Ministry of Defence
Ministry of Defence

Lest We Forget
British Legion
The Royal British Legion


World War 1 & 2 - Detailed information
Compiled and copyright © John Hagger 2014

The memorial is located outside St Luke's Church in Station Road, Poppleford and takes the form of a rough hewn, granite, wheel cross on a shaft mounted on a plinth which stands on a two-stepped base; the inscription is on the front of the plinth along with the names of the men who erished in World War 1. In front of the memorial is an additional stone on which has been added the names of those men from World War 2 who perished. There are 15 names for World War 1 and 9 for World War 2.

Note from John Hagger: "When this memorial was first “unveiled” and blessed, probably in 1919 it was surrounded by mothers, fathers, wives, brothers, sisters, children and school-friends of those named on the plaque. They knew all the details of the lives of these men and boys; many would have been in tears. Today however, almost 100 years later, those of us who pass by the memorial and who benefited from the sacrifice they made, do not know anything about them except their names. It was with this thought that I decided to investigate the life details of each one of them.

It is appropriate that I should give full credit to Terry Gregory from Capper Close, for his big contribution to facts that we can reveal regarding these men. Terry researched much of the National Census record information that we refer to, and I am indebted to him for his considerable help."

Photograph Copyright © John Hagger 2014


Kingsley Mozart
Private 19149, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Killed in action 1 July 1916. Born Norton, Worcestershire, enlisted Exeter. Aged 29. Son of Edward and Hannah Cody; husband of Mary Louisa Cody, of 16, Yonder St., Ottery St. Mary. Buried in SERRE ROAD CEMETERY No. 2, Somme, France. Plot XV. Row B. Grave 11.

Not surprisingly, Kingsley kept quiet about his middle name when he enlisted in Exeter in 1914. He was 28 years old and was employed as “jobbing sawyer” for a carpenter, and lived in Stoneyford. He was married to Mary and they had one child called Mildred.

His parents Edward and Hannah lived in Yonder Street, Ottery St Mary.

His father, who came from Limerick, had been a regular soldier and was by this time an Army pensioner. The explanation for his unusual middle name is that his father was an Army Musician.

He was the fourth of 7 surviving children (3 died in infancy).

He enlisted in Devonshire Regiment 2nd Battalion and was not promoted beyond Private

He was killed in action in France, (at the beginning of the battle of the Somme) on 1st July 1916 aged 30.

Frederick William
Private 345767, 16th (Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and Royal North Devon Hussars) Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Killed in action 3 December 1917. Aged 29. Born Dunsford, enlisted Woodbury, Devon. Son of Edwin and Alice Ellis, of East Down, Dunsford, Exeter. Buried in JERUSALEM WAR CEMETERY, Israel and Palestine (including Gaza). Section A. Grave 54.

He was born in 1888 in Brampton Speke, Dunsford Devon. His father was Edwin, his mother Alice Louise (nee Yeo). He was the oldest of 5 children all born at Dunsford.

By the time he was 22 he had left home and was living as an employee of Mr & Mrs Roberts of Seniors Farm (currently owned by Bernard White) in this Village. He was employed as a Waggoner, his father had been a farm carter. Mr & Mrs Roberts were both in their 60’s and their 2 children had left home. They employed 4, one servant and 3 on the farm.

Fred enlisted at Woodbury and joined 16th Battalion, Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and later the Royal North Devon Hussars. He was posted to “the Egyptian Theatre of War” (probably Mesopotamia) and he was killed in action there on 3rd December 1917.

It will be of interest to many that his sister was Mable Mudge nee Ellis who was licencee of The Drewe Arms, Drewsteighnton. She became well known as she was the oldest licensee in the UK, not retiring until 1996 when she was aged 99. She died aged 101.

William [Edwin]
[Listed as Wilfred Edwin HAM on Candaian Archives] Private 150107, 8th Battalion, Canadian Infantry. Died 14 June 1916. Aged 23. Born 8 January 1893 in Newton Poppleford. Son of Hermon and Emily Ham, of Newton Poppleford, Devon. Strett car conductor by trade. Unmarried. Enlisted nad passed fit 27 July 1915 at Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada. Height 5 feet 7 inches, girth 37 inches, complexion dark, eyes hazel, hair dark; religion Church of England. Buried in KEMMEL NO.1 FRENCH CEMETERY, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Plot II. Row B. Grave 10. National Archives of Canada Accession Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 3968 - 28

The Ham family is recorded as living in the village of Newton Poppleford and Hermon Ham and his wife Emily had 5 children. These are recorded in the Aylesbear Census of 1891 (which covered N.P.), one of them is called William John. However in 1893 Hermon and Emily had another son and although their fourth child , born in 1885 had been christened William John ,and appeared, age 3 in the 1891 census, in 1893 they christened this latest child William Edwin.

The only reasonable explanation as to why parents should give the same name to two of their sons is that William John had died in childhood by the time William Edwin was born. This is sometimes referred to as “a replacement child”. William Edwin presumably went to school in the village, but by 1911 at age 18, he was working as a “Groom/ gardener” for the Cleave family who lived in Mill Cottage, Topsham. Mr Cleave was a farm labourer and Mrs (Elizabeth) Cleave, who was somewhat younger than Mr Cleave, was a ‘Monthly Nurse’ This job description is for a resident midwife who would be employed for the month following a birth.

It seems that some time between 1911 and 1914 William decided to emigrate to Canada. When the war started, he volunteered to join the Canadian Army and was a private in the 8th Battalion Canadian Infantry. In the army records he appears as Wilfred, (father Hermon and mother Emily and his date of birth is 1893), so there is no doubt that Wilfred is in fact William. Maybe he called himself Will or Wills and this somehow got converted to Wilfred. He was posted to Europe and served on the “Western Front”. Private 150107 Will Ham was killed on 14th June 1916 in Flanders just prior to the battle of the Somme, he was 21. He is buried in Kemmel No. 1 French Cemetery. His correct name has however been shown on the Village memorial.

Private 9729, 1st Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Killed in action 7 July 1916. Aged 21. Born and resident Colaton Raleigh, enlisted Exeter. Son of Thomas and Eliza Parsons, of Colaton Raleigh, Ottery St. Mary, Devon. Buried in ST. SEVER CEMETERY, ROUEN, Seine-Maritime, France. Plot A. Row 23. Grave 33.

Thomas was born in 1897 in Newton Poppleford. There is a Parson’s Farm in this village but I have been unable to make a direct connection as Thomas’s grandparents lived in Colaton Raleigh and his father in Stoneyford.

