VERYAN MEN WHO DIED IN WORLD WAR I
T.F.Johns 19 Chalbury Close Weymouth Dorset DT3 6LE April 2001
[Thomas Frost Johns was born in Veryan on 21 Dec 1919 and died 7 Nov 2002]
About 10 years ago, I began to study the war career of my father-in-law between 1914 and 1918. He had no connection with Veryan, but I soon found myself making a similar study, in much more detail than ever before, of the war career of my own father, Richard Thomas Johns, who was born and bred in Veryan, and who lived there throughout his life, except for the war years. My wife and I visited many of the places in France and Belgium where our fathers had served, and I acquired a large number of books about the war. I also discovered how to acquire information about a particular soldier.
Later, I decided to make use of my newly-acquired knowledge of such matters in order to find out something about the histories of the 16 men who are named on the War Memorial at Veryan - men who had died while on active service during World War I. The main purpose of this document is to make the results of my studies available to others. However, I am also including a list of the men who (like my father) did active service, but survived the war. Finally, I have taken the opportunity to express briefly my own opinions about some of what I have learnt.
2. Veryan Men who SERVED in the War
In the Cornwall County Record Office in Truro, there is a notebook, reference P.244/2/36/4, which had originally belonged to Canon James Arthur Kempe, vicar of Veryan at the beginning of the war (it is stated that he paid for the book with his own money!). The book contains very little information of any kind; but, remarkably, it does contain "A List of men of the Parish of Veryan who served in the Great European War, 1914-1919". That list was presumably compiled by some unknown person other than Canon Kempe, since he had left Veryan in about 1915; it was perhaps done by his successor as vicar of Veryan, Rev. E.M.Tilson Morgan.
The list of men is reproduced in Table I.
List of men of the Parish of Veryan who served in the Great European War, 1914 - 1919. *
** DUNGEY, Charles RIP ** TRUDGIAN, Charles Percy RIP TROUNCE, W.H. Josephus DUNSTONE, William Percy PALMER, Richard TUCKER, Melchesadich ** HUGH, Edgar Arthur RIP ** DOWRICK, Frederick Henry RIP THORNE, Joseph Thomas DAVIS, William James DUSTOW, William James SEYMOUR, George D. HARRIS, Ernest John WILLIAMS, Henry A. HALSTEAD, William George ROLLO, James TREVARTON, Nicholas TUCKER, William Henry CARTER, F.W. Charles FRANCIS, P.J. Devonshire DAVIS, John James DUSTOW, Arthur WHITFORD, Gilbert Arthur LEAN, Wallace JOHNS, William James DOWRICK, George Edward LOVE, Arthur William WILLIAMS, John PROFIT, John Henry GREET, Charles Frederick REYNOLDS, Arthur ** JOHNS, Thomas RIP ~~ CARBIS, William Henry TRUDGEON, Edgar Dunstone DOWRICK, Bertie CHANNON, George DOWRICK, George TUCKER, Alexander JOHNS, William TREGUNNA, George Henry DUNSTONE, Richard BLAMEY, Joseph Edward DAVIS, Fred TRUDGEON, Harry Penfold TRUDGEON, Alfred TREVARTON, James Henry JOHNS, James Arthur ~ JOHNS, Richard Thomas JOHNS, Cornelius Henry COLLETT, Eddie BLAMEY, William Adolphus JOHNS, Ambrose HUGH, Joseph WEBB, Ernest BURT, Richard TREBILCOCK, Reggie DAVEY, Alfred JOLLY, Frank JOLLY, Robert EBBETT, Thomas H. HOLE, Edwin HARRIS, Gus WILLIAMS, Guy BLAMEY, James Henry REYNOLDS, Ernest EBBETT, Frank W. JOHNS, Clarence GREET, John Thomas PERRYMAN, John DUNSTONE, Thomas JOHNS, Henry DURNFORD, Ernest JOHNS, John (Jack) ** JOHNS, Ernest RIP ** JOHNS, Lewis RIP SYMONS, Ernest CLOVER, Dr. Martin PARKER, Eddie DAVIS, Leonard WHITFORD, Hubert RALPH, George Frederick MORSE, Sydney FROST, Walter LANGDON, James W. TILLER, Arthur PASCOE, Luther TRUSCOTT, Reggie TRUSCOTT, William ** FORD, Charles RIP HICKS, Eddie WILLIAMS, Edwin RUNDLE, Archie ~~~ RUNDLE, Edmund RUNDLE, William RUNDLE, Harry RUNDLE, Henry ~~~~ RUNDLE, Reggie TREGUNNA, Reggie TREGUNNA, Ernest WILLIAMS, William EMMETT, Arthur JOHNS, Joseph TRUDGEON, Fred TRUDGEON, Leonard TREVARTON, Lovell ** DURNFORD, Phil J. RIP TREGUNNA, Fred PAULL, James FOOTE, Owen ** GRIBBLE, William Henry RIP DOWRICK, William PEARCE, Henry DAVIS, Albert DAVIS, George DAVIS, Joseph BLAMEY, Montague BLAMEY, Silvanus GROSE, Harry RALPH, George (Junior) ** JOHNS, John Arthur RIP ** CHANNON, Wilfred Thomas RIP DOWRICK, Ernest ** CARHART, Percy RIP ** TAYLOR, Albert G.V. RIP ** COOKE, Douglas RIP ** HAMMOND, Harold RIP BLAMEY, Ernest RUNDLE, John Michael
* From Cornwall County Record Office, P244/2/36/4, forming part of a notebook which had originally belonged to Canon Kempe.
** Died on active service
~ Should be John Arthur
~~ Should be William Thomas; that is how he was originally named, but the "William" was later crossed out
~~~ Archibald John
~~~~ Henry Theodore
3. The War Memorial at Veryan
The following men, who died while on active service during World War I, are named on the War Memorial at Veryan, Cornwall:-
Charles Dungey, RNR Wm. John Gribble, RNR Edgar Arthur Hugh, Canadian R. Frederick Dowrick, D.C.L.I. Philip Joseph Durnford, Canadian R. Thomas Johns, D.C.L.I. Chas. Percy Trudgian, Devon R. Percy Carhart, D.C.L.I. John Arthur Johns, RNR Charles Ford, N. Zealand R. Albert G.V. Taylor, R.F.C. Ernest Johns, Somerset R. Douglas Cooke, R.N. Harold Hammond, R.G.A. Lewis Johns, Canadian R. Wilfred T. Channon, R.G.A.
