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

Remembering the ‘Sawdust Fusiliers’ at Stover

Saturday 1st September 1918 saw the unveiling of a unique memorial at Stover Country Park.

A life-size wooden carving, commissioned by ‘Devon Remembers’ and created by sculptor Andrew Frost, has been installed near Stover School beside the Stover Heritage Trail near Newton Abbot, depicting two members of the Canadian Forestry Corps with one of the horses they relied on to work the forest.

The Canadian Forestry Corps first arrived at Stover in 1916, following a request from the British Government for lumbermen to harvest the country’s ancient forests to supply the Western Front.  The expertise needed to fell, haul and process wood was in short supply in Britain, so a battalion of 1,600 men were recruited from Canada to undertake this vital war work.

By October 1917, when the Canadian Forestry Corps left Stover, the 250 skilled foresters and sawyers based there had felled 700 acres of the estate, producing over 650,000 cubic feet of timber for the British Army.  It was sent to the battlefields in France and Belgium to be used for constructing trenches, dug-outs and roads and to make railway sleepers, huts, planking, posts and ammunition boxes as well as for fuel.  

Local people were very curious about the Canadians and enjoyed fetes and sports days when the visitors demonstrated their skills in logging, baseball, canoeing and First Nations’ ceremonies. Several Canadian men married local women and stayed in Devon.

The Chairman of Devon County Council Cllr Caroline Chugg unveiled the sculpture joined by invited guests including HM Lieutenant General Sir Andrew Ridgway KBE CB DL; Canadian Army Adviser, Colonel Andrew Lussier; Devon County Councillor, Roger Croad; and Stover School’s Chaplain, Rev Fiona Wimsett. 

An information panel accompanies the memorial sculpture, researched and produced by the Devon Remembers Heritage Project.

Read more about the Sawdust Fusiliers and the memorial here

Holsworthy World War One 100 years – to the Memory of the Fallen and the Future of the Living

Holsworthy Town Council is commemorating the end of the First World War with its latest project  Holsworthy World War One 100 years – to the Memory of the Fallen and the Future of the Living.  

One of the aims of the project is to turn Holsworthy into the ‘Poppy Town’ of Devon ensuring that everywhere possible in the town is planted with poppies and everyone being encouraged to place a poppy in the window of their house or in their garden.

A permanent WW1 Memorial Tree Trail will be planted by the Town Council in Stanhope Park.  39 trees will be planted around the park remembering the 39 local servicemen who died during the War and a 40th mature apple tree for those that survived and those that lived through it, symbolising the future of the living.  The local ‘Men Shed’ will make bird boxes which will be installed in the mature trees and the new apple tree.

Local residents and business are being asked to sponsor a tree (at £250 each).  Please contact the Town Council on 01409 253312 or email townclerk@holsworthytowncouncil.gov.uk if you are interested in becoming a tree sponsor.

Holsworthy Museum will be holding an exhibition throughout the project period on WW1 casualties and the local area before, during and after the war.  The local community is encouraged to add to the existing information by sharing stories, photographs and memories about their relatives and families during the time.

Other events planned include a picnic Celebration Party, a Remembrance Concert at the College, Holsworthy Amateur Theatre Society performances, Tidying of overgrown War graves in the churchyard and Remembrance Day events including a Parade, Service and the lighting of a Beacon at 7pm.

For more information, see the Holsworthy WW1 – Project Outline


Exeter’s War Hospitals Commemorated

Research, conducted by members of the Exeter Local History Society has uncovered fascinating stories about the buildings, the staff and the patients.  During September 2017 an exhibition was created to share their findings and display a range of medical and nursing equipment. Further information is available here.  A War Hospitals Town Trail showing the location of each of the Temporary War Hospitals is also available.

As a follow-up to this research project, Devon Remembers provided a grant to enable commemorative plaques to be installed at each of the remaining hospital sites.

The first plaque was unveiled on 26 April 2018 at Exeter University’s Reed Hall – the site of Temporary War Hospital no.7.  Councillor Roger Croad, Chair of the Devon Remembers Steering Group and Dr Julia Neville introduced the ceremony, and the official unveiling was carried out by Sir John Michael Kennaway, grandson of Sir John Kennaway of Escot, a former patient (see photo below).

The building, then known as Streatham Hall, was leased to the Army by the Thornton West family for use as soldiers’ billets, however, by 1917 the Army gave it up for use as a hospital, looking after up to 100 patients.  Rooms in the houses were converted into wards and marquees put up in the garden for ‘fresh air’ treatment.

As an establishment for officers, amongst the patients was a young John Kennaway, son of Sir John Kennaway of Escot, who served with the 4th Devons in Mesopotamia during 1916 and 1917 as a Lieutenant and then a Captain.  He fell ill with typhoid fever as so many did due to the insanitary conditions there; medical services, unlike on the Western Front, were primitive and soldiers could spend up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital.  After treatment in London, John was sent to Exeter for continuing treatment and convalescence and remained as a patient until he had recovered sufficiently to be discharged.

Further commemorative plaque unveilings are planned for the sites at Bradninch Hall (Hospital no.5) and the Hotel du Vin (Hospital no.1), see the events calendar for information.

For further information about the research or the Exhibition material, please contact j.f.neville@btinternet.com

North Devon WW1 Stories blog spot

Devon Libraries staff working in the Local Studies Centre in Barnstaple together with Devon Archives and Local Studies Service and the North Devon Athenaeum invite you to visit the North Devon WW1 Stories Blog Spot at:

northdevonww1stories BlogSpot

They will be following the progress of the First World War over the centenary years and researching the lives of the local men and women who were involved.  It is hoped that a new story will be posted each month.