His father was Thomas (the elder), he was a “jobbing pit sawyer”, living in Stoneyford with his two sons Thomas and Robert. The Census of 1911 records, ’usually in the pit’. As such he was a ’bottom dog’. The man who worked at the top of the saw-pit was a ’top dog’. Thomas (his son) was born in 1897; and his brother in 1902. This census shows no record of his mother who we have to presume had died by then. From other records, her name is recorded as Eliza (nee Carter).

At the age of 14 young Thomas was an agricultural labourer, the lowest of farm workers.

He enlisted in the 1st Battalion The Devonshire Regiment at Exeter (probably in 1915), and died, still at the rank of Private, in France on 7th July 1916. He is recorded as being aged 21 which means at some stage, possibly on enlistment, he lied about his age.

Alfred Thomas
[Listed as Thomas Pring on SDGW] Private 10438, 8th (Service) Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Died of wounds 8 october 1915. Aged 17. Born and resident Sidmouth, enlisted Exeter. Son of William and Emily Pring, of Station Rd., Newton Poppleford, Ottery St. Mary, Devon. Buried in BOULOGNE EASTERN CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France. Plot VIII. Row C. Grave 49.

The Pring family was well represented in Newton Poppleford. It is a fairly common Devonian name but he is, however, no relation to Alfred on the World War 2 memorial.

The name of William was frequently used in the Pring family. Alf’s father was called William and before him, his grandfather had the same Christian name.

His grandfather farmed Parson’s Farm but his father lived in Station Road and was one of the village blacksmiths. His mother was Emily (nee Selleck). Emily was 31 when she was faced with a problem. As the mother of five children, her husband died in Feb. 1907 at the age of 33. In the 1911 Census she is shown as living with her 3 children and being the owner of a blacksmith’s business employing 52 years old Samuel Holmes as a “blacksmith’s servant” and with her eldest son (also called William) as a “student blacksmith” at the age of 14. (Bill was the village blacksmith and farrier between the wars, by which time he had moved his business to 10 Oak Tree Villas). Alfred is shown in this census as a “scholar”, presumably at the village school. Emily has also taken in an elderly “boarder”, a Mr Bolt, who works in the village as a Market Gardener.

So it was from this crowded household (8 people - 3 adults and 5 children & teenagers, all living in 4 rooms) that Alf volunteered to join the Army one day late in 1914 or early 1915, Like so many of his schoolboy friends, he joined the Devonshire Regiment, 8th Battalion, in Exeter. On the 8th October 1915 (less than a year later) he died of his wounds, having been carried from the battlefield in Flanders. He was 17 years old and is buried in France.

[Spelt RIDGEWAY on SDGW & CWGC] Private 18701, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Killed in action 1 July 1916. Born Exeter, enlisted Newton Poppleford. No known grave. Commemorated on THIEPVAL MEMORIAL, Somme, France. Pier and Face 1 C.

The Army spelled it Ridgeway but then neither the Recruiting Sergeant nor probably Ernest were very good at spelling, so we have to accept both versions. (The conversation probably went, “Is that wiv an “e”?: “ er r r Yes”.)

Ernest was born in 1887 which made him, from his fellow soldiers’ point of view, an old man, when he enlisted in Newton Poppleford at the age of 28. The temporary recruiting station in the village was probably in the Village hall.

The only family of Ridg(e)way shown in the available village records is a Fred & Rosina Ridgway; he born in Honiton and she in Newton Poppleford. Ernest is shown in the 1901 & 1911 census as being born in Exeter and living in their household in Newton Poppleford. In both census he is shown as a “General Labourer (despite the fact that in 1901 he was only 14 years old). He does not appear to be their son so we have to assume that he may have been a nephew. In the 1891 census he is shown, at the age of four, to be living in the household of a Sarah Ann Bamsey who is recorded as without an occupation and with no husband. She appears to be looking after five children aged 1, 3, two aged 4 and one of 13 years, possibly at the Parish’s expense. Maybe he was an orphan. Tracing Ernest is made more difficult because he is another of those in the British army whose record was lost due to enemy action in 1941. Again we can see that to Ernest, the idea of joining the Army seemed like an adventure, and a way of improving his life. He enlisted in 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Despite his relatively senior years he did not achieve promotion. He was killed in action on 1st July 1916 and it is stated that his name is on the Lutyians memorial at Thiepval. This almost certainly means that he is among the 72, 000 soldiers of the British Isles and the Commonwealth who have no known grave.

possibly John Francis Roberts, Lance Corporal 8885, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Killed in action 9 September 1916. Aged 25. Born Witherridge, Devon, enlisted Exeter, resident Rackenford, Devon. Son of Mrs Elizabeth Roberts, of Blindwill Cottage, Rackenford, Morchard Bishop, Devon. Buried in VERMELLES BRITISH CEMETERY, Pas de Calais, France; Plot V. Row B. Grave 16.

Once again, his is a name that we cannot find in the Army records, but he appears in the Census details for 1891 and 1901. His family is also recorded in “Whites Directory of Devon “dated 1879. From this publication we can see that the village consisted of 147 houses, 306 males and 270 females. The Roberts family listed, are Charles Roberts; Butcher, James Roberts; China Dealer and shopkeeper, and William Roberts; Grocer.

Frank’s father was however George Roberts who in the 1891 census is shown as a corn dealer and together with his wife Francis is living at the Turks Head Inn together his large family of seven children.The Turks Head was next to the Oak Tree Garage. 4 and was levelled in 1978 to widen the road. Curiously he is not shown as a Licensed Victualler. In Whites, the publican of The Exeter Inn is shown--James Parson and The Cannon Inn-- John Small. Maybe George preferred to be recorded as a Corn Dealer rather than a publican.

Frank (presumably named after his mother) was born in 1884 in Newton Poppleford, he went to school in the village, which in 1891, had him, together with his older brother and two of his sisters, one older one younger, all attending at the same time.

By 1901 Frank appears to have left home and is employed as a “Gentleman’s Assistant” (this is defined as a “valet” or “gentleman’s gentleman”) and living as a boarder in the home of a widowed lady named Elen Howerd in Well Street, Heavitree, Exeter. We have not found him in the 1911 census so what he was doing at the time he volunteered to join the army is unknown, he could have become an officer’s ‘bat-man’ in the war. His father died in 1915 and his mother in 1916 so it would seem that the inclusion of his name on the memorial was instigated by one of his siblings, quite possibly his sister Ella.

Ella Roberts married, and became Mrs Harrison. It was she who played the organ in our village church of St Luke’s for many years, handing over eventually to Ruth Lass, the current choir leader and organist.

