Tag Archives: WW1 Home Front

1917 Wartime wedding Devoran

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.

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.






Remembering Frederick Webb of Devoran died Somme 18 July 1916




F Webb Gravestone , Albert Communal Cemetery Extension (Image copyright TWGPP/CWGC, The War Graves Photographic Project)

Over the next few days 100 years ago in July 1916, news would have arrived at the Devoran Post Office in the form of a letter or telegram addressed to aMrs. Maud Webb.

Maud(e)  was working or staying with her children at the Crown and Anchor Pub (now a private rather than a public house) on Quay Road in  Devoran, down near the disused old railway sheds workshops, which are now the Village Hall.

Devoran Village  Postman William Pascoe would be familiar with such telegrams, as he had received one about his own son William Donald Pascoe who died at Cosham on army training in 1915.

Maud Webb (nee Penhaligon) would have to break the dreaded news of their father’s death to his six children, some of whom were under a year old at the time. Her oldest daughter Dorothy Maud was of school leaving age around 14, the other older children would have attended Devoran Council / Board School in its old School buildings on the Market Street crossroads.

In time Maud would have to battle to receive Frederick’s war pension for her family, requiring   local Devoran Policeman  PC9 Albert Killow to clarify the number and similar names of Webb’s six children, all born in Truro. The family later moved to Penryn in the 1920s.

Frederick (Gordon) Webb, Sapper, 155779, 179 Tunnelling Company, Royal Engineers was killed on 18 July 1916, aged 41.

According to Simon Jones’ excellent website, Webb was a tunneler’s Mate and was “killed by enemy shrapnel whilst returning to billet after relief. Davey wounded.” You can read nore about Webb at:


‘F.G. Webb, Sapper RE’ appears on the first 1914 draft of the Village Roll of Honour, recently discovered behind the finished copy.


F.G. Webb’s name would in time appear on the granite Devoran War Memorial sometime around 1919/20 in the churchyard opposite the school which his children attended. His name would be on the final  Roll of Honour in the Village Hall, yards away from the Webb lived on Quay Road. The recreation ground would be dedicated in memory to the serving men of the village in 1919, behind the Devoran Council School whilst Webb’s family may have still lived there.

cwgc qmaac front

Webb is buried in Albert Communal Cemetery Extension on the Somme,  grave reference I.K.38, beautifully maintained by the stonemasons and gardeners of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission (CWGC). http://www.cwgc.org/find-a-cemetery/cemetery/61300/ALBERT%20COMMUNAL%20CEMETERY%20EXTENSION

A few days after being part of the “Names on The Roll” WW1 talk at Devoran Village Hall and talking about Devoran’s Somme Casulaty F.G. Webb amongst others, I was a guest at a talk on 6th July 2016  at Kew Gardens given by David Richardson, the CWGC Director of Horticulture who mentioned and showed pictures of Albert Communal Cemetery. http://www.hortweek.com/interview-david-richardson-director-horticulture-commonwealth-war-graves-commission/article/1135983

Albert was one of the cemeteries where the cemetery is still planted up and screened off from the busy road by trees as suggested during a visit 100 years ago by the Director of Kew Gardens Arthur Hill, one of the Kew Gardens staff working as a Horticultural Advisor to the CWGC http://www.kew.org/discover/blogs/kew-science/plants-and-conflict-landscapes-%E2%80%93-somme-and-beyond

David and his colleagues also coincidentally showed a picture of Maala Cemetery where Devoran casualty James Johnson is buried, now in war-torn Yemen. David  reassured me with the news to pass on to the wider Devoran Village today that despite the unrest this cemetery is well maintained and that local CWGC staff would return when safe to check on the cemetery and Johnson’s graves amongst others, as they are maintained “in perpetuity”. https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2016/06/22/james-johnson-of-devoran-ww1-casualty-update/

Remembering Frederick Webb and the grieving families of Devoran, 100 years on.

Posted by Mark Norris, Devoran War Memorial Project, 18/19 July 2016


Remembering William Donald Pascoe died 20 April 1915

Devoran war memorial names M to W

W.D. Pascoe is remembered on the Devoran WW1 war memorial names

100 years ago this week William Donald Pascoe of Devoran, Royal Field Artillery  died on 20 April 1915.

William is remembered in his home village on the war memorial but also on his parent’s grave amongst the spring flowers of the Devoran churchyard. His parents’ headstone records and remembers  William  “who died at Cosham, April 20 1915 aged 18 and a half.”

I had thought to take some flowers to mark the anniversary but the headstone is surrounded by wildlflowers, carpeted with fir cones, it has a lovely natural woodland and meadow feel to it.

The Pascoe family grave, Devoran churchyard April 2015  (Image: Mark Norris)

The Pascoe family grave, Devoran churchyard April 2015
(Image: Mark Norris)

Gunner William Donald Pascoe, 86574, 13th Reserve Battery, Royal Field Artillery died on 20 April 1915, aged 19.


William Donald  Pascoe’s headstone, Christchurch Military Cemetery, Hampshire. (Image source 2018: copyright The War Graves Photographic Project.)

