Harry Abbiss and Secret Cornish Home Guard Auxiliary Units

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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.

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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.

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/devoran-and-carnon-downs-home-guard-ww2/

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: https://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/cty-cornwall.html
‘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.  http://www.coleshillhouse.com/perranwell-auxiliary-unit-and-operational-base.php

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.

http://coleshillhouse.com/bunkers.php 

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 http://www.geograph.org.uk/photo/229188

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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.

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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.

http://www.coleshillhouse.com/cornwall-auxiliary-units-intelligence-officers.php

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.

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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.

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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.

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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  http://www.coleshillhouse.com/cornwall-auxiliary-units-group-commanders.php

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.

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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.

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“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: http://www.parksandgardens.org/places-and-people/site/2661?preview=1

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 …”

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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:

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

http://www.coleshillhouse.com/st.-dennis-auxiliary-unit-restormel.php

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.

Alternatively use devoranwarmemorialproject@gmail.com

 

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Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard WW2

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Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard WW2

Initially known as the Local Defence Volunteers (LDV) when raised in response to Anthony Eden’s radio broadcast  about the Nazi invasion threat of May 1940, the LDV were soon renamed by Winston Churchill as the ‘Home Guard’.

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There is a group photograph of the   Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard in Ralph and Marie Bird’s excellent photographic history of Devoran and Its River (Truran Books, 2008). It may have been taken at the Home Guard stand down in late 1944.

Please note: I do not own the copyright to this group photograph; If you want to have a closer look, track down a copy of this fascinating book.

A few of the men in the photograph  wear medal stripes suggesting they are WW1 veterans. This medal stripe is not clear on all the uniforms.

Some of the names appear on the Devoran Roll of Honour in the Village Hall, suggesting it is the same man, although the widespread Cornish habit of naming children after parents and grandparents might complicate this. Other younger men like Joe Carlyon appear in some of the Devoran Council School photographs of the 1920s and 1930s.

This A to Z of known names below, unless otherwise stated, is taken from the names attached to the Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard photograph on p.55 in Ralph and Marie Bird’s Devoran and Its River.

Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard

Alphabetical List

Tom Barker

Ron Burley – an R. Burley is listed on the WW1 Roll of Honour

Clarence Burrows

Charlie Bryant

Joe Carlyon

Gordon Clift – an L.G. Clift is listed on the WW1 Roll of Honour

Lax Collins

Walter Collis

Doug Connor

Jack Connor

Harry Crocker – wears medal stripes, WW1 veteran, on the Devoran Roll of Honour

Reg Crocker

Harry Davey

Bunny Dunstan

Frank Dymond

? Evans

Jimmy Ferris

Stan Ford

Bill Gay – a W. Gay appears on the Devoran Roll of Honour.

Arthur George

Albert Green – This may be the father of N.J. Green of Carnon Downs who left memories of his father’s service in Carnon Downs Home Guard on the BBC People’s War website.

Alec Grey –  wears medal stripes, maybe another WW1 veteran? He may be the famous daffodil grower.

Percy Hawke – listed as a Sergeant in James Harris’ memories of the Home Guard. possible glimpse of NCO stripes on his sleeves and seated near officers.

Tom Hitchen

Ken Hoare – see the Devoran wartime evacuee story by George Burton (Francis Frith website)

Walter Hoare

Percy Jeffrey –  a P. Jeffery appears on the WW1 Roll of Honour.

Alfie Johnson

George Knight – appears to be an officer, wears a peaked cap

Fred Knuckey

Gerald Lean

Bill Marshall

Reg Mitchell

Percy Nicholls

Albert Opie (wears medal stripe WW1 veteran, on Devoran WW1 Roll of Honour)

Ernie Pengelly

Bernard Pooley

Charlie Rosevear

Sid Rosevear  (wears medals stripes, WW1 veteran?)

Tom Sleeman

Harry Solomon also appears to be an officer and wearing a peaked cap.

? Teague,  also sitting centrally  with officers and NCOs

Arthur Tregaskis

? Truan

Alfie Williams

Henry Woolcock

Other names on James Harris’ recollections include a well known local figure Captain Letcher and a Lieutenant Tamlyn as its officers along with Sergeant (Percy) Hawke.

