One hundred years after the start of the Great War the names of those who gave their lives in the service of their country can still be seen on memorials across the nation.
But now the stories behind some of those names can also be seen, thanks to the dedication of teams of local volunteers and historians and a website provided by Lord Clinton’s Charitable Trust and Clinton Devon Estates, in association with the Fairlynch Museum in Budleigh Salterton.
Together they have produced www.devonremembers.co.uk – Honouring the 1914 Generation – a memorial to the men and women from the Estate’s communities in East and North Devon who fell during World War One.
The website lists the fallen from Budleigh Salterton, Colaton Raleigh, East Budleigh, Huish, Merton, Newton Poppleford and Otterton and, thanks to volunteers from these towns and villages, it tells as much as can be discovered about their lives, their families and their contributions to the war and to their communities.
Volunteers Sheila Jelley, Margaret Brett, Jane Bennett, John Haggar and John Hedderly worked on the communities in East Devon, while Philip Collins from Merton looked into the stories of those from North Devon.
John Varley, Estates Director, said: “We all owe a debt of honour to those who fought and died for their country in the Great War, and while their names are remembered on memorials in Devon’s towns and villages, there is a danger their stories could be lost.
“When we heard that volunteers from the Fairlynch Museum and other local historians were gathering some of those stories together to mark the centenary of the start of the war, we wanted to do something to help, so decided to launch the website where they could be seen by as many people as possible, for many years to come.
“This is a fitting way for us all to pay tribute to the hundreds of people from our communities who made the ultimate sacrifice for us all.
“Many people living in the area today will have relatives who died in the war, and we hope this website will help them to learn more about their families’ history. It is also possible for people to add to the stories online, and to write their own.”
Also revealed to the public for the first time is the wartime diary of the Hon. John Trefusis, who was to become the youngest Brigadier General of his day in the British Army. Known to his troops as Jack Tre, he was a younger brother of the current Lord Clinton’s grandfather.
Tragically he was killed by a sniper on the western Front in October 1915, aged 37, but his words live on in the form of the diary he kept from September 1914, just weeks after the start of the war, until August 1915, when he was promoted to lead the Army’s 20th Brigade.
Other stories on the site tell of the struggle on the home front: of some of the women who worked at Budleigh Salterton’s Voluntary Aid Detachment (VAD) hospital for injured servicemen, such as Commandant Harriett Barton who gave up her home in the town’s West Hill to found the hospital.
Well-known Budleigh author and artist Joyce Dennys was also a nurse in the hospital and her work there helped inspire her to produce recruitment posters for the VAD.
Read some of the interesting stories which have been researched here.
To view a video of the launch event on 29th July, click here.
It is part of the wider Devon Remembers project being co-ordinated by Devon County Council.