William Henry
Corporal (Trooper) 111587, 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles Battalion. Died 2 October 1915. Born 29 October 1893 in Swindon, Wiltshire. Son of Mrs E Ryall, of 2 Otterview, Newton Poppleford. Dredgeman by trade. Unmarried. Passed fit 25 March 1915 and enlisted 29 March 1915 at Ottawa, Canada, aged 21, height 5 feet 8 inches, girth 38 inches, complexion fair, eyes blue, hair fair; religion Church of England. In the 1911 census he was the servant of the Parker family, aged 16, a bakehouse hand, born Swindon, Wilthsire and resident 26 Fore Street, Budleigh Slaterton. Buried in ADANAC MILITARY CEMETERY, MIRAUMONT, Somme, France. Plot VIII. Row M. Grave 25. National Archives of Canada Accession Reference: RG 150, Accession 1992-93/166, Box 8574 - 1

William Henry Ryall, The Ryall family is first found in the Census of 1891. Oliver Ryall was born in Stowford Devon and is married to Mary Ann (nee Ford) from Dartmouth. The family first lived in Dartmouth when they married (1864) .She was 23 and he was 29. It is possible to infer that as a young man, Oliver was in the Navy. When they married, he became a police constable.

Their first child (Selina) was a daughter, born in 1865, their first son Oliver (junior) was born in 1870. Oliver (senior) and Mary Ann had eleven children , plus two who died in infancy, the last child (Charles) being born when she was 47 and he was 53. William F was their fourth child, born 1879 in Clyst Honiton, to where they appear to have moved in 1873. They all moved again to Newton Poppleford in 1885. Could these moves and others to Lidford and Upton Pyne have been associated with Oliver (senior)’s employment? He was Newton Poppleford’s local policeman for several years from around 1885 to 1896 when he retired. He died in 1915 age 81

Bill Ryall (son of Oliver senior) probably attended school in Newton Poppleford, as his father moved here when he was 6. The school was built in 1877 . The Ryall’s youngest daughter, Emmeline left school when she was 14. She went on to become a Music teacher, her oldest sister (Selina) and her brother Charles were teachers and in the 1901 census, their mother (at the age of 61) is shown to be teaching music in Newton Poppleford. Bill became a builder, and in the 1911 census (at the age of 32) he is shown as being a “House Builder and General Woodworker”. Geof. Tenney, who owns the small-holding in the Exmouth Road states that the house next to his ( the one that has had scaffolding around it for 20+ years) was built be Bill Ryall. But his first names are not William Henry

There were however two William Henry Ryalls. One is in the British Army records and is shown to have died on 26th Feb 1916. He was private no. 670, and served in the Dorset Yeomanry. No place of death is recorded but he is shown to be buried in the UK, The other William Henry is shown in the Canadian Army records; he is Corporal 111587 in 5th Battallion (misspelled) Canadian Mounted Rifles. This record , from the War Graves Commission shows a William Henry Ryall who was unmarried and was born 29th Oct 1893 in “Honidon Wilts“. No trace of this place has been found. He was killed in action on 2nd Oct 1916 and is buried in Adamac Cemetery, Miraumont, Somme. His next of kin is Mrs E Ryall , of 2 Otterview, Newton Poppleford. As he was unmarried, we have to conclude that this is his mother, and that she is the wife (maybe widow) of one of Oliver Ryall (senior’s) sons. William is recorded as age 22 when he was killed. It is apparent that this William Henry left Newton Poppleford and emigrated to Canada where he was employed as a Dredgerman until he volunteered to join the Canadian Army in 1915.

Of the two William Henry Ryalls, the probability is that it is the second of the above who is commemorated on the Newton Poppleford Memorial.

Walter John
[Listed as John Sellek on SDGW & CWGC] Private 260074, 7th Battalion, Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry. Killed in action 2 April 1918. Aged 24. Born and resident Newton Poppleford, enlisted Exeter. Son of Walter Sellek, of Exeter Rd., Newton Poppleford, Sidmouth. Formerly 3603, Devonshire Yeomanry. Buried in HOURGES ORCHARD CEMETERY, DOMART-SUR-LA-LUCE, Somme, France. Plot/Row/Section B. Grave 44.

His aunt was Emily Selleck who married William Pring, they were parents of Alfred Thomas Pring whose life and death we recorded above. So Walter Selleck, who preferred to be called John and Alf Pring were first cousins. It appears that he wanted to use his second name because when he enlisted in the Army he gave his name simply as John. His father was called Walter, so maybe John wanted to ensure there was no confusion. His father married Emma French and they were married in the village church on 8th Feb 1888. They had two children Anna Maud born 1889 and Walter John born 1892. Both his father and mother lived to a good age Walter died in 1937 aged 76 and Emma in 1949 aged 86.

Walter (senior) was one of nine children born to Henry Selleck and Mary Ann (nee Gorman) all born between 1857 and 1878. Surprisingly, despite this large family only one Selleck appears in the current local telephone directory. There are plenty of Sellicks so perhaps spelling is the explanation.

Walter Selleck, (Walter John’s father) farmed Langsford farm. The farmhouse overlooks the High Street and the farmyard and buildings are now a holiday complex. John enlisted in the Army at Exeter, his actual date of enlistment is not recorded but if it was 1915 he would have been 23 at the time. His previous employment is not shown but it is reasonable to suppose that he worked for his father at Langsford farm. He may have been one of the many who found himself with less duties, once the Army had requisitioned most of the farm horses.

John first joined The Devon Yeomanry but was subsequently transferred to The Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry. Such transfers often occurred when your own regiment suffered serious losses and were taken out of ”the line”. He was killed in action in Flanders on 2nd April 1918 having served through most of the war.

We, (who have lived a full lifetime) can pass down the High Street and look up at the large square top floor windows of Langsford Farmhouse, and remember that it was from these windows that John first looked out on to a world that he would live in for just 26 years.

Note: Smale, Dan & Charles - They were indeed brothers, who were born around 10 years apart and they died about 10 months apart. Dan in Sept 1915 and Charles (always called Charlie) in July 1916. Their parents were Thomas and Sarah Ann (she came from Sidbury). They had 12 children all of who survived to adulthood. 22 years separated the oldest (William Henry) from the youngest (Elsie Joyce). All were born and went to school in Newton Poppleford. They will all be in St Luke’s register of baptisms between 1867 & 1889.
Acting Staff Serjeant S/15818, 50th Field Butchery, Royal Army Service Corps. Died in Egypt 19 September 1915. Born Sidmouth, Devon, enlisted Aldershot, resident Budleigh Salterton. No known grave. Commemorated on HELLES MEMORIAL, Turkey (including Gallipoli). Panel 199 or 233 to 236 and 331.

