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