Three of those men, Edgar Hugh, Philip Durnford and Lewis Johns, had emigrated to Canada before the outbreak of war in 1914; but soon after the war started, they enlisted in the Canadian Army, and returned to fight in Europe. Charles Ford had similarly gone to New Zealand, and he enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force. I have not established exactly what connection Taylor had with Veryan, but I suspect that he was merely a regular visitor there, and may perhaps have played for their cricket team.
At first sight it appears that the names on the Memorial are in random order. However, on closer examination it is found that the men are named roughly (though not exactly) in the order in which they died. Those at the top of the list died in 1914 or 1915, while most of those at the bottom of the list died in 1918 or 1919.
3.1. Charles Dungey
Charles Edmund Dungey was born at Portloe in the last quarter of 1884. In 1891 he was living at the Ship Inn there with his parents Edmund and Emma Dungey, and his elder sister Carlendra. Edmund had been born in Veryan parish in about 1859, while his wife Emma had been born in Tregony about 2 years later. Charles Dungey had joined the Royal Navy before the outbreak of the war in 1914; this was in contrast to most of the other men named on the memorial, who joined the armed forces after the outbreak of the war.
When the war broke out, Charles was serving as a Chief Petty Officer on a cruiser, HMS Monmouth, 9,800 tons. His RN number was 119312(D). HMS Monmouth had been launched on 21 February 1901, and was completed in November 1903. In August 1914, on the outbreak of war, HMS Monmouth became part of the 5th Cruiser Squadron, which was immediately despatched to Pernambuco in the eastern part of South America. The squadron, of which the flagship was HMS Good Hope, a Drake class cruiser of 14,000 tons, was sent to protect British and allied shipping from large German ships which were known to be in that general area. A few months later, in October 1914, a German squadron, led by the cruisers Scharnhorst and Gneisenau, disappeared on the west side of South America. On 1 November 1914 the German ships were surprised by the 5th Royal Naval squadron off Coronel, Chile. In the ensuing action, however, the British ships were shown up against the sunset, whilst the German ships were almost hidden against the black of the land. The Good Hope was set on fire, and then blew up and sank. The Monmouth was also set on fire, and was sunk by gunfire from the light cruiser Nurnberg; the ship was lost with all hands. The damaged cruiser Glasgow and the auxiliary cruiser Otranto managed to escape.
The German ships Scharnhorst and Gneisenau which were involved in the battle in which Charles Dungey was killed were NOT the same ships with those names which were so often in the news during World War II. In fact, both of the German cruisers with those names which were involved in the battle of November 1914 were themselves sunk off the Falkland Islands only about a month later, on 8 December 1914. However, in 1936 their names were given to newly-built German capital ships, and it was those ships which played an important role in World War II; The second Scharnhorst was sunk in 1943, and the second Gneisenau was scuttled in 1945.
Charles Dungey is named on the Naval Memorial at Plymouth.
3.2. William John Gribell
This man was in fact called Grebbell, not Gribble. He was born in about 1869, the son of John and Sarah Ann Grebbell. His father John was the son of William Brown Grebbell, a former coastguard at Portloe; John was born in Devonshire. Before her marriage, Sarah Ann was Sarah Ann Johns. She was the daughter of John Johns/Sarah (Blamey), and was baptised at Veryan on 21 August 1848; she married John Grebbell at Veryan on 16 March 1867. There is a gravestone (G66) at Veryan commemorating father, mother and William John, the son killed during World War I.
When he met his death on 27 May 1915, William John Grebbell was serving as a Shipwright, First Class, on HMS Princess Irene. Princess Irene was a very large ship, of 5934 tons, which had been built as a merchant ship in 1914. Soon after being built, she was converted by William Denny and Brothers of Dumbarton to become a naval mine-layer; and she was brought into naval service in that role on 20 January 1915. The ship was fitted with two 4.7 inch guns, two 12-pounder guns, and two 6-pounder Anti-Aircraft guns; she could carry 500 mines at one time. On 27 May 1915, while in the Thames Estuary off Sheerness, the ship suffered an enormous internal explosion which virtually destroyed her. William John Grebbell, whose number in the Royal Navy was 340435(PO), evidently died at that time.
William John Grebbell is named on the Naval Memorial at Portsmouth.
3.3. Edgar Arthur Hugh, Canadian Regiment
Edgar Hugh was born in Veryan on 9 October 1882, the son of William Hugh and his wife Sarah Jane Hugh (née Warren, of Mevagissey); his parents lived at Lilac Cottage (he was in fact their sixth child/ third son). He went to Veryan school, but left on 5 February 1897, when aged 14, to work as a mason. It seems that, at some unknown time before 1914, Edgar emigrated to Canada, with his elder brother, Joseph. While there, he apparently joined in peacetime what was known as the Active Militia. Consequently, he enlisted, very soon after the outbreak of War in 1914, in the Canadian Over-Seas Expeditionary Force. He enlisted on 23 September 1914, as a Sapper, No. 5126, in the First Field Company of the Canadian Engineers, at Valcartier Camp, Quebec. He described himself as a bricklayer, single, and aged 31. However, he stated that his date of birth was in 1883, whereas in truth he was born in 1882. He was dark, 5ft.6ins. tall, tattooed on his left forearm with "Our Saviour"; he was Church of England. He requested that his pay should be sent to (his brother) Joseph Hugh, of P.O. Box 2262, North Vancouver, British Columbia. That address (but not the name Joseph Hugh) was later crossed out on one of his papers, and replaced by Lilac Cottage, Veryan.
