Exeter Temporary War Hospitals – final unveiling at the Bishop’s Palace

Exeter Temporary War Hospital No 6, the Bishop’s Palace, now the Cathedral Library is the site of the last in the series of 5 plaques around the city, commissioned in partnership with Devon Remembers, Exeter Civic Society and the Devon History Society on 13th November 2018

The Dean and colleagues were present at the unveiling, and we thank the cathedral staff for all their help in making the arrangements.

Hospital No 6 opened in 1917 when there was an urgent need for more beds to meet the needs of increasing numbers of the wounded. Part of the palace had been used as a sick bay for Red Cross staff from early in the war, but in 1917 the new Bishop, Lord William Cecil, offered the use of the palace as a hospital, keeping back only the large ground floor reception rooms for diocesan use.

       Cllr Roger Croad, Dr Julia Neville, Vanessa McDonnell, Dean Jonathan

The hospital had 100 beds, including some in temporary huts on the lawn, but it also had a special role. It was the electrotherapy and massage centre for all the hospitals in the city. In this capacity it was handed over in 1919 by the Ministry of Pensions as the Palace Gate Hospital. Patients went on being treated here until the Second World War.

We were pleased to have present Minou and John Baxter, relatives of Edith Stoodley, one of the nurses who worked here. Also Vanessa McDonnell, great-niece of Phyllis Dearman, who drove one of the ambulances that provided patient transport for Exeter War Hospitals and who often came here. Vanessa kindly unveiled the plaque.

John Baxter and Vanessa McDonnell, relatives of staff based at Temporary Hospital no. 6 during the First World War.

Kentisbury’s Centenary commemorations

To commemorate the end of WWl 100 years ago the bells of our church rang out on Sunday 11th November from 4.30pm and the Remembrance service began at 5.00pm  conducted by Revd Rosie Austin followed by light refreshments.

There were displays in the Church which reflected WWl – with the Kentisbury WI  using poppies which members, their families and friends had made (knitted, crocheted and paper) during the autumn. Another display depicted a windswept battlefield and iIncluded WWl memorabilia loaned by local people, together with some information on those with connections to Kentisbury who gave their ultimate sacrifice.

The service included lighting a candle on the altar by a relative, if present, for each person who lost their life during WWl.  If no relative was present, the candles were lit by Frank Barrow of Kentisbury who also read part of the Exhortation.  Lisa Gubb also took part in the service which also included the Last Post, two minutes silence and Reveille. Wreaths were also laid on behalf of the Church and Kentisbury Parish Council by Brenda Bowden and Jim Pile respectively.

Sincere thanks to the bell ringers who for some had been their fourth and sixth time of ringing in one day and also to all who helped in anyway with marking the occasion.

The photograph below shows a mug, given to Kentisbury children in 1919 to commemorate the end of the Great War.


Torquay Athletic RFU Juniors pay their respects

Torquay Athletic Junior Committee took the decision to cancel games on Remembrance Sunday and take the majority of the junior section to the Armistice Day event on Torquay seafront. 



The day started at 9.30 with a number of former players/veterans talking to the players about the day and what is means to them. The squad then walked down to the Cenotaph. A wreath was laid by our oldest and youngest members of the club together with a former player and serviceman.

Nearly 100 junior players  attended the event and were invited to stand close to the ceremony and join the march at its conclusion, after which they returned to the clubhouse for food and refreshments. 

The behaviour of the players was impeccable and our attendance at the ceremony was welcomed by many and aligned directly to the core values of Rugby and TARFC Junior Section.  The photos show the young people at the club before the ceremony.

Simon Niles, Vice Chair TARFC Junior Section

Remembering Exeter War Hospital no.1 at the Former Eye Infirmary

6th November 2018 marked the unveiling of a plaque to mark the use of the West of England Eye Infirmary, now Hotel du Vin, between 1914 and 1919 as one of Exeter’s Temporary War Hospitals for the treatment of sick and wounded soldiers. 

