Devoran Suffragettes WSPU 1914




Western Morning News May 27, 1914 

Good journalists should  give consideration to both sides  of a question.

Interesting to read the opinions of Edith Williams, Devoran, WSPU (Women’s Social and Political Union)


An opposite view to Edith Williams – Firmness of Plymouth’s letter Western Morning News May 27, 1914



Edith Williams WSPU Devoran letter Western  Morning News,  Monday 1st June 1914


Further letters in the Western Morning News, Monday 1st June 1914

The WSPU and Suffragettes’ cause and campaign for the vote was  suspended during the War.

Tuesday 6 February 2018 is the centenary of women being granted the vote for the first time in Britain.

The Representation of People Act 1918 was an important law because it allowed women to vote for the very first time.

It also allowed all men over the age of 21 to vote too. Many of Devoran’s men serving in the armed forces (recorded on the Roll of Honour in the Village Hall) got to vote for the first time.

This act was the first to include practically all men in the political system and began the inclusion of women, extending the franchise by 5.6 million men and 8.4 million women

The contribution made during World War One by men and women who didn’t have the right to even vote was an important reason for the law changing.

In 1918, the Representation of the People Act was passed on 6 February 1918 and women voted in the general election for the very first time on 14th December 1918 that year.

“Women over 30 years old received the vote if they were either a member or married to a member of the Local Government Register, a property owner, or a graduate voting in a University constituency.”

How exciting for those women of Devoran parish over 30 who did qualify to vote for the first time. I wonder where the election voting was held – presumably the parish rooms or the old school on a Market Street?

In the Equal Franchise Act in 1928, suffrage was extended to all women over the age 21, meaning that women finally had the same voting rights as men.
Up until 1918, women hadn’t been allowed to be MPs in Parliament either. The Parliament (Qualification of Women) Act 1918 gave women over 21 the right to stand for election as a Member of Parliament.

In December 1918, the first woman MP was elected to the House of Commons, Constance Markievicz  but, like other Irish Sinn Fein Republican MPs, did not take up her seat. She would shortly be followed in 1919 by Plymouth MP Nancy Astor.

How excited Edith Williams must have been if she was still in Devoran in December 1918.

Certainly a women to further research. Somewhere  ( somewhere!) I have a pamphlet on Annie Williams and Lettuce Floyd, along with local Suffragettes which may  say more about Edith Williams and the local WSPU set up.

This handy reference book sets out where Edith Williams lived in Devoran, in a house known as Glanafon, Devoran.


From The Women’s Suffrage Movement: A Reference Guide 1866-1928
By Elizabeth Crawford

The same author Elizabeth Crawford mentions Edith Williams in another publication:


The Women’s Suffrage Movement in Britain and Ireland: A Regional Survey
By Elizabeth Crawford. Certainly an interesting book on Regional Suffrage to track down.  

So Glanafon, wherever it was in Devoran, hosted many WSPU speakers from 1910 to 1914.

Writing in the London Standard, December 27, 1911, Edith Williams wrote:


Letter from Edith Williams, London Standard, December 27, 1911 

Blogposted on the centenary anniversary of some women being granted the vote, 6 February 1918 / 2018.


Remembering Thomas Kemp and the SS Ocean Courage lost WW2 15 January 1943

Remembering Thomas Harold Kemp and the crew of SS Ocean Courage, lost at sea 75 years ago 15 January  1943.

Born in Devoran in 1885 to a family of coal and oyster merchants, Master Thomas Harold Kemp was living in Eastbourne, Sussex when he was lost at sea aboard SS Ocean Courage aged 57 on 15 January 1943.


Devoran’s T.H. Kemp, SS Ocean Courage recorded on the WW2 section, Tower Hill memorial.

He is remembered with crew members on Panel 75 of the Tower Hill Memorial to Merchant Navy staff.

The crew and casualties are listed here

According to the EU Wrecksite website, on 15 January 1943 The Ocean Courage was sunk in the Atlantic, South of the Cape Verde Island and west of Gambia in Africa whilst sailing independently on a voyage from Pepel to the UK via Freetown and Trinidad with a cargo of 9000 tons of iron ore and mail. She was sunk by a torpedo from U-182, commanded by U-boat Captain Nicolai Clausen.