Dan joined the regular army in 1897. The second Boer War did not finish until 1902, but Dan was not posted overseas, that early in his career in the Army. Many of the British casualties in that war were due to disease and infection but Dan was not subjected to that risk. He had joined the Royal Army Service Corps and not surprisingly was attached to the 50th Field Butchery Division. His father described himself as a cattle dealer but was also involved in the slaughter and butchering of the beasts. In Whites Gazetteer of Devon he is described as a butcher. In 1891 apart from himself, he also employed his four oldest children in the business; clearly they were not all buying and selling cattle.

The R.A.S.C had three provision roles ---general supplies, --fuel, -- and ammunition.

All Dan’s time in the army was concerned with the first of these, specifically meat.

He reached the rank of Staff Sergeant, by slow degrees with one set-back. In 1905 when (with the rank of private) he was convicted of being drunk and using threatening and obscene language to an N.C.O. (non-commissioned officer). He received ‘14 days C.B.’ (confined to barracks). Except for two other very minor offences, his service record was “very satisfactory“. In the same way as Fred Ellis (previously referred to in this series), he was posted to the Egyptian Theatre of War. This posting must have been soon after the war began, of maybe before it started. The conditions of slaughter houses in a country with very high temperatures and water only available for drinking, is not difficult to imagine. Dan caught dysentery and was returned to H.M.H.S. (His Majesty’s Hospital Ship) Egypt suffering from “acute dysentery supervening on enteric“. (Enteric fever is Typhoid). He died on board, in Alexandria, on 19th Sept 1915 and is presumably buried in a service grave near that city. Copies of correspondence regarding his effects are on record, and particularly touching is the letter from his wife who lived at 9, Perriams Place, Chaple Street, Budleigh Salterton.

On October 28th she wrote “I am writing to no (know) if I can have my husbands things Sgt D. Smale No 15818 when it is convenient for you to send them to the above address,
Yours Truly A.E.Smale

All his possessions and medals were returned to her on 20th Jan 1916.

Charles Donald aka Charlie
Private 7457, 2nd Battalion, Devonshire Regiment. Died of wounds in the United Kingdom 3 July 1916. Born and enlisted Oterry St Mary, Devon. Buried near North-West corner of NEWTON POPPLEFORD CEMETERY, Devon.

Was, Dan’s little brother, he was ten years younger and was probably impressed by his big ‘Staff Sergeant’ brother. Unlike so many of his other brothers, he did not work very long for his father. Before 1911 he had got a job as a station porter at Guildford Station (Surrey) and was living as a boarder with a Mr & Mrs Patrick and their three children, in Stoughton, Guildford. It would appear that about this time he ‘blotted his copybook’. The records of his employing company, The London & South Western Railway show that he was dismissed for ‘pilfering’. Pilfering infers small value items, nonetheless he was dismissed. He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment 2nd Battalion, in Ottery St Mary, so by the beginning of the war he must have returned home, probably to work for his father. He died on 3rd July 1916, (probably the battle of the Somme) just a few months after his brother Dan. He is shown as ‘died of his wounds‘, and his final Theatre of War is recorded as “Home”. So it appears he was repatriated to this country but then died.

The Smales were a large family so we should not exclude Burt Smale who also served his country. He was brother to Dan & Charlie and joined the R.A.V.C. (Royal Army Vetinary Corps). He seems to have been wounded in France and was returned home. He was discharged with a disability (unspecified), and subsequently lived at Glebe Farm, Newton Poppleford.

Serjeant 1871, 24th (County of London) Battalion (The Queen's), London Regiment. Killed in action 24 May 1916. Born Sheerness, enlisted kennington, resident Charlton. No known grave. Commemorated on ARRAS MEMORIAL, Pas de Calais, France. Bay 9 and 10.

Bernard presents us with a puzzle. The British Army relies on a tri-part system of; leadership; from the front by a commissioned officer; efficiency from the ranks based on training and experience, and continuity of all these merits coming from experienced non-commissioned officers. Non of the enlisted men that we have examined in this series were promoted beyond private, because there were plenty (until around 1918) of experienced men from the ranks of the regular army, who could be promoted as necessary. What was different about Bernard Verriour ?. Enlisted 1914 (approximate), died 1916 aged 21; rank, Sergeant. Yes, Sergeant

This means that he progressed through three ranks of N.C.O’s (non commissioned officer) in two and a bit years. The only clues we have are that his army record shows that he served 14 months in France. He was 18 in 1912, so is it possible that he joined the army just before war was declared, and thus was a regular soldier.

His father was Arthur Verriour born in Cheltenham and his wife was Jessie Pinch. She came from an established Cornish family in Lanhydroch. They were married in Woolwich in 1891 and they had moved to Newton Poppleford by 1911; he was Head Master at Newton Poppleford School. At that time it accommodated 150 students. He had seven children, and in 1911, two of his daughters are employed as assistant teachers probably at the village school. Bernard is aged 17 and is still a scholar. Examination of the Kings School, Ottery St Mary memorial board, shows that Bernard was a student at Kings School. So as a grammar school boy the army must have considered him suitable for promotion. He could have been officer material but at that time, these were selected exclusively from public school or university. A Junior Officer’s life expectancy in “the line”, was just 6 weeks; at least as an NCO he lasted 14 months.

The family had lived in Woolwich, Sheerness and Lewisham so it was to his London roots that Bernard returned when he joined the army. He joined The Royal Fusiliers--London Regiment, 24th Battalion (The Queen’s). He was posted to France and served there for 14 months. He was killed in action, possibly in the battle of Deville Wood on 24th May 1916, just prior to the first battle of the Somme. He is remembered both on the Newton Poppleford War memorial and also on his school’s war memorial board in Ottery St Mary. His father died in 1918, just two years after his son.

Alfred Thomas
Private 1760, 1/4th Battalion (Terrirotrial), Devonshire Regiment. Died of wounds in Mesopotamia 9 November 1916. Aged 21. Born Bristol, enlisted Salcombe Regis, Devon. Son of Eli and Mary Ann Wheaton, of Newton Poppleford, Sidmouth, Devon. Buried in AMARA WAR CEMETERY, Iraq. Plot IX. Row B. Grave 25.

He was the son of Eli Wheaton and Mary Ann (nee Beard). Eli was born in 1869 and died in 1939 but Mary Ann lived until 1961 aged 92. They were married in 1893 in Newton Abbot. They had four children; Jonathan, Alfred, John & Alice. Despite being the oldest, Jonathan was the last to die at the age of 93, in 1987.

In 1911 their oldest son Jonathan had left home and Eli and his wife and family were living at Beehive Cottage Newton Poppleford, together with Eli’s father Jonathan who was a widower. Both Eli and his father were wheelwrights and by this time Alfred (born 1895) was aged 15 and whilst still living at home, was a baker. All the children were born in Bristol which shows that it was in this city that the Wheatons were living in the mid 1890’s. Certainly the youngest three went to Newton Poppleford school which was the village in which Eli and his father had been born, and to which they had returned by 1910.

