Elaine Way's Soldier Profiles A-H
Over By Christmas … ?
On 4th August 1914 the British Empire declared war on the German Empire and it was not long before other countries waded in. Did the public in Britain really think it would be over by Christmas? With hindsight, it is possible to dismiss that as wishful thinking. But nobody at the time could have known that the world was in for what would become the Great War - four years of hell on earth.
In twenty weeks between 4th August and 25th December 1914 forces of the United Kingdom and its Empire lost a total of 33,351 personnel. 293 belonged to the Devonshire Regiment and all were Regular soldiers or volunteers; conscription did not come until 1916. Their first casualty was Charles Arthur Dash who perished on 6th September 1914. He was with 1st Battalion which, by mid-August was at Le Havre as part of the British Expeditionary Force; did he go with them, or had he stayed behind? He enlisted at Weymouth and is buried in Portland Royal Naval Cemetery. ‘The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says he ‘Died - Home’ not meaning in his own house but his home country rather than somewhere foreign.
Charles Arthur was born in 1882 at Clerkenwell, London and for the census of 1901 was in Portland, Dorset, working as a ‘Mason’s Labourer’. Ten years later he was a patient in the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley, a military hospital near Southampton. His occupation was now ‘Soldier’ but the census does not specify the unit he was with. Had he been injured in the course of duty or was he suffering from an illness which, three years later caused his demise? It would cost £11 (in 2020) to purchase copy of his death certificate in order to (maybe) find out. But it could be inconclusive.
Although he did not belong to the Devonshire Regiment, Lieutenant Herbert Leslie Hopkins was Medical Officer to 1st Battalion. He is described as being ‘ killed whilst attending to the wounded, regardless of shellfire ’. His bravery and devotion to duty earned him a Mention in Despatches.
Herbert Leslie trained at Guy’s Hospital and at the outbreak of war gave up a promising career in public medicine to join the Royal Army Medical Corps. He lost his life on 19th September 1914 and was 27-years old when buried in the British Cemetery at Vailly-sur-Aisne in Picardy, alongside two of the Devons - Captain Henry Grattan Elliott and Serjeant Kingdom.
The first commissioned officer of the Devons to be killed in action in this War to End Wars was Captain Henry Grattan Elliott. His father was Colonel G.A. Elliott and where did high-ranking Army officers send their sons to be educated? Wellington College ! Their website contains Roll of Honour pages with biographies of pupils lost in the Great War. Henry Grattan entered the College in 1895, left in 1898 and was gazetted into the Devonshire Regiment from the Royal Military College (now Academy), Sandhurst in 1899. He saw service in the Boer War of 1900-1902 for which he was awarded the Queen’s Medal with 5 clasps and King’s Medal with 2 clasps - this war having spanned reigns of Queen Victoria and Edward VII. In 1911 he was out in India as Aide-de-Camp to a Lieutenant General.
Imperial War Museum’s website has a photo of him wearing a high-collared regimental dress tunic and a neat moustache. He smiles quietly. Henry Grattan Elliott lost his life on 20th September 1914.
Lance-Corporal 9342 Hubert Abraham
Born in the Devon town of Moretonhampstead where the History Society has an extensive website providing this narrative:
“ Moretonhampstead has two war memorials - one in St. Andrew’s churchyard and one in the Square. There is also a plaque inside the church which gives names of those killed in the 1914-18 war. Hubert Abraham was born, educated and resident in the town. Son of William and Elizabeth of Ford Street. A young early volunteer, Hubert served in the British Expeditionary Force which helped the French and Belgians to stop the Germans from winning the war in the first few weeks. The main German attack on the Western Front was to capture Paris via weak Belgium and knock out the French before the British could prop them up. Hubert’s battalion was rushed to France as part of what the Kaiser dismissed as a Contemptible Little Army. ”
Nineteen-years old when he died of wounds on 24th November 1914, Hubert is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery where his headstone has a personal inscription :
"In Loving memory From Mother, Father, Sisters and Brother”
Private 8971 Samuel Joseph Adams
In census 1901 he is at home in Plymouth with father, a ‘Naval Pensioner’, mother and a sister; ten years later Samuel Joseph has joined the Army and is at barracks in Tidworth. After training, he went into 1st Battalion which in peace-time was stationed in Jersey; they landed at Le Havre on 21st August 1914 and during the following month lost 100 men - Samuel being one of them - killed on 19th September. He was nineteen-years old and buried with a cross showing his name and number. After the war this became part of the British Cemetery at Vailly-sur-Aisne where many are simply Unknown Soldiers.
Lieutenant Denys Alfred Lafone Ainslie - was born on 21st May 1894 and christened one month later at Kings Walden, Hertfordshire, the third of four brothers. After prep-school at Woburn Sands he went to Wellington College where his entry in the Book of Remembrance for pupils lost in WW1 shows a photo of a serious-looking young man clad in a high-collared regimental dress tunic. Under it is the comment “ He had the making of a very good soldier ” - which is what Denys Alfred always wanted to be, according to a family descendant who has put his story online. He joined the Officers Training Corps at Wellington then left the college in 1910.
For a short while he was articled to his father’s firm of solicitors before being gazetted Second- Lieutenant in the Devonshire Regiment in 1911. Two years later he was commissioned full
Lieutenant and all set for progressing up the ranks, in order to fulfil his ambition of a lifetime’s military career …. Until the war intervened.
Regimental records describing the action at Givenchy on 24th October 1914 comment “Casualties came to about 40, including Lieut. Ainslie - killed”. The battalion commander wrote “We deplore the loss of a capable and gallant officer who was most popular with all ranks” ; another said “No-one who knew Ainslie could fail to be impressed by the charm of his character and personality”.
His parents lived at Harrow Weald in Middlesex where on Saturday 31st October 1914, a memorial service for Denys Alfred was held at All Saints Church. His name is the first of forty on the war memorial inside the church as well as outside on a wooden-framed marble street shrine at the entrance to the town’s Recreation Ground - “ Tho’ Dead Their Memory Liveth. ”
Private 3/5103 Alfred Arthur Alway
He was 29-years old when he lost his life on 24 November 1914 during the First Battle of Ypres. Born and enlisted in Devonport, he was the son of Emma Mary and Bromfield Alway and is commemorated on the Menin Gate at Ypres, the town in Belgium which has recently reverted to it’s original spelling of Ieper.
His father, Bromfield Alway, was in the Royal Navy and the family seems to have lived for a while in Pembrokeshire and Bristol, before returning to Devonport where Alfred Arthur was born in 1884. In 1901, aged 17, he was a ‘Grocer’s Apprentice’ but ten years later had become a general labourer, working for the Government - probably in the dockyard.
Private 1936 Herbert Andrews
Born in Buckfastleigh where he is remembered on the war memorial standing in the churchyard of All Saints. This ancient church was destroyed in an arson attack in 1992 and is now a roofless shell with its tower and spire still standing. Plans were made to move the memorial nearer the town, but as far as I can discover, it is still in the churchyard. There are fifty names of “ Our Glorious Dead - To the Glory of God and in Memory of the Men of Buckfastleigh who Made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great European War 1914-1918 ” another twenty-eight were added after WW2 - “ Blessed Are They Which Die In The Lord ”
In 1901, ten-year old Herbert was at home with parents William and Elizabeth and four older siblings. Ten years later both parents are still in Buckfastleigh, but all the offspring have set off on their own. Herbert is in Beckenham, Kent working as a domestic gardener. He enlisted in 5th Battalion the Devonshire Regiment a Territorial unit which, despite the promise of being used purely for home defence, was sent to India in October 1914 to replace regular soldiers needed in France.
Two months later Herbert died, not of wounds but maybe from a tropical disease. He was buried at Multan War Cemetery which since partition of India is now in Pakistan. Because of the ongoing political situation it is difficult to establish whether or not this war-grave cemetery still exists. After the Second World War, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission erected, in India, the Karachi 1914-1918 War Memorial in order for casualties to be remembered by name somewhere they can readily be seen. There are 568 of them, a dozen of the Devonshire Regiment.
Private 6809 James Anley
In the census of 1891 he is with parents, a brother and a sister living in Silverton, Devon, where he had been born in 1885. In the census of 1901 James had gone to Cheriton Fitzpaine eight miles away where he worked on a farm, but by 1911 was back at home and employed as a ‘Roller-Man’ in the local paper-mill. His brother and sister both worked there as well, but their father was what he had always been - an agricultural labourer.
James lost his life on 18th November 1914 and is one of the 54,369 names on the Menin Gate.
Private 9195 Charles Appleton
In 1911 was with 2nd Battalion at Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth. When the war began they were in Cairo but by the end of August had reached Ismailia in order to guard the Suez Canal. It was not long before they headed back to England, arriving at Southampton on 1st October. Then they were sent to France.
2nd Devons fetched up near Ypres on 11th November and within a fortnight Charles Appleton had lost his life; he was twenty-two years old and buried at Merville Communal Cemetery in the Nord department of France. His place of birth was Pamber in Hampshire and his name is on the memorial plaque inside the Priory Church there. In 1921 Field- Marshal the Earl Haig opened Farnborough War Memorial Hospital and ‘Appleton, Charles’ is one of many names on the Roll of Honour inside. In 1901 ‘Charley Appleton’ aged 9 was with his parents and younger sister at home in Cove St. John near Farnborough. Ten years later, whilst Charles/Charley is in barracks at Tidworth his father, now a widower, is still living there with his two other children and a housekeeper.
Private 3/5730 William Henry Austin
He was 31-years years old when he died of wounds on 7th December 1914 and buried at Earlsfield Cemetery, Wandsworth, London in a plot reserved for those who lost their lives as a result of serving in the war. During WW1 there was a large military hospital nearby, so this would have been where William Henry was brought by a hospital train from France.
‘The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says he was born in Paignton; the closest birth registration was in Totnes District - which includes Paignton - in September Quarter of 1885 which roughly fits with the age quoted when his death was registered. The nearest census record is in 1901 when ‘William H. Austin, born Paignton 1886’ is a fifteen-year old engine-cleaner for the Great Western Railway living in Kingsteignton, Devon, boarding with a family who are not his relations. He is not on Kingsteignton war memorial. Two with the surname Austin are on Paignton’s memorial, but neither of them have the initials ‘W.H’.
Private 7837 Fred Badcock
came from North Devon where in 1901 he and his father were farm workers in the small village of Ashreigney. In 2001 its population amounted to 446 but a hundred years previously it had been 540. There are eight names “In Every Blessed Memory of the Men of this Parish who made the Supreme Sacrifice in the Great War 1914-1918” Fred Badcock being one. By 1911 he had joined the Army and was with 2nd Devons in Malta. Maybe army life had seemed preferable to monotonous hard graft on the land …..
Private 7986 Walter Ackland
Born in Bideford and for census of 1911 was with 2nd Battalion stationed at St. George’s Barracks, Malta. Either his period of service expired, or he was due some leave, because some time between July and September 1914 he was back in his home town to to marry Annie Maud Palmer.
Bideford has several war memorials; the plaque in St. Mary’s church has 56 names with ‘Ackland W’ being the first. Walter was twenty-six years old when he lost his life on 24 October 1914. He had no burial - his name is on the Memorial to the Missing at Le Touret in the Pas de Calais.
Serjeant 7537 Wilfred Bagwell
Belonging to the 2nd Battalion and for census of 1911 was with them at St. George’s Barracks, Malta, along with many comrades who would perish in the coming conflict. Also there at this time was his wife Alice who he had married at Exeter in 1908. Birth of their daughter Freda has proved difficult to trace; maybe she was born in Malta and did not get registered in the UK. Serjeant Bagwell was 29-years old when he died of wounds four days before Christmas 1914; he is buried in Boulogne’s Eastern Cemetery where his headstone carries a personal inscription :
“Sadly Missed by Wife and Daughter - Alice and Freda”
Private 5778 James Baker
Born and enlisted in Tiverton, but does not seem to be on any war memorial there. His parents were living in Dulverton when named next-of-kin; he is not on that one either. But .. two miles away is the small village of Brushford where for the 1911 census his parents Charles and Jane were living with their daughter and three sons, one of them “Jim - aged 17”. The parish church at Brushford has a reredos and Roll of |Honour with nine names - the first being Jim Baker - “ Faithful Unto Death - Men of this Parish who have Laid down their Lives for their Country in the Great European War - Make them to be numbered with thy Saints - We look for the Resurrection of the Dead and the Life of the World to Come.”
James was one of 120 NCO’s and men of 2nd Battalion who were lost in fighting around the Moated Grange on 18th December 1914. His name is on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
Private 7109 John Baker
In 1911 he is with 2nd Battalion at St. George’s Barracks. Malta. He is single, aged 27 with his birthplace being Plymouth. So he was born about 1884 and a couple of birth registrations fit with that, but impossible to pin down in census because his Commonwealth War Graves page gives no next-of-kin. Neither can he be found on any war memorial other than that to the Missing at Le Touret.
Private 9503 Frederick Walter Baker
With ‘B’ Company of 1st Battalion which distinguished itself on 30th October 1914 but at great cost - “ Out of one party of over 60 who tried a rush, 40 were promptly shot down ” - this was no doubt where Frederick Walter was killed in action. He was eighteen-years old. His parents, simply Mr. & Mrs Baker when named next-of-kin lived in Ipplepen, Newton Abbot, although their son had been born in Torquay. In census 1901 they had five children but by 1911 most were no longer at home, including Frederick Walter. Cannot find him in that census but his name is on Newton Abbot’s war memorial; he is one of the Missing at Le Touret.
Private 10591 William Henry Baker
With 8th Devons, one of many Service Battalions formed August/September 1914 specifically to take the enormous number of volunteers flocking to defend their King and Country. They were sent to Aldershot and housed in tents, without proper uniforms or equipment to train with. Army and civilian authorities had been taken totally unawares, but were tasked with providing food and shelter for hundreds of men as winter approached. These were not soldiers. They were civilians from farms, shops, factories - innocently responding to Lord Kitchener’s slogan - “ Your Country Needs You ! ” Full of hope, but unaware of what industrialised warfare would let them in for.