The Master Captain Thomas Harold Kemp, 41 crew, 2 gunners and 2 stowaways were lost.

Six crew and 1 gunner were rescued by British ship Silver Walnut and landed at Norfolk, Virginia.

Kemp became a Master fairly young (his Master’s Certificates are on

His ship the Ocean Princess was built in the USA in 1942 and operated by locally founded St. Ives Hain Steamship Co.Ltd.

Kemp is listed on the brass plaque inside the church, not on the granite war memorial.

T.H. Kemp and F.W. Kemp are listed on the bottom right of the Devoran Roll of Honour in the Village Hall for his service in the Mercantile Marine or Merchant Navy of WW1.


Devoran Roll of Honour 1914-18, Devoran village hall (photographed : Mark Norris, 2013)

T.H. Kemp – Remembered 75 years on, in his home village.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project,  15 January 2018

Remembering William John Dunstan Devoran WW1 died accident at sea 24 December 1917

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William Dunstan’s grave in Brest Kerfautras Cemetery, France (Image copyright: TWGPP / CWGC, the War Graves Photographic Project)




William John Dunstan of Devoran, serving as 2352/ST, Engineman, Royal Naval Reserve, HM Trawler Pintail, died aged 45 on 24 December 1917.

He is buried in plot 40.3.5 Brest Kerfautras Cemetery, Finisterre, France (mostly an American naval and army cemetery).

Dunstan 1Brest (Kerfautras) Cemetery

William Dunstan’s grave lies in Brest Kerfautras Cemetery, France (Image copyright: TWGPP / CWGC, the War Graves Photographic Project)

The CWGC website lists him as husband of Juliana Dunstan of 6 Chapel Terrace, Devoran. Juliana was born in 1871 in Truro. The couple married in 1903 and had two children, both born in Devoran, Florence May Dunstan (b. 1905) and William Edwin Kean Dunstan (b. 1907).

William was born in Hayle, Phillick (Phillack?) in Cornwall in 1874. In the 1911 census he is listed as “Fireman Steamship” on board SS Erimus,  living at Chapel Terrace, Devoran.

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Devoran war memorial, names A to J , First World War

His life and death tell an interesting tale of Devoran past as a port or harbour, then of the war at sea, keeping the sea clear of enemy mines.

The ship where Dunstan served and sustained his fatal accident HMS Pintail was a Hull trawler H982 , built in 1908 and wrecked off Ireland in 1949. In October 1914 she was requisitioned for war service as a minesweeper, armed with 1 x 12 Hotchkiss pdr, 1 x 6pdr HA, Ad.No382 . She was moved to Penzance and Falmouth. (Ad.No.382). By 1st October 1918 she was at Penzance (General Patrol and Escort work).

By 12 March 1919, Pintail had been returned to her owner at Hull. There is more about the naval war and minesweepers off the Cornish coast in Pete London’s short book Cornwall in the First World War (Truran, 2013)

So Pintail survived war service. William Dunstan did not – according to the Royal Navy Roll of Honour WW1, he died of illness in hospital,  as a result of his war service.

Further research in the National Archives into his Royal Naval Reserve service record suggests that he signed up on 15 November 1915. He died as a result of an accident at sea on twenty third December.


Dunstan’s Navy Records state that he “Died Marine Hospital, Brest, France. Death due to accident. Injuries to head from from crank of engine whilst endeavouring to recover oil can from crank bilge. ”

Dunstan died of a fractured skull as a result of “head and chest injuries by crankshaft” received “whilst at sea on 23 December 1917”.

Previous to his service at sea on HM Pintail, he seems to have served from 1915 and 1916 on King Frederick (III) a Hired Trawler. “5.1915: Requisitioned for war service as a minesweeper (1-12pdr) (Ad.No.2659). Renamed KING FREDERICK.” H.M.S. Dreel Castle  appears  to be his “parent ship at Falmouth base” and “parent ship of the patrols working from Falmouth.”