His unit sailed on S.S.Zealand on 3/4 October 1914 from Quebec to Plymouth, where they arrived on 14 October. The 1st Field Company was attached to the 1st Canadian Infantry Brigade, which was, in turn, part of the 1st Canadian Division. These troops spent the winter of 1914/5 in very unsuitable tented camps on Salisbury Plain, before leaving for France in February 1915. However, it seems that Edgar Hugh did not go with them at that time - it is stated in his papers that he embarked for France on 1 June 1915. Soon afterwards, on 15 June 1915, Edgar's Division became involved in very heavy fighting in what became known as the "Second Action of Givenchy", and Edgar, then said to be aged 30, was killed in action by enemy gunfire. It seems that he had been in France for only two weeks. His name is recorded on the Canadian Memorial at Vimy Ridge, near Arras. This Memorial lists the names of over 11,000 Canadian soldiers who were posted as "Missing, believed killed, in France".
3.4. Frederick Henry Dowrick, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
As well as being named on the War Memorial, there is a memorial to Frederick in the churchyard, not far away. However, he is not buried there.
Frederick was born at Veryan Green on 13 May 1893; he was the son of John Hayes Dowrick, a journeyman mason, and his wife Amelia Caroline Dowrick, née Rundle. His father had been born in Ruanlanihorne, but his mother came from Veryan, being the daughter of John Rundle/Susan (Crewes) of Trewartha. The gravestone in Veryan Churchyard states (correctly) that Frederick was aged 23 years at the time of his death on 16 September 1916. He was the third son of his parents, who had been married at Veryan on 27 August 1889.
Frederick had enlisted at Bodmin in 1914 in the 6th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, as a Private, no. 17116. The 6th Battalion had been formed at Bodmin in August 1914. It became part of 43rd Brigade, 14th Division; and it remained in that Division until it (the battalion) was disbanded in France in February 1918. They first arrived in France (Boulogne) on 22 May 1915. They fought in the area to the east of Ypres in 1915, being involved in the German "Liquid Fire Attack" at Hooge at the end of July, and in the second attack on Bellewaerde late in September of that year. They moved to the Somme area a few days after the beginning of the Battle of the Somme on 1 July 1916. Soon afterwards, on 18 August 1916, they were heavily engaged in an attack on Hop Alley and Edge Trench, near the south-east corner of Delville Wood; the battalion sustained 366 casualties on that day. About a month later, from 15 to 22 September, they were involved in the Battle of Flers/Courcelette between Flers and Gueudecourt. On 16 September 1916, the battalion took part in an attack on Gird and Gird Support trenches in front of Gueudecourt, moving forward as a single wave at 9.25 am. But heavy machine-gun fire from the right brought the assault to a standstill. The attack was renewed at 6.55 pm, but again without success. It was in one of these attacks on 16 September 1916 that Frederick was killed. The battalion suffered 309 casualties in this battle. Frederick, as well as several of the other men who were killed on 16 September, is commemorated on Panel 6B of the huge Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval, which carries the names of over 73,000 British and South African men who fell in the Somme between July 1915 and March 1918, but have no known graves.
3.5. Philip Joseph Durnford, Canadian Regiment
Philip Joseph Durnford was born on 1 January 1894 at the Coastguard Station, Portloe, the son of William Philip and Elizabeth Durnford. His parents, who had not been in Portloe at the time of the 1891 census, were, it seems, there later for two separate periods, one from about 1892 until about 1898, and a second from about 1913 onwards. It seems likely that in the intervening period, the father, William Philip Durnford, was stationed first at Plympton in Devon, and then later at or near the Lizard. The birth of Philip's younger brother Ernest Albert Durnford, who attended Veryan school for a short time, between July 1913 and August 1914, had been registered in the Plympton area early in 1900; he had been born on 26 November 1899. But, when he arrived at Veryan school in 1913, it was stated that he had previously been to school at the Lizard. As far as I am aware, Philip Durnford never attended Veryan school; it seems likely that he went to school at Plympton, or the Lizard, or both. In 1914, Philip's father was described as the "Coastguard Officer" at Portloe, i.e. he was presumably in charge at the Coastguard Station there. There is no indication of the whereabouts of Philip from when he left school, until he went to Canada.
He enlisted on 8 February 1915, at Calgary, Alberta (in the Rocky Mountains), as a Private, No. A/34869, in the 9th Reserve Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He was described as a "Switchman", i.e. one who operates points on the railway. He was 5ft.11ins. tall, and fair with blue eyes; he had a heart and anchor tattooed on his left forearm. He went with the 9th Reserve Battalion to Shorncliffe in England, but while there, on 28 June 1915, he was transferred to the strength of the 10th Battalion, which was already in France, part of the 2nd Brigade of the 1st Canadian Division. On 3 August 1915, Durnford went to France to join that battalion. During the latter part of 1915, he was sent to hospital several times for measles, influenza, etc. In February 1916, he was promoted to Lance Corporal, and while holding that rank, he presumably took part in the Battle of Mount Sorrel, 2 - 13 June 1916. A few days after that Battle, perhaps as a result of the loss of more senior NCOs in the battle, Durnford was promoted to Corporal, a rank which he held until his death. Later that month, he was granted 9 days leave in England; he returned to his unit on 6 July 1916, by which time the Battle of the Somme had started.
However, his Division was not sent to the Somme until the end of August 1916, when they took over part of the front line near Courcelette. They became heavily involved in fierce fighting in that area in the second half of September 1916, taking part in the Battles of Flers-Courcelette on 15-22 Sept. and of Thiepval on 26-28 Sept. This was followed by fighting in the Battle of the Transloy Ridges in the same general area during the first 10 days of October. At that time steps were taken to give the Canadian troops some respite by withdrawing them from the front line. Durnford was said to have been killed in action on 11 October, and it seems likely that he was killed during this withdrawal.
Durnford is buried in Contay British Cemetery, just off the main road from Amiens to Arras. This cemetery was opened in the middle of the Battle of the Somme in 1916, when an additional Casualty Clearing Station was established there, alongside the railway line which then passed between the point at which the cemetery is located and the nearby village; this railway was used to evacuate wounded men to a base hospital. The first burials there took place at the end of August 1916. September saw 242 burials there, mostly of Canadians who had been fighting around Courcellette. Presumably Philip was one of those wounded Canadians, who came to the Casualty Clearing Station at that time, but died there soon afterwards.
