Claud Fitzgerald Trenoweth
Although my surname of Trenoweth is Cornish, I was born in Aldershot. The reason for that is that my mother and father left Cornwall for a short time after they got married in 1892, but came back to live at Carnon Mine soon after I was born and before my younger siblings, Percy, Norman and Marion were born. In fact the family continued to live at Carnon Mine right up to the 1940’s. Father died there in 1942. Mother lived on until 1956, and the grand age of 86.
When I was old enough to leave school, I went to work as an engine cleaner. This was in the last days of the old Devoran railway. Soon after, the war came and me and my brother Percy both joined up.
We both joined up early in the war and both got our names beautifully inscribed by Dr. Edwards’ daughter Gwendoline on the Roll of Honour she began right at the start of the war.
I was in the 5th Battalion, DCLI, known as the Pioneers. We started off in Falmouth, moved on to training camps on Salisbury Plain and then came back to Cornwall. We were all anxious to get over to France and finally got there.
We landed in Le Havre on 22nd May 1916 and were straight into action.
The Battle of the Somme began on 1st July 1916, just a few weeks after we got to France and far from being the big adventure we had all thought it would be to fight the Hun, it was a terrible time. Thousands killed, wounded and missing, mud everywhere, rats the size of cats, not the sort of thing you want to remember or even describe.
Our first major action was at a place called Fromelles. The idea was to try and divert some of the German defences from the main Battle of the Somme a few miles further south, but it was a miserable failure. Everything was planned in a rush, men weren’t properly trained in trench warfare, most of us had only been in Flanders for a few weeks. We were outnumbered two to one, we were trying to attack uphill into German defences that had been dug in for months, in some cases a year or more.
The whole thing only lasted two days but cost the lives of over 7,000 men, over 5,000 of those were Australian troops. “The worst day in Australian history” they called it.
The following year, 1917, I was discharged from the Army. It said on my discharge papers that I was no longer physically fit for military service. They said that my military character was only “fair” on my discharge papers. If they had seen some of the sights I had seen they would know that nothing was “fair” in that terrible war.
I came home and by the end of 1917, I got married to Alice Dix. She lived down at Ponsmaine, Feock. Her mother had been a widow for a long time and they lived with her uncle, John Penna who was an Oyster Merchant.
We had two boys, George and Henry and we carried on living down at Ponsmaine for many years. Pill Creek was a lot different to the Somme.
I later got a job as an AA patrolman.
They laid me in my final resting place at Kea Church on 16th February 1954 at the age of 58.
Alice lived on until she joined me there on 17th February 1969 at the age of 73.
Written by Bob Richards for the 1st July 2016 centenary talk at Devoran Village Hall.