We would love to hear more (contact through our Comments page)   from anyone who has more information about (family) members of the Devoran detachment of the Home Guard.

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Background information

The Devoran Home Guard are briefly mentioned in an old BBC  interview with Isobel Carlyon http://www.bbc.co.uk/cornwall/villages/stories/devoran.shtml  that “The Home Guard would practice on the quay during the war”.

There does not appear to be much else in print about the Devoran and Carnon Downs detachment of the  Home Guard.

A platoon of the Home Guard was formed under the leadership of Captain Letcher, Lieutenant Tamlyn and Sergeant Hawke.

A totally wrong impression can be gained by the TV programme ‘Dad’s Army’. The men who served in the Home Guard were working 48 hours a week as normal after which they gave up their valuable time and paraded for duty.

The guard duties at Sparnik tunnel were shared with other platoons. Should saboteurs have interrupted the railway traffic on that line it could have had serious consequences at Falmouth.

(From James Harris’ Early Memories of Devoran, blogpost)

Sparnik Railway Tunnel is also mentioned in the recollections of the Falmouth Auxiliary Units … but that is a story for another blogpost.

There is occasional mention in the newspaper archive of Devoran Village Hall being used as a fundraising venue for a whist drive for the Home Guard as mentioned in the Western Morning News of 10 February 1943 reported that:
“Members of the Home Guard held a Whist Drive in the Devoran Village Hall in aid of Home Guard funds, proceeds £3, 4 shillings.”

Devoran W.I. Western Morning News, 23 January 1943.

Miss M.P. Tyacke presided at the January 1943 meeting, when Mrs. E.T. Dillon (Hon. Sec.) reported that the proceeds from the recent gift stall in aid of the Prisoner of War fund realised £1 6 shillings and 6d.

An M.O.I [Ministry of Information] film dealing with “incendiary bombs” followed. The attendance included members of the WVS, Red Cross detachments, Home Guard and ARP personnel.

The social side played a role too – there is mention of a Home Guard choir concert formed of “a choir of platoons of  Truro Home Guard under the conductorship of Mr Gordon Hall gave a concert at Frogpool in aid of the Royal Cornwall Infirmary Replacement Fund. Proceeds £5.”

The ‘lost brass band’ website http://www.ibew.org.uk/misc23cs.htm also lists the 10th Battalion Home Guard (Truro) as having a brass band.

The final stand down parade for the Devoran Home Guard and all of the  Cornwall Home Guard took place in Truro Cathedral  in December 1944.

Another platoon, no. 7 Platoon 10th Battalion Truro Home Guard is pictured on the archived BBC People’s War website, photo featuring Thomas John Hendra from Feock, probably taken in the Truro area. http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/ww2peopleswar/stories/92/a4507292.shtml

Film archive of a local Home Guard unit (probably Truro) can be seen at http://www.moving image.org.uk  – the SWTFA archive.

 

home guard posterThe LDV poster above from May 1940 (a cutting from an old Newquay Voice article) suggests that the Home Guard of the City of Truro and its surrounding Rural Parishes were connected as a cluster of parishes extending from Feock and Kea across the Roseland to St Agnes and up to Newlyn East.

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. It is difficult to see a unit badge or flash on their shoulders. Alternatively they may have worked closely with the Falmouth Home Guard battalion.

home guard cert ww2

Members of the Devoran Home Guard would have been issued a certificate like this one for a Sussex Home Guard volunteer (in my collection).

The reverse of Home Guard certificates usually records important service details.

home guard cert ww2 reverse

Officers

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

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

A list of the Cornish Home Guard battalions can be found here: https://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/cty-cornwall.html

In the unit photograph, based on their peaked caps, central position and in one case age, it appears that the Carnon Downs and Devoran Home Guard officers were possibly George Knight and Harry Solomon.

Badges

All of the Cornwall Home Guard  would have worn a cap badge of the local regiment, the DCLI.