3.6. Thomas Johns, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
This man was in fact 17231 Sergeant William Thomas Johns. He was born at Portloe on 27 February 1885, the son of James Caddy Johns/Phebe Pomery (Groze). He was baptised at Veryan on 6 May 1885. On 8 June 1912 he had married at Veryan to Henrietta Harper, daughter of James Harper, deceased, a former miner. In 1915 William Thomas Johns joined the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry, being in the 10th Battalion, which had been formed on 29 March 1915 by the Mayor and City of Truro; they were known as the "Cornwall Pioneers". In August 1915 the battalion was taken over by the War Office. They trained at Penzance, and later at Hayle, before going to France, where they landed at Le Havre on 20 June 1916. Within less than six weeks after landing there, William Thomas Johns was killed.
On landing in France, the battalion went to the Bethune area, where they were attached to 2nd Division as a pioneer battalion. Very soon afterwards, on 1st July, began the Battle of the Somme; and early in July, 2nd Division was sent farther south to the Somme area. There, later in the month, they were involved in very heavy fighting in the Delville Wood area, and suffered heavy casualties, particularly on 27 July 1916. William Thomas Johns had been killed on the previous day, 26 July 1916, as they approached Delville Wood for their attack. On that day the Germans had heavily shelled the positions of 2nd Division at Bernafay Wood, just to the south of Delville Wood, with gas shells. Of the Division's advance on that day, Major Lewis of the 23rd Battalion, Royal Fusiliers, wrote "The move up was not pleasant. The area had been much fought over, it had been impossible to bury the dead for ten days, and it was a hot July!". The cemetery at Delville Wood contains over 5,500 graves, of which about 3,600 are of unknown soldiers. William Thomas Johns has no known grave; but, like Frederick Dowrick (above) he is named on Panel 6B of the Memorial to the Missing at Thiepval.
3.7. Charles Percy Trudgian, Devonshire Regiment
Charles Percy Trudgian was born late in 1886, or early in 1887, the son of Thomas and Mary E.Trudgian of Tretheake. His father, Thomas Trudgian, was a Justice of the Peace and a churchwarden at Veryan church for 33 years before he died in 1933, aged 85. Charles Percy attended Veryan School, leaving the school on 14 January 1901, probably at the age of 14. There is a brass memorial tablet on the north wall of Veryan Church which states:- "In loving memory of Charles Percy Trudgian of the 8th Devon Regiment, of this parish, who died in France on 29 April 1917 of wounds received in the attack on Bullecourt. Aged 27. His body lies in the Military Cemetery at Etaples".
Charles Percy Trudgian was in the 8th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment, which had been formed at Exeter in August 1914. After training in this country, the battalion moved to France in 1915, landing at Le Havre on 28 July. Shortly afterwards the battalion became part of 20th Brigade, 7th Division. They remained in France until November 1917, when they were moved to Italy. In April 1917, 7th Division, together with two other British Divisions and four Australian Divisions, were in the 5th Army, and were engaged in the early stages of the Battle of Arras.
Following the Battle of the Somme in 1916, the Germans made a tactical withdrawal in February/March 1917 to carefully-prepared and extremely well-engineered defensive positions some miles to the north-east, in what became known as the Hindenburg Line. Early in April 1917 the Allied forces started a series of determined attacks on this line, particularly at its northern end, and on the German positions a little farther north, to the east of Arras. Bitter fighting took place in the area around Bullecourt, which was near the northern end of the Hindenburg line, on April 11/12, and it is probable that Charles Percy was wounded at that time. No doubt he passed through one or more dressing stations before arriving at Etaples, which is near the Channel coast south of Boulogne. Etaples was the main British re-inforcement base and also the main hospital area for those wounded in France. It was evidently while he was in hospital there that Charles Percy died. The Military Cemetery at Etaples is the largest British cemetery in France, having more than 10,000 British graves.
3.8. Percy Carhart, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry
Percy Carhart was born at Barn, St.Kew, North Cornwall, on 25 February 1898, the son of James Carhart/Emma (Williams). His father was a Plate Layer on the Railway. Percy is said to have enlisted in the army in Truro, at a time when he was apparently living in Tregony. He joined the 1st Battalion of the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry as a Private, No. 36117. He was killed in action on 30 October 1917, aged 19. At the time of his death, his battalion formed part of 95th Brigade of 5th Division. Earlier, they had fought throughout the Battle of the Somme; but in October 1917 they were involved in the series of battles known as the Third Battle of Ypres. A few days before the death of Percy Carhart, they had been relieved from the front line after fighting in the Second Battle of Passchendaele; it seems likely that Percy had been mortally wounded in that battle, fought north of Gheluvelt.
Percy has no known grave, but he is commemorated on the "Memorial to the Missing" at Tyne Cot, near Passchendaele in Belgium. Tyne Cot is the largest British War Cemetery in the world, containing nearly 12,000 graves. Percy is one of another 35,000 men who have no known grave, but were killed or died of wounds in this area, and who are named on the very extensive memorial to the missing which runs along the top side of the cemetery. The register of the memorial states that Percy was the son of Mrs. E. Carhart of Scarce-Water-Hill, St.Stephen, St.Austell. Presumably his mother, Emma Carhart, was living there in about 1920. It seems that she had a small-holding there for some time after that. Evidently Percy had joined the army when he was very young - under the official minimum age for enlisting. Before joining the army, he had worked as a farm labourer at Trevilveth, in the north-eastern corner of Veryan parish, and not far from Caerhayes. At some time he had also worked at Heligan, not far away; his name is written on one of the walls there. Percy Carhart is also named on the War Memorial just outside the main door of the church at St.Ewe; there he is described as of Pengrugla, which is only a very short distance from Heligan. Percy had a brother called Wilfred Carhart, who had married Olive May Johns, daughter of John (Jack) Johns by his first wife Ada Alberta May. Olive was a first cousin of Lewis Johns - see 18 below. Wilfred and Olive had daughters called Gertrude, Winnie and Lilian Carhart, one of whom married my first cousin Archie Johns in about 1938.