William Henry was born in Great Torrington and buried in the town’s cemetery on 12 October 1914. The Website ‘Great Torrington Remembers’ has his story, together with a quote from the local newspaper:
“Amid tokens of much sympathy and regret the funeral of Pte. William Henry Baker aged 32, took place yesterday - a man much respected. He joined Kitchener’s Army about six weeks ago and a few days later contracted a chill which ultimately developed into double pneumonia. He was admitted into Cambridge Hospital, Aldershot, where he passed away on Monday.” There follows a description of the funeral service with names those attending, one being his half-brother Henry Trott.
William had his mother’s surname, but his three siblings were born after she had married. One of them, Henry Trott joined up in October 1914 and was 23-years old when he lost his life in September 1918 whilst with the Royal Engineers in Egypt. They are both named on Torrington’s war memorial.
Private 6197 William Walter Balham
Born 23rd August 1882 at Layham, a small village near Hadleigh in Suffolk. For the centenary of WW1 this town had a project investigating 111 men named on its War Memorial. Some of the information relating to William Walter comes from that source :
It is thought that he joined the Devonshire Regiment in 1900; in 1903 he was awarded the King’s South Africa Medal so would have spent at least 18-months serving during the Boer War. It is not known when William Walter left the Army but by 1911 he was at home with his mother in Fulham and employed as a ‘Taximeter Clerk for a Motor Cab Company’. At this time he would have been on the army list of reservists, so when war broke out he was mobilised and joined 1st Battalion the Devons. According to its war diary 31st October 1914 was a quiet day with only four men killed - one being William Walter Balham. He is another Missing in Action with his name on the Le Touret Memorial.
Private 8065 Hubert Samuel Barrett
For census 1911 is in Multan & Lucknow Barracks at Tidworth, so is a Regular soldier; his place of birth is Colyton, Devon and his age is given as 22 with his year of birth being 1889. So far, so good - but the nearest birth registration is Hubert Henry Barrett in the last quarter of 1887; maybe he did not know the exact year he was born, maybe he didn’t know his middle name was not Samuel or maybe the army records are incorrect. Devon Heritage maintains his parents were Esau and Rhoda and that he was twenty-six years old when killed in action on 19th October 1914.
Hubert Samuel is one of thirteen belonging to the Devons named on the war memorial at Colyton. He is also one of the Missing at Le Touret.
Private 9573 Thomas Reginald Barrett
Also lost his life on 19th October 1914. He is no relation to the above. Thomas Reginald was born in Rangoon, Burma the country now called Myanmar. Aged 5 in 1901 he was living in Instow, Devon at the home of his Grandmother, together with his mother and two brothers who were born in Woolwich - presumably their father was in the army.
Aged 16 in 1911, Thomas Reginald was working as a Stableman for a Cab Proprietor. His name is on Instow’s war memorial which stands in the grounds of the parish church and has seats for those wishing to take in a view of the sea. A beautiful place to remember the fallen.
Private 9643 Harry Ernest Beazley
Lost his life with 1st Btn.on 29 October a day which, according to their records “Cost them dear with 100 casualties, a high proportion of them killed”. He had been born in 1895 so was 19 years old. In 1911 Harry, employed as an Errand Boy for a Chemist Shop, was living with his parents and seven siblings in St.Marychurch, Torquay, where his name is on the town’s war memorial by the seafront in Princess Gardens.
Private 7879 Alfred Beer
He was twenty-nine years old when he became one of the Missing with his name on the memorial at Le Touret. He had been a Regular soldier with 2nd Battalion of the Devons and in 1911 was with them in Malta. At that time his parents were living in Cheriton Bishop on the edge of Dartmoor and where Alfred’s is the first name on the War Memorial. This granite slab is placed alongside part of an ancient wayside cross, which had to be moved when the road was widened in the 1990’s. Both are now set in a neat garden with seating and traffic passing by.
Private 3/17318 Henry Beer
His CWG page says he was 45-years old when he died on 18th December 1914 and that he was the son of Mrs Sarah Ann Binmore (formerly Beer) of Herberton,Totnes Devon. For a start, I take issue with them saying that these men ‘Died’. They didn’t die - they were wiped out - killed - obliterated - many were completely lost without any trace that they ever existed apart from the Army’s paperwork. The Devonshire Regiment’s book is more realistic; it has separate categories - ‘k-i-a - d.o.w and very occasionally died (home)’.
Private Beer’s birth was registered at Totnes in 1870 with the forenames ‘William Henry’; he does not seem to be in any census until after his mother married Louis Binmore in 1893. In 1901 he is a ‘Stone Quarryman’ and so is his brother and their step-father. Ten years later he has left home but is still in Harberton, Totnes, now giving his name simply as ‘Henry’. His name is on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. Totnes war memorial has one with the surname Beer, but the initial is M. Perhaps this was a mistake and it should be H.
Captain Barton Hope Besley
Born 1879 in the North Devon village of Peters Marland where his father was Vicar, Barton Hope was educated at Bradfield College in Berkshire which has a Roll of Honour for what they call ‘The 1914 War’. He was there from September 1891 until January 1897 and was a member of the Shooting VIII - acquiring experience useful to a professional soldier. By 1899 he was a Second-Lieutenant with the Devons out in South Africa at the Siege of Ladysmith. The following year he became full Lieutenant and by 1906 a Captain.
In the meantime his father had died so his mother and sisters went to live in Torquay. By the census of 1911 mother had moved to Awliscombe, a village near Honiton. Perhaps it was she who arranged for an engraved brass plaque to be placed in the parish church :
In Loving Memory of Barton Hope Besley - Captain, Devonshire Regiment
Who Fell In Action at Givenchy October 25th 1914 Aged 35 - Mentioned In Despatches
He Served Throughout the South African War - Took Part In The Relief of Ladysmith
And Held The Two Medals with Seven Clasps
+ Dulce Et Decorum Est Pro Patria Mori +
Private 3/6464 Walter Robert Bidder
In the churchyard of St. Brannock’s at Braunton in North Devon is a headstone bearing this inscription - “ In Loving Memory of the Beloved Sons of John and Eliza Jane Bidder - Walter Robert who Died in Action December 18th 1914 aged 19 years - Thomas who died August 16th 1915 aged 22 years.”
Walter Robert was with 2nd Battalion of the Devons and perished during their attack on the Moated Grange near Neuve Chapelle on the Western Front. He is one of the Missing named on the memorial at Le Touret in France. His brother Thomas was with the Coldstream Guards and in 1911 was at Pirbright Training Camp in Surrey; it seems he joined in the Army prior to the war. He had a Commonwealth War Graves burial in Braunton, so was either brought home wounded or died of an illness caused by his wartime service. At that time he would have had a standard CWG headstone but the one quoted above looks to be quite modern so must be a replacement. Whoever arranged for this, took the opportunity to commemorate his brother, who received no burial at all.
Their father was a farmer with a family of eight sons and two daughters. Braunton compiled a list of all those who served during WW1 and in addition to Thomas and Walter, a survivor was their brother Clarence Alfred who was in the Royal Navy on HMS Marlborough.
Private 9798 Walter James Biggs
His CWG page says nothing other than ‘ 18 December 1914 Le Touret Memorial ’ and that he was with 2nd Battalion. So Walter James was another casualty of the Moated Grange where many got hung up on wire entanglements and were easily sniped. He had been born in Camberwell, Surrey and enlisted at Stratford, Essex.
Looking at his page on Everyone Remembered, a present day descendant has left a message :
“Walter was 18 when he died in the first three months of the war. I have his medals and paperwork, so the family will still remember him. His name is on the Le Touret Memorial as he has not been found yet.”
That is not an unrealistic comment; even more than a hundred years later remains are still being unearthed. They are given a proper military burial and a Commonwealth War Graves headstone at a war cemetery nearest to where they were found, whether or not their identities can be proved. It is good to know that Walter James’ family keeps mementos in memory of him.
Private 9351 William Henry Blake
Having full information about someone does not always help with finding a lot in census or any other records. William Henry’s CWG page says his parents were ‘Mr. & Mrs W.H. Blake of 37 Stanley Gardens, Marldon Hill, Paignton, Devon’; that has to be taken at face-value - it does not mean they were alive throughout or immediately after the war. Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 says William Henry was born and enlisted Brixham and resided in Churston, Devon. Cannot find him on war memorials in any of those places. Maybe by the 1920’s when towns and villages were creating their war memorials, William Henry had no family members left to request his name be included on one. This was not done by any official authority.
In census 1911 William Henry Blake was at the Higher Barracks in Exeter and was 18-years old, having been born at Brixham in 1893. There is a birth registration for that name in Totnes Registration District - which covers Brixham. So he is already in the Army; cannot find him or his parents in 1901. He did not leave a Soldiers Will or any other kind of will.
Private 12775 Frederick Henry Blakes
He was with 9th Battalion which was still in England in November 1914. Frederick Henry died on 27th October ‘Home’ as his record says. Not literally his own home but his home-country, probably in hospital; it was registered at Farnham, Surrey which covers Aldershot - ‘the Home of the British Army’. Frederick Henry enlisted in Barry, South Wales although he had been born in Bedminster, Bristol; his parents lived in the Cadoxton district of Barry and that is where their son is buried at the Merthyr Dyfan Burial Ground. He was twenty-two.
Private 2035 William Henry Board
He was eighteen years old when he was buried in Ferozopore Military Cemetery on 3rd December 1914. He was with 4th Battalion which had sailed for India just eight weeks previously. At that time (like it or not) India was part of the British Empire. Troops were there purely to maintain a British presence and keep law and order amongst the local populace and were not, at this stage, involved in combat of any sort. So when his CWG record says that he ‘died’ this must be exactly right. William Henry must have contracted some kind of illness. He was very far from his home in rural Devon.
He was born in Alfington, a small village close to Ottery St. Mary where his name is on the wooden Roll of Honour inside the church. His father and two brothers were agricultural workers and by the time he was fifteen, William Henry was employed as a Carter on a Farm. His name is on the Kirkee 1914-18 Memorial near Poona on the Plateau above Bombay (Mumbai) which commemorates those whose graves were considered to be unmaintainable after the 1947 partition of India and Pakistan.
His brother Walter also has his name in Ottery’s memorial. He lost his life on 23rd February 1917 whilst with the Royal Berkshire Regiment and is buried in the St. Sever Cemetery at Rouen, France.
Private 9209 Frank Bovin
Coming from St.Peter Port, Guernsey where his father was a stonemason. In 1901 the family is together - mother and father were both foreign subjects, having been born in France but their four children were born in the Channel Islands. At this time Frank is recorded as Francois together with his brothers Pierre and Alfred. In census of 1911 his parents, sister Mary and brother Alfred are there with their forenames now Anglised. However Frank and Pierre (Peter) are absent and seem not to show anywhere in this census.
After the armistice, Aubers Ridge British Cemetery was created by bringing in burials from the battlefield. At this point Frank was found alongside six other British soldiers, one from the Border Regiment and two Northamptons without anything to show their personal identities. Frank had his disc marked ‘9209 F.Bo-in’ - three others had nothing at all.
In September 1926 St. Peter Port’s war memorial was unveiled. The website for the Channel Islands in the Great War has a photo of Frank wearing an army dress tunic making me think he had joined the Army before the war; his service entitled him to a 1914 Star and his name on the war memorial. Brother Alfred, who served in both the Dorsetshire and Wiltshire Regiments, had the same service medal plus a Military Medal awarded ‘For Bravery in the Field’. This was published in the London Gazette on 19th February 1916 then again in 1917 when he achieved a Bar to this medal - equivalent to winning it twice. After the war in1919 he served in Russia. Peter, who was not with their parents in 1911, survived wartime service as a Seaman in the Royal Navy.
Private 9650 Harold George Bowden
Born in Highweek, but by 1911 was living in Wolborough. Both are suburbs of Newton Abbot. All three have war memorials but none have H.G. Bowden although Woolborough’s has ‘S.G.Bowden’ which could be a mistranscription - haven’t found a photo to discover whether that is so.
Harold George was the only boy in his family with five girls (in the census of 1911). Their father was a labourer for a clay company and by the time he was fifteen, Harold was an engine cleaner for the Great Western Railway. This does not mean he hosed down steam engines to keep them looking shiny - he was learning to be a train driver by scrambling amongst the interior workings of the boiler scraping out the cinders in order to keep it working properly. No good being able to drive without understanding how the engine works. He was killed-in-action five years later whilst with 1st Battalion at Givenchy/Festubert and is one of the Missing.
Private 8320 Ernest Bradford
Born at Ida Cottages, Paris Street, Exeter in 1889; it is not often possible to be so specific from census information, but that is given in 1901 when his family is together - two sons and two daughters of Thomas Bradford, a tailor, and his wife Ellen Maria. It is also the address on Ernest’s Commonwealth War Grave page and on the form used when his mother paid for an inscription to go on his headstone.
Ernest was twenty-six when he died of wounds on 30th November 1914. He and his comrades were what became known as ‘Old Contemptibles’, having been Regular soldiers prior to the outbreak of war. He was with the Devons stationed at St. George’s Barracks in Malta in 1911. In the years following the end of the war, a roll of honour covering the whole of Devon was compiled and three copies made - one for the County Archives, one to be kept in the Cathedral and one to be placed inside the Devon County Memorial on Cathedral Green. With the advent of the internet, it became possible to extract from this list those known to have strong connections to Exeter and compile a Roll of Honour for the city to be put online. Ernest’s name is on this.
His grave in France at the Merville Community Cemetery is one of twenty-four who belonged to 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. At the bottom of Ernest’s headstone are the words his mother chose :
“ Thy Will Be Done”
Private 8722 James Branch
The 1911 census shows him in barracks at Tidworth so he was a soldier before the war began. Ten years previously he had been at home in Northam near Bideford with his widowed mother, a sister and three brothers. The website “Northam & Westward Ho! Remembered” recounts the family’s experience of the war and shows a photo of James in his regimental tunic. He was the first brother to lose his life. After being wounded on the Western Front, he was repatriated to Connaught Military Hospital in Hampshire, which is where he died. He was buried in Aldershot Military Cemetery on 20th November 1914.
The website shows a photo of his youngest brother Wilfred in army battledress khaki. He was a Lance-Corporal with 1st Devons and lost his life at Vimy Ridge on 23rd April 1917; he has no known grave and is named on the Arras Memorial. Also in 1917 William, a Trooper in the Life Guards was reported Missing. Months passed with no news so the family came to accept that he had been killed. In November 1918 the war ended, then in January 1919 they received a postcard from him; William had been taken prisoner, had lost an arm and had been held in a German POW camp.