Born in Feock in October 1896, he is buried at grave D31 in the small military section of 164 casualties buried in (Christ Church) Military Cemetery, Hampshire.

W D Pascoe died on 'Home Service' and is buried at Portsdown Cemetery, Hampshire.

W D Pascoe died on ‘Home Service’ and is buried at Portsdown Cemetery, Hampshire. The Image source 2015: Copyright CWGC

He had enlisted in Truro and died on Home Service in Alexandra Hospital, Cosham.


Portsdown Christ Church Military Cemetery, Hampshire (Image source 2018: copyright The War Graves Photographic Project)

In 1911, his occupation is given as a ‘newsboy’. Bob Richards’ newspaper research (West Briton, 29 April 1915) indicates that he died of “cerebro-spinal fever” and was formerly an apprentice at W. Visick’s and Sons, Basset Works, Devoran.

Read more at: https://devoranwarmemorial.wordpress.com/2013/07/21/devoran-first-world-war-casualties-k-to-p/

Devoran churchyard in Spring 2015. William Pascoe's family memorial is under the fir tree to the right. (Image: Mark Norris)

Devoran churchyard in Primrose time, Spring 2015. William Pascoe’s family memorial is under the fir tree to the right. (Image: Mark Norris)

preface Homeland 1918

Incidentally this weekend I had been in contact with a relative of garden and nature writer Percy W. D. Izzard  who wrote not only practical garden manuals but also more lyrical and nostalgic nature pieces during the carnage of the First World War.

More wildflowers naturally amongst the grass and graves at Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall. William Pascoe's memorial is under the fir tree at the centre back.  (Image: Mark Norris, April 2015)

More wildflowers naturally amongst the grass and graves at Devoran Churchyard, Cornwall. William Pascoe’s memorial is under the fir tree at the centre back. (Image: Mark Norris, April 2015)

The entry for “Primrose Day” April 19th and (Sunday?) April 20th (1917?) entry is quite uncanny, when you look at the mass of flowers – some gravestones were covered with them!

April 19 20

William Donald  Pascoe, RFA, remembered 100 years from the day of his death 20th April 1915 on Home Service …


Life in wartime Devoran in World War 1

Gwendloine Layton Blunt Dates of service British Red Cross Society ambulance service (Courtesy BRCS archive)

Gwendloine Layton Blunt Dates of service British Red Cross Society ambulance service (Courtesy BRCS archive)

Elizabeth Hotten’s Cornwall at War (History Press, 2008) is a fascinating piece of social history, being a selection from mid Cornwall  wartime parish magazines from the Boer War to World War 2. It is well worth buying to read in detail, but here are a few clues from Hotten’s book and others to suggest how life changed for many ordinary people, especially women and children on the Home Front in WW1 in Devoran. The family background (such as the details of wife, family and parents) on our blog posts about WW1 casualties give some indication of the emotional and financial cost of losing a father, husband, brother or son from a close-knit small village.

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 wartime marriage on 16 July 1917 in Devoran of the oldest of Dr. Edwards’ four daughters, Gwendoline Mary Edwards  (b.1895), to serving soldier Lieutenant Denzil Layton Blunt is mentioned. Gwendoline had recently returned from serving in France with the British Red Cross Society BRCS motor ambulance section. An enquiry lodged with the BRCS archives for any further information on Gwendoline 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.

Advertising image of a British Red Cross nurse and motor ambulance, Chambers' Journal,  1st October 1918 (Author's collection)

Advertising image of a British Red Cross nurse and motor ambulance, Chambers’ Journal, 1st October 1918 (Author’s collection)

Food, rationing and shipping in WW1
The number of  large boats and mineral cargos were declining  at Devoran Quay throughout the First World War, hastened when the Redruth and Chasewater Railway from inland mines down to Devoran Quay closed in 1915. The metal  railway lines were lifted in 1918, probably as scrap metal for the war effort. The granite sleeper blocks are still plentiful  in the area along the old Railway line route through the village, now part of the Mineral Tramway cycle network. The staff, no doubt, were employed elsewhere in industry for the war effort,  such as engine driver Ed Webber of Carnon Gate whose 1918 transfer certificate to Rotherham Iron and Steel Works is shown in Ralph and Marie Bird’s Devoran and its River: A Photographic History (Truran, 2008). What we recognise as ‘Dig for Victory’ in WW2 began in spirit much earlier,, mainly in the “U-Boat summer” of 1917 when Allied merchant shipping (Britain’s food supply from the Empire) was being heavily sunk by unrestricted German submarine warfare. Plenty of shipwrecks around the Cornish coast date from this period. The U-Boat threat, shipping losses and naval balloon and flying boat stations of Cornwall are covered in Pete London’s recent books on Cornwall in WW1. You can read Pete’s blog Here.

Many Devoran front and  back gardens would, like plenty around the country, have been dug up and put over to more vegetable and fruit production as a patriotic duty.