Shore Establishments of the Royal Navy states that “DREEL CASTLE was a Drifter commissioned 2.2.15. Nominal depot ship Auxiliary Patrol Falmouth, Penzance, & Scillies replacing Vivid 1.10.15 – 16.9.19 [accounts to Vivid IV]. Flag of Rear Admiral Falmouth struck 15.8.19.”

Dunstan’s naval records in the National Archives are hard to read and decipher. He appears to have transferred from “King Frederick” to the Royal Naval Hospital Plymouth in November 1917 then back to sea on “Pintail” shortly before his accidental death.

His widow Juliana  chose no additional inscription on his standard headstone.


You can read more about William Dunstan and the other men of Devoran in WW1 here:

William John Dunstan, Remembered a hundred years on  in his home village of Devoran and by his family on Christmas Eve 24 December 2017.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project

I shall add more to Dunstan’s entry should I uncover any more information.

11th Hour 11th Day 11th Month 99 years on 2017


World War 2 section, Devoran War Memorial Photo: Mark Norris



The new panel on the Devoran War Memorial, listing two new WW1 Devoran casualty names P.A. Sweet and W.J. Hoyle, thanks to work / research by Bob Richards and the Feock Parish Council.

Remembering the men,  women and families of Devoran and surrounding villages affected by both world wars, recorded on the Devoran War Memorial and the Roll of Honour.

Remembered today and tomorrow during the national two minute silence at 11 am ,  during the reading of names at 10.45 a.m. Armistice Sunday 12th November 2017 and throughout the year in their home villages.

I hope to make it down to the memorial on Remembrance Sunday for a few minutes to hear the names read out before the 11am two minutes silence and Last Post.

Since  we developed the Devoran War Memorial Blog and Research project, these names  hopefully mean so much more to many people in the village today, linking past, present and future of Devoran and its surrounding villages.

Possible future plans for the Devoran War Memorial blog project and WW1/ WW2 anniversaries.

Following on from the success of The Names on The Roll talk in July 2016 about Devoran in WW1 1914 to 1916, we hope to complete the story of Devoran in WW1 from 1916  to 1919. This will probably with an another illustrated talk in the Devoran village hall sometime in 1919, potentially  around the 100th anniversary of the war memorial recreation ground in September 1919.

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Dedication stone of the Devoran War memorial ground, 12 September 1919

Bob Richards, Ann Cunningham and I might (if we have the energy!)  complete the trilogy of wartime Devoran talks, as fundraising for Devoran Village Hall,  with a third and final illustrated talk on Devoran in WW2 in 2020, the 75th anniversary of the end of WW2.

For more details, watch this blog space and Devoran village hall social media nearer the time.

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Devoran war memorial, names A to J , First World War

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, November 2017.

We would love to hear more from you. Contact us through the blog comments section.

Was the Tank in WW1 named after a Devoran engineer Thomas Tank Burall?



An old Devonport acquaintance? Letter by S H Tremayne, Plymouth, Western Morning News September 26th 1918.

Intriguing little snippet of news when researching Devoran War Memorial’s construction date.

November 1917 is an important date in Tank history for the mass use of tanks by British forces at  the Battle of Cambrai (20 November – 7 December 1917).


Did Thomas Tank Burral give his name to this British (Mark V Male) Tank? (Image: Wikipedia)

Did Devoran born Thomas Tank Burrall or Burral give his name to the Tank?


The Strand Magazine article in February 1918 can be found here: .LvJan-jun#page/n197/mode/1up


It features a portrait photograph of Burral, Burral or  Burrall. His surname appears in both spellings.



A portrait of Tank in The Strand,  February.