Of the three brothers who served with 1st Devons, Sydney the eldest was the only one to survive.
James and Wilfred are remembered on Northam’s war memorial as well as on a Roll of Honour in St. Margaret’s church and their parent’s headstone in the churchyard.
Private 9277 William Ernest Braund
He was 25-years old when killed in action whilst with 2nd Devons. He was buried at map ref. 36.M.29.d.25.85 as an Unknown British Soldier. Once the war was over and battlefield burials transferred to proper war cemeteries, William Ernest was identified by his clothing and ‘-277’ marked on a boot. He now lies in Bailleul Road East Cemetery at St. Laurent- Blagny in northern France with a Commonwealth War Graves headstone showing the badge of the Devonshire Regiment.
William Ernest came from the village of Bow near Crediton and had three sisters and a younger brother, Frederick who lost his life in May 1915. He was a Lance-Corporal, also with 2/Devons. Fred’s name is on the war memorial inside the church at Zeal Monochorum, their mother's birthplace, and William is remembered in St. Andrew’s church in the village of Colebrooke, where their father had been born.
Private 3984 William John Bray
The CWG record says he was 35-years old when he lost his life on 25th October and that his wife was called Emma. Census 1911 shows them living in Exeter and William John’s occupation was “Soldier - Private in the Devon Regiment” his place of birth being Ashburton. The website ‘Old Ashburton’ commemorates those on its war memorial and it tells William John’s life-story. He enlisted in 1st Battalion in about 1894 and subsequently received the Queen’s South Africa Medal for service in the Boer War with clasps for seeing action at Transvaal, Elandsgate, Tugela Heights and the Relief of Ladysmith. So that explains why I could not find him in 1901 census - he was off on campaign serving Queen Victoria and her Empire.
William lost his life in the heavy fighting around Givenchy and Festubert and has his name on Le Touret’s Memorial to the Missing. Once the war was over, Emma could claim three more medals - the 1914 Star with Clasp, the British War Medal and the Victory Medal.
Private 9435 Percy Brayley
Born in Barnstaple, September Quarter 1894 to a family of four sons and three daughters. Their father was a Cab Proprietor and after his death in 1910, the business continued to be run by his sons, including Percy who in the 1911 census was a Groom. One of his brothers was a Chauffeur so they were using both motor and horse-driven vehicles at this time.
Percy died of wounds on 21 October 1914. His name is on memorials at Le Touret and Barnstaple.
Private 7128 Robert Richard Bromfield
30 October 1914 - 31 years old Husband of Ellen Goddard (formerly Bromfield) of Silver Street, Honiton - as his CWG page says - was born and enlisted in Honiton where his birth had been registered in 1882 with his forenames the other way around. Could not find him in any census until 1911 when he was in Honiton with his parents and one brother. Both are ‘carters’ and their father a jobbing gardener. Later that year Robert married Ellen Fowler and in two years their son, James was born. After the war In 1921, Ellen got married again to George Goddard.
The war memorial in Honiton has 67 names including ‘Bromfield, R.R.’ During the centenary of the Great War, it was felt that there was at least twice this number who qualified for inclusion and should be on the memorial, but there seemed to be no support for making this happen. Probably the same could be said for many such memorials up and down the country. Robert Richard also has his name on the Memorial to the Missing at Le Touret.
Private 9426 Albert Bromley
He was another who perished on 30 October whilst with 1st Battalion but at least he had a burial. First of all, it was at ‘Map Ref. 36.S.27.a.38.21’ where there were six Unknown British Soldiers of the Devonshire Regiment. When it came to transferring them to a proper cemetery, he was the only one who could be identified by his service dress and boots. All were then transferred to Canadian Cemetery No.2 at Neuville-St.Vaast on the road between Arras and Bethune. There are about 3,000 burials here, but only 822 are identified.
The Devonshire’s book says Albert was born in Birmingham and enlisted in Barnstaple. Amongst papers held by CWG is a form, that should have been sent to his next-of-kin for them to specify what they wanted for his headstone. It seems not to have been used other than by what was then the Imperial War Graves Commission - they pencilled in his name, rank, number and place of burial. A form listing the order in which headstones were to be placed in the cemetery has, by Albert Bromley’s entry, a name and address : ‘Mr. W.G. Bromley, 52,Court, 8 House, Farm Street, Birmingham’ - somewhat garbled but it stood a chance of getting to Mr. Bromley. Was it ever sent to him … or was there a breakdown in the system and it got overlooked ?
In Census1901 at Birmingham is W. George Bromley with three sons - one called Albert (born 1893 in Birmingham) and an older one whose names are identical to the father’s. Is that Albert and his family? Is W.G. Bromley on the headstone form the father or the son ? In census of 1911 at Swimbridge, Devon (4 miles from Barnstaple) is a Farmer and Cattle Salesman who has a wife, three children and a servant called Albert Bromley - aged 17 - born Birmingham in 1894. That could be Albert, the future Private 9426 who has been in Canadian Cemetery No. 2 for more than a hundred years, without a personal inscription for his headstone …..
Private 2727 Charles James Brooks
He belonged to the 1st/6th Battalion, a Territorial unit that embarked for India on 9th October 1914 bound for Lahore in order to carry out internal security operations. In 1893 Charles James had been born in Bittadon, a small parish between Ilfracombe and Barnstaple. His father was a farm-worker with a wife called Agnes, six sons and two daughters. By 1911 Charles James was working on a farm nearer the coast at Morthoe. He does not appear to be on a war memorial in any of those places. He was 21-years old when he ‘Died of Sickness’ and buried in the Amritsar Cantonment Cemetery on 11 December just two months after leaving England. His name is also on the Kirkee Memorial near Poona in India.
Private 8286 Thomas Brown
His CWG page says that he was 27-years old when he lost his life on 28th November and buried at Merville Communal Cemetery in northern France. He was the son of Mrs Emma Brown of 5A Jubilee Buildings, Tower Street, Waterloo Road, London. But that does not help to isolate him in any census - too many Thomas Browns with mothers named Emma living in London … Until we come to 1911 when, at Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks, North Tidworth, there is Thomas Brown - born Lambeth 1887 - which fits well … must be him. He belonged to 2nd Battalion and his service number suggests he enlisted in early February 1907. His entry in ‘The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says ‘born Lambeth’. It also says that he ‘Died’. Reading of the battalion’s experiences during the latter part of November 1914, their casualties in action were minimal but “sickness accounted for over 70 - nearly all frostbite.”
Private 9756 Harry Burgess
He was eighteen years old when he died of wounds and buried at the cemetery in Bethune, near Arras on 4th November 1914. He was born in Marylebone and enlisted at Kilburn so must have been a real Londoner. His parents Charles Henry and Emily lived at 55 Granville Road, London N.W.6 and they requested a personal inscription to go on his headstone :
"On His Great Love Our Hopes We Place - Of Present Grace and Joys Above"
This quotation comes from the hymn ‘Christ is our Cornerstone’ written by S.S. Wesley, a onetime organist at Exeter Cathedral. Were his parents aware of this? Did they know of the connection with the regiment their son had joined? The cathedral has a chapel dedicated to the Devons and their colours are laid up there. Harry is remembered by the London Online WW1 Memorial; it shows a photo of his headstone at Bethune, compete with regimental insignia, lines of inscription along the bottom and a solitary red poppy growing in front.
Private 9410 John Burke
His entry in Devonshire Rgt. 1914-18 says that he ‘died’ on 4th November 1914 - rather than d-o-w. John is buried in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery which took those from the many local war hospitals, so maybe he had fallen ill rather than been wounded. It could have been a direct consequence of conditions 1st Battalion was having to endure regardless of being shot at, bombed or blown up - trenches full of water and no rest for days on end. Because the soil is very sandy in the area where John is buried, headstones have to be laid flat on the ground. His parents requested an inscription and chose something descriptive rather than of great feeling :
"Son of J & P Burke - Plymouth - RIP"
In census 1911, which John and Pauline would have completed for themselves, they give their place of birth, also that of daughter Mary and son John as ‘Plymouth Town’. So not Devonport, Plympton, Stoke Damerel or Stonehouse - districts within the city. They seem to have wanted things expressed as strictly factual. John Snr. was a labourer in a flour mill, his wife a housekeeper - whether for someone else of just their own family is not explained; their daughter a ‘Domestic Kitchen Maid’ and John the future Pte. 9410, a labourer in a sawmill. He only spent two months on the Western Front.
Private 10830 Alfred Burner
Born 1883 in the parish of Charleton near Kingsbridge in the South Hams where his father was Parish Clerk as well as being a farm labourer. By the time he was seventeen, Alfred was employed as a carter on a farm. During the first quarter of 1914 he married Mabel E. Blake - did they have any inkling that war was imminent? Six months later the Devonshire Regt. was forming service battalions to cope with the influx of volunteers joining up to serve King and Country. Alfred joined 8th Battalion which by mid-September was under canvas at Rushmoor in Hampshire. By early December, as the weather worsened, they were billeted in private houses in and around Farnham.
On 19th December 1914, Alfred died. He was buried in the military cemetery at Aldershot where his wife requested an inscription for his headstone. The wording seems strangely enigmatic, even ironic but is possibly something Alfred wrote in a letter during his training, maybe once 8th Battalion had quitted the tents and gone into proper billets :
"It Is Good For Us To Be Here"
Private 7459 Edward Burston
Born in the village of Burlescombe, near Tiverton and in 1901 was at home with his parents, Thomas (a carpenter) and Emily. Their two other sons are also carpenters but Edward is a mason’s labourer. In 1908 he married Lucy Slade. In the parish church is a marble war memorial tablet that includes Edward’s name. He was 30-years old when he lost his life on 25th October 1914. The following year, Lucy re-married and went to live in Wellington, Somerset.
Private 8741 Walter Burston
Born in 1890 in Wiveliscombe, Somerset according to his entry in the 1911 census, but this does not quite tie up with birth registrations; however several come pretty close so we have to take his word for it. This was what he told the army when he joined up several years before the war. Or at least, it’s what they put into the records; maybe the army did not ask to see his birth certificate. Walter was with 2nd Battalion in Malta at the time. He was 25-years old when he lost his life on 18 December 1914 and his name is on the memorial at Le Touret.
Private 4328 John Butt
He was 39-years old when killed in action on 27th November 1914. He had been a Regular with 2nd Battalion and was a veteran of the South African Campaign (2nd Boer War); his service number indicates he joined up late in 1895. The war memorial in his home village has a panel naming those of the Devons, arranged in order of them being lost; it also has his brother’s name. Christopher died of wounds on 26th September 1916 when with 1st Battalion. His army number - 22149 - was of a series issued purely for wartime service so he had not been a regular soldier. He is buried in Peronne Road Cemetery at Maricourt in Picardy. John’s name is on the Memorial at Le Touret where he is one of the Missing.
They had been born in Pinhoe, a village near Exeter, and had three sisters. Their father was a thatcher and for a time John did the same thing before joining the Army. In 1901 Christopher, aged 16, was employed by a dairyman but ten years later does not seem to be in the census while his brother was in Malta with 2nd Battalion.
Private 8756 Francis William Buttle
His CWG page says “18 December 1914 - 25 years old - son of Francis William and Lydia Buttle, 19 Woodland Terrace, Rogerstone, Newport, Monmouthshire ”. The Devons book says Private Buttle’s place of birth was Woodbury, Devon and place of enlistment Exmouth but he is not on war memorials there. What was the connection, if his parents lived in Wales? We must keep a clear head looking into this; father and son have exactly identical names.
A marriage was registered St.Thomas (a district of Exeter covering outlying areas) in September
1888 between Francis William Buttle and Lydia England. The following year a birth was registered of Francis William Buttle. In the census of 1891 at Woodbury there is Lydia Buttle with a one-year-old son Francis W. Buttle. Lydia is described as “Married; Housekeeper - Wife of a Sailor”. So that accounts for her husband not being present - he must have been in the Navy until shortly before 1911, when they were at Rogerstone, Monmouthshire. At this time, Francis W. Buttle is with his wife Lydia (born Woodbury); he works as a carter for a general dealer and has obviously given up going to sea. Of the six children with them in 1911 - one was born in Wales, three in Ireland and the two youngest born Exmouth. Cannot find Francis and Lydia, or their son Francis William in the 1901 census; that must have been when they were in Ireland.
And what of Francis William, the future Private 8756 in 1911? Well, whilst parents and siblings were in Monmouthshire he was in Malta with 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. Going by his Army number he joined mid-1908 - about the same time his parents would have returned to Exmouth and had two more children in 1906 and 1910. After that, the parents returned to Wales because that is where they were when named Francis William’s next-of-kin. They also ensured that their son was remembered on the war memorial in the town where they lived. The library at Rogerstone, Newport in Gwent (formerly Monmouthshire) has a wooden-framed brass plaque “In Honoured Memory of Those who Gave their Lives in two World Wars” - one of them being “F.W. Buttle”.
Private 9668 Charles Frederick John Chant
Born in September Quarter 1894, so had only recently become 20-years old when he died of wounds on 24th October 1914. He came from Axminster, where he is remembered on the war memorial.
In census 1911 that is where he is living with his parents and a younger brother. Their father is a carter on a farm and Charles is a ‘Cow Boy’. This is not America where cowboys had exiting lives rounding up cattle on the prairie. Farmworkers in rural Devon had uncomfortable lives of endless drudgery most of the time. Joining the Army offered the chance to be fed, have a roof over your head, companionship and maybe the opportunity of travelling to foreign lands …. ….
Charles Frederick is buried in Bethune Town Cemetery in northern France where his mother requested a personal inscription for his headstone :
"Gone But Not Forgotten"
Captain Henry Arthur Chichester
Wikimedia Commons has a biography online published prior to 1 January 1918, now in the public domain so can be quoted without fear of legal action ... Showing a photograph of a balding man wearing a slight smile beneath a fine walrus moustache, it places him with “ 3rd Battn. Devonshire Regiment Special Reserve - born on 17th August 1882 at Stowford House, Swimbridge, North Devon, son of the late Colonel Chichester of Kerswell House, Broad Clyst near Exeter and of Stowford House, North Devon and Mrs Chichester of Woodhayne, Culmstock, Devon. He was a first cousin of Brigadier-General A.A. Chichester, now serving in the war. ”
“Captain Chichester was educated at Crewkerne Grammar School and joined Exeter Volunteers in 1900; the following year he joined the Militia, serving for twelve months in Jersey, then proceeded to South Africa with 3rd Battalion East Yorkshire Regiment to take part in the Boer War, for which he received the medal. He afterwards joined the Special Reserve and was called up for duty at the outbreak of war with Germany on 7th August 1914 and was killed in action at Canteloux, near La Bassée on 20th October 1914.”