Immediately on the outbreak of war, in August 1914, the Devon Red Cross was asked to prepare two hospitals in Exeter to receive wounded patients returning from the front, and the Governors agreed to lend the Eye Infirmary agreed for that purpose. Inpatients requiring eye treatment went throughout the First World War to the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital for their surgery.

During the course of the war the hospital more than doubled its numbers from the initial 100 beds, with the addition of a number of marquees on the neighbouring Bull Meadow park where patients could benefit from ‘fresh air treatment’. The hospital did not close until April 1919, remaining open to treat returning prisoners of war, and also the victims of the flu epidemic of 1918-9.

Relatives and connections of a number of the former staff and patients of the hospital – Bessie Hayman, Wendy Lutley, Mary Tiffen, and Robert Guyver and his family were present at the unveiling. Robert, the great-nephew of Cornelius Kerslake, one of the many soldiers who became a patient at No 1 Hospital, unveiled the plaque.


Exeter War Hospital No.3 – plaque unveiling

The building that once existed behind the current façade on Heavitree Road (next to Waitrose!) was constructed as the Children’s Home for Exeter Workhouse. It was opened in February 1914, a few months before the war began, and was equipped with every modern convenience such as electric light.

The Exeter Board of Guardians, predecessors of modern social services authorities, were keen to play their part in the war effort. When Miss Georgiana Buller of the Devon Red Cross wrote in August 1914 ask if they would be willing to lend the building for use as a temporary war hospital they said Yes. The Local Government Board in London opposed the idea but Exeter’s Board prevailed.

The hospital was set up speedily, initially for use for the growing number of troops billeted in Exeter. It was opened in November 1914 and by Christmas was also taking wounded soldiers from the Western Front. It did not close until March 1919.

Inside the front entrance there used to be a tablet, presented after the war, recording the ‘valuable and patriotic assistance’ given by those who served there ‘in the hour of national emergency’. Now that the building is not in public use it is right that there should instead be a plaque visible from outside. This plaque is dedicated, just as our predecessors did, ‘in deep appreciation of the whole-hearted attention which the staff of this hospital gave to the patients’ and remembering ‘the devotion and self-sacrifice’ of those who were treated there.

One of the women who served in the hospital was Red Cross nurse Mary Perkin. Mary was a farmer’s daughter from Coryton near Lew Down in West Devon. Mary responded to the appeal for more women to come forward to serve as volunteers that was made nationally in 1917. She joined the hospital staff on 22 November 1917 and served as a nurse there until the end of 1918, six weeks after Armistice Day.

Joy Frey, the great niece of Red Cross nurse Mary Perkin, unveiled the plaque on 25 October 2018, commemorating the building’s use as a temporary military hospital.

Silverton C of E Primary School Remembers

Our home learning challenge last half term was for families to find out about their family connections to WWI. Each family was encouraged to work together to produce a poppy to remember that person.

We made a display of poppies in our entrance corridor, which is something we will all remember for years to come, there are so many photos, letters and memories recording lost loved ones – it is truly moving. It has been a very important project that has connected our children to their past .

With our very best wishes.

From the Children, Families and Staff of Silverton Church Of England Primary School  

Pages of the Sea commemorations

On 11 November 2018, communities will gather on beaches across the UK to say goodbye and thank you, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return.

This is a commemoration on a national scale, the idea of Danny Boyle, iconic film director who says: ‘This will be a unique moment to say goodbye and thank you, together, to the millions of men and women who left their shores during the war, many never to return’.

On selected beaches around the UK, including a number in the South West (Saunton Sands in Devon), over the course of several hours, a portrait of an individual from the First World War will emerge from the sand. And then, as the tide rises, be washed away as we take a moment to say a collective goodbye.

Poet Carol Ann Duffy has written a poem especially for Pages of the Sea, to be read by individuals, families and communities on the day. You can also get involved in creating artwork in the sand using stencils of portraits at the beaches.