The February 1918 Strand article referred to in Mr. Tremayne’ newspaper letter was written to challenge the usual story or official story given in the September 1917 issue of The Strand magazine. This was  the original,  officially endorsed article by Colonel Swinton about Tanks, their development, and naming:

The usual story of how the Tank got its  name is given here on Wikipedia, based in part on Swinton’s official article in The Strand, September 1917:

“Although landship was a natural term coming from an Admiralty committee, it was considered too descriptive and could give away British intentions. The committee therefore looked for an appropriate code term for the vehicles. Factory workers assembling the vehicles had been told they were producing “mobile water tanks” for desert warfare in Mesopotamia…

The term tank, as in water tank, was in December 1915 finally accepted as its official designation. From then on, the term “tank” was established among British and also German soldiers …
It is sometimes mistakenly stated that, after completion, the tanks were shipped to France in large wooden crates. For secrecy and in order to not arouse any curiosity, the crates and the tanks themselves were then each labelled with a destination in Russian, “With Care to Petrograd”. In fact the tanks were never shipped in crates: the inscription in Russian was applied on the hull for their transport from the factory to the first training centre at Thetford. (Wikipedia ‘Tank’ entry)

Thetford was the home of agricultural engineers Charles Burrell, another coincidence or link with Thomas Tank Burral?

Thomas Tank Burral was born in Cornwall on  April 16, 1847 and died in Thetford on November 26 1884.

Burral had died of overwork, a heart attack in the office, his death as a promising agricultural engineer was reported in Cornish newspapers.


His Works town of Thetford paid suitable respects to Thomas Tank Burall, who was buried in Wisbech. Despite being a native of Devoran, it appears as if several members of his family worked in or were buried in Thetford by 1884. Two brothers lived nearb. His wife Ellen Burall lived there too but returned to their birthplace in Devoran. His father Thomas Burall  was buried there in Wisbech in 1883 shortly before this.


Burall’s death, Royal Cornwall Gazette, December 12, 1884

The probate for Thomas Tank Burral  “Mechanical Engineer” suggests that Ellen Burral may well have returned home to her Burral or  Williams family in the Devoran area as a widow.



Thomas Tank Burall’s family links to Devoran

Thomas Tank Burall and his wife Ellen Williams were both born in Devoran in 1847/8. They married in Feock Parish Church (Devoran Church was not yet built) in January 29 1870.


Thomas’ father Thomas Burall (born Illogan, 1812) was at first a Blacksmith / Smith (1841) then a boilermaker (1851 / 1861 Census), employing ten  men by 1851 in one of the many engineering related jobs in a county full of mines and steam engines. In 1871 he was living in Laurel Cottage, Devoran (near Lower Devoran, Carnon Gate and Toll Gate House).  In 1881 he was still listed as a working Engineer

His wife Ellen’s  father Jeremiah Williams was a Grocer.

The Tank part of his name comes through his mother’s side, his mother being one Catherine Tank, born Illogan around 1813. Several of his brothers bore the  middle name of Tank, including

Joseph Tank Burral (b. 1849, Devoran / Feock) also worked as a Boilermaker and died in Pennsylvania, America in 1935)

The press articles mentioned his two brothers living nearby who were summoned and arrived rapidly on hearing of Tank’s death. These were William and Henry.

William Tank Burral (b. 1852, Devoran / Feock)  moved to Wisbech and ran a business with his brother Henry Charles Burral as a Patent Label Manufacturer. William lived with his brother Henry.

Henry Charles Burral (born 1855, Feock / Devoran) was originally a Draper, lived also in Queens Road, Wisbech in a house called Tregullow, very Cornish!

Henry had two children by his first wife, Catherine Grace Burall (b. 1891 who became a Cashier) and William H. Burall born 1893. This generation of Burall children or boys would have served in the First World War. Henry Charles was a widower by 1901 but remarried around 1902 to a woman named Maud and had a further child,  Kathleen Maud Burall in 1903.

Thomas Tank Burral had two sisters Catherine Grace Burral (b. 1847, Perranarworthal) and Elizabeth or Eliza A Burall (born 1846, Perranarworthal, later a Draper’s Assistant).


Thomas and Ellen  1881 Census entry

In the 1881 census Thomas Tank Burral and Ellen were living in Thetford, Thomas being the Manager of an Engineering Works (which must be Burrell the Steam Tractor works). His period at HM Dockyard  Devonport as an engineer Draughtsman seems to link his mechanical engineering to marine engineering.  A marine engineer with an interest in steering, and an agaricultural mechanical engineer with an interest in getting vehicles across rough terrain came together in this clever man.