Alfred (Alf) enlisted in the Army at Salcombe Regis; quite a walk from Newton Poppleford, unless, by then he had got a job there as a baker. He joined the 8 Devonshire Regiment 1st/4th Battalion, they called themselves “The Territorials”. He served (like several others from the village) in Mesopotamia, now Iraq. The army called it ’The Messpot!’. Near the beginning of November, number 1760, private Alfred Wheaton was carried from the battlefield and died of his wounds in a field hospital on 9th Nov 1916. He is buried in part 11 of the British War cemetery in Amara, Iraq.

The Wheatons are a large family and his cousin Thomas also served in the war. He survived with injuries and lived in the village. He was in receipt of an army pension.

Private 41649, 7/8th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. Killed in action 16 August 1917. Aged 21. Born and resident Otterton, Devon, enlisted Exeter. Son of Albert and Sarah White, of Pitson Farm, Newton Poppleford, Sidmouth, Devon. Formerly 51437, Devonshire Regiment. Buried in DOCHY FARM NEW BRITISH CEMETERY, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. Plot VI. Row D. Grave 30.

His family came from Otterton. His father was Albert Thomas White and his mother Sarah Selina. They were married in 1891 and had three children (one died in infancy). They were farmers first in Otterton and by the time Frank was born 1896, in Newton Poppleford. He had an elder brother Albert who was two years older than him. The house in which Frank was born is Pitson Farm in Northmostown

Both brothers worked with their father on the farm.

Frank decided to enlist in the Army probably as a result of Kitchener’s exhortation “Your Country needs you”. He enlisted at Exeter and as private 52437, he joined “The Devons”. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers suffered severe losses at the beginning of the war and it seems that he was transferred to this regiment. Sadly the losses were to happen again.

The Inniskillings served throughout the war, on The Western front. They were chosen by General Gough to fight in the battle of Passchendaele. This decision “to play the Irish card” was severely criticised by Field Marshal Haig, as it resulted in 50% casualties. Private Frank White No. 41649 was one of these, he was killed in action in Flanders, on 16th August 1917.

Air Mechanic 2nd Class 239512, Royal Air Force. Died 7 February 1919. Aged 35. Son of William and Rosina Retter, husband of Clarissa Retter, of Newton Poppleford. Buried in the middle of the cemetery in NEWTON POPPLEFORD CEMETERY, Devon.

He was a pioneer. All the other casualties who came from Newton Poppleford, served in the Army, but Albert joined the relatively new Royal Naval Air Service. The first powered flight had only been achieved 12 years before.

His father William Retter came from a family that had been associated with the Newton Poppleford for many years. White’s Gazetteer of Devon dated 1878 lists a John Retter as a farmer in Southerton and William Retter (presumably Albert’s father) as a farmer in Burrow. His wife (Albert’s mother) was Rosina; she was born in Newton Poppleford. They had two children, Willie born 1877 and Albert born 1885. In the Census of 1901 William describes himself as a self employed market gardener and Albert has left the village school and become a “domestic labourer”

By the time of the 1911 Census, Albert has married and is living at Occombe Cottage Marldon, near Paignton, and is working as a farm labourer. He is aged 26 and has married Clarrissa (aged 25). They had four children Daisy, born 1912, Bill, Doreen and Jeffery A first child had died in infancy. By the time Albert had joined the R.N.A.S., probably around 1915 he was a market gardener in Newton Poppleford, also the local coal merchant.. He has been traced to the R.N.A.S from a chance comment by his grandson Colin, about him having to deal with float planes. To launch a float plane it was necessary to restrain it until the engine/s were at full efficiency. This was done by ground crew holding ropes until the release signal was given by the pilot. Frequently this required the ground crew to be in the water. Ground aircraft use chocks. Albert died of peumonia, probably caused by repeatedly getting wet, and explains why he died after the war. (See below)

Mr Colin Retter currently lives in The Burrow. and his cousin Jeffery, son of Willy (Bill), in Turner Close.

The R.N.A.S. originated as an air arm of the Navy in much the same way that the Royal Flying Corp did for the Army. These two branches of the services operated through the 1st World War until 1st April 1918 when they were amalgamated to form the Royal Air Force. Thus Albert, Air Mechanic 2nd Class, No. F39512, joined the RNAS but is recorded as a fatal casualty of the RAF as No 239512. He died, on 1st Feb 1919, almost three months after hostilities had ceased.He was aged 35. Where he died has not been traced. It is possible that he was the first of RAF ground crew to die. and the last of the RAF to die in the WW1.

The date of his death gives us a clue as to when the memorial was put in place. There are no church or village records about this but we can fix an approximate date. It can be noted from an examination of the memorial that Albert Retter’s name is not only out of alphabetical order but also squeezed into a small space at the foot of the plaque. From this it can be deduced that the plaque was already carved before Albert died on 1st Feb, his name was then added late. Presumably the cost of the memorial was raised by public subscription and it is to the credit of the then villagers, that the memorial was raised so quickly. In many cases it was quite a long time, even years, before WW1 memorials were erected.

1939 - 1945
John Herbert
Flight Sergeant 657205, 207 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Died 11 June 1943. Aged 24. Son of W. H. and Rose Elliott, of Newton Poppleford, Devon. No known grave. Commemorated on RUNNYMEDE MEMORIAL, Surrey. Panel 136.

When John Elliott joined the RAF, his parents were living at “Sunnyside” in Harpford. His parents were William Herbert Elliott and Rose Elliott. He rose to the rank of Flight Sergeant. From available evidence, it would seem he did not marry. Some records show that he was known as Jack and the second “t” in his surname, is not always used. Consequently, tracing him is not straightforward.

He served in Bomber Command, laterly in Lancasters. His squadron was No 207 (which flew over 6000 sortees) was then based at RAF Langar in Nottinghamshire. His last operational flight was a raid on Dusseldorf, on 11th June 1943. Jack’s Lancaster was shot down over the target with the loss of all the crew. This would suggest that the aircraft either caught fire rapidly or exploded in the air. He did not have the good fortune of his Wing Commander TAB Parselle who, over Dusselforf, was blown through the plastic canopy of his Lancaster, together with his parachute and spent the rest of the war in Stalag Luft 111. This was the Stalag from which the “Great Escape” was made, and from which the prisoners were force marched several hundreds of miles West when this German occupied area was to be overrun by the Russian advancing Army. After the war Parselle resumed his service in RAF, and retired to Spain in 1961.