After the war, there was a ‘Choughs’ Cornwall Home Guard veterans association, its name based on the unit badge  used by the Home Guard commander Treve Holman. It survived longer than most such associations, only disbanded within the last ten years. Its rare post-war lapel badge is shown in the Home Guard gallery here http://www.sallysbadges.com/shop.php?c=84

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A selection of Cornwall Home Guard patches recently sold on EBay – starting top left 1st Battalion.

The 10th Battalion Truro Home Guard patch is the red ship above two red fish on black background. Falmouth is the double headed Eagle No. 7.

..

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Another online auction site photo – the red ship and fish logo is captioned as the 12th but I think maybe the 10th Truro Battalion Home guard shoulder flash?

 

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

We will feature more about local auxiliaries and their Group Commander, an unusual character called Henry or Harry Abbiss in our blog post at:

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2017/09/15/harry-abbiss-and-secret-cornish-home-guard-auxiliary-units/

More Home Guard Cornwall links 

http://www.tywardreath.org.uk/5his/homeguard.html

Posted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, 15 September 2017

Please leave any comments via our comments page or through email at: devoranwarmemorialproject@gmail.com

 

 

 

Tending War Graves in Foreign Fields

cwgc qmaac front

Interesting print in my collection of “girl gardeners” with the Q.M.A.A.C or Queen Mary’s Auxiliary Army Corps  in an unnamed  WW1 magazine, showing temporary wooden crosses, most likely  in a war hospital  cemetery in France.

The gardening and grave tending by these smartly uniformed women was  part of the fabulous English cottage style garden tradition maintained in many cemeteries by the Imperial War Garves Commission (now the CWGC).

http://www.cwgc.org/about-us/what-we-do/horticulture.aspx

A more realistic photgraphic image of this scene and task  can be seen in the IWM collection Q 8027 taken of the QMAAC by pioneering female photographer Olive Edis in 1919. http://www.iwm.org.uk/collections/item/object/205194668

The Returned Project

Nick Stone and volunteers are now cataloguing  surviving WW1  wooden crosses or grave markers  (seen in the illustration) that were returned home during or after the war, when the original wooden crosses were replaced by the familiar CWGC white headstones  http://thereturned.co.uk/

Interesting BBC news story about the Returned Project and some of the known markers http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-norfolk-40446229

I remember seeing one at Castle Drogo chapel in Devon (National Trust) which has already been added to their list or map of known sites, awaiting a photograph / survey.

If you know of any of these surviving wooden grave markers in local churches, museums, great houses, private collections or community halls, plaese check the map as they are trying to log and photograph as many as possible as part of the WW1 centenary.

Further details on their website http://thereturned.co.uk/

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, 27 July 2017

1917 Wartime wedding Devoran

West Briton,  19th July 1917  “local news” section

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A well known turn of the century photograph of Devoran Church c.1900/6, before the tree growth (postcard in the collection of Mark Norris)

 DEVORAN – Wedding (from the local press, July 1917) 

At St. John’s Church, Devoran on Monday [16th July 1917] the marriage was quietly celebrated of Gwendoline Mary, eldest daughter of Dr. & Mrs. P. M. Edwards of Devoran and Lt. Denzil Layton Blunt, ASC, only son of Mr. Layton Blunt of Brampton, Huntingdon.

The bride, who has recently returned from France where she has been driving a motor ambulance, was given away by her father.

She wore a simple frock of white gorgette, a veil of … … was held in place by a tiny … of white heather and she carried a bouquet of pink carnations.

The maid of honour was Miss Jane Edwards, the bride’s youngest sister who was charmingly attired in a frock of Indian net embroidered in silver … .

Desmond de Burgh RFC acted as best man.

The ceremony was performed by Rev. J. Stafforth, assisted by the Rev. John Jones, Vicar of the Parish. The Church was tastefully decorated by Miss Gladys Edwards and Miss Hilary Layton Blunt.

[The missing … sections are where researcher Bob Richards could not  clearly read the microfiche or scan of the West Briton].

We would love to have a photograph of Gwendoline and Denzil Layton Blunt. Unfortunately we have not found one yet and one may not have been taken in wartime. Instead we have tracked down a copy of the certificate.

