Category Archives: WW2

Remembering W C Nicholls of Devoran Merchant Navy died 23 February 1943

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Remembering William Charles Nicholls of Devoran, Merchant Navy,  who died aged 32, 75 years ago on 23 February 1943.

There are two Merchant Navy or Royal  Navy casualties in WW2 listed as W.C. Nicholls and both have local connections. Only longer research will reveal who is remembered on the Devoran War Memorial but both men deserve to be remembered.

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/devoran-second-world-war-casualties-a-to-r/

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

Today we are remembering William Charles Nicholls, Second Engineering Officer, Merchant Navy, serving on MV Athelprincess of Liverpool, who died on 23 February 1943, aged 32.

Brief news of his death made it into The Western Morning News on December 16  1943, nine months after his death.

33E0B572-B057-4497-872C-18357F3BB7E2

Western Morning News,  December 16, 1943

He is commemorated on Panel 11 of the Tower Hill Memorial, London, for thos having “no grave but the sea”

E6855EB9-E38D-4AC4-8A51-A67C20ABC244

On 23 February 1943 the tanker Athelprincess was caught straggling behind its convoy UC-1 from UK Liverpool (departed 15 February 1943) to Curacao and New York.

Athelprincess was torpedoed twice and sunk by a German submarine (U-boat U522) west of Madeira.

It appears from David Syrett’s research in Northern Mariner journal  (1996 volume) on the convoy UC-1 that Athel  Princess was struggling to keep up with the convoy.

https://www.cnrs-scrn.org/northern_mariner/vol06/tnm_6_1_21-27.pdf

A25B6F66-D7E7-4B40-89D2-8337E6BC83DC

Only one person was killed out of 51 crew  – William Nicholls. The rest of the 42 crew, 7 gunners and Captain or Master E.G.B. Martin OBE survived and were thankfully picked up by HMS Weston (U72).

Transferred to another escort ship, the USS Hilary P. Jones DD247, the Athelprincess crew minus Nicholls (the only casualty) were landed safely at San Juan, Puerto Rico.

Four other ships in Convoy UC-1 were torpedoed by U-boats of the 16 strong Dolphin Patrol.

Two of these ships survived being torpedoed, a British Tanker called British Fortitude and Dutch motor tanker Murena.

Two others, the US tanker Esso Baton Rouge and British tanker Empire Norseman were sunk.

There are pictures of each ship lost on the Wrecksite website. The names of Merchant Navy men sunk on these ships are also on the Tower Hill memorial.

There were 35 ships in this UC-1 convoy, protected by 9 British and American navy ships. The survivors of the Esso Baton Rouge were picked up by convoy escort HMS Totland. HMS Totland went on to sink the offending U-boat U522 with all crew / hands lost including its Captain Schneider.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

A mass of wreaths and poppies at The Tower Hill Merchant Navy memorial, Oct 2014 (Mark Norris, Devoran War memorial Project)

These Merchant Navy ships, their crews and the life of William Nicholls were all part of the high cost of keeping Britain fed and supplied with war materials during WW2.

Merchant Navy Day is celebrated on 3rd September each year https://www.merchantnavyfund.org/merchant-navy-day/

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

The high price of freedom – Tower Hill memorial in London to the 24,000 men and women of the Merchant Navy and fishing fleets, lost at sea with “no grave but the sea”. Many from Cornwall. Sobering.

There is more about the Athel Princess and how the  Athel  shipping line fared during the war at http://www.theshipslist.com/ships/lines/athel.shtml

W.C. Nicholls, Athel  Princess, Convoy UC-1, 23 February 1943  – Remembered in Devoran and at Tower Hill Memorial London and in his home village 75 years on.

William Charles Nicholls’ Merchant Navy Service records

04d2e454-5ea7-472f-8aaa-639ac70c1642.jpeg

21 year old William Charles Nicholls’ Merchant Navy Records in 1932; his death in 1943 is recorded in the top left hand corner.

102AB930-C4BF-47BB-91C2-3260A3005C09

William Charles Nicholls signed on with the Athel Line in peacetime 1932 bulk tanker MV Athelfoam so appears to have worked with this shipping company until his death in 1943.