Volume One of ‘The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ places him with 1st Battalion and describes how, on 20th October 1914 “Captain Chichester was killed whilst superintending the digging of trenches”. Henry Arthur is remembered on the village war memorial in the centre of Culmstock and the church of All Saints where he has his own brass plaque :
In Loving Memory of Henry Arthur Chichester who fell in action at Canteleux near Bethune
on October 20th 1914 aged 32 years - Rest In Peace
Private 7645 Edwin Chamberlain
His CWG page says parents were Mr. & Mrs Chamberlain of Bradninch, Devon and he was the husband of Alice Maud Chamberlain of 78 William Street, Ystrad, Rhondda, Glam. He was living in Bradninch at the time he enlisted which is useful because that small town has an online record of the names on its war memorial, with personal details for most of them. Edwin was actually born three miles away in the village of Silverton which, until recently had a large paper mill where in the census of 1901 he was working as a ‘Machine Boy’. In 1910 he married Alice Jones in Pontypridd, so maybe had gone to Wales in search of work. Or possibly to get married; Alice was obviously there once the war was over.
Private 8274 Archibald Charles John Chase
He was 24-years old when he died of wounds on 20th December 1914 and buried in the Communal Cemetery at Estaires in northern France. His CWG page says that he was “Son of William Dennis and Elizabeth Chase - Born in Egypt”. His headstone has a personal inscription which, after the war, was requested and paid for by Mrs L.C. Drummond who lived in Dublin.
The only time Archibald Charles shows in a census is 1911 when he is with 2nd Devons at St. George’s Barracks in Malta. He is 19-years old, single and an Army Bandsman. His place of birth is given as Suffolk. So his birth should have been registered in UK about 1890, but there was no Chase with those forenames in the whole of England and Wales from 1888 to 1895. He could have been registered with different forenames, but maybe the army gave mistaken details to the census and he really was born in Egypt, which accounts for his non-appearance in earlier census.
William Dennis, his father, was born in 1864 at Windsor; his father (Archibald Charles’ paternal grandfather) was a Serjeant Major but I do not know in which unit. By 1881 William Dennis has also joined the Army and is a Staff Drummer. Soldiering was obviously a family trait. Then, for census 1891 and 1901 William Dennis does not show in the census - probably is in foreign parts with the Army whilst getting married and having a family.
In the church of St. Michael the Archangel at Aldershot is wooden panelling ‘In Memory of the Men who Gave Their Lives In the Great War” - one being Archibald C.J. Chase. This was not part of the garrison, but an ancient parish church within the village of Aldershot long before the Army took over to make a permanent training camp. What was Archibald Charles’ connection with it? And who was Mrs L.C. Drummond ?
Well … in 1920 Lilian Constance Chase married Henry Drummond, but before that in 1901 she was living in Frimley, Surrey with grandparents and another grand-daughter named Emmeline Chase who had been born in Ireland. Lilian was born 1893 in India. Grandfather, William McDonough is a retired Army sergeant who came from Dublin. He must have been father of their mother Elizabeth. In census 1911 Lilian and her grandparents are living in Aldershot. All this evidence points to Lilian and Emmeline being Archibald Charles’ sisters. Perhaps it was Lilian who arranged for him to be remembered in St. Michael’s, Aldershot as well as giving the inscription for his headstone :
"Forever In Our Thoughts"
Private 6887 Frank Michael Chudleigh
His CWG page says “Son of Fanny Lavinia Chudleigh and the late John Adolphus Chudleigh … of Wolborough Street, Newton Abbot, the town where Frank Michael is named on the war memorial.
In 1911, he is in Highweek, Newton Abbot with his widowed mother, two sisters and a brother; both men are labourers, but the females are not credited with any employment. Frank Michael was thirty-seven when he was killed in action on 23rd October 1914. His name is on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
Private 3/7248 Alfred Chudley
Born in Morchard Bishop and enlisted in Llanelly according to ‘Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ - which is just as well because his CWG page has nothing other than name, rank number with 18 December 1918 and ‘Le Touret Memorial’. The stone cross war memorial in Morchard Bishop has his name and so does Llanelli war memorial in Carmarthenshire.
His birth was registered in the first quarter of 1881 and he appears in the census for that year, living in Morchard Bishop with father John (an agricultural labourer), mother (Mary), two sisters and three brothers. Ten years later they are still in Morchard Bishop and the family has grown; there are now four sisters. After that, Alfred does not appear in the census. The website ‘Carmarthenshire Memorials’ continues Alfred’s life-story :
“ He served in the Militia and was in the Boer War before leaving the Army and moving to Llanelli in 1907; he was the husband of Ann (Annie) Stentiford. At the commencement of war, he re-enlisted into 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment and was killed at Ypres 18 December 1914 aged 33. ” Not sure I go along with Ypres - at this point of the war, 2/Devons refer to it as the Moated Grange. And I cannot find a record of his marriage; maybe it took place somewhere other than England or Wales. Or possibly they were in a relationship, but not, in legal terms ‘Married’. Or do they mean she became Mrs Stentiford after Alfred had lost his life? But I still cannot trace a record of it.
Private 8042 James Francis Clampitt
Born Fulham in 1886 and belonged to 1st Battalion when he lost his life on 30 October 1914. But in the 1911 census James was with 2nd Devons in Malta. His father Samuel, a carpenter & joiner came from Teignmouth, Devon, but moved up to London where he lived with wife Mary Ann and three sons, James being the youngest. Mary Ann died in 1891 so Samuel re-married in 1897 and had a second family - one being Samuel Robert who is named as next-of-kin on James’s CWG page.
Private 9730 William Jesse Clapp
In 1901, aged 5, he was living in Sidmouth with his mother, three sisters and a brother. In the next census William Jesse, aged 15 is working on a farm in Colaton Raleigh the small village where Bessie, his mother came from. A memorial plaque was unveiled inside St. John’s Church there, naming the eleven men from the parish known to have fallen in the Great War - all of them belonging to the Devonshire Regiment, including ‘William Clapp’.
Private 9708 Walter Reginald Clarke
He was 20-years old when he died on 27 October 1914; he was with 1st Battalion which had been all but wiped out two days previously; on 26th there was lull in the fighting so it was allowed two days of rest at Guinchy. Walter Reginald’s entry simply says that he ‘died’. He was buried at Boulogne Eastern Cemetery which took those who had been in one of the many hospitals nearby. His sister Gertrude paid a modest amount for an inscription to go on his headstone : “ R.I.P ”.
In 1911 Gertrude herself had been a patient in the Royal Devon & Exeter Hospital. There is no record of what her ailment was, or how long she was there; it gives her occupation “Parlourmaid”.
She is recorded as next-of-kin on her brother’s CWG page, at which time she was living in Bath.
Cannot find Walter Reginald on any war memorial. Not Honiton where he and Gertrude were born or at Sidbury where, in 1911, he worked as a farm-servant. Nor at Bath where his sister went.
Serjeant 8674 Sidney Richard Cobley
Died of wounds on 6 November 1914 and was buried at Wimereux Communal Cemetery in Pas de Calais, France. His CWG record gives no next-of-kin but the website “Everyone Remembered” has, by his entry, “My Great-Uncle Sid Cobley Sjt. 8674 Devonshire Rgt” Whoever submitted this does not make any comment to substantiate their claim.
Sidney Richard’s birth was registered at Crediton in mid-1891 and by 1911 he was at Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks at Tidworth, Wiltshire. At that stage of his Army career, he may not have been assigned to a particular battalion but eventually was with 1st Devons which formed a garrison in Jersey. Whilst out there, he married Edith Girfeet who in 1911 was with parents and a sister living in St. Helier. All had been born in mainland UK. Both girls were shop assistants in a confectioners (sweet-shop). This being the Channel Islands, many people would be more used to hearing and speaking French and their surname was misinterpreted - it should be “Griffith”. This is how it was recorded when Edith Jane married Sidney Richard Cobley on 23rd November 1913 in St.Saviour’s Parish, Jersey. Did they have any inkling of what they might experience within the following twelve months?
On 27 November 1914 a local newspaper, the Jersey Evening Post, reported that “News has been received of the death of Serjeant Cobley of 1st Devons at a Boulogne hospital. The deceased, who married a Jersey lady Miss Girfitt, received terrible wounds to the head but wrote cheerful letters home. Mrs Cobley left the island to visit her husband but it was too late, he having expired before her arrival.” Sidney Richard’s name is on the war memorial in the parish of St. Helier which has an online biographical record noting that he was ‘The son of Richard Cobley of Exeter and Husband of Edith Girfeet of 27 Hackett Place, St.Helier’.
By coincidence, the next entry was born the Channel Islands :
Private 6410 John Francis Collins
His CWG page says he was 34 years old when he lost his life on 18th December 1914 and that he was the son of Richard Collins of 30 Pier Road, St.Helier, Jersey. Channel Islands records are available online and show that John Francis was born 25th March 1880 and baptised 18th April that year in the parish of Trinity; his parents were Richard and Amelia.
In 1881 the family is in the census at St.Helier - Richard, whose occupation is ‘carter’ and his wife Amelia Anne have three children including ‘John F’ who, in the next census is living at the Industrial School known as the Jersey Boys Home. Also, there is his younger brother Emile who was born in 1882. They have been taken into care.
Neither of them show in either census 1901 or 1911 in the Channel Islands. John Francis’ Army number suggests he joined 2nd Battalion of the Devons in about 1900. The census of 1911 has, at St. George’s Barracks in Malta ‘John Collins - born 1888 in Exeter’. No John Collins was registered anywhere in Devon for 1886-1890. That is possibly Private 6410. At the same time, Emile is in Mooltan & Lucknow barracks at Tidworth, Wiltshire.
Jerripedia, the Channel Islands Wiki lists those with the surname Collins who served in the Great War. This includes John Francis plus his brother Emile Richard who survived being a Private in the Royal Army Service Corps. John Francis’ name and CWG details are shown in the Jersey Roll of Honour which also says he is commemorated on the Haut de la Garenne Memorials. These commemorate thirty-three “Boys of the Jersey Home who Fell in the Great War”. The original is a marble plaque inside Gouray Church on the island, but a more recent granite stone edifice has been created (with the same names) and sited outside the building which was formerly the Boys Home. John Francis also has his name on Le Touret’s Memorial to the Missing.
Private 7932 John Llewellyn Combeer
Born in Rhayader, Radnorshire which in the 1970’s got put into Powys - one of those Government-inspired areas of Wales which has now been allowed to return to using its original name. I think its a marvel that Welsh people do not get hugely agitated by this kind of bureaucratic interference, but have the sense to get on with their lives regardless.
John Llewellyn was not actually Welsh although his birth was registered in Rhayader in 1885. Both his parents were born in Devon and by 1891 had returned to live in Chardstock near Axminster where Henry, a dairyman and wife Mary Ann were with their two sons - the eldest having been born in England, so maybe their stay in Wales was fairly brief. By 1901 they were in Broadclyst and John Llewellyn, aged 15, was employed at the paper-mill in Silverton. He enlisted with 2nd Devons 4 or 5 years later and was with them in Malta for the 1911 census.
The war memorial in Silverton has thirty-nine names for the Great War - one being ‘ J. L. Combeer’.
Private 9097 Edward Charles Connolly
He came from County Kildare in Ireland but in 1901 was living at Aldershot with his parents and three siblings. Their father was a regular soldier born in Ireland but mother came from Plymouth, where the family had gone to live by 1911. Father was now an army pensioner. Edward Charles was not with them, having stayed behind in Aldershot where he was at Mandora Barracks, so maybe had already joined the army, or was possibly just trying it out for size; his rank is not quoted or which regiment he was with. It would not have been the Devons; during 1911-1913 Mandora Barracks were occupied by the 2nd Batallion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers - an Irish regiment. He enlisted in 2nd Batallion the Devonshire Regiment at Perham Down, Tidworth.
On 25 November 1914, Edward Charles died of wounds and was buried in the Communal Cemetery at Merville in northern France. After the war, his mother arranged for an inscription to go on his headstone :
"Rest In Peace"
Private 7379 Arthur James Coombes
His CWG page says that he was “Son of Mrs Annie Pearse; husband of Lily Coombes of 17 Lower North Street, Exeter”. All this information has sent me off on several tangents, mostly inconclusive, so it will be best to stick to known facts.
Arthur James was 28-years old when he died of wounds on 14th November 1914; his birth had been registered in Exeter in the April quarter of 1885. In the December quarter of 1887, Ann Coombes married Samuel George Pearse, but that does not necessarily mean her son was born out of wedlock - she may have already been a widow. Ann and Samuel George show up in several censuses, together with their many children, but Arthur James is never with them so how can we be sure they are the right people? Best not to jump to conclusions.
The only time Arthur James Coombes shows in the census is in 1911 when he is with 2nd Battalion of the Devons in Malta. But unfortunately, his first name is shown as Alfred; his date and place of birth are correct and no Alfred Coombes was registered at that time and place. His army number indicates he joined 1903/4. Arthur James married Lily Cater at Exeter in September Quarter 1913. She arranged for his headstone in Boulogne Eastern Cemetery to have this heartfelt inscription :
"In Loving Memory - Though Death Divides, Memory Clings"
Private 9104 Henry Coome
Had his birth registered as ‘Henry James A …. Coome’ in Exeter during the March quarter of 1892. Have not discovered what the A stood for. His CWG page says he was ‘Son of Henry & Eliza Coome, 5 Church Street Heavitree, Exeter so it was no problem to locate them in census 1901 and 1911. Their family comprised six daughters and three sons, although not all were present in both censuses. Henry (aka Harry) was, in 1911 at Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth; his army number indicates he would have joined late in the previous year.
On 12th December 1914 Henry was buried at the Brompton Cemetery in London, having died in hospital of wounds received on the Western Front.