Many different forebears from caterpillar tracks, steam traction engines and artillery tractors seem to have come together in the invention of the Tank in Britain during WW1. It would be good to think Thomas Tank Burall’s character, hard work and engineering skills at Burrell’s of Thetford in the 1880s brought him the respect of his workforce and led to his name ‘Tank’ being applied to the ridged or “pattened”  wheels or ‘Tanks’ he developed and ultimately to the  cross country vehicles that may have given his name  thirty  years later to  the Tank in WW1.


Cambrai 100

The tank centenary is interestingly marked by an extensive and interesting blog from Bovington Tank Museum    http://

It will be interesting to see what Bovington have to say about this strange Devoran linked story of Thomas Tank Burall.

In 1919, Thomas’ Tank, Williams and Burral relatives in the Devoran, Feock and Falmouth may well have seen a WW1 Tank in display in Falmouth

Blog posted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project blog, November 2017.



The Botanical Bishop plants the Lobb Garden, October 2nd 1942


In 2017 A newer Lobb Brothers memorial garden has been planted down Market Street in Devoran opposite the offices of the Parish Council and supported by Devoran Gardening Club.

75 years ago on October 2nd 1942 an original flowerbed or shrubbery garden was dedicated by the Botanical Bishop Joseph Hunkin outside the Parish Church near the Devoran War Memorial and the headstone for local planthunter and Devoran resident Thomas Lobb.

A curiously peaceful  activity during wartime, maybe a morale booster by the Botanical Bishop Hunkin.

Thomas Lobb (1817–1894) was a British botanist and, along with his older brother, William Lobb, collected plants for the plant nursery Veitch.


Joseph Wellington Hunkin OBE MC (25 September 1887 – 28 October 1950) was the eighth Bishop of Truro from 1935 to 1950.

hunkin 4

Joseph Hunkin (or ‘Hunks’ as he was known to serving troops) was then a Military Chaplain in the British Armed Forces during World War I.

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A keen gardener, Hunkin  was commemorated by a garden in the cathedral close and a shrub was donated to every parish.

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Joseph Hunkin’s Preface to one of his final / posthumous publications in 1950

We will feature a little more in a future blog from Joseph Hunkin’ small ‘Trees and Shrubs in Cornwall’ pamphlet for the CPRE.


hunkin 2


There is more about the Botanical Bishop, who was also a WW1 Military Chaplain, holder of the MC (Military Cross)  in the Cornwall Home Guard  during WW2 (probably the Truro Battalion?) in his biography Botanical Bishop

hunkin 1 .jpg 


Introduction mentioning the Lobb brothers in Hunkin’s Trees and Shrubs for Cornwall 



Four Lobb introductions are mentioned and planted by Hunkin

The four Lobb trees and shrubs in Devoran Churchyard are mentioned in Hunkin’s book:

escallonia macrantha


Bereberis darwinii – a good Lobb plant link with explorer  Charles Darwin who ended his round the world journey on HMS Beagle in Falmouth (today!) on 2nd October 1836.  This event is marked by a plaque in Falmouth erected as part of the Darwin bicentenary that I worked on in 2009.


and a Lobb plant named after the directors of Kew Garden , William Hooker and son (Darwin’s friend) Joseph Hooker who sent many plant introductions to gardens in Cornwall.



Posted by Mark Norris, October 2nd 2017 / 1942 75 years on


Harry Abbiss and Secret Cornish Home Guard Auxiliary Units


Although the Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard was part of the wider Cornwall Home Guard, they probably formed part of the 10th Truro Home Guard Battalion.


The Devoran and Carnon Downs platoon of the Truro 10th Battlion Cornwall Home Guard are shown in a photograph reproduced in Devoran and  Its River by Ralph and Marie Bird.

Some of these men might have had an unusual additional secret role as part of a Home Guard Auxiliary Unit.

The 10th Battalion (Truro) Home Guard 

The 10th Battalion (Truro) Home Guard commanding officer was recognised in the 1945 honours list – Major A.F. Bluett.

Major Albert Fernleigh Bluett fought as an officer with the DCLI in the First World War. Son of a publisher and journalist, Bluett lived at Fairholme, Kenwyn, Truro.