76DA2CA7-3726-4DC6-8F1F-7231DDE50F4B

Details of William’s next of kin and also his catastrophic head injuries in the Torpedo explosion on the MV Athelprincess. 

 

What are William Charles Nicholls’ family connections to the area?

Like many people in the  Devoran, Helford and Falmouth area, the Nicholls family have long established maritime connections. This is reflected on the manywar memorials and Rools of Honour in the area. Small wonder that William Charles Nicholls joined the Merchant Navy as an Engineer.

His father Edward John King Nicholls (1847-1930) was born in St John’s point Antrim Northern Ireland, the son of James Nicholls.

Edward rose from being a Trinity Pilot (1881 /1891 census) to Dockmaster in Falmouth by 1901 to 1911. In 1901 he was living at 2 Wodehouse Terrace, Falmouth with his sister Elizabeth M Nicholls as his housekeeper and his nephew Matthew S. Nicholls Mining Engineer and niece Alesa (both British subjects born in Chile).

He married (or remarried?) shortly after this,  quite late in life, aged 58 in 1905.

His wife Eliza Dunstan Datson was twenty years his junior, the Kea-born daughter of a tin dresser. The middle name is interesting; There are Dunstans as neighbours to the Datsons in Kea and possible relatives, as well as featuring on the Roll of Honour and as casualties on the Devoran War Memorial.

Eliza first shows up in Edward’s  houshold in 1901 as a General Servant (Domestic)!

Ten years later in 1911, after marriage in 1905, she has borne him three children in Falmouth including the 10 month old William Charles Nicholls.

Mining, tin,  the sea, Chile, Cornwall – this is very much a typical Cornish  extended family of the 19th Century.

William’s grandfather James Nicholls was born in Penryn in 1814. By 1861 he was a Commissioned Coast Guard, living at St Mawes and then the King Harry in Feock area, presumably near the Ferry. This maritime or coast guard career could explain why Edward was born in Ireland. Other brothers and sisters were born in Stonehouse, Plymouth, Devon and later King Harry ferry area.

A6133F43-C17E-46E1-958E-EFD298243F83

1911 Census for the Nicholls Family living near his work but in some style at 8 Bar Terrace, Falmouth. William Charles Nicholls has just been born. 

William had an older sister, Elizabeth Maud Nicholls (b. 1906) and older brother James Edward Nicholls (b.1908). James is recorded as his next of kin on his Merchant Navy records.

I will add more to this fascinating local family as I uncover it.

Blogposted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, 2018

Advertisements

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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 https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/crews/ship2589.html

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.

https://uboat.net/allies/merchants/ships/2589.html

Kemp became a Master fairly young (his Master’s Certificates are on Ancestry.co.uk).

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

https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/08/06/devoran-second-world-war-casualties-a-to-r/

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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

cropped-somme-poppies4.jpg

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

devoran 2013 014 crop

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.

devoran 2013 008

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.

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

Thomas_and_William_Lobb_botanist_memorial_garden_pictures_Devoran_church_Cornwall_2009

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. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/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.

Thomas_Lobb_botanist_headstone_Devoran_Church_Cornwall

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.

hunkin 3

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

hunkin 5

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

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Joseph_Hunkin_(Bishop_of_Truro)

http://www.cornwallgardenstrust.org.uk/bishop-hunkins-plants/ 

introduction

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

 

Thomas_and_William_Lobb_botanist_memorial_garden_pictures_Devoran_church_Cornwall_2009

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

tricuspidaria

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.

berberis

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.

hypericum

 

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

 

Harry Abbiss and Secret Cornish Home Guard Auxiliary Units

IMG_0269

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.

IMG_0268

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

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

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.

  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.

img_1440

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.

img_2284

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.

img_2277

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.

img_2274

img_2276

“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 …”

img_2278

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:

img_1441

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

 

Devoran and Carnon Downs Home Guard WW2

IMG_1448IMG_0268

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’.

IMG_0268

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.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

 

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

img_2273

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.

..

IMG_1448

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

 

 

 

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.