He was seriously luckier than Jack.

John (Jack) Elliott’s estate probate was registered in Llandudno by Rose Elliott (Jack’s mother). Maybe his dad had died by then. He is however remembered on the Newton Poppleford War memorial and on the list of all those from the village who gave war service in any way.

His estate at the age of 24, was £144.13s 9d (£144.69p).

Anthony John Kendall
Lieutenant 273179, 8th Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, A.A.C. Died 28 March 1945. Aged 21/ Son of Kendall Hacker, and of Joyce Morwenna Hacker, of Sidbury, Devon. Buried in REICHSWALD FOREST WAR CEMETERY, Nordrhein-Westfalen, Germany. Plot 33. Row D. Grave 5.

His family had lived in a house called “Farthings” off School Lane. Hence Farthings Lane (which led to Farthings), and Farthings Close (near to the site of this previous house). By 1943 the Hacker family had moved to Sidbury.

Anthony’s father was Kendall Hacker and his mother Joyce Morwenna Hacker.

Anthony was called up in 1942 at the age of 18 and joined the 8th Battalion (Midland) Parachute Regiment.. The Parachute Reg. have stringent selection processes before they accept anyone; Anthony passed all these and became part of the “ Special Forces”.

He advanced to the rank to Lieutenant during the three years of his service and was selected to take part in “Operation Varsity”. This was to become the largest ever airborne operation in history; known generally as The Rhine Crossing. It was a joint British and American operation involving 16, 000 troops and thousands of aircraft. It took place on 24th March 1945 and was to achieve the capture of significant areas east of The Rhine including the river bridges.

Lieutenant Hacker was involved in the capture of the villages of Schrappenberg and Hamminkeln together with three bridges over the River Issel (a tributary of the Rhine). His Battalion was the first to land. He survived the heavy fighting following the landing and the objectives of the whole operation were achieved within 36 hours.

No. 273179, Lieutenant Anthony Hacker, aged 21, died on 28th March, so it appears that he was killed during “mopping up” operations that occurred in the Issel & Diersforder Forest area, to clear it of remaining enemy troops. He is buried in a service grave in the Reichswald Forest Cemetery.

Anthony Hacker’s death, and that of over a 1000 of his fellow “Para’s”, undoubtedly saved the lives of many thousands of allied and enemy troops who would have died in an opposed crossing of the, very wide, River Rhine.

There is a memorial to him in Saint Luke’s church, Newton Poppleford, and a Close is named after him in the Village. A single poppy is placed on his memorial in the church, every year. His name appears on the Village War memorial, together with the others of the village who died in the two World Wars.

Ernest Frank
Private 5618672, Devonshire Regiment and No. 3 Commando. Son of Herman Henry and Ellen Emily Harding, of Budleigh Salterton, Devon, England. Buried in DIEPPE CANADIAN WAR CEMETERY, HAUTOT-SUR-MER, Seine-Maritime, France. Plot/Row/Section F. Grave 76.

He was known in the village as “Ern”, and by 1939 his father and mother lived in Budleigh Salterton.

In that he was selected to be commemorated on the village War Memorial, we have to assume that he at least worked in Newton Poppleford, prior to his enlistment, at the age of 20, in 1939. Maybe he had attended the village school when he was boy.

He was the son of Herman Henry Harding (whose parents obviously had a fine feeling for alliteration) and Ellen Emily Harding (nee Dusford). He was born in 1919 in Honiton.

Ernest Harding No. 5618672 was drafted to The Devonshire Regiment, as most of the villagers had been, in the 1st World War, only 20 years before. Clearly he decided otherwise and volunteered to be a Commando. There was a stringent selection process, but he passed that and joined the elite No. 3 Commando Unit, all of whom were volunteers. There then followed an intense period of training probably in Scotland at Achnacarry, north of Fort William. He was then selected to take part in the Battle of Dieppe (usually know as The Dieppe Raid). This was to be a mini invasion exercise. The main force was a Canadian infantry division but a small force (probably 50 men) from No. 3 Commando were given the task of eliminating the heavy guns emplacement that guarded the approaches to the port of Dieppe. Their landing craft ran into a German defence convoy on their approach to the target and Ernest’s unit suffered considerable casualties. Just 18 men reached the foot of the cliffs below the emplacement and they scaled the cliffs under fire. By keeping the guns under small- arms fire they prevented them from firing on the approaching Canadian invasion force.

Private Harding was killed in this action on 19th August 1942 and is buried in the Dieppe Canadian War Cemetery; he was 23 years old.

Although this action was costly in both men and equipment, it showed that capturing an enemy-held port was difficult, and impossible to do without causing huge damage to the port facilities and killing or injuring a large number of the local civilians, all of whom we wanted to keep on ‘our side’. Consequently the option of building and floating in the temporary “mulberry harbours” was decided upon.

As a result of the Dieppe Raid experience and Ern Harding’s bravery, probably less British soldiers were lost on the first day of the huge ‘D’ Day invasion, than the total Allied casualty count for the whole of the Dieppe raid.

Edward Collis De Virac
Wing Commander (Pilot) 05102, 82 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Died 13 August 1940. Aged 39. Son of Charles Edmund and Amy Vincent Lart. His brother John Floyer Vincent Lart also fell. Awarded the Distinguished Service order (DSO). Buried in VADUM CEMETERY, Denmark. Collective Grave C.

In 1939 Edward Lart’s parents lived in Harpford, specifically in a house called “Navarah”. His father had served in the 1st World war in the R.A.M.C. and had attained the rank of Captain. Marian Wheeler (neé Radford), currently living in Newton Poppleford, was in service to the Lart family when she was a young girl. She has provided detailed information for this story. Edward’s father was Dr Charles Edmund Lart M.B. and his mother was Amy Vincent Lart (neé Watson).They had two daughters and three sons. Edmund, born 1898, Kathleen (‘José’) born 1999, Edward, born 1902, John, born 1903, Judith, born 1908. John Lart (See below) was the third son. (See below). At the time most of the children were born, the family lived at Knapp Cottage, Lyme Regis. By 1911 Dr Charles Lart appears to have retired. The youngest son, also John Lart, was probably too young to serve in WW2 and was (in 2013) living in the Midlands. He also had followed his father, into becoming a medical doctor and now lives in North Yorkshire (2014). The two daughters were called Joanna and Judith. At the time most of the children were born, the family lived at Knapp Cottage, Lyme Regis. By 1911, Charles Lart appears to have retired although being a Territorial Army Captain he was called up during the 1st World War.