3.9. John Arthur Johns, RNR
It seems likely that he was strictly RNR(T) rather than RNR. Those who had been in the Royal Naval Reserve (RNR), like William John Grebble (above) were mainly crew members of large ocean-going ships, who, before the war, had agreed to join the Royal Navy in the event of war. But just before the outbreak of the war in 1914, it was realised that the Navy would also need to enlist the help of former fishermen and their boats; and the RNR(T) came into existence. Most of the men with this status during World War I had agreed to serve for the duration of the war on a named boat, formerly a fishing boat, which had been taken over by the Navy early in 1915. Officers and ratings in this category had enlisted using what was called the "Form T124" type of procedure. The service in which they served was often known as the Patrol Service, though some of the ships were involved in other duties such as mine-sweeping or mine-laying.
John Arthur Johns was baptised at Veryan on 28 March 1897, the eldest child and only son of Richard Caddy Johns and Selina (also née Johns). John Arthur had a sister called Ivy Jane Johns, baptised in 1900; she married Frederick Charles Trudgeon, and they later ran the Post Office at Portloe for many years.
John Arthur Johns served as a Deckhand, No. 12973 (DA), on HMS Nina, of 86 tons. Thus there was a striking contrast between the ships on which William John Grebbell (see above) and John Arthur Johns served. Whereas the Princess Irene was a huge ship of nearly 6000 tons, capable of carrying 500 mines, HMS Nina, on which John Arthur Johns served, was tiny by comparison. Nina was a drifter, built in 1904 for fishing; but she was "hired" by the Navy in January 1915. HMS Nina was fitted with one 3-inch gun. She sank on 2 August 1917 off Prawle Point in south-east Devon, probably as a result of hitting a mine (one of our own mines, I presume). There is a gravestone at Veryan churchyard which commemorates John Arthur and his parents. It states that John Arthur "lost his life on HMS Nina off Brixham on 1 August 1917". There are minor discrepancies compared with the semi-official records of the sinking of HMS Nina, quoted above, but it seems clear that John Arthur was drowned when HMS Nina sank off Prawle Point, only a few miles from Brixham, early in August 1917.
John Arthur Johns is named on the Naval Memorial at Plymouth.
3.10. Charles Ford, New Zealand Regiment
This man was in fact called George Charles Ford. He was born on 24 January 1891 at Tippetts, Veryan, being the third son of William James Ford and his wife Lily Frances Ford, née Endean. At the time of the census in 1891, he was said to be 3 months old. He went to Veryan School on 19 March 1895. By that time his parents had moved to Trevilveth. His brother John Ford (who was probably Edwin John Ford) was also at Veryan School at that time. They both left on 18 October 1895 to go to Caerhayes School, perhaps because their father had got a job near Caerhayes. That may have been at Thorn Parks, St.Ewe, where the family were certainly living some years later. Some time before 1914 (perhaps in about 1910), both Edwin John and George Charles emigrated to New Zealand. It is not clear whether they went together or separately; but by 1916 George Charles was living in the same house as his brother.
George Charles Ford enlisted in the New Zealand Expeditionary Force on 26 June 1916, at Trentham, now the Headquarters of the NZ Defence Force, and presumably with a similar status in 1916. The Trentham base is located at Upper Hutt, a few miles north of Wellington. A few weeks earlier, George Charles had undergone a medical examination, and the related forms give some information about him:- He was 5ft. 8ins. in height, had a fair complexion and blue eyes, but dark hair. He said that he was a Methodist. He also said that he was aged 27. Another form repeats that he was aged 27, and that he was a labourer, who had been born in England. (In fact, he was aged 25, having been born early in 1891, and presumably on 24 January 1891). His age was again given as 27, this time correctly, when he was killed 2 years later. Perhaps, for some reason, he had given false information about his age some years earlier, to comply with immigration laws, and thought it advisable to do the same again when he enlisted in the army). The medical examination took place at Dannevirke, a small town some miles farther north. It says that, on 26 June 1916, he enlisted in B Company of the 18th Reinforcements, his number being 28121. His Attestation Form, sworn before an attesting officer at Trentham, states that he was born at Truro, Cornwall, England, on 24 January 1889, and that before enlistment he had resided at Dannevirke. It stated that he was a labourer, self-employed. Two persons are named on the form, his father, said to be of Thorn Park Cottage, St.Ewe, and his brother E.J.Ford (elsewhere described as Edwin J. Ford), of Cole Street, Dannevirke.
George Charles, having had various vaccinations and inoculations, embarked with his unit from Wellington on 16 October 1916. They disembarked at Plymouth on 29 December 1916. He presumably underwent training during the next few months, being transferred to the Signalling Section from 16 March to 7 April 1917. Then he was transferred to the Signalling Company of the Auckland Regiment. He left for France on 26 May 1917, arriving at Etaples on 28 May. He marched from there to join the New Zealand Division, becoming a member of the 2nd Battalion, Auckland Regiment, on 17 June 1917. George Charles went on leave to the UK from 10 March to 4 April 1918; and he was made a Lance Corporal on 29 April 1918. He was detached to a school of instructors from 27 July to 17 August 1918.
George Charles Ford was killed in the Second Battle of Bapaume on 1 September 1918. He is buried in Bancourt British Cemetery about a mile to the east of Bapaume. This cemetery was originally made by the New Zealand Division in September 1918, soon after Charles Ford was killed. The original cemetery contained, in six large regimental graves, the bodies of 94 soldiers from New Zealand, and 1 from the United Kingdom. The remainder of the cemetery (occupying well over 90% of its area) was made after the Armistice by the concentration there of over 2,300 other graves from the battlefields and other small cemeteries nearby. The record in the cemetery register reads:- "FORD, Lance Corporal George Charles, 28121, DCM, 2nd Battalion Auckland Regiment, N.Z.E.F. Killed in action 1 September 1918. Age 27. Son of William James and Lily Francis Ford, of Thorn Parks, St.Ewe, Mevagissey, Cornwall, England. I B 14 ".