A month before this War to End Wars was over his brother Frederick lost his life on 4th October 1918. He was with the Royal Munster Fusiliers and has no known grave. Frederick was 25-years old and had worked for a Printer whilst living in Exeter. He is commemorated on the Vis-en-Artois Memorial. Both brothers are remembered on the Roll of Honour within St. Michael’s Church in Heavitree.
Private 7800 Philip Cornelius
Another whose full name did not get into army records; his birth was registered in 1883 as ‘Philip Harvey Cornelius’ and when he was with parents living in Kenton on the road to Dawlish he was ‘Philip H.’ In the next census he is in the same village, but now works as a House Boy (Domestic) employed by a farmer; so maybe he does not toil out in the fields but indoors.
In search of a more interesting life, he joined the Army and ten years later is with 2nd Devons in barracks on the island of Malta. Philip perished on 21 October 1914 and is named on the Memorial to the Missing at Le Touret. He does not seem to be any any memorial in this country.
Company Quartermaster Serjeant 4878 Albert William Cornish
He was proving impossible to trace, apart from a photograph on Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ showing a dignified soldier in dress uniform standing beside a young woman who sits holding a baby with a young child beside her. It bore the name, number and regiment of CQMS 4878 Albert William Cornish and was put on the site by someone named Darren. Further exploration turned up a narrative on the Wartime Memories Project/Great War where Darren had supplied the following narrative for CQMS Albert William Cornish :
“Albert Cornish was born in Bideford, Devon in 1877, son of Emily Cornish from Kilkampton in Cornwall and half-brother to Stanley, Archibald and Lilian Hole. From humble beginnings, Albert sought a career in the Army but his life was cut short on 19th September 1914. He is remembered with honour at Vailly British Cemetery in France and commemorated on the War Memorial in Abbotskerswell church where there is also the inscription ‘ He Died a Hero’ on his sister Lilian’s gravestone. He left behind his wife Jessie and three children - Hilda, Sidney and Edna ”.
Devon Heritage website researches into names on war-memorials and for Abbotskerswell it has details for A.W. Cornish ‘kindly supplied by Darren Farmer a family member’. “ Abbotskerswell - The Story of a Devon Village at War ” is available online. This tells even more of Albert’s life-story :
He joined the Devons in 1896 serving for several years in India and was in South Africa at the Siege of Ladysmith. In 1909 Albert married Jessie Hellyer and by 1911 they were in Lucknow Barracks, Tidworth, when their first child was born. In September of that year 1st Battalion went to be the garrison force in Jersey which is where their two other children were born. His battalion arrived at the Western Front on 21st August 1914 and Albert was killed four weeks later. The family was told by a colleague that he had been “knocked over by a shell”.
Albert was at first buried on the battlefield at ‘Map Ref. 193.8 x 298.7 alongside 8198 A. Peck of the Devons and ten Unknown British Soldiers. The British Cemetery at Vailly-sur-Aisne was created after the Armistice and this is where they were moved and have lain ever since.
Private 9697 Frederick Cotton
He has proved impossible to trace. His CWG page gives no next-of-kin, just that he was killed in action on 17th October 1914 and is one of the Missing at Le Touret. The two volumed “Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says he was with 1st Battalion and born Portsmouth so his birth would be registered at Portsea Island. To be of an age for the Army, he should have been born between 1870 and 1899; throughout the whole of Hampshire nine Frederick Cottons were registered but none at Portsea Island. 4,500 names are on the City of Portsmouth war memorial and it has a searchable database; two have the surname Cotton but neither have the initial “F”.
Serjeant 6897 Ernest John Court
He was with ‘C’ Company of 2nd Battalion and 31-years old when he lost his life on 18 December 1914. He was the son of George & Mary Court of 159 Hartfield Road, Wimbledon and husband of Bessie Cecilia White (formerly Court) of 128 Chapel Street, Tiverton. Bessie Cecilia’s maiden name was Court, so maybe she and Ernest John were cousins. Their marriage was registered at Exeter in the June quarter of 1910. In mid-1917 Bessie got married again, to Frederick White.
In 1911 Ernest John and Bessie were living in Exeter with their baby son (aged 0 - which is how census designated an infant under 1-year old). Ernest John himself is described as Aged 27, born Westminster, London and a Lance-Serjeant, Devonshire Rgt. From his army number, Ernest must have joined up in 1901/02 which accounts for him not appearing in the 1901 census. In 1891 he was with parents and four siblings living in Westminster where their father was a ‘School Attendance Officer’. In those days, if a child was absent and the school was not told why, the attendance officer would call at the pupil’s home to find the reason. This was still happening in the 1950’s.
Private 6581 George Cowley
His CWG page says that he was with 1st Battalion and 32-years old when killed in action on 25th October 1914. His name is on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. Also, it says that he was ‘Son of the late James Cowley’.
In the census 1891 at Poltimore, a village on the road to Broadclyst, are an elderly couple Thomas and Sarah Cowley with their two sons and three grandchildren. One of the sons is unmarried but the other, James is a shepherd; he is a widower so the children are his. One of them is George aged 7.
In 1901 George is in Exeter where he is a Private in the Infantry. Ten years later he is back in Poltimore with his father; both are farm labourers. At the outbreak of war, he may have been recalled or perhaps he volunteered. The parish church in Poltimore has a white marble war memorial plaque, beautifully done with ornamentation along the top and lettering of twelve names which includes their regiment and battalion. Unfortunately one of the names is slightly wrong - “George Cowling - 1st Batt. Devons ”. There is no one of that name in the book Devonshire Regiment 1914-18. It should read “George Cowley”.
Private 7491 William Crumb
The CWG page has ‘17 October 1914 - Le Touret’. Devon Rgt. 1914-18 reckons he was born in Torrington, enlisted at Bideford whilst living in Bulkworthy which according to Wikipedia is nine miles from Great Torrington. In 1911 he was at Weare Gifford (2½ miles from G/Torrington) on a farm working as a horse-man. This entry puts his age at 23-years and estimated year of birth 1888. No birth was registered in Devon 1880-1899 with the name William Crumb or anything similar. However, there were a couple in Langport, Somerset 1880 and 1882. Maybe William did not know exactly when or where he had been born.
His service-number indicates he joined the army in the early 1900’s, which could account for him not showing in census 1901. Devon Heitage puts his name on the war memorial at Monkleigh which is near Torrington.
Lance-Corporal 7831 Walter Francis Coles
Born on 15 July 1889 at Slapton on the south coast of Devon; his birth was registered at Kingsbridge with the surname ‘Cole’. He died of wounds at the Military Hospital in Aldershot on 19th November 1914, aged 25 and is buried in the churchyard of St. James the Great in Slapton. In 1911 Walter Francis was in Lucknow & Mooltan Barracks at Tidworth having joined up before the Great War was even thought of.
He has been omitted from Slapton’s war memorial inside the church, no doubt because he is buried in the churchyard, but Devon Heritage has his story on their Virtual War Memorial.
Private 8653 Charles George Cudlipp
He was 23-years old when he died of wounds and was buried in the town cemetery at Bethune, Pas de Calais. A present-day member of the Cudlipp family has left a flower tribute on Charles George’s entry at Find-a-Grave saying that he was born on 17 July 1891 at Berry Pomeroy, Devon. In the census of 1911, he is at Bulford Barracks, described as a ‘soldier - aged 21 born Bradford, Yorkshire. This has to be incorrect.
No births named Cudlipp were registered in Yorkshire 1880-1900; Only one Charles George Cudlipp had a birth registered for all districts and all counties in the UK from 1880-1900 and that was at Totnes (which covers Berry Pomeroy) in 1891. The soldier at Bulford Camp is Private 8653; this number dates to 1908, so that is when Charles George joined the army. He is remembered on the carved wooden triptych in St.Mary’s church at Berry Pomeroy where ‘Charles Cudlipp’ is one of nine names of men who fell in the Great War. His parents William and Florence chose an inscription for his headstone :
"Thy Will Be Done”
Private 9783 George Crout
Son of Herbert and Eliza Crout of 2 Cross Street, Moretonhampstead, where there are two war memorials. Neither of them had names until the year 2000 when the parish council decided to have plaques affixed to one of them; names were taken from a Roll of Honour inside the parish church. The town’s History Society has a narrative for each one :
“George Crout was born, educated and resident in Moretonhampstead, son of Eliza and Herbert a quarryman … George was a young, early volunteer and was killed in action near Ypres during the ‘race to the sea’ as the British Expeditionary Force successfully stopped the Germans outflanking the Allies in Flanders”.
In 1911 George was at home with his parents and four siblings; although only fourteen years old, he was employed as a butcher. He became one of the Missing on 19th December 1914.
Private 8541 Archelaus Curtis
There is plenty of scope for his unusual forename, which was also his father’s - to be misquoted; even within a single census entry, it can differ between the two. In 1891 the father is Archalam and the son Archellum - this was in Exeter where the son was born in 1890. Father was a Private in the army and obviously had postings to various places in the UK. By 1901 he is in Woolwich where his family now comprises wife Ellen and five children of whom two were born in Exeter, two in Ireland and one at Woolwich.
By 1911 Archelaus (Junior) is in Malta with 2nd Batallion the Devonshire Regiment. At the same time, his parents now have three more children and are living in Northam near Bideford. Father has left the army and works as a Coachman (Domestic) - so he is employed by a wealthy individual, not a company that supplies public transport. Their eldest son lost his life on 18th December 1914 and is named on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. His younger brother Thomas was with 8th Battalion of the Devons and nineteen when he perished on 25th September 1915. His name is on the Loos Memorial to the Missing. Both are remembered in the Book of Remembrance in St. Margaret’s Church at Northam as well as the town’s stone war memorial.
Private 9725 Edwin Davey
He lost his life on 27th November 1914 and is one of thousands commemorated at Ieper (Ypres) on the Menin Gate. The only facts I am able to find about him are that he was born in Exeter and enlisted in Exmouth. He is not on a war memorial/roll of honour in either place. Only one birth for that name was registered Exeter between 1880-1900 which was in September Quarter 1894. In census 1911 in Exeter is Edwin Davey a 16-year old ‘Gas Fitter Labourer’ who had been born in the city. He is living with his brother-in-law who married Elizabeth Jane Davey the previous year. One of the problems with his surname is that the census could spell it differently; I could not find Edwin or his sister Elizabeth Jane in 1901.
Private 7093 Arthur Davies
He was 30-years old when he was killed in action on 22nd October 1914. When his widow paid for an inscription for his headstone she lived at Hampden Place, not far from where I was living forty-five years later in Exeter. A terrace of Victorian houses with cast-iron balconies on a very busy road; I do not know if that is exactly where she and Arthur were living with their two sons in census of 1911 when Arthur was a ‘General Dealer’ in the grocery trade. He and Emily had married in 1906.
His first burial was at Map Ref. 44a.A.9.30.95, probably close to where he and the two others alongside him had fallen in battle. When they were transferred to a proper cemetery, Arthur was the only one with an identity disc. Once hostilities had ended they were re-buried in the Arras Road Cemetery at Rolincourt and Emily was able to chose an inscription for Arthur’s headstone :
"The Path Of Duty Was The Way To Glory”
Private 9327 Sidney James Davis
When his birth was registered at East Stonehouse (Plymouth) in the last quarter of 1891, his forenames were that way round, but in the 1911 census when he was in the Higher Barracks at Exeter he was ‘James Sidney’. In 1901, at home with his mother, he was simply ‘James’. I have the same problem with my own forenames.
His CWG page says ‘Son of Bessie J. Davis of 6 Edgecombe Place, West Hoe, Plymouth’ so it was possible to track them in census. Her husband, also called James, was a seaman in the Royal Navy which explained his absence in 1901 when Bessie Jane was at home with their son, the future Private 9327. Her occupation was consistent throughout three census - Tailoress, Clothier’s Machinist and Sewing Machinist for a Clothing Manufacturer. By 1911 Bessie was a widow with a daughter born in 1902 - Sidney James’ young sister.
Sidney James’ army number suggests he joined in early 1911, so when he was at the Higher Barracks in Exeter for the census that year, he was a very new recruit. He lost his life on 18th December 1914 and was at first buried alongside two others of the Devons; one had nothing to personally identify him only the regiment’s name on a spoon; the other had his number on a knife-handle. Private Davis had his ID disc, his number and regiment on a spoon and button stick. All were re-buried in the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez near Arras in northern France.
Serjeant 7852 John Henry Dean
Born in Paignton where the war memorial has the name “J.H.Dean”; Friends of Devon Archives has a transcription project looking into the lives of those on war memorials and they reckon John Henry’s wife was Rose Minnie Marquis Prince. This marriage was recorded in 1912 at Exeter; Rose Minnie can be found in census 1911 with her family, but I can only assume that Devon Archives have means of proving that her husband was Serjeant John Henry Dean and not another man with the same names. His CWG record shows no next-of-kin.
The same source gives his parents names and they can be found in 1881. The father Anthony John died in 1887 and four years later his widow was living in Oakleigh Terrace, Paignton with three daughters and two sons, one being John Henry born in 1885. Their father had been a gardener and 1901 both sons are market gardeners - carrying on their father’s business, maybe. John Henry joined the army in 1904 and in 1911 was in barracks at Tidworth on the edge of Salisbury Plain.
John Henry was killed in action on 24th October 1914 and buried in the churchyard at Givenchy-les-la-Bassee which during the course of the war was devastated and the church ruined. After the war, he and three others of the Devonshire Regiment were found - two of them unknown by name. John Henry was identified by his clothing, boots, serjeant’s stripes and numerals. They were re-buried in the Bailleul Road East Cemetery at St.Laurent-Blangy, Pas-de-Calais.
Private 2491 Charles Gerrard Deane
His name is on the war memorial in Torquay although he had been born in the village of Oakhill, near Shepton Mallet on 8th March 1885. His father was a ‘Registered Medical Practitioner’ who, by 1901 had retired to Clevedon on the Somerset coast. At this time, Charles Gerrard was a pupil boarding at Taunton School and his name is also on the war memorial there.
For the census of 1911 he seemed to be living a comfortable life in Torquay with his parents and a sister. None of them needed paid employment because they had ‘Private Means’- investment income as we would say these days. There was a live-in servant to do the housework. But Charles Gerrard had a more interesting life than at first appears.
