Corporal 200901 Richard John Bilkey, 1/4 Battalion, Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry, died of illness aged 26 on 31 January 1919.
The CWGC website lists him as son of Richard and Emma Bilkey of Tresithick, Carnon Downs, Perranwell Station, Cornwall.
Richard John or ‘Jack’ Bilkey is buried in Grave Reference E124, Kantara War Memorial Cemetery, Egypt.
Kantara was important in the defence of Suez and its canal against the Turks. This cemetery east of Suez was used for burials from 1916 to 1920 from various hospitals as well as reburials from isolated cemeteries.
The post war 1919 date suggests Bilkey died of wounds or illness in hospital in Egypt. His niece Josephine Lilly of Carnon Downs (who supplied the family photographs in 2007 of R. J. Bilkey) believes that he died of pneumonia.
Richard John Bilkey was born c. January to March 1893, the birth registered in Truro. In the 1911 census he is listed as an 18 year old Farm Labourer, born Tresithick, Feock.
His father, also called Richard Bilkey (1854 – 1939) was a farm bailiff on the 1911 census. His mother was Emma Jane Bilkey (nee Hooper, 1865 – 1930).
Clearly John or ‘Jack’ was how he was known locally, sharing the same first name as his father, a practice adopted by many Cornish families at the time.
Bilkey at the time was a local Devoran name judging by the Edwardian / Victorian class photographs of Devoran School in Ralph and Marie Bird’s Devoran and Its River. A girl, Mowin Bilkey is shown in the c. 1900 class photograph (page 51, top).
Phil Traverton, the great nephew of J Bilkey, passed on information about Phil’s grandmother’s brother (from the late Violet Dunstan of Hugus) and gave us a little family history related to “Uncle Jack, as family legend says he was the first man to volunteer at a recruitment drive at Camborne.”
To learn more about Devoran’s WW1 casulaties, start here:
In a week or two on February 7th 1919/2019 we will be marking the centenary of the death of Richard Stephens, the last of the WW1 Devoran Casualties to die.
Blog posted on 31st January 2019 by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial project blog.