Edward Lart joined the, relatively small, Royal Air Force in the years between the wars, and had risen from Pilot Officer to Wing Commander by 1940. Wing Co. Edward Lart D S O, Commanded 82 Squadron at R A F Watton. He seems to have been awarded the D.S.O. “For meritorious service”

On August 13th 1940 he led a formation of 12 Blenhiem Mark IV’s on a raid on an airfield in Denmark called Aalborg that was being used by the Luftwaffe to raid the northern towns of England. Why did he lead this operation? C.O.’s & Wing Commanders rarely go on “op’s” any more than generals often stand in trenches. It may have been the most disastrous mission for R A F. Bomber Command, in the 2nd World War, and Edward Lart probably foresaw this. Blenhiems were sitting ducks for the Luftwaffe. Of the 12 aircraft that took off, 11 were shot down. Even more sadly the captain of the one surviving aircraft was court marshalled for “dereliction of duty and cowardice in the face of the enemy”. He did not face the charge, as he was killed on a subsequent operation before the case was heard.

19 airmen were killed and 13 wounded and captured. Wing Commander Lart was shot down and killed at 12.23 on 13th Aug over Aalborg, just 2 months after he had been promoted to Wing Commander. Maybe he knew that few, if any would survive, and preferred to face death with his men. The Mark IV Blenhiem was not a successfully designed aircraft and was known to be no match for the Luftwaffe fighter aircraft. Because of the distance involved, they could not be given any fighter cover. The few Blenhiems that remained, were withdrawn from service by 1942. In 1943 Lincoln’s and Lancaster’s became the main bomber aircraft for the RAF, both were very successful aircraft, the Lancaster continuing in service until 1954.

Edward Lart aged 38, is buried in ‘a collective grave’ in Vadum Cemetery in Denmark. He is remembered in the record of all those from RAF Watton who died in the service of their country and on the Newton Poppleford Village War memorial.

John Floyer Vincent
Captain 231988, Royal Army Medical Corps. Died 5 January 1944. Aged 40. Son of Charles Edmund and Amy Vincent Lart. M.B. Buried in CASSINO WAR CEMETERY, Italy. Plot VII. Row F. Grave 18.

John was the younger brother of Edward Lart (see above). Born 1903 he had followed in the steps of his father and become a medical doctor. His father Charles Edmund Lart had served in the first world war (see above) in The Royal Army Medical Corp and attained the rank of Captain. John also joined the RAMC. In Army terms he was quite senior in years and rose to the rank of Captain. His brother Edward had died only months into WW2 so his parents, two sisters and brother, must have spent all the main years of the war fearing that they would have to suffer the same loss as they had with Edward. By the bleak Christmas of 1943 however a probable end to the conflict was at least in sight. Italy had capitulated and Germany saw that it had to defend three fronts from attack, from the West (France), the East (Russia) and from the south, as the Allies had successfully landed in Sicily and moved up the length of Italy.

After the difficulties of the Sicily landings, the advance into Italy was slow but remorseless. The Germans had decided to defend Rome and northern Italy at Monte Cassino. They erected defence lines at the approaches to Cassino called ”The Winter Line“, and “ The Gustav Line “.that included the Monastery which is on a prominent hill top.

Field hospitals were not usually set up too close to points of conflict, particularly when an army is advancing, however it would seem that John Lart’s hospital was either hit by artillery fire or he was killed in some other event. Medical forces are non- combatants, in accordance with The Geneva Convention. As a regimental medical officer John Lart was in close support of the front line and was killed on 5th January 1944, when his regimental aid post was hit by mortar fire in the approaches of Monte Cassino. Medical forces are non-combatants, in accordance with The Geneva Convention.

Captain (and doctor) John Floyer Vincent Lart No. 231988 is buried in the The Cassino War Cemetery, in Grave V11.F.18. He was aged 39. He name appears on the St Thomas’s Hospital (London) War memorial, and on the village memorial in Newton Poppleford.

Maurice Charles
Lance Corporal 14664958, 3rd Royal Tank Regiment, R.A.C. Died 25 September 1944. Aged 29. Son of Arthur George and Elsie A. Lock; husband of Una Jessmee Lock, of Dartmouth, Devon. Buried in OPLOO (ST. ANTHONIS) ROMAN CATHOLIC CHURCHYARD, Noord-Brabant, Netherlands. Grave 3.

Maurice’s birth was recorded in the St Thomas’s district of Exeter, born 1915.

The exact family details that can be revealed about some of those of the village who were born earlier than Maurice are not currently available for him. The 1921 Census is not yet released, and the 1931 never will be. In the early 1940’s a firewatcher discarded a cigarette in the building housing the 1931 census records, and the resulting fire was so severe that it was decided that nothing was recoverable. We have to rely on other information, not always very complete.

Maurice’s parents had moved to Dartmouth in 1939, all we know is that his mother’s

maiden name was Auton In a list of those from the village who were in the forces we can see that Maurice was living in the village. He had married Una Jessie but by the time of his death she had move to 25 Victoria Road, Dartmouth. Maybe that is where her parents (or his) lived.

He had enlisted in the Army and joined the Royal Tank Regiment - Royal Armoured Corps. During his service he was promoted to the rank of Lance Corporal.

For those of The Tank Regiment who were not sent to North Africa, the first part of the war was fairly quiet. Preparations were being made for D. Day and there was a lot of training.

Then on 6th June 1944 his training became real. When he actually landed in Normandy is not available to us but he became part of the push east; eventually to Berlin. The River Rhine had to be crossed and one option was to cross in the Netherlands, but this was not tank-friendly country. Too many waterways. However it had to be tried and an American Armoured division was given the task near the village of Overloon, It had the name of “Operation Aintree” (water jumps??). The significance of the name that was probably “lost” on the Americans !!. It was to be the only tank battle ever fought on Dutch soil. They commenced their attack in early Sept 1944 but after many losses had to be withdrawn from the battle. They were replaced by the 11th Armoured Divn. of the Royal Tank Regiment of which Maurice Lock was a member, probably a driver or a gunner. The Armoured Divn. prevailed but, including the American losses, at a cost the lives of 2, 500 troops. In 2nd WW terms this was a large casualty ratio. Maurice Lock was one of those who died, on 25th Sept 1944. “Aintree“ however; although not the point at which the Rhine was crossed by large forces, hastened the Allied advance to the heart of Germany.

No 14664958 Lance Corporal Maurice Charles Lock died age 29, lies buried in the cemetery of Sint Anthonis, Municipality Noord - Brabant, Netherlands near his crew colleagues and close to where they all fell.

Maurice had been a frugal husband. He had not wasted his pay on beer & cigs. His pay had never been more than (the equivalent of)£1.50 per week. Una Jessie Lock was his Executrix when his will was probated in Exeter: he left her £348 12s 10p. At that time, one could buy a small semi-detached house with large garden, for £350.