A happy event in wartime after many losses to the village and the start of a fifty year marriage.

I wonder if wedding bells were allowed in the First World War? They certainly were not allowed  in WW2 as they were the signal of an invasion threat.

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Amongst the witnesses are Denzil’s family, his father being already dead, Bertha L Blunt and Hilary Layton Blunt. The grandly named  J. Wessex Bennetts was another witness.

J. Ann or Jane Edwards was the Bride’s youngest sister. Miss Gladys Edwards was another of Gwendoline’s sisters (who may have died shortly afterwards in 1919, aged 21).

John Jones the Devoran vicar is named on the Devoran Parish Roll of Honour written out beautifully in calligraphy by GLB Gwendoline Leighton Blunt. reverend Jones was shortly to go off to war as an Army chaplain. Reverend James Stafforth was Assistant Curate of St. Mary Magadalene in St Pancras, London – not sure what his Devoran connection might be.

Some research by Bob Richards and Mark Norris revealed the following:

The Groom – Lieutenant Denzil Layton Blunt, Army Service Corps

Listed on the certificate as aged 26, Esquire, MA Lieutenant ASC Army Service Corps, resident of Brampton, Huntingdon.

Born 1892, son of H. Layton Blunt of Orton, Peterborough, Denzil was educated at Shrewsbury School where he won honours in shooting and with the rowing eight.

He went on to King’s College, Cambridge in October 1909. He was in Plymouth working with a  occupation of Zoologist on the 1911 census. He gained 2nd class Natural Science Tripos Pt 1 B.A.  also in 1912 and M.A. in 1916.

Co-author of the influential 1926 scientific paper The Nutritive Value of Pasture, still much quoted in scientific papers today.

Denzil served with the Indian Education Service from 1912-1914, then served in France as a Lieutenant with the Royal Army Service Corps from 1915-1919.

After the war he worked in farming and agricultural research in the UK from 1920-1926 when he moved to Africa to become Senior Agricultural Officer to the Government in Kenya. Raising a small family, he died there with Gwendoline in the mid 1960s.

The Best Man – Desmond Herlouin de Burgh, 40 Squadron Royal Flying Corps 

Desmond Herlouin de Burgh, AFC, was the Best Man at Gwendoline Edwards’ wedding. He was born in 1897, son of Colonel Ulick de Burgh, 7th Dragoon Guards, from an Irish family based at Scarva House Co. Monaghan. He went to Harrow School, then was a gentleman cadet at the Royal Military Academy, Sandhurst.

Desmond  joined the army in 1915 at the age of 18 as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. He left to join the Royal Flying Corps as a Pilot / Observer in 1916 and at the time of the wedding was a Pilot in 40 Squadron RFC,  a hazardous job with a short life expectancy! De Burgh appeared to be an accomplished but  less well-known air aces of 40 Squadron, according to a recent book by Joe Gleeson called Irish Air Aces of the RFC and RAF in the First World War.

After the war he was given a permanent commission in the RAF in 1919. He rose through the ranks in the inter-war years and saw service in Iraq and India, working in signals and becoming Director of Telecommunications for the RAF in 1941.

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A cemetery picture from another / future war, the Alamein Memorial from WW2 where the Desmond de Burgh the Best Man from the 1917 Devoran wedding is remembered. Image: CWGC

As an Air Commodore, De Burgh was lost in a flying accident [in South Africa?] on 17th January 1943. He has no known grave and is remembered with many other RAF personnel who have no known grave on the El Alamein Memorial in Egypt.

Quite a character! The pop musician Chris de Burgh is a famous relation. (No wedding or music related puns about the Lady In White or Red please)
http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1536432/DE%20BURGH,%20DESMOND%20HERLOUIN

http://www.rafweb.org/Biographies/de%20Burgh_D.htm

The Father of The Bride – Dr Philip Hugh Edwards, Physician 1868 – 1945

You can read more about Dr. Edwards, Gwendoline, Denzil, this marriage and Devoran in WW1 at previous blogposts:

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2014/06/28/life-in-wartime-devoran-in-world-war-1/

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/09/11/other-devoran-related-wartime-casualties-and-a-wartime-marriage/

Edwards House and Edwards Road

The bride is likely to have set off from The Driffield a few houses down from Devoran church.

