Before Action: William Noel Hodgson and the 9th Devons

Loos - Exeter-HodgsonThe renowned war poet William Noel Hodgson volunteered for the British Army on the outbreak of the First World War in 1914 and served in the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.  His first major offensive came on 25th September during the Battle of Loos following which he was awarded the Military Cross for holding a captured trench without reinforcements or supplies.

He was killed in action on the first day of the Battle of the Somme in Mansel Copse near Mametz and is buried there in the Devonshire Cemetary. His last poem Before Action is possibly his best known piece.

Charlotte Zeepvat  has been fascinated by the story of Hodgson, his last poem, and the 9th Devons ever since she was a child growing up in Ilfracombe.

She has spent over thirty years piecing together not only Noel Hodgson’s story but that of his Battlion too, and the other characters in the 9th Devons, and collecting unpublished material.  “From the outbreak of war until the Somme I’ve been able to set down their experiences in their own words”

A short extract from her book Before Action: William Noel Hodgson and the 9th Devons can be found belowThe extract relates to the presentation to the City of Exeter of guns captured by the 8th and 9th Devons during the Battle of Loos in 1915. Loos - Exeter-gun


With minds turning towards the Somme centenary in 2016 – and to the centenary of the Battle of Loos during 2015, where so many Devon men fought for the first time, Charlotte is keen to share her book.

The story of the 9th Devons at Mansel Copse is one of the best known stories of the first day on the Somme, and there is material about it in the book which may not have been seen before.

Take a look at the extract from Charlotte’s book below about the presentation of the Loos Guns to Exeter on 12th November 2015, a postcard of one of them is shown above, and photographs of the men mentioned in the extract include: Loos - Exeter-Upcott

John Upcott (right) who led the detachment of wounded 9th Devons at the presentation ceremony, and
Loos - Exeter-Inchbald

Second Lieutenant Jack Inchbald (left) who came from Thurlestone in Devon


After over 30 years researching the story it’s hard to stop, and even though the book is now finished, Charlotte would still be interested to hear from anyone whose relative served with the 9th Devons.  If you do have any feedback, please contact Charlotte Zeepvat at 

Please visit Charlotte’s website and enjoy the interesting material in the related book.

Loos - Before Action-extract