Living not far away in Truro at the time (and later buried in Kenwyn Churchyard) was an interesting Home Guard character, Harry or Henry Walter Abbiss. But more of him shortly.

A list of the Cornish Home Guard battalions can be found here:
‘Stay Behind’ or Secret Auxiliary Units of the Home Guard

As well as the regular Home Guard with its patrols, parades and public duties, there was a less well-known secret ‘stay behind’ group known as the Auxiliary units. 

Their secret guerrilla warfare bases have occasionally been uncovered or revealed by patrol members many years later.

Trained at Coleshill House, the nearest Auxilliary Patrol to Devoran appears to have been at Perranwell. Other Auxiliary Patrols existed at Grampound, Probus and many other areas nearby.

With a hidden Operational Base (OB) in a local quarry, one of their Perranwell Auxiliary Patrol targets to protect local railway tunnels and viaducts.

Perranwell Auxiliary Patrol  – Assumed targets would have included the Sparnick railway tunnel at Pellynwartha (which was very close to the OB), the railway viaduct at Ponsanooth and the main A39 road. The railway line would have been an important supply route as it ran from Falmouth Docks to the city of Truro on the main line from Penzance to Paddington. Coleshill House website entry for Perranwell patrol.

It is known Perranwell Patrol had regular training exercises with Constantine and Mabe patrols under the direction of Lt Alec McLeod. Local exercises included an attack on the nearby Stickenbridge on the main Falmouth to Truro road. It is recorded the Patrol were trained at Coleshill.   (Coleshill website)

Stickenbridge? This  is where the River Kendall runs underneath the A39 Truro to Falmouth Road past the Norway Inn and  Mylor / Flushing turn off and before the road off to Cosawes and Ponsanooth.  There is also nearby the  Ponsanooth Railway Viaduct (and further up the line the Viaduct crossing the Bissoe Valley near Deborah. All likely demolition targets.

OB were Operational Bases or Bunkers assigned to or built by each Auxiliary Unit. 

There is currently no information on a Truro or specifically Devoran area patrol or Devoran bunker on the Coleshill House website.

The regular Home Guard in the Carnon Downs and Devoran members of the Truro Home Guard Battalion also were involved in guarding the Sparnik or Sparnock Railway Tunnel on the Truro to Falmouth Railway Line pictured here


The names of local commanders for these secret ‘Stay Behind’ guerrilla troops were published in The Last Ditch by David Lampe (1968, republished Frontline 2007) by which time Harry Abbiss was dead. Harry Abbiss died in 1965 in Truro, aged 74.


These local commanders would have been assigned loosely to be part of the 203rd (GHQ Reserve) Battalion of the Home Guard. 

According to Brigadier C.R. Major quoted in Lampe’s book, overall all these units would be under the care of the Cornwall Intelligence Officer, one Captain John ‘Jack’ Dingley.

Captain Dingley was responsible for forming 28 Auxiliary patrols overall of 195 men under 7 Group Commanders. 27 Auxiliary hideouts were built and 2 in progress in 1941.

The Devon and Cornwall IO (Intelligence Officer) base was said to be Polhilsa House, Stoke Climsland near Callington, Cornwall.

Truro’s Auxiliary Units?

Number 4 Region covering the Southwest has three Truro based names for Auxilary Group Leaders amongst the Cornwall references  – Abbiss, Yeo and Harte.

  1. Abbiss

Truro, Cornwall. Group 3 Commander (and Area Commander): Captain Henry W. Abbiss, Trelawney Road, Truro, Telephone Truro 2427.

Listed with him were:
2. Lieutenant F J Yeo, Redannick Crescent, Truro

Frederick J Yeo was born on 15 February 1896. His 1939 Register entry tells us that he lived at Westover, Redannick Lane, (also mentioned on the Coleshill House site mentions of him). He is employed a Clerk at the county Council in Truro.