It appears that the DCM was awarded for bravery in mounting an attack in August/September 1918, probably on the day that he was killed. His death was reported on a casualty list on 8 September 1918. An announcement in the London Gazette on 3 September (N.Z. E.F.O. 689) had stated that he had been awarded the DCM for an act of gallantry in the field. A more detailed account was given in a further announcement in the London Gazette on 30 November 1918 (N.Z.E.F.O. 736). This stated that he had been:- "Awarded the DCM for gallantry and distinguished service in the Field. For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership in an attack. He led his platoon with great skill and courage and captured three machine guns and about 40 prisoners".
3.11. Albert G.V.Taylor R.F.C.
In fact, this man was called Arthur Gilbert Vivian Taylor (not Albert). He had been born at Newquay on 29 July 1896, the son of Arthur Taylor (then described as a Secretary) and his wife Siddie Vivian Taylor, née Pearce. At the time of his death (in 1917 - see below) it was stated that his next of kin was Mrs.A.Taylor (presumably his mother, as he was stated to be single) of The Beeches, Hayle, Cornwall. Taylor is also named on "The Arras Flying Services Memorial", which commemorates those men from the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force who died on the Western Front in World War I, but have no known graves. That memorial is at Fauberg d'Amiens Cemetery, Arras, France. Details of those named on that Memorial are listed in 24 Volumes of Memorial Register 20 of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission. The entry for Taylor reads:- "TAYLOR, Lt. A.G.V. 41st Dogras and Royal Flying Corps. On or after 17th October 1917."
Taylor was the pilot of a Bristol Fighter aeroplane, No. A7271, which was shot down over Poelcapelle, Belgium (his casualty card said "near Zonnebeke"), at 09.30 hrs. on 17 October 1917. His observer, Serjeant W.J.Benger, is also named on the Arras Flying Services Memorial; the entry for him reads:- "BENGER, Serjt. William Joseph, 88288, M.M. 20th Squadron, Royal Flying Corps, 17th Oct. 1917. Age 22. Son of Joseph William Benger, of 30, North View Villas, Kingston Rd., Ewell, Epsom."
Taylor is named as a "Fighter Ace" in the book "Above the Trenches: A Complete Record of the Fighter Aces and Units of the British Empire Air Forces, 1915 - 1920", by Shores, Franks and Guest. There he is stated to have been Captain A.G.V.Taylor, of 20 Squadron, and it is stated that he was shot down and killed on 17th Oct. 1917, near Poelcapelle. However, in the listing of the Roll of Honour of the R.F.C. and R.A.F. by H.J.Williamson, he is stated to have been a Lt. R.F.C., killed in action 17.10.17, died as prisoner of war, 20 Squadron. Plainly there is an inconsistency there - he cannot have been killed in action and died as a prisoner of war. I am inclined to think that, when he was shot down, he was not killed instantly; but he may have been very seriously injured, and died of those injuries while in enemy hands, some time after the crash. As regards his rank, he was in fact an acting Captain, but his substantive rank was Lieutenant.
Taylor had transferred to the R.F.C., then part of the army, on 24 December 1916, and had performed very successfully as a fighter pilot in the summer and autumn of 1917 (see below). Prior to that, he had been in the 41st Dogras, one of about 120 Regiments in the Indian infantry. Each Regiment was only one battalion strong - hence they are perhaps better regarded as battalions. Many of these battalions consisted wholly of men from one religious sect (Sikhs, Dogras, Brahmins, etc.). The Dogra sect lived in the northern corner of the Indian sub-continent, in the region north of Lahore known as Jammu and Kashmir, parts of which are currently occupied by Pakistan and China. Prior to 1914, the main role of the Dogra battalions was to defend the north-west frontier of India. In 1914, the 41st Dogras was one of four battalions in the Bareilly Brigade, which was part of the 7th (Meerut) Division of the Northern Indian Army. All of the men in the battalion would have been natives of Jammu and Kashmir, but most of the officers were British.
The 7th Indian Division landed at Marseilles on 26 September 1914, as part of the Indian Corps on its way to fight on the western front. This Corps suffered a very large number of casualties on the western front, many of them at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in March 1915. As a consequence of this, and the loss of many of the officers who knew the language and customs of the Indian soldiers, the Indian Corps was withdrawn from the western front. At about the beginning of 1916, the Meerut Division later went to fight in Mesopotamia, and it seems likely that Taylor joined them at this time or soon afterwards; (he was made a 2nd Lieutenant in the 41st Dogras on 29 June 1916, but it is not clear whether he first joined them at this time).
While in 20 Squadron of the RFC, Taylor is credited with having shot down seven enemy aircraft between 16 August 1917 and 3 October 1917. In the early part of this period, he was flying De Havilland FE 2D's, but the last four of his successes were achieved when he was flying Bristol Fighters.
3.12. Ernest Johns, Somerset Regiment
Ernest Johns was born in Truro on 17 September 1899, the illegitimate son of Mary Louisa Johns, formerly of Caragloose, Veryan. He attended Truro Central School, and then, from 7 September 1908 to 16 September 1913, he attended Veryan Church of England School. He probably enlisted in the Army in late 1916/early 1917; he served in the 1st Battalion of Prince Albert's Regiment (Somerset Light Infantry). His regimental number was 40329. The ist Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry, was in 11th Brigade, 4th Division.
Ernest Johns was killed in action on 14 April 1918, aged 18, when in the vicinity of Riez du Vinage/Mont Bernanchon, a few miles north of Bethune, France. His battalion was taking part in the Battle of Hazebrouck, one of the Battles of the Lys. During the 3-day period 14-16 April, they suffered 210 casualties, including 28 men who were killed in action on 14 April. Ernest, and many of the other members of his battalion who were killed on the same day, have no known graves; but their names are commemorated on Panel 3 of the "Memorial to the Missing" at Ploegsteert, Belgium, a few miles to the east of where they were killed.