Other measures nationally included voluntary meatless days and cutting back on the amount of bread eaten, as exhorted through an address from the King George V to be read out in churches like St John’s Devoran on four Sundays late in the war.

King George V, royal proclamation on restraining waste of bread, 1917  Source: Author's collection

King George V, royal proclamation on restraining waste of bread, 1917
Source: Author’s collection

In June 1917, the Devoran parish magazine notes that Miss Netta Pascoe, part of the Girl’s Guild at the Church “has left home to take up farm work under the National Service Scheme“, a forerunner of the WLA ‘Land Girls’ in WW2. Netta Pascoe, born in 1899, had already lost a brother, William Donald Pascoe in army training in 1915 (see Devoran WW1 casualty names K to P).

The National Service Scheme for farm work (set up by Meriel Talbot) was established within a time scheme which matches closely Netta Pascoe’s departure date  is described on this Land Army website. The scheme helped replace many farmers and their men who had been called up. A National Archives short film can be seen here http://media.nationalarchives.gov.uk/index.php/national-service-womens-land-army/

The Devoran parish magazine requests parishioners in July 1917 to support the war effort by “most careful observance of our food rations, by less grumbling” about what food is not available (Hotten, p.63). Food prices had increased steadily throughout the war, along with several poor harvests and loss of shipping to create a food crisis in Britain, threatening the war effort. A 1918 ration book belonging to Elizabeth Hotten’s father is illustrated on p.64 of her book, one late solution to this problem that would recur in WW2.

WW1 adult (brown) and child (green) British ration books 1918 (from the author’s collection)

In August 1917 the newsletter exhorts the people of Devoran (Hotten, p. 65):

As Germany is threatening to win the War through her submarines, it is the duty of all of us who have fruit and vegetables to bottle and dry the same for future use.

Along with a Cornwall County War Agriculture Committee, a Truro District War Agricultural Committee had been established by 1916. Along with the efforts of the various volunteer groups such as the fundraisers of the British Red Cross Society, this helped encourage food production and fundraising for the war effort.

Devoran in WW1 was still largely a rural area with declining industry and marine trades. Eventually a national Food Controller and Fuel Controller would inevitably have an effect on the everyday coal and food supplies available to Devoran families and to other areas such as heating the church and school. There is more about this topic throughout Elizabeth Hotten and Pete London’s books.

At the Sunday School Anniversary service on Sunday 11 August 1918, gifts of eggs,cakes and flowers were donated by Devoran families to local hospitals  (Hotten, p.75) caring for troops, including the Royal Cornwall Infirmary (now Treliske Hospital) and the Naval Hospital at Truro,  (then a Union workhouse recently converted to flats on Tregolls Road).

Empire Day was again celebrated in Devoran School on 24 May 1918 with an address or assembly to the village pupils, many of whose older brothers were involved, given by the Headteacher Mr W.R. Cock on the fighting efforts of the British Empire. Mr Cock is later pictured speaking at the handover by Viscount Clifton of the War Memorial Recreation Ground in September 1919, in memory of Devoran’s fallen men (see our recreation ground blog post). The heir of the local landowners who had shaped much of the village, the Agar-Robartes family of Lanhydrock, Tommy Agar- Robartes, had also been killed during the First World War.

National Savings WW1
After the war’s end, the parish magazine notes that the day school is involved in Devoran War Savings Association, collecting £100 by October 1918 as part of the National War Savings Scheme. Little notes about salvage and savings can be found printed on the back of WW1 ration books. A certificate from a later version of this National Savings scheme in WW2 can still be seen hanging in the Village Hall.

Onwards Christian Soldiers
The local vicar or Parish Priest of St. John’s Church Devoran, Mr. John R. Jones, is featured on the village Roll of Honour and pictured several times in Ralph and Marie Bird’s Devoran and its River: A Photographic History (Truran, 2008). He served as a chaplain to the Wessex Brigade and in military hospitals (probably in the Salisbury area) and army camps at Sutton Veny in 1917, working alongside the Church of England’s Men’s Society, similar to the YMCA.

Rev. John Jones notes some ex-pat surnames amongst some of the troops, some originating in Cornish emigrant families amongst the strong presence of Australian and Empire /Colonial troops at Sutton Veny, so close to Salisbury Plain’s training areas. There is more about WW1 and the army camps at Sutton Veny on their website http://www.suttonveny.co.uk, along with postcards of the vicarage garden full of soldiers. One of the postcards is from a Cecil to an address at Princetown, the Dartmoor Prison area where Devoran WW1 casualty H. Cecil White’s prison warder father served – a distant coincidence, when 1000s of troops were based here.

Engineering and Industry Links
Nearby Bassett Foundry or Visick’s Yard, until recently a light industrial site, had wartime engineering work in WW1 and WW2. A photograph of women workers in the RIC (Royal Institution of Cornwall) shown in Bob Acton’s Exploring Cornwall’s Tramway Trails book 2 is captioned “photograph taken at the Bassett Foundry site, probably during WW1. The women appear to be cleaning trench mortar bomb warheads.”