By then his family consists of his wife Dora  A. Yeo, b. January, on unpaid domestic duties. A daughter, Phyllis M Abear Yeo was born 2nd June 1927 and son Bernard Frederick Yeo born in 1922 that his father attempted to have appointed to the County Council surveyors office as  an articled pupil (Cornishman 13 January 1938)

He is pictured on the Truro School website WW1 100 Lives : “In 1916 in 5th Bt DCLI and promoted to Lance-Corporal. By December 1917 was a corproral and instructor in musketry on Salisbury Plain. Was in hospital for a while from a sprained ankle from a football accident. In 1918 he left for France on 26 March, was taken prisoner on 10 So and returned to England in December 1918.”

His medal record card ( Victory and British War Medal) lists him as DCLI Private 202281 then later Wiltshire Regiment 204297.


F J Yeo, Truro School 1908-12 (taken from the Truro School WW1 100 lives website / PDF)

His name and initials feature regularly in local papers as a Truro College school boy in sports days, later as a baritone and comic singer at many local social events. In December 1927 he would be mentioned in the Western Morning News as a soloist in Vaughan Williams Choral Fantasia on Christmas Carols for Truro Musical Society at the Truro Cathedral carol concert. Seventeen  years later he may have been at the Home Guard stand down parade and church service for the Cornwall Home Guard Battalions at Truro Cathedral in December 1944.

Thirty years later after his schoolboy team picture, F. J. Yeo is pictured with his fellow Auxiliary Unit commanders.


F J Yeo second from left middle row, wearing his WW1 medal stripes,  Edward Harte third from left back row,  Jack Dingley 5th from left front row (Photo from Coleshill House website)

2nd Lieutenant Edward K F Harte, Truro

Edward Karl Follit Harte  was born 2  January 1902 in Cardiff (so a little younger than the others and too young for WW1) He died in Truro 1977.

Married by 1926, in the 1939 Register he is listed at Crownhill Plymouth as a Commercial Traveller Biscuit Firm, again a good job for getting around the county. His wife Gertrude Mitchell Wallis Gordon (born February 1907) was the daughter of a Navy family, her father Richard J. Gordon (born 1880) being a retired Lieutenant RN who was recalled to active service in Plymouth on or at HMS Drake.

Yeo and Harte are pictured here along with Jack Dingley

So who was Captain H.W. Abbiss? 

Captain Abbiss’ name pops up on the West Cornwall Horticultural Show and West Cornwall Spring Show website:

The story begins in 1924 with the first ever Spring Show, although back then it was an entirely commercial affair and began life as ”The Western Commercial Horticultural Show” and it was down to the vision of one man that it took place at all.
Captain H.W. Abbiss was a horticultural advisor working for Cornwall County Council and he realised the great potential of the early advantages afforded to the local growers of our very mild winters and warm springs.

To capitalise this on behalf of the local growers he conceived what became the earliest of the Horticultural Shows in the UK and ensured that the London markets and other markets throughout the country were fully aware of this early fresh Cornish bounty. …

He became the show’s Hon Secretary H W Abbiss, NDH, Horticultural Superintendent, County Hall, Truro …     (West Cornwall Spring show website)

The Coleshill website has a little more about Captain Abbiss.

After 1941 a “grouping” system was developed where some [Auxiliary] patrols within a demographic area would train together under more local command.

St Dennis was part of Group 3 along with Redruth, Mabe, Perranwell, Constantine, Truro, Perranporth, Newlyn East, Grampound, St Columb, St Mawgan, Probus and Philleigh.

They were under the group command of Captain H.W. Abbiss from Truro along with Lieutenant F.J. Yeo and 2nd Lieutenant E.K.F. Harte.

Captain H.W. Abbiss from Truro was also the area Commander for this and groups 1 to 4, covering two thirds of the county.

In 1945 Captain Abbiss was awarded the MBE (Military Division) and reporting of this gives some interesting if coded information.


Captain H.W. Abbiss pictured in the Western Morning News, 29 December 1944 on the announcement of his Military MBE after the stand down of the Home Guard. His cap badge appears to be that of the local regiment the DCLI?

The 1944 article gives an interesting wartime biography for Harry Abbiss and his Military MBE “for meritorious service in connection with a specialised branch of Home Defence”, which is probably a coded reference to his secret Home Guard Auxiliary Unit work.



“During the war he has acted as horticultural and supplies officer to Cornwall War Agriculture Executive Committee.”