He has his own entry in Wikipedia and ‘Lives of the First World War’ shows a photograph of him in cricketing gear - striped blazer with a bulky scarf round his neck. Between 1907 and 1913 he played 36 first-class matches for Somerset County Cricket Club as a right-handed batsman.
Charles Gerrard joined 5th Battalion of the Devons, a territorial unit which shipped out from Southampton in early October 1914 arriving in Karachi, India on 11th November. He died on 14th December, not from enemy action but fever - probably a tropical disease. He was buried in Multan War Cemetery which, after the partition of India/Pakistan became inaccessible. It is not known whether this burial ground still exists or what condition it is in. In order for these soldiers to be remembered, a 1914-1918 war memorial was built in Karachi; Charles Gerrard is one of 576 names.
Corporal 9483 Sydney Ernest Dennis
His father Abraham Vey Dennis was a Company Serjeant Major in 6th Battalion of the Devons who retired to run a pub in Barnstaple. In 1911 the family comprised William Arthur born in Egypt, Sydney Ernest and Dorothy born India and the youngest born at Bideford in 1903, so the family had returned to England by then.
Sydney Ernest worked as a clerk in a brewer’s office. He was twenty-one years old when he lost his life on 24th October 1914. His name is on the war memorial at Barnstaple although when they were named next-of-kin, his parents lived in London.
Private 7765 Ernest Densham
The CWG page says he was ‘Husband of the late Edith Densham’. In census 1911 Ernest a ‘farm-labourer on the Army Reserve’ was visiting a house in Broadclyst, the home of Elizabeth Leaworthy, a widow with two sons and a daughter named Edith. At the end of that year Ernest and Edith’s marriage was registered; I think she died in 1923, although the age quoted was nearer to that of her mother.
Ernest lost his life on 30th October 1914; he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing and on two in Broadclyst - the church of St.John the Baptist and in the Victory Hall.
Private 7631 William Donovan
No next-of-kin on his CWG page but documentation for his headstone at Braine Communal Cemetery in France has the name ‘Mrs H.E. Donovan, 74 Kirkaldie Street, Dunedin South, New Zealand’. Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 says that he was born in New Zealand. On his record at the Find-a-Grave website someone has commented ‘A champion long-distance runner in Devon & Cornwall. Died far from his New Zealand home and his family’. If they explained how they knew - ‘he was my grandfather’ or ‘he belonged to Plymouth Harriers’ I should be more inclined to believe them.
In census 1911 at Plympton, Devon is William Donovan, born 1875 South Dunedin, New Zealand, a farm labourer who must surely be Private 7631. He has an eleven year old daughter and a wife named Florence; the census says they were married in 1898 but I cannot find an appropriate record. Maybe they married in New Zealand. Mrs H. E. Donovan in New Zealand could be his mother. William was with 1st Battalion which arrived on the Western Front on 11th September; he died of wounds less than two weeks later.
Corporal 8463 Fred Dowell
Part of the 2nd Battalion. 24 years old. 18 December 1914. Le Touret Memorial. Son of Frederick and Ellen Dowell, 12 Poltimore Square, Exeter - says his CWG page. Birth was registered in June Quarter 1889 - ‘Fred Dowell’ to distinguish from his father, I expect. Frederick was a Postman for the G.P.O.(General Post Office - now known as Royal Mail) He and Ellen had two daughters and Fred was their only son. In the latter months of 1907 he joined the army and by 1911 was with 2/Devons at St. George’s Barracks in Malta.
He lost his life during heavy fighting around the Moated Grange, when his unit had three of their officers killed and over 120 N.C.O’s and men killed, wounded or missing on one single day -
18th December 1914.
Private 9136 Walter Downes
No next-of-kin on his CWG page, but the book says he was born in Blandford, Dorset. The only one of a suitable age, with that place of birth, is Walter Percival Downes whose birth was registered in 1892; he was baptised on 17th April that year. His father was a Brewer’s Cellarman with a wife named Frances; in 1901 they had one daughter and five sons, including Walter Percival. In the next census they prove difficult to trace, except Walter who is now a 20-year old Private at Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks in Tidworth.
He was with 2nd Battalion when he was killed in action on 20th October 1914. There is more than one war memorial in Blandford, but none have Walter Downes’ name.
Private 7125 Thomas Driscoll
No age, no next-of-kin but ‘Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says he was born Lambeth, London. His service number indicates he would have joined after March 1902 but before January 1903; let us suppose therefore that he was born around 1886. Lambeth has its own registration district and for the years 1880-1890 two Thomas Driscolls were registered in the June quarter of 1885. He is probably one of them, but which one ? The only thing to do next is look in the census and hope only one shows up.
But No … not one ….dozens. If he were with 2nd Battalion, he might have been in Malta, but he was with the 1st. All that can be said is that Private 7125 lost his life on 23rd October 1914 and has his name on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
Private 6773 Adolphus du Jardin
Born in the Channel Islands where, on 13th January 1915, the Jersey Evening Post newspaper carried a notice describing him as the “Elder son of Mrs Ann du Jardin of Vine Street, St. Helier, killed in action at Festubert ”. His CWG page has a different address for his mother - in St.Helier but she must have moved house when named next-of-kin.
In 1911 Adolphus was in St.Helier living with his parents, two brothers and three of their cousins. He was working as ‘Gate Keeper for Jersey Railways’. His name is on Jersey’s Roll of Honour and Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
Private 9826 John Romeril Du Feu
The CWG yields nothing other than 1st Battalion - 26 October 1914 - Le Touret Memorial. ‘Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says born and enlisted Jersey. The Channel Islands and the Great War has this about John Romeril due Feu as reported by the Jersey Evening Post of 17 November 1914 :
“ Another Jerseyman has given his life for the Motherland in the person of Private J.R. du Feu of the 1st Devons. The news of his death at Givenchy was received yesterday by his father Mr. Peter du Feu of Valley Farm, St.Peters. Private du Feu, who was 25, joined the Devon Regiment some 15 months ago and was a very promising soldier. ”
In 1911 the family consisted of their father Peter, a farmer with three grown-up sons all working on the farm, a daughter who worked in the dairy and the youngest, a boy aged 13 who was till at school. John, who became Private 9826 is commemorated on St. Peter’s parish memorial in Jersey.
Lieutenant Graham Eardley Dunsterville
His father was Colonel Knightly Stalker Dunsterville, was probably given no chance of being anything other than an Army officer. Born 1884 at Simla in India he came to England to be a pupil at Cheltenham College, was commissioned into the Devonshire Regiment in 1904 but two years later was serving with the Indian Army. By 1910 he was back with the Devons and gazetted Lieutenant in July 1910.
The following year he was in barracks at Tidworth and in 1912 he married Eveline Goldney. Their son was born a month after Graham Eardley had been killed. This is an account of 1st Battalion’s actions on on 29th October 1914 :
“At a critical moment when the enemy were coming on fast, Lieuts. Hancock & Dunsterville brought up reserve platoons … a very welcome reinforcement … but the day cost them dear and casualties came to nearly 100 including a high proportion killed. Among the latter were the two officers whose gallantry had done so much. Hancock & Dunsterville were both hit by snipers whilst superintending the defence. In them the Devons lost a splendid pair … Dunsterville had been a noted figure in Army boxing and bayonet fighting contests.”
Graham Eardley’s name is on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing. Possibly he, along with many others did have a proper burial but by the end of the war, after there had been so much movement of men and artillery churning up the ground, so much carnage and bombardment, their graves were lost - obliterated - forgotten.
Private 7388 Harry Howard Dyke
There is so much about this chap, I had trouble collating it all. His CWG page says he was 29 years old when he lost his life on 17th October 1914 whilst with 1st Battalion the Devonshire Regiment. He was the son of Mrs Sarah Dyke and husband of Isabella Dyke, both of whom had addresses in Gloucester. Harry’s birth was registered there in the last quarter of 1883; his marriage to Isabella Jones was in 1909. In census 1911 Harry and Isabella are in Gloucester where he works as a labourer for the town council.
Isabella was born in Pembrokeshire and Harry’s name is on the war-memorial Cenotaph at Fishguard in that county. Maybe after the war, one of her relations put forward Harry’s name even though Fishguard’s website says the memorial was for those who were either born or lived there.
Harry gets several mentions on Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ but mostly census and CWG details which we already know. On his page at Everyone Remembered someone has left a photograph of a gentleman with an Edwardian moustache and stiff white collar under a dark jacket. There is no comment, not even that it really is Harry Howard Dyke or who put it there.
Gloucestershire County Council has created a PDF of 8,000 names from war memorials in the county - one of them being Harry Dyke, so he must be on a memorial in that county, but which one? Well … keep looking and the result is not from Gloucestershire, but Fishguard in Pembrokeshire.
The West Wales Memorial Project lists names on four memorials in Fishguard and Harry is on three of them - the town’s main war memorial cenotaph, St. Mary’s Church and inside the Market Hall where there is a recently re-furbished Roll of Honour. This includes photographs of 81 men who fell in the Great War collected at the time it was originally created. The photo of Harry is the one on his Everyone Remembered page. There is a narrative for each man; Harry became a postman in Fishguard (after he and Isabella were in Gloucester for the 1911 census). He returned to Gloucester to enlist at outbreak of war; it is thought that he was a reservist in the Devonshire Regiment which is borne out by his service number; he would have joined in 1903. So Harry is remembered on three memorials in his adopted county and one in Gloucestershire.
Private 3/6943 David Eckstein
Born Bethnal Green, London early in 1894. His mother Eva Moss (formerly Eckstein) lived in Aldgate when named next-of-kin. He is remembered in the British Jewery Book of Honour. Census 1911 places him in Stannington, Northumberland, at Netherton Training School, a reformatory for wayward boys which was the only institution of its kind, in those days, to give Jewish religious instruction. Their records have provided more details of David’s life :
In London on 9th July 1909 he was convicted for stealing and sentenced to stay at Netherton until he was 19-years of age. Following his discharge in 1912 he was placed with various employers - including a dairy farmer, Ashington Colliery and a cabinet maker. At outbreak of war he volunteered to join the Army and the school received a letter from his mother, telling them he was in Plymouth with the Devonshire Regiment. He arrived in France on 3rd December 1914. A month later his mother wrote again, letting the school know that David had been killed on 17th December at Wulverghem, Belgium (a small village not far from Ypres). She also sent David’s photo but this is no longer in the school’s archive. Like David himself, it is Missing. His name is one of 54,000 on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
Private 8898 William Alfred Edwards
Birth registered at Bideford in the first quarter of 1893. Going by his service-number he joined the Army in the latter part of 1908; that means he was fifteen at the time. By 1911 he was with 2nd Battalion of the Devons in Malta when he would have been just about 18-years old. Looking at available information online, soldiers were not supposed to be sent overseas until they were 19; this was not wartime (yet …) His census record at the time says he was 20-years old. Maybe William Alfred looked older than he was, so no questions were asked.
He lost his life on 30 November 1914 and was at first buried at the Winchester Post cemetery at Laventie, Pas de Calais; there was only one other from the Devons buried there at the same time. Others were of various regiments. When in 1920 these were concentrated into Aubers Ridge British Cemetery, William Alfred was identified by his clothing and the cross marking his burial. He is remembered on the war memorial at Bideford in North Devon.
Captain Henry Grattan Elliot - On his page at Everyone Remembered someone has left a comment :
“A Son of Leatherhead who did us Proud”. Henry Grattan’s father was Colonel G.A. Elliot of The Marches, Leatherhead, Surrey. Leatherhead & District Local History Society has an extensive website dedicated to lives of those on war memorials, but I have not found any reference to Captain Henry Grattan Elliot.
Imperial War Museum’s ‘Lives of the First World War’ has a photo of him in regimental dress tunic with badges of the Devonshire Regiment and other than finding his birth registered at Brentford in 1881, nothing else seems to fit; not even census records. BUT .. think ...Where did high-ranking Army officers send their sons to be educated? Wellington College!
Their extensive website has a Roll of Honour and for Henry Grattan Elliot it says that he entered the college in 1895, left in 1898 and was gazetted into the Devonshire Regiment from the Royal Military College (Sandhurst) in 1899. He then saw service in the South African War 1900-1902 (Boer War) for which he was awarded the Queen’s Medal with 5 clasps and the King’s Medal with 2 clasps. In 1911 Henry was Aide-de-Camp to a Lieutenant-General in India.
All that accounts for why he could not be found in census records - in 1901 and 1911 he was in foreign parts. He narrowly missed being in census 1881 because he was born later that year, which only leaves 1891 when ‘Henry G. Elliot’ is a 9-year old scholar at a boarding-school in Eastbourne - which could be him at prep-school prior to Wellington College. Henry Grattan Elliot lost his life on 20th September 1914 and is buried in the British Cemetery at Vailly-sur-Aisne in Picardy, France.
Private 8406 William Henry Elson
Son of the late George & Maria Elson of 12 Summerland Place, Plymouth. Born in Northampton, according to The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 and in 1911 is with 2nd Battalion in Malta. He is ‘Single’ aged 23, so the closest birth registration is during the September Quarter of 1886 at Kettering. Cannot find his parents in any census. William Henry lost his life on 18th December 1914 and is one of the Missing on the memorial at Le Touret.
Private 6916 Frank Charles Evans
He was 31-years old and ‘husband of the late Elizabeth Evans’. He was born and enlisted in London, so I do not have much hope of finding him in the census. His age indicates roughly when he would have been born and as luck would have it, at Wandsworth in the first quarter of 1884 there is Frank Charles Evans.
At Battersea in 1891 he is living with five siblings, but there are no parents shown; ten years later, in the same place and with some of the previous siblings plus three younger ones who would not have been alive ten years before, their mother is present. She is Head of the Household. There are also two of her grandchildren and a visitor, so its obviously a very active family. Frank Charles, aged 17 works as a stonemason’s labourer.
Going by his service-number, he must have joined 2nd Battalion in 1902, so is he with them in 1911 at St. Georges’s Barracks in Malta ? The short answer is No. But just because I cannot find him in that census, does not mean he was not there. I cannot pinpoint his marriage either; too many Frank Evans to wade through and only one Frank C, but his bride was not called Elizabeth. Another strange thing is his entry on IWM ‘Lives of the First World War’ says that his service record is incomplete. However, it is certain that Frank Charles lost his life on 18th December 1914; he is one of the Missing on Le Touret Memorial.