3.13. Douglas Cooke, RN
In fact, this man was called Charles Henry Douglas Cook; yet his surname was (wrongly) given as "Cooke" on the War Memorial, and also in the register of Veryan School. Unlike Charles Dungey, William John Grebbell and John Arthur Johns, each of whom died when the ship on which he was serving was sunk, Douglas Cook died at home at Portloe, of causes which seem to have been totally unconnected with the war, the Germans, or ships, or the sea. He died on 9 March 1918 of pulmonary tuberculosis and gastro enteritis. It would seem that his death was not un-expected, as no post mortem was performed.
At the time of his death, Douglas Cook was described as a "Yeoman of Signals, No. T.B.15". That means that he had been a Petty Officer serving on a war vessel, and that he had been in charge of signals; it is likely that many of his duties had been of a clerical nature. Also, at the time of his death, he was said to be aged 30 years. In fact he died a couple of months before his 30th birthday; he had been born on 4 May 1888 in the Devonport area (East Stonehouse registration district), the son of Charles A.D. Cook. His father was a coastguard who was presumably stationed in the Devonport area in 1888. Later, he moved to Dorset, and Douglas spent some of his school-days at Langton Herring school. From there, the father moved to Portloe, and Douglas spent the remainder of his school-days at Veryan school. He left Veryan School on 18 July 1902, to work as a gardener. It seems likely that his family had not been at Portloe for long before that.
Charles Henry Douglas Cook had married Winifred Mary Passmore of Portloe. After the death of her husband, Winifred ran the Ship Inn at Portloe for many years with her brother Frederick Passmore and John Profit. Both Charles and his wife are commemorated on gravestone J96 at Veryan churchyard.
3.14. Harold Hammond
In Veryan churchyard there is a military-style gravestone (H55) to:- "10977 Battery Sergeant Major H.Hammond, Royal Garrison Artillery (who died on) 30 November 1918, aged 34". He had been buried at Veryan, having died at the Military Hospital, Easton, near Winchester. He was buried at Veryan on 5 December 1919. His wife was Laura Ellen Hendy, born about 1881, daughter of John and Elizabeth Hendy of Veryan Green. The Hammonds had a son and two daughters, all born before the outbreak of war in 1914. They were Frederick Harold Hammond, born in June 1909, Ruby Elizabeth Hammond, born on 9 June 1911, and Joyclyn May Hammond, born on 3 December 1913. Both went to Veryan School. But, on 3 August 1923, nearly four years after the death of their father, they all left to go to Budock. They returned on 19 January 1925, but left again soon afterwards, on 19 June 1925, to go to Falmouth. Before going to Veryan School, the son had been at school at Freshwater in the Isle of Wight.
3.15. Lewis Johns, Canadian Regiment
Lewis Davis Johns was born on 22 June 1892 at Church Town, Stokeclimsland (a small village about 7 or 8 miles south of Launceston). He was the fourth and youngest son of Richard Arthur Johns/Elizabeth Ann (Davies), who had married at the Register Office at Truro on 4 August 1886. The father Richard was very much a Veryan man, being the eldest of several sons of William James Johns/Rachel Ann (Johns). Elizabeth Ann came from St.Just in Roseland. In 1883, at the age of 20, Richard had joined the Police Force as PC41; and he moved about quite a lot in the course of duty. At the time of his marriage he was living in Lostwithiel; but all four sons were born in the Launceston registration district, between 1887 and 1892. Lewis's brothers were called Arthur, Ernest Henry and John Reginald. At about the end of 1899, when Lewis was only aged 7, his father was attacked while on duty, and sustained head injuries which affected his brain; he was removed to the County Asylum at Bodmin, and seems to have remained there for the rest of his life. It seems that, soon after this attack, Elizabeth Ann took their children to Veryan. Sometime before 1914, Lewis emigrated to Canada, with his brother Ernest. He joined the Canadian forces on 12 August 1915 at Niagara Camp, Ontario as a Private, No. 135750, in the 74th Battalion. At that time he was single; a labourer; C.of E.; dark, but with blue eyes; 5ft.9ins tall; next of kin Mrs.E.Ann Johns of Veryan Green.
Lewis's battalion sailed for England from Halifax, Nova Scotia on the "Empress of Britain" on 29 Mar. 1916, arriving at Liverpool on 9 April 1916. He went to hospital almost immediately, and spent much of the time from April to August 1916 in various hospitals in the North of England. On 1 August 1916, at Bramshott, he was transferred to the 54th Battalion. He went with them to Le Havre, in France, on 13/14 August 1916.
His battalion was part of the 11th Canadian Brigade, which in turn was in the 4th Canadian Division. This Division arrived in France just in time to move, late in August 1916, with the other three Canadian Divisions, to the Somme, where the Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July 1916. The other three Divisions were heavily engaged in fighting in the Courcelette area in September. At that time the 4th Division was further north, under British command; but on the night of 10 October 1916 it moved to the Courcelette area to take over the positions previously occupied by the 3rd Division. Lewis Johns died a few days later, on 14 October 1916, perhaps from wounds received a few days earlier. He has no known grave, but is named on the Memorial to the (Canadian) Missing at Vimy Ridge, several miles to the north of where he died. His name is only a foot or two from that of Edgar Arthur Hugh, who also came from Veryan (see above).
After Lewis's death, his mother signed a statement that when her son had been on leave on 6 August 1916 (just before going to France), he had said to her "In case of misfortune to me at the Front, everything which belongs to me will be yours, mother". The statement was made in the presence of Thomas Trudgian, J.P. and signed by him on 12 June 1917.
3.16. Wilfred T.Channon, RGA
Wilfred Thomas Channon was born in April 1899, the son of Samuel George Channon/Elizabeth Ann (known as George and Bessie). He attanded Veryan C. of E. School from 29 March 1904, when he was almost 5, until 28 April 1913, when he was just 14; he left school to go to work on a farm.