On Devoran Lane, not far from St Johns Church  where this wartime wedding took place, is The Driffold, still listed as such as a Hotel on the 1986 Domesday Reloaded project.
This large house in Late Victorian times and into the Edwardian / First World War period was the large home and possible doctor’s surgery of the Edwards family. It is still known as Edwards House, opposite Edwards Road.

The Bride – Gwendoline Mary Edwards, British Red Cross Ambulance Driver 

An enquiry lodged with the BRCS archives for any further information on Gwendoline Edwards elicited that sher served with  VAD Cornwall 34 (34 might be her number or an area number). Gwendoline Edwards served as a 21 year old from 13 October 1916 as Rank G.S. (General Service?) Chauffeuse until 9 July 1917 (a week before her wedding). Particulars of duties: Motor Ambulance Driving in France.

GLB BRCS record

Gwendoline Layton Blunt (nee Edwards) British Red Cross Society record cards (Courtesy: BRCS archive )

A check of local newspapers of the time reveal that Miss Edwards and sisters (as the daughters of the local doctor) were involved in fund-raising for the war effort.

 

g m Edwards engaged blunt 1917

Northampton Mercury 30 March 1917

 

Sale of Work at Perranporth, West Briton 1915

The concerts held during the afternoon and evening were well attended, Messrs W.J.Johnson and the Vicar made the arrangements and the following artistes took part: the Parish Church Choir, Canon and the Misses Corfe, Mrs Turner, Miss Armstrong, Miss Edwards (Devoran).

The Layton Blunt family

The Layton Blunt family in Brampton, Huntingdon not only had their son Denzil away at war. The Cambridge Independent Press of 9 June 1916 notes a Conscription Appeal Tribunal: Arthur Lewin, gardener and cowman, in the employ of Mrs Layton Blunt … Exemption one Month.

The Wartime Wedding that Never Happened

Mark Norris uncovered another interesting aspect of the Gwendoline Edwards  story in 1915, two years before the wedding:

The marriage arranged between  Lewis E. Sotheron Hodge and Gwendoline Mary Edwards  will not take place.

 

G M Edwards non marraiage 1915

West Briton 1 July 1915

 

Notices placed in  both in the West Briton and the Cornishman, 1st July 1915.

Who was Gwendoline’s bridegroom that never was?

With an unusual name and many initials, it has possible to trace Lewis Edwin Sotheron Hodge after his failed engagement. Born in 1887, he spent his working life in the Far East as a partner in the Hastings and Hodge Company. He is listed as a merchant in 1910/11 in China and Hong Kong. He was initiated as a freemason in Hong Kong in 1918 and died there in Hong Kong in 1938. I am not yet aware what his 1914-18 wartime service involved.

Blogposted by Mark Norris on the Devoran War Memorial Project blog, 100 years on, 16 July 1917 / 2017

You can contact us with any further information via the comments page.

 

 

 

 

Gwendoline Edwards heads happily home from France WW1

image

On Devoran Lane, not far from St Johns Church & Vicarage, pictured here c. 1905/6  is the Driffold Hotel listed on BBC Domesday reloaded

9th July 1917 – a young woman from Devoran finishes her service as an ambulance driver in France during the First World War and heads home to her village with a happy heart.

She must have seen some terrible sights during her nine months service overseas, seeing some of the human wreckage of the trenches. The Doctor’s daughter must have been relieved to see her home safely again.

On Devoran Lane, not far from St. John and St Petroc’s Church and Vicarage, is the Driffold, once a hotel, now known as Edwards Road.  The Driffold in Late Victorian times and into the Edwardian / First World War period was home to Doctor Philip Hugh Edwards family. It is still known as Edwards House, opposite the modern 1980s houses of Edwards Road.

An enquiry lodged with the BRCS archives for any further information on Gwendoline Mary Edwards elicited that VAD Cornwall 34 (34 might be her number or an area number) Gwendoline Edwards served as a 21 year old from 13 October 1916 as Rank G.S. (General Service?) Chauffeuse until 9 July 1917 (a week before her wedding). Particulars of duties: Motor Ambulance Driving in France.