Private 7601 William Follon
His CWG page says that he was 35-years old when he lost his life on 23rd October 1914 and that he was the son of Charlotte Follon of 1 The Ambury, Bath. This led me on a wild goose chase, eventually discovering that his birth was actually registered in Bath during the first quarter of 1887. So William was twenty-seven when he died of wounds and was buried in the Town Cemetery at Bethune in northern France.
In 1891 he was in Walcot, a district of Bath, with his parents Henry and Charlotte and their seven other children. In the next census William is an inmate of the Somerset Industrial Home for Boys where he is learning to be a shoemaker. His Army number suggests he joined up in early 1904. He was with 1st Btn. which went to Jersey in 1911 but I have not found him in census for that year. At that time, his parents and two brothers are still in Bath. William’s name is on the war memorial to the men of Bath who fell in the Great War - “They Died For Us”.
Captain Reginald Benjamin Featherstone
Born on 28th November 1881 at Anerley, Surrey and educated at Westminster School where, according to their online records, he played a lot of sport. Described as being “rather too small to be a great football player … played cricket with some success”.
After leaving the school in 1898 he joined the Devonshire Regiment and in May 1900 was gazetted Second-Lieutenant in 4th Battalion. He was in South Africa during the Second Boer and seven years later granted temporary rank of Captain whilst holding the appointment of Adjutant with 5th Btn. His army career was progressing well.
In the latter months of 1909 he married Anna Elizabeth Robinson in North Devon and they were living in Plympton for the census of 1911; their first child had been born the previous year. Three years later Reginald Benjamin was in France with 2nd Battalion and was killed in action at the Moated Grange where “ a burning rick ignited by the Germans had lit up the ground to be traversed and the company suffered very heavily ”.
Captain Featherstone is remembered on memorials at his old school and at Northam, Devon.
Private 2002 Harry Finnimore
For timespan 1870-1900 three “Harry Finnimore” births were registered; he could be any of them - there is no record of his age, where he was born or next-of-kin.
His CWG record says that he “Died at Sea en route to India on H.T ‘Navasa’ 6th October 1914.” He was with 5th Battalion and according to a letter written by an army bandsman travelling on the same transport, this death was “not through any disease”. The letter describes how two battalions of 900 men apiece, plus their officers and the ship’s crew were crowded together on this vessel. As a matter of pride, soldiers kept themselves and their surroundings clean, to prevent the spread of infections. But what about discipline during the fortnight’s voyage … ?
Exactly how Harry came to lose his life is open to speculation. I should think his body would have been cast overboard without much ado, for the sake of morale as much as hygiene. His is one of 1,872 casualties on the Hollybrook War Memorial at Southampton, which is for service personnel lost on transports or similar vessels and who have no grave other than the sea.
Private 7282 George William Fox
Born in Sheffield, according to his CWG record which also says he was husband of Mary Ann Fox of 32 Walker Street, King Goss, Halifax, Yorks. That contains a typo - a district of Halifax is ‘King Cross’. Also, ‘Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918’ says that George William was born in Hull but enlisted Sheffield.
In the census of 1911, he and Mary Ann are living in the East Brightside district of Sheffield; they have a one-year old son and her brother living with them. Both he and George William work for Vickers Engineering. George William lost his life on 30th October 1914 together with many others of 1st Battalion who are buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez in the Pas-de-Calais.
Private 9120 John Furneaux
One of the Regulars of 2nd Battalion who perished in this early stage of the war. John died of wounds on 26th November 1914 and buried at Aubers Ridge British Cemetery, with his identity disc and a cross marking his place.
He was born in Kingskerswell, a village on the busy road between Newton Abbot and Torquay. In 1901 he was there with parents, brother Frederick, their grandmother and a lodger. Ten years later both boys had gone their separate ways - John to Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks and Frederick to a college in Newton Abbot, not as a pupil, but a servant - ‘Footman in Boy’s College’ as the census puts it. Both are named on the war memorial in their village. Frederick lost his life in 1915 whilst with the Bedfordshire Regiment and is one of the Missing on the Menin Gate Memorial.
Private 9194 William George Sylvester Gardner
Married Mildred Clarissa Birden in Newport, Monmouthshire during the first quarter of 1914; both were in their early 20’s. Later that same year William died of wounds and was buried at the Bailleul Communal Cemetery in the Nord Department of France. After the war, when burial-grounds we taken over by the War Grave Commission and proper headstones erected; next-of-kin were given the opportunity to pay for an inscription in addition to the name, rank, service-number and regimental insignia of each soldier. Mildred told of her feelings :
"Still Sadly Missed By His Sorrowing Wife”
Private 3/6194 Reginald William Giles
Lost his life the day before Christmas Day 1914 when 2nd Battalion’s diary recounts the unofficial truce kept by German and British troops - totally against orders. There have subsequently been comments denying this occurred, but the war diary written at the time describes it perfectly clearly.
His medal card says that Reginald William ‘Died’ - he is buried in an area where many hospitals were established during WW1; maybe he became ill rather than injured. In 1911 he had been at Higher Barracks in Exeter although only seventeen and too young for the Regular Army; his number indicates that he was with 3rd Battalion, a Special Reserve unit. After initial training, he would have transferred to a Regular Battalion for active service.
In 1901 he was at home in Taunton with parents William (a House Painter) and Mary plus siblings Winifred and Archibald - Reginald was the eldest. His name is on Taunton’s main war memorial in Vivary Park and on the chancel screen in St. Andrew’s Church. Reginald William is buried in the Boulogne Eastern Cemetery, where his parents requested an inscription for his headstone :
"Some Day We Hope To See Him Smiling On That Golden Shore”
Private 8977 Arthur Gillard
A complete enigma, even though his CWG page maintains he was ‘Son of James & Anna Gillard, 5 West Street, Bampton, Devon’ and that when he lost his life on 17th December 1914 he was 25-years old. Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 says he was born Crediton. No Arthur Gillard was registered in Crediton between 1882 and 1892; the nearest is William in 1889. Looking for him, either as Arthur or William with parents James and Anna has proved fruitless. Bampton’s Roll of Honour has ‘Arthur Gillard 2nd Devonshires - killed 1914’. Arthur is named on the Menin Gate at what was Ypres, known by the Tommies as Wipers, but is now spelt ‘Ieper’.
Private 7270 Percival John Godbeer
Born in Exeter where he is remembered on the Roll of Honour. When named next-of-kin his parents, John Thomas and Georgina Godbeer were living at 24 Church Lane, St. Sidwells. They show in several census and in 1901, Percy aged 15, works as a gardener; he is the eldest of four and their father is a plasterer. Shortly after this Percival John went to Plymouth where he worked in the Goods Department of Great Western Railway; his name is on the Roll of Honour for employees who left to join the armed forces and perished in WW1. This is available to read online; there are 2,524 names divided into their various departments and stations. Framed copies are still on show in mainline stations which had been part of the original GWR.
He could have been a railwayman for less than two years - Percival John’s Army number suggests that he signed up in January 1903. He was with 1st Battalion of the Devons which went as a garrison force to Jersey in 1911, but I have never found a census record for this. Percival John lost his life on 24th December 1914 and his name is on the Menin Gate memorial.
Private 8515 Frederick Gooding
Son of George & Sarah Gooding, Moreton Lodge, Bideford. In 1901 their family comprised Mabel aged 12, Fred aged 9 and twin boys - Percy and John Henry (known as Harry) who were seven-years old.
Ten years later the twins were still at home but Frederick was with 2nd Devons at St. George’s Barracks in Malta. His name is on war memorials in Bideford and Le Touret where he is one of the Missing. He lost his life on 18th December 1914.
Private 9622 James Gooding
Has no next-of-kin on his CWG page; he was born in Barnstaple but when he enlisted was living in Chittlehampton - ten miles away. These places are not far from Bideford; maybe he was related to Pte. 8515 Frederick Gooding.
In 1901 James was seven-years old and at home in Chittlehampton with his parents John and Hannah and their seven children - James was the middle one. Ten years later he is still in the same village, but working on a farm. His name is on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing and the village war memorial at Chittlehampton. This also has the names of two of his brothers. Fred served with the Essex Regiment and was lost in April 1918; he is buried in Hangard Communal Cemetery on the Somme. Their eldest brother William lost his life in Mesepotamia in 1916.
Private 7532 William Richardson Gracie
Born in Plymouth during the first quarter of 1882 and in 1891 was with his brother and parents. William then became apprenticed to a carpenter, but by 1911 was in barracks at Tidworth having joined the Army a few years previously. The following year he married Bessie Mortimore; they had two daughters.
William was with 1st Battalion which arrived in France on 21st August 1914; less than one month later he died of wounds. He was buried at ‘Map.Ref.193.8 x 298.7 which, after the Armistice, became part of Vailly British Cemetery in Picardy. His widow was then able to specify wording for an inscription to go along the base of William’s headstone :
"To Memory Ever Dear”
Private 7745 James William Grant
In 1891 he was at home in Plymouth with his parents, three younger siblings, two aunts, an uncle and a baby cousin. Ten years later James William and his family are still together, but the other relations are not with them. By 1911 only his brother Frederick and their father can be readily traced; father is now a widower although his occupation has remained consistent throughout - he was a ‘carman’ - so he transported goods rather than people.
James William does not show in 1911; the most likely reason is that he has joined the army; he was with 1st Battalion and lost his life on 30th October 1914. He is one of the Missing.
Private 9735 Arthur Charles Green
Born at Bethnal Green in London; his birth was registered in mid-1894, so he was just about 20-years old when killed in action on 30th October 1914, although his CWG page says he was 19.
Despite having his mother’s name and address - Mrs Gertrude Martha Green 0f 67 Eden Grove, Holloway, London - it is not possible to be sure of having them in census 1901. However, in 1911 at Saltash, Cornwall on the Industrial Training Ship “Mount Edgcumbe” is an inmate by the name of Arthur Charles Green, born Holloway, London, aged 15. This does not quite tie up - he would actually be 17. It seems that no-one was quite sure of his exact age. This vessel was for ‘Homeless and Destitute Boys’ but I cannot find its records online.
Maybe Arthur Charles did not enjoy seafaring life so joined the Army instead. He enlisted in Exeter and was killed in action at the end of October 1914. His name is on Le Touret Memorial.
Private 8316 Richard Gregory
His CWG record says he was 26-years old when he lost his life on Christmas Day 1914 and was ‘Brother of Mrs R. Beaumont, 20 Stanley Street, Devonport’ which was where he was born and enlisted, according to other records. Looking for a marriage Beaumont and Gregory sometime prior to the Great War yields one at Devonport - the bride’s name was Rosetta Gregory. In 1891, she had been with her family including two brothers, one being Howard. A birth registration in 1887 was for Howard Richard H. Gregory.
When he joined the Army, Private 8316 chose to be kown as Richard. In 1911 he was with 2nd Batallion at St. George’s Barracks in Malta. His service number dates from 1908. Rosetta married William Jacob Beaumont, a ship’s cook in the Royal Navy and in this census they are living in Devonport and have three children.
Private 8851 Charles Reginald Henry Hale
He was 23-years old and son of Charles Edwin and Elizabeth Ann Hale of 30 3rd Avenue, Camels Head, Devonport. And yes - Third Avenue, Camels Head did exist; in fact it is still there in the 21st century.
Charles Reginald was born in Kingsbridge in 1891 but by 1901 is with parents and sister living in Devonport; early in 1909 he joined the Army and when he lost his life within the first few weeks of the war, he was with 1st Battalion of the Devons. Devonport has a fine war memorial to residents who lost their lives in WW1, but it has no names. Charles Reginald is named on Le Touret Memorial in the Pas de Calais, France.
Lieutenant Ralph Escott Hancock D.S.O.
London Gazette of 1st December 1914 carried a notice of his award of the Distinguished Service Order :
On 23rd October he had “displayed conspicuous gallantry in leaving his trench under very heavy fire and going back some 80-yards over bare ground to pick up Corporal Warwick who had fallen whilst coming up with a party of reinforcements”. The corporal had been wounded by gunfire. Lieut. Hancock conveyed him to the shelter of a haystack before returning to his trench. By the time this was in the Gazette, Lieut. Hancock had been killed - hit by sniper fire on 29th October.
Ralph Escott Hancock was a pupil of Rugby, the famous public school. Their Roll of Honour pages show a photo of him, standing before a wicket dressed in whites and holding a cricket-bat. He took part in many sports, playing rugby-football and cricket for Somerset County teams during 1907-13 so undoubtedly would have known Charles Gerrard Deane. After leaving school, Ralph attended the Royal Military College Sandhurst then joined the Devons in 1908, serving with them in Crete, Malta and Egypt all the time keeping up the sporting activities, especially polo.
In 1913 he was back in England to marry Mary Hamilton Broadmead. Their son was born a few weeks before Ralph lost his life. His name is on one of the stone panels in Rugby School’s War Memorial Chapel and in St.Andrew’s Church at Wiveliscombe, Somerset, where he lived as a child.
Private 3/6830 Harry James Harding
There is no age, no next-of-kin; he was ‘born London’ and enlisted at Stratford, Essex. Three Harry James Hardings were registered in London districts for the timespan 1870-1900; his service number dates to 1901/early 1902 making him a mature Regular soldier. If he joined up aged 16 in 1901 that means he must have been born 1885; there was a birth registration in Watford 1884. That might be him, but it is no help with locating him in the census; we have no clue as to his family background.
Pte. 3/6830 belonged to 2nd Battalion; he does not appear with them in census of 1911 but had been with them previously. He came out of the Army and became a Reservist. Ready to serve again if needed - that is why his number starts with 3/. That need arose when the country went to war. On 18th December 1914 at 4.30 in the afternoon, his batallion advanced on the Moated Grange. Some got hung up on the wire and were easy targets for sniper fire; others managed to capture 150-yards of German trench. By the evening, three of their officers had been killed, five wounded and 121 N.C.O’s and men either wounded or killed, Harry James Harding being one of them. His name is on Le Touret Memorial and the London WW1 Online Memorial.
Private 14265 Albert Thomas Harris
Enlisted in September 1914 but on 1st December he died in Connaught Hospital at Aldershot. Commonwealth War Graves says that he ‘Died of Sickness’ ; had he gone overseas or had he been taken ill in this country? Was he one of many who contracted pneumonia whilst being quartered in leaky tents during cold autumnal weather?
