic Hotel website

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Footnotes: More about the Belgian forces in Tenby

The decision that Belgium would fight on at a meeting in London with M. Dennis, the Belgian Minister of Defence, on 25th May 1940, writes Christopher Le Hardy. The meeting was the initiative of the Belgian Ambassador at a meeting in London

This was a momentous decision, made before the Belgian Army was forced to capitulate on 28 May after it had gallantly fought a Battle on the Lys river line with heavy casualties. This action fulfilled a promise made by their Commander in Chief, King Leopold III, that he would protect the Northern flank of the Allied Forces, ensuring the British Expeditionary Force could start to evacuate from the beaches of Dunkirk. Some Belgians managed to escape with the British Forces.

Also present at the London meeting was General Victor van Strydonck de Burkel who was despatched to establish the Centre de Regroupement in Tenby. Navy personnel were sent to the Royal Navy, pilots to Royal Air Force Squadrons. Soldiers who had escaped the Nazi invasion of Belgium and France started to regroup in Tenby in May 1940.

A training camp was established at Penally Camp where most of the officers and other ranks were accommodated, with senior officers probably billeted in the town. As numbers grew, a first infantry battalion was created, then a second battalion and eventually an all-arms Brigade with engineers, artillery and an armoured recce squadron.

Some Belgians joined the Commandos and operated in the Balkans and Europe. 5 regiment SAS undertook deep penetration raids after D-Day with the resistance in France and Belgium. Under the Command of Colonel Piron, the Brigade trained for conventional operations. It landed in France in August 1944 and then conducted clearance operations up the Normandy coast alongside the Dutch Princess Irene Brigade. The Brigade de Piron joined up with the Welsh Guards to liberate Bruxelles (Brussels) in September 1944 and then on into Germany until the German Surrender in May 1945.