This role sounds like perfect cover and probably a petrol ration for popping around the County talking to farmers and other countryside characters, supplying suitable equipment and stores to Auxiliary Units.

The newspapers are full of references to talks Abbiss made to different community groups and judging produce shows as part of the national Dig for Victory gardening effort. This would allow Harry Abbiss good reason or ‘cover’ to visit many parts of the countryside. He also appears to have broadcast on BBC radio 26 February 1940 on Market Gardening and War Time Measures and Allotment Holding.

Harry Walter Abbiss was born on 26 August 1891 and in 1911 is recorded as a ‘Gardener Domestic’ with six other young gardeners in The Bothy, The Gardens,  Overstrand, Norfolk (near Cromer).

This may well be the Overstrand gardens where Harry Abbiss worked:

When he joined up in 1915, Harry Abbiss joined the Royal Army Medical  Corps (RAMC) at Cromer. Lance Corporal 45510 H.W. Abbiss arrived in France 25 July 1915, gaining the 1915 star. When he was gazetted for his Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) on 20 October 1916, Sergeant Abbiss was commended:

“for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. He was continually in charge of stretcher bearers throughout the operation under heavy shell fire. He remained on duty night and day for a week and showed great organising abilities and coolness under the most difficult conditions, setting a splendid example …”


By the end of the war he was an acting Staff Sergeant in the RAMC 54th Field Ambulance and was gazetted for a Military Medal on 7 October 1918.

In 1939 Abbiss appears on the 1939 Register living at no. 2  Trelawney Road, Truro listed as Horticultural Superintendent. His wife Ciceley E. Abbiss is listed as born on 20 August 1875, on unpaid domestic duties. Unusually she is 16 years older than him.

Harry Walter Abbiss married  Cicely E. Green at Erpingham in Norfolk in 1915. Harry appaears on the 1918/19 wartime absent voters list for Cromer Road, Hill Farm and  from 1919 at Cliff Cottage , Overstrand, no longer the bachelor Gardener but married to the (newly enfranchised?) Cecily or Cicely  Ellen Abbiss.

By 1924 he and Cicely have moved to 53 Castle Street, Truro and by 1929 to 2 Trelawney Road, where he lived until the 1965. He died at R H (City) Truro hospital  in 17 November 1965. His much older wife Cecile seems to have predeceased him, his probate on his death mentions Lilian May Old (widow) on his probate. A relative?

He was to become the County Horticultural  Superintendent in the 1920s.

His publications “Commercial Horticulture in Cornwall”, by H. W. Abbiss dated 1932
and “Commercial Violet Production”, 1938 are held by the Cornwall Record Office (source: The National Archives website). Similar publications by Abbiss on Potato Production in Cornwall and Winter Cauliflower or Broccoli are also listed.

Other press cuttings mention his involvement in the potato experimental station at Gulval. This area near Trengwainton housed training for WLA land girls, had a local home guard unit and well connected Cornish gentry like the Bolitho and St Aubyn families that Abbiss knew through his horticultural job. Well connected, good cover for his secret activities.

In the usually obscured right hand page of the 1939 Register are partially seen notes about wartime activities – it appears to possibly say he is a ” Member of the Officers Emergency Reserve occupied at present through holding [illegible] … Ministry of Agriculture  [illegible] …”

He appears to have been commissioned into the rank of officer, according to a reference on the Supplement to the London Gazette on 6 September 1939, p. 6114 as H.W. Abbiss, DCM, MM.

On his Military MBE listing 1944  for the Home Guard he is listed as 203rd (GHQ Reserve) Battalion Home Guard.

The late Professor Charles Thomas wrote in a 1968 Cornwall Review article about the threat of invasion to Cornwall in wartime “The Day That Never Came” (reprinted recently in Charles Thomas, Gathering the Fragments published by Cornovia Press) . Here he mentions the recently deceased H.W. Abbiss’ covert activities:


This webpage has more about Captain Abbiss’ role and a fuzzy group picture:

Fascinating man,  Harry Abbiss, and an interesting subject, his  local Home Guard Auxiliary Units.

I would be interested to hear more about Harry Abbiss and his team or about Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard  – please contact me via the comments page.

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