The Wound in Time

It is the wound in Time. The century’s tides,
chanting their bitter psalms, cannot heal it.
Not the war to end all wars; death’s birthing place;
the earth nursing its ticking metal eggs, hatching
new carnage. But how could you know, brave
as belief as you boarded the boats, singing?
The end of God in the poisonous, shrapneled air.
Poetry gargling its own blood. We sense it was love
you gave your world for; the town squares silent,
awaiting their cenotaphs. What happened next?
War. And after that? War. And now? War. War.
History might as well be water, chastising this shore;
for we learn nothing from your endless sacrifice.
Your faces drowning in the pages of the sea.

Find out more at www.pagesofthesea.org.uk


Timings still to be confirmed (approx. 12pm – 3pm).  If you are interested in getting involved with events and workshops at this beach contact communities@edenproject.com

There will be a drumming flash mob, pebble art workshops and a choir performance by Devon-based Wren Music of songs written for the home front.

The portrait that will be revealed on this beach is:

Ralph George Griffiths Robson,

Royal Engineers, Age: 26 Date of Death: 23/12/1914, Son of Samuel and Ellen Frances Robson, of Bradiford House, Barnstaple, Devon.

Read More


War Hospital Plaque unveiled in Exeter

Temporary War Hospital no.5 has been commemorated with a recent unveiling of a plaque at Bradninch Hall, Exeter.  Ann Luxton, the great-niece of one of the VAD nurses who served in the hospital unveiled the plaque on 11th September 2018.

The house, once known as The Vineyard, had been converted and extended by the City Council a few years before the war broke out, as a hostel for women students (mainly trainee teachers) at the Royal Albert Memorial College. It was lent by the City Council to the Red Cross when the pressure of casualties in 1915 meant that more hospital beds were urgently needed.

Work to commission this and the buildings next door, down Little Castle Street, as Hospital No 5 took place in the spring of 1915  The building was formally opened on April 30 with Mr Brennan Dyball, a surgeon from the Royal Devon and Exeter Hospital, as the Officer Commanding.

One of the women who came to work here in 1915 was Eva Osborn, who was a member of the housekeeping team, described as being ‘on general duties’. We were pleased to have with us on 11 September, two members from a family who were close friends with Eva, David and Ruth Vooght.

200 beds were initially opened at Hospital No 5, but with the continuing pressure of additional casualties extra beds were needed. In 1917 temporary huts were put up on what had been the hostel’s tennis court to provide extra wards. Bed numbers rose to 258, and the extra beds meant more staff were needed.

It was at this point that a farmer’s daughter from Little Torrington joined the staff as a Red Cross nurse. Her name was May Elliott and she served as a nurse in Hospital No 5 until it closed in July 1919.

You can visit the sites of the Exeter Temporary War Hospitals by using the War Hospitals Town Trail




Torquay Remembers the ANZACs

Torquay played a special part in supporting the campaigns of the ANZACs and in the return of our New Zealand allies at the end of the War.

The New Zealand contingent of the Australian and New Zealand Army Corps (the ANZACs) had come to Torquay in 1917. The New Zealanders had a camp in the water meadows in Lower Cockington Valley. They also recovered from their wounds in Torquay’s hospitals, such as the one at the Town Hall.

At the end of the war, between 40,000 and 50,000 men passed through the New Zealand Discharge Depot in St Marychurch, and many were directly repatriated from Torquay.

Read Kevin Dixon’s fascinating research here

British Legion leads ‘Thank You’

The Royal British Legion is calling on the nation to say ‘Thank You’ to the WW1 Generation before the Centenary of the Armistice on 11 November 2018

At the Exeter launch took place on Thursday 30 August 2018, in partnership with Wyvern Barracks and Devon Remembers.  Six ‘Tommy’ silhouettes were erected at the gates of Wyvern Barracks as part of the ‘Thank you’ campaign to remember those who served and died in the Great War.

‘Thank you’ will honour the 1.1 million British and Commonwealth Armed Forces who lost their lives in the First World War as well as those who played their part on the home front, and those who returned to build a better life for the benefit of generations to come.


For further information and to find out how you can get involved in the ‘Thank you’ movement, please visit the RBL ‘Thank you’ website