Albert Thomas was twenty-two when he was buried in the churchyard of Holy Trinity at Takeley in Essex. His CWG headstone, complete with Devonshire Regiment insignia carries an inscription :
"Beloved Elder Son of A. and S. Harris - Greater Love Hath No Man Than This”
Corporal 8685 John Alexander Harris
His parents Tom and Ann Frances requested for their son’s headstone in Bethune Town Cemetery, Pas-de-Calais :
"He Died The Noblest Death A Man May Die - Fighting For God and Liberty ”
John Alexander was 22-years old when he died of wounds on 24th October 1914. He was born in Chelsea and two older siblings were also born in London whilst their father was a Regular soldier in the Coldstream Guards. By 1901 the family had relocated to the Somerset village their father came from and where he now became a farmer. John Alexander, aged 8, was with them at this time but ten years later was no longer living at home. His service number indicates that he joined up in 1908. St. Margaret’s Chuch in Spaxton near Bridgewater has a stained-glass window dedicated to those who lost their lives in the 1914-918 war and a large brass plaque with detailed information about every one of the ten who were either killed in action or died of wounds - Corpl.J.A.Harris- 1st Devons - Bethune Oct.26th 1914 is shown under the former. There are 59 names of those who returned from serving overseas, but no personal details for them. “S. Harris” might be John’s brother Sidney.
Private 9256 Walter Harvey
He became a Regular soldier in 1911 when he was in Exeter’s Higher Barracks. At this time he was in training and eventually joined 2nd Battalion of the Devons.
Walter Arthur Harvey, to give him his full name, was born in the last quarter of 1892 at Musbury, a village near Axminster in East Devon. He was the youngest of four sons. Their father, Isaac, was an ‘Ordinary Agricultural Labourer’ who by the census of 1911 was an invalid with no occupation; his wife Mary Ann worked as a Charwoman. The three other brothers had hard labouring jobs; Walter’s life carried the promise of something more adventurous.
He was one of the many casualties at the Moated Grange on 18 December 1914 and his name is on the carved stone memorial shrine outside St. Michael’s Church in Musbury.
Private 8860 William Hearn
According to Devonshire Regiment 1914-18, born in Launceston, Cornwall. His mother was Mrs Emily Penrose of Western Terrace, Launceston. The town has an extensive website, a lot of it relating to the Great War but their only reference to him is “W.G. Hearn Died 1914 at Ypres”. In census 1911 William George Hearn - Aged 20 - Born Launceston 1891 - is in Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks at North Tidworth on Salisbury Plain.
There is no birth registration for William George Hearn throughout Cornwall from 1888 to 1892; the only one born Launceston is William Hockin Hearn. I have gone for alternative spellings of the surname, but the result is the same - neither can I trace his mother’s marriage to Mr. Penrose.
Whatever William’s true name was, or his background, is something of a mystery. He is not named on Launceston’s war memorial, but he is remembered at Le Touret.
Private 8105 Francis William Heath
He was with 1st Battalion when he lost his life on 30th October although he had previously been with 2nd Battalion in Malta at the time of 1911 census. He was born and grew up in the small village of Hennock which overlooks the Teign valley on the edge of Dartmoor. Francis William was second-eldest within a family of four boys and four girls. His name is on the village granite cross war memorial and a hand-written Roll of Honour in the parish church. The village website has biographies for each of the eleven names. Francis William was 25-years old when he was buried alongside Privates Pitts and Wood of 1st Devons, who perished at the same time, in what became the Arras Road Cemetery at Roclincourt in the Pas de Calais.
Private 5328 William Henley
He was 37-years old when he lost his life on 6th December 1914; he was the son of Ann Elizabeth Heath according to his CWG page. In 1911 William and brother Henry were both fishermen, living in Torquay with their mother who had been widowed when they were children. She re-married in 1889 and her new husband Henry Heath was also a fisherman. They have provided me with a certain amount of detective work, tracking them in census and BMD. I have tried, but failed, to discover their father. He died prior to 1881 when William aged 2 - at that time known as ‘Willie’ together with Henry aged ‘0’ - was just a baby, are in Torquay with an older sister and brother and their mother was a widow. Their father must have died very recently.
William Henley is named on the Ypes (Menin Gate) in Belgium and on the war memorial inTorquay.
Private 4393 Benjamin Hennessy
He was 37-years old when he was buried in the churchyard at Givenchy-les-La Bassee in northern France. Alongside him were three others of his regiment who had perished on 25th October 1914. At this point, all were Unknown Soldiers without crosses to mark their place. As the war progressed, the churchyard was devastated and left in ruins.
Benjamin’s next-of-kin was a sister who, by the time she was in his CWG record, was Mrs Hayman. They were from a family of at least ten siblings, born Newington, Surrey (Borough of Southwark in London). Their father was a labourer, so there may not have been much money to spend on their upkeep. By the time he was thirteen, Benjamin was working as a ‘Printer’s Boy’ and between 1895-96 he joined the Army. In 1911 he was with 2nd Devons at St.George’s Barracks in Malta.
In 1927, when burials were being concentrated into war-grave cemeteries, Benjamin was identified by his boots and clothing with numerals and two good-conduct stripes on a sleeve. Of the three others alongside him, one was identified as Serjeant J.H.Dean but the other two remained Unknown. They were all re-buried in Bailleul Road East Cemetery at St. Lawrence Blagny. On Find-a-Grave website, someone has left a photo of Benjamin’s headstone with red roses at Bailleul Road.
Lance-Corporal 9212 Ralph Hewitt
He was nineteen when he lost his life on 18th December 1914 in fighting around the Moated Grange. He was born at Budleigh Salterton into a large family and had six brothers; three of them perished in the Great War and are remebered on the war memorial at Exmouth. They all show up in Census 1911: Ralph in barracks at Tidworth; Leslie an inmate and scholar at the Devon & Exeter Boys Industrial School in Exminster. Ernest, youngest of the three is at home in Littleham, Exmouth with parents and seven other siblings.
Ernest joined the Royal Navy as a “Boy 1st Class” and was lost when HMS Viknor struck a mine off the coast of Ireland in January 1915 with the loss of all on board. He was one of the few to be washed ashore a month later and is buried in the churchyard at Ballintoy, County Antrim. Thanks to a local genealogist, his story is told on Find-a-Grave website.
The same source has provided a photo of Leslie’s headstone. He was also in the Royal Navy and is buried in Mikra British Cemetery at Thessaloniki, Greece. He lost his life on 21st July 1916 whilst serving on HMS “M20” - whether Leslie was a casualty of enemy action or whether he was taken ill, I have not been able to discover. Ralph had no burial; he is one of the Missing on Le Touret Memorial in France.
Private 8927 William James Highland
Born in Penzance 1891 so was 23-years old when he was killed in action on 18th December 1914.
In 1901 he was at home in Kingsbridge with mother Elizabeth Ann, father Stephen a Picture Framer and six siblings. One of them, his brother Stephen John was another fatality of WW1. He joined the Royal Navy and in 1911 was in the South China Sea aboard HMS Kent. At the end of 1915 he changed ship and became a Stoker 1st Class on HMS Indefatigable. This vessel was involved in the Battle of Jutland and on 31st May 1916 was sunk; only three of 1,018 crew survived. Stephen is remembered on the Plymouth Naval Memorial.
In 1911 William James was in Barracks at Tidworth, so had joined the Army before war broke out. Both brothers are remembered on the war memorial and Roll of Honour at Liskeard, Cornwall.
Private 7817 Leonard Hillier
From Reigate in Surrey. For census 1911 he was already in 2nd Battalion the Devonshire Regiment and an Army Bandsman at St.George’s Barracks, Malta.
His parents, John and Susannah Hillier had thirteen children; Leonard was one of the youngest. The website ‘Surrey in the Great War’ has his details and the only war memorial with names is a large wooden board inside Reigate & Banstead Town Hall; this is kept in an area used by staff and not normally accessible to the public. ‘Hillier, Leonard’ is one of the names. He was 29-years old when he lost his life on 30th October 1914. His name is also on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
Private 2848 Frederick Charles Hobbs
Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918 says he ‘ Died at Home’ and was with 6th Battalion, a Territorial unit. It is unlikely he perished as a result of war; more likely that he became ill.
Frederick Charles was born in the North Devon village of Fremington, on an inlet of the River Taw near Barnstaple. In 1910 he married Loveday Emma Saunders and in 1911 they were living with Frederick Charles’ parents. Father and son both worked as tailors.
Frederick Charles was twenty-four when he died on 14th December 1914; he is buried in the churchyard of St. Peter’s in Fremington. He is also remembered on the village’s war memorial. Loveday did not marry again; she passed away in 1969 at the age of 78.
Lance-Serjeant 6940 John Hole
There are discrepancies regarding the date on which he was killed. One record puts it at 20th October 1914, but 2nd Battalion was still in England so there would be a death registration, but there is none for ‘John Hole’. Medal card says he joined B.E.F in France on 6th November and the battalion’s war diary records an un-named fatality on 19th November; could be him. Devonshire Regiment 1914-18 says he was k-i-a 30 October which is clearly wrong - but it does mention a Lance-Serjeant being killed ‘shortly after arriving in France’ - which could be 6940 John Hole. I think it probably was, but no proper record was kept of the actual date so CWG puts his date of death as 18th December 1914 - the date when the Devons lost so many in their attack on the Moated Grange. Whenever it was, Lance-Serjeant John Hole lost his life and his name is on Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.
In 1911 he was with 2nd Battalion in Malta; his Army number relates to him joining-up in 1902. He was born in Exeter in mid-1884, making him 32-years old when he lost his life. A real ‘Old Soldier’ - an Old Contemptible of the original British Expeditionary Force of the Great War.
Private 7806 William James Hollett
Died of wounds on 23rd September 1914 aged 28. Husband of the late Lily Hollett. He was born in Bradninch, the Devon village which has a stone war memorial outside the church and a wooden board inside with “W.J. Hollett” on both. Lily’s death registered at Tiverton in 1918 but I cannot trace a record of their marriage; possibly it took place in Jersey where 1st Battalion was stationed prior to the war.
However, William James’ page on Everyone Remembered has yielded this, by his Great-Grandson :
“My Great Grandad who I believe was the first Devon Regiment soldier to be killed. I will come and visit your grave. My Great Grandad who my Gran never really knew; she was one year old when he died. Her Mum then died when she was two years old, leaving her an orphan and split up from her sister, who went to Canada with other relatives”.
In 1911 William James had been at Bulford Hut Barracks on Salisbury Plain. He was aged 24 and single, but this does not record his regiment or rank at this time. His army number indicates joining up in 1905 when he would have been nineteen. William James is buried in the small cemetery of Villeneuve St. Georges, Val de Marne - I hope his Great-Grandson has been to see it.
Private 9057 William Edward Holmes
He belonged to 2nd Battalion which, it is becoming apparent, was absolutely slaughtered on 18th December 1914 at the Moated Grange, Neuve Chapelle.
He was born in Okehampton 1893 and in 1911 was in Mooltan & Lucknow Barracks at Tidworth. His mother was Mrs E. Wills of Bondleigh, North Tawton but I have been unable to locate them in census 1901. William Edward’s name is in the Memorial Book at North Tawton church; its 52 names have been put on Lives of the First World War website hosted by Imperial War Museum.
William Edward was buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez near Arras in Northern France. His mother chose an inscription for his headstone :
"Peace Perfect Peace - In Loving Memory From Dear Mother And Brothers”
Lance-Corporal 8301 George Hollis
An Army Bandsman, according to his CWG page; he was born in London (Middlesex) and enlisted at Bristol. ‘Lives of the First World War’ gives his actual rank as being Lance-Corporal. He was with 1st Battalion and his service number dates to between 1907 and 1908 so assuming him to be 16-19 years of age when he joined the Army, that makes him born about 1888-1890. There are more than a dozen George Hollis registered in London districts during that timeframe. Looking in the census is futile because who can he be connected with?
London Online WW1 Memorial shows his CWG details, but they have nothing else about him. George Hollis was killed in action on 24th October 1914 and his name is on the Le Touret Memorial.
Private 9447 Stephen Hooper
Son of Susan Hooper and the late William Hooper and husband of Susan Day (formerly Hooper) of 23 Prospect Road, Brixham. Stephen was born in Brixham and his marriage was registered during the first quarter of 1913.
In 1901 Stephen, his two sisters and their parents are with his grandfather (a fisherman) in Brixham. Their father is also a fisherman. None of them seem to be in the next census - maybe William (Stephen’s father) was no longer alive by then - being a fisherman is a risky way to make a living.
Stephen was with 2nd Battalion and 21-years old when he lost his life on 18th December 1914. He is one of the Missing on Le Touret Memorial and has a place on the memorial looking out to sea at Brixham. His wife, Susan, re-married and became Mrs Day eighteen months later.
Private 7325 William Frederick Horsam
Born in Teignmouth, Devon and was 42-years old when he lost his life on 18th December 1914.
In 1897 he married Elizabeth Ellen Langabeer; in 1911 they were with their children - sons Fred, William and Charles and daughters Florence and Beatrice. At this time William was a farm labourer. Whatever made him join the Army ? When conscription came it was for unmarried men between the ages of 16 and 41 and in any case, this did not happen until 1916. Did he believe it would be over By Christmas 1914 ? Sadly, he and many thousands of others were proved very wrong indeed.
Teignmouth has two war memorials - one on the sea-front and one inside St. James’ Church - William is on both as well as Le Touret to the Missing in France.
Private 6869 William John Howe
His number indicating he probably joined up 1901/02 he may have been fairly mature when he lost his life on 18th November 1914. CWG page does not name any next-of-kin; he was born Plymouth. The only birth registration for his name and that place within the dates 1870-1900 was during last quarter of 1878 at East Stonehouse, a district of Plymouth.
In census 1881 at Adelaide Street, East Sonehouse is William Howe aged 2; his father is a Private in the Royal Marines. The family can be traced through census 1891 when William is a ‘Scholar’ aged 12 and 1901 when his parents, Charles and Elizabeth are on their own. This makes sense - William would be in the Army by now. There is every chance this is William John Howe and his family but there is no way it can be proved.