His parents George and Bessie had married at Veryan on 10 Jamuary 1885, when Bessie was aged 20; and they had a large family, Annie born in about 1886, Mary in about 1889, followed by Edith, Ivy, George, Wilfred, and "Bert", who was the youngest. Mary married "Shep" Grose, and "Bert" married Edith Mary Smaldon, who came originally from Barnstaple. Bert and Edith had a son called Wilfred, named after his former uncle; the younger Wilfred married Joan Kendall, daughter of Reg Kendall.
The mother of the Wilfred who is named on the War Memorial, before her marriage, was Elizabeth Ann Johns, baptised at Veryan on 29 January 1865, the daughter of William James Johns/Rachel Ann. She was one of a family of 9 children, including "Jack" Johns, William James Johns (known as "Guinea Pig"), and Richard Arthur Johns, who became a policeman. Richard Arthur Johns had a son Lewis Johns, who was killed in World War I, and who is also named on the War Memorial at Veryan; it is apparent that Wilfred Channon and Lewis Johns were first cousins.
Wilfred Channon was in the Army in World War I; but because of his age he presumably did not get involved in the fighting until the war was nearly over. He was 218972, Gunner W. Channon, of the Royal Garrison Artillery (RGA). He died in Germany on 11 June 1919, about 7 months after the war ended, apparently by drowning in the River Rhine. He was buried in the Military Cemetery on the (western?) outskirts of Cologne. Strangely, however, his name does not seem to be included in the RGA part of the list of "Soldiers died in the Great War".
That may be due to the fact that, although he died on active service, his death occurred after the war had ended in November 1918, and had nothing to do with the fighting aspects of the war. Between the end of the war and his death, he had been in Veryan for at least a short time, and in early 1919, he was a witness at the marriage in Veryan of my parents.
4. Another Man who Died: William John Dean
It is not completely obvious what criteria were used in determining which persons should be named on the War Memorial at Veryan; but there is (at least) one person whose name one might expect to find there, but who is not named. He was William John Dean, Somerset Light Infantry. He died of wounds in France on 12 April 1917, and is named on the Arras Memorial (Bay 4). He was 15207, a Private in the 8th Battalion, Somerset Light Infantry. He had been born at Reskivers, Veryan, on 11 March 1887, the son of Richard John Dean and his wife, the former Maria Golley of Caerhayes. William John was living at Hay Cottage, almost part of Reskivers, in 1891 with his parents. But it seems likely that they had moved away from that area before the war started. William John had enlisted somewhere in the St.Austell postal area as 16064, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry.
5. Conclusions and Some Personal Comments
Several of the men named on the War Memorial at Veryan are also named on gravestones or memorials in France or Belgium; those that I have visited include the following:-
Vimy Ridge: Edgar Arthur Hugh; Lewis Johns Thiepval: Frederick Henry Dowrick; William Thomas Johns Tyne Cot: Percy Carhart Bancourt: Charles Ford Ploegsteert: Ernest Johns
Rarely in my life have I been so impressed as I was when I saw those cemeteries and memorials. They are quite magnificent, and are maintained in a state which is quite immaculate; not a single blade of grass is out of place, it seems, nor a single letter difficult to read. While it was very depressing to see all those rows of gravestones, or lists of men who had died, I found it immensely heartening to note that, even 80 years after the war ended, so much care is taken to preserve the resting places of those men, and their memorials. Here,it seemed, was something that we could do really well. We owe a tremendous amount to the men who are buried or named there; but rarely do we show our appreciation so magnificently.
On our visits to the battlefields, we were told a lot about the battles in which these men fought, and in some cases died. We were told repeatedly about how clever the Germans were, and how well they had been trained. They always seemed to be dug in in almost impregnable positions, while our men attacked them, usually up-hill, but always in the open, and were mown down by machine-gun fire. In contrast, our own officers were generally described as incompetent, and our men as lacking in training and experience. But when we asked why it was that we had won the war, we got the impression that our guides had never considered such matters; they gave no answer to our question. I was reminded of a wartime song which my father occasionally used to sing or recite (he had been in the Royal Garrison Artillery or RGA) :-
We are Fred Karno's Army. As you can plainly see, We cannot fight; we cannot shoot, What earthly use are we? But when we get to Berlin, The Kaiser he will say:- "Hoch, hoch, mein Gott, What a jolly fine lot, Are the boys of the RGA."
This was in fact a variant of a well-known army chorus, sung to the tune of the hymn "The Church's One Foundation". Fred Karno's Army was a nick-name applied to the new British Army, recruited in 1914 mainly, consisting of a large number of infantry battalions of raw recruits. Fred Karno's Company was a well-known stage company which performed comedies in the pre-war period.
I feel that the verse aptly combines two contrasting aspects of the British character which were demonstrated in the two world wars - the ability to be self-deprecating, while remaining certain that, in spite of all our shortcomings and limitations, we should ultimately come out victorious. It was unfortunate (see below) that the troops in question were unable to get to Berlin because of the Armistice.
Although a large number of "popular" books have been written about the war, almost all of them deal exclusively with the earlier part of the war, when the Germans were very much in the ascendancy; it is quite difficult to find a single book which gives a coherent account of what happened in the last few months of the war, when the Germans were in full retreat. The turning of the tables occurred early in August 1918, with an Allied attack near Amiens; soon after that, the British and Allied forces started to advance quite rapidly on all fronts. That process continued until November 1918, when the Armistice was signed. The signing of the Armistice, for obvious reasons, was almost universally acclaimed. People had had enough of war, which had dragged on for years and had claimed the lives of millions of people. Large areas of France and Belgium had been completely devastated.
However, I believe that certain aspects of that process can now be seen to have been unfortunate. Firstly, the German Army was not seen to have been utterly defeated in November 1918, as it would have been if the war had gone on for a few more weeks; and secondly, the German civilians were spared from having total war fought in their midst (as had happened to the Belgians and French). I believe that these were both factors which made it more likely that war would break out again, as it did in 1939. Fortunately, those mistakes were not repeated in that war. No-one doubted that the German Army was utterly defeated by 1945; and, a little earlier, millions of German civilians had learned, for the first time, what it is like to be "on the receiving end" in modern warfare. Perhaps that is why we have had peace since 1945.