VAD Cornwall 34 might be her number or an area number.

Gwendoline Layton Blunt (nee Edwards) British Red Cross Society record cards (Courtesy: BRCS archive )

Gwendoline Layton Blunt (nee Edwards) British Red Cross Society record cards (Courtesy: BRCS archive )

The reason for her happy return before the end of the war?

A week later 100 years ago on the 16th July 1917 Gwendoline was married and became Mrs Gwendoline Layton Blunt.

IMG_2711

Although we have failed to find a photo of the wedding or of Gwendoline so far, we have found  a duplicate of the certificate.

We will publish more about the wedding including press cuttings found by my fellow researcher Bob Richards.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Remembering James Edwin Hitchens of Devoran died Arras WW1 18 April 1917

Death of A Sailor who Fought on Land

James Edwin Hitchens, Able Seaman R/510, Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division RNVR, died during the  Arras offensive in 18 April 1917 aged 28.

James Edwin Hitchens has no known grave and is remembered on Bay 1 of the Arras Memorial.

cwgc arras mem

Land bound sailor J.E.Hitchens was killed at the Battle of Arras and has no known grave, remembered on the Arras Memorial (Image: http://www.cwgc.org.uk website)

http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/783651/HITCHENS,%20JAMES%20EDWIN

 

James Hitchens cwgc

CWGC Register for Arras Memorial (to the Missing who have no known graves).

 

Born at Carnon Mine 20 May 1888, James Edwin Hitchens was a ‘Mining Engine Driver‘ on the 1911 census.

Son of James and Mary Hitchens, of Carclew Terrace, Devoran, Cornwall

His brother William Hitchens was a Railway Engine Stoker in 1911.

His father James Hitchens was born in Feock into a family of Shipwrights and Mariners at Trolver Croft and worked as a Mariner on a Steamship (see the entry for Steam Ship Erimus and Devoran casualty W. J. Dunstan above). http://cornishmemory.com/item/BRA_MI_044

Many of the Hitchens family (James Edwin Hitchen’s uncles and grandfathers) were mariners and shipwrights, so maybe it was not so unusual for him to join the Royal Navy?

His Able Seaman / Mariner father James Hitchens married Mary Leverton Nicholls   (b. Carnon Downs) in 1890 and they had 8 surviving children including James Edwin Hitchens out of nine births. The family lived at Carclew Terrace, Devoran.

Why was a Royal Navy sailor killed fighting in the trenches?

The Royal Naval Division which Hitchens joined was composed in 1914 largely of surplus reserves of the Royal Navy who were not required at sea and some Royal Marines who fought on land as infantry troops. They fought at Gallipolli in 1915 and throughout the Western Front from 1916 onwards.

A Royal Naval Division database shows that Hitchens joined the Army Reserve on 1st March 1916, entered the Army on 1st December 1916, was drafted for the BEF on 6th March 1917 and joined the Hawke battalion on 3rd April 1917.

He is listed as an Engine Driver ; born Devoran, Cornwall 20 June 1888 ; Next-of-Kin & home address: Father, James, Carclew Terrace, Devoran, Cornwall. He was awarded the Victory and British War medals.

The Hawke Battalion War Diary for 18 April 1917 mentions his death:

“During the day a heavy bombardment took place on our Front & Support Lines. Guns of all calibres but mainly 5.9s.

Six men killed and 12 wounded. [R/511 F. Hibberd, R/510 J.E. Hitchens, R/343 D.O. Jones, KP/541 L. Radford, Wales Z/1401 S. Rogers, & Bristol Z/1395 C. White.]

A number of gas shells were sent over, catching some of our parties unawares.

Lieutenant WOLFE-BARRY & Sub Lieutenant HUGHES both got badly gassed & were evacuated.”

James Edwin Hitchens of Devoran, remembered in his village 100 years after his death at Arras on 18th April 1917.

To learn more about Hitchens and the families remembered on Devoran war memorial https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/07/27/devoran-first-world-war-casualties-d-to-j/

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com