Battery Quartermaster Serjeant 1407167, 142 (The Royal North Devon Yeomanry) Field Regt. , Royal Artillery. Died 28 April 1944. Aged 50. Son of Henry John and Emily Page; husband of Eileen Page, of Newton Poppleford. Also served in the 1914-18 war. Buried in NEWTON POPPLEFORD CEMETERY, Devon. Row C. Grave 10.

He was known in the village as Reg, and had served through the First World War. He survived through all of that war, very few did, and continued as a Territorial.

We do know that he had lived in London, the son of Henry John and Emily, and was born in in 1893. He married Eileen and, between the wars, the family moved to live in Oak Tree Villas Newton Poppleford. Seven years later they moved again to 3 Otter View. They had at least one child, a son, David.

Reg was recalled “to the colours” in the regular Army in 1939 at the age of 44. No one born before 1900 was conscripted in the WW2 but Reg was a Territorial. His regiment had become a Territorial Regiment in 1920.

We do know something of what he was doing in his long service career. He enlisted originally in Royal North Devon Yeomanry, probably in 1914 when he was 20 years old. So maybe he was originally a man of Devon. The North Devons were first a mounted regiment. They quickly became an artillery regiment (think horses) and many of the images associated with the book/play War Horse, could be imagined as part of Reg’s life in the First World War. In 1915 the North Devons were briefly centred at Woodbury. Previously they had been at Barnstable. Is it possible that it was from here at Woodbury, that he met Eileen who is recorded as “from Newton Poppleford” ?

He was among the few who survived through all of that “Great”war, , and continued as a Territorial between the wars. During this time he progressed up the ranks and became Battery Quarter Master Sergeant. Anyone who has had to deal with a “stores” person will now understand that Sergeant Reg. Page had become a man to be reckoned with.

Quartermaster Sergeant is a senior NCO rank. A Regimental Q.M.S. has the equivalent rank of a Captain. In a Territorial unit, Battery Q.M.S. is probably as senior as an NCO can go. He certainly ‘outranked’ a lot of the Commissioned Officers.

In the Second World War, he had probably served in the North African campaign and it seems that then his regiment was part of the invasion of Sicily.

Sicily was an invasion that started well but stalled. The Germans contained the Allied landing force for some time and many casualties resulted.

Reg’s resting place; “Quartermaster Sergeant No. 1407167” is commemorated as “British”, maybe he was repatriated and then died, but we really do not know. At the age of 49 it makes him the oldest of the Village casualties. His probate record shows that on his death, on 28th April 1944, he left £682 2s 2p to his wife Eileen; a considerable sum in 1944.

His collection of medals WW1 & WW2 is very impressive, and is evidence that he fought in defence of this country for as much, and as long as anyone could.

Albert George
Sergeant (Air Gunner) 913891, Wellington No. X HZ262, Royal Air Force Volunteer Reserve. Died 22 July 1944. Aged 26. Son of Charles Eli and Louisa Ann Pring, of Newton Poppleford. Buried in NEWTON POPPLEFORD CEMETERY, Devon. Row C. Grave 18. Further details of the aircraft are on a separate page.

The Pring family; Mrs Harrison nee Roberts, the village organist, who had lost her brother Frank in the First World War; and Reg Page (see previous story) with his family, all lived next to each other in Oak Tree Villas. He is no relation to Alfred Thomas Pring who died in the First World War (see above).

Albert’s father, Charles Eli Pring was a farm labourer and his mother was Louisa Ann (nee Stone). They married in 1903. Albert was one of a large family, he had four brothers and two sisters.

As we have seen Reg. Page was a ‘lifetime Territorial’; Albert was not outdone. He was a member of the RAF Volunteer Reserve. They must have had a few interesting chats together, from time to time. He worked as a waiter at the Knowle Hotel, now Head Offices of E.E.D.C.

The RAF V.R. was formed in 1936 when it became increasingly clear that Germany was re-arming and it could be necessary for this country to raise quickly, a force of individuals experienced in the aircrew skills, to supplement the Auxiliary Air Force that had been formed in 1925. It was organised in the same way as The Territorial Army. Recruitment was highly selective, and confined to men between the age of 18 and 25. Most who joined received training as Pilots, Observers and Wireless Operators. Some who had other skills were trained in equipment and aircraft maintenance. By 1939 the RAFVR consisted of 6646 Pilots, 1625 Observers (later know as Navigators), 1,949 Wireless Operators, plus a relatively small number of other trades. Bert was one of these.

When he was called to the colours he had the rank of AC 2 (Aircraftsman 2nd Class) and was an Equipment Assistant. In early 1940 he completed a Engineering Equipment course at Cranwell and was promoted to LAC (Leading Aircraftsman).

Quite shortly after this it seems he had the opportunity to volunteer for Aircrew duty, a hope that he had probably nurtured when he first joined the RAFVR.

He was transferred to No 65 Squadron as a u/t AG (Air Gunner under training). It appears that he qualified as an AG and then requested to train as a pilot. At this point he received the posting that every aircrew volunteer hoped for, he was sent to Takoradi Station in South Africa. This station had been set up specifically to train Spitfire and Hurricane pilots. He was flown there in December 1941.

Although he stayed there until late 1943 he did not qualify as a pilot and returned to this country as an AG and served in Air-Gunnery schools until May 1944. He was they posted to RAF Lossiemouth and formed part of a crew prospectively flying Lancasters. Sadly here, his hitherto, ’good luck’ ran out.

During an “affiliation flight” from Lossiemouth on 22nd July 1944 his Wellington HZ 262 suffered a catastrophic airframe failure at 2500 feet, losing one wing and crashing into the sea half a mile off Lossiemouth, with the loss of all the crew. No further details have been released by the RAF.

Given that the Wellington was considered as probably the strongest aircraft of it’s type at the time, this is a strange accident. An “affiliation flight” is to test and exercise all the skills of all the crew prior to live operations, and it is my theory (and only mine) that the pilot was practicing “corkscrewing”. This is a violent manoeuvre involving climbing and diving alternately to left and right to avoid a pursuing fighter. It puts the aircraft under significant stress. Maybe the pilot overdid it, with the resulting airframe failure.

Sergeant Albert Pring No 913891 is included, with the other eight men of the village who died in WW2, on the Newton Poppleford Village War Memorial.

Sergeant (Flight Engineer) 570035, 76 Squadron, Royal Air Force. Died 24 June 1941. Buried in BECKLINGEN WAR CEMETERY, Niedersachsen, Germany. Plot 12. Row F. Joint grave 4-5.

Alan was enlisted in the RAF very soon after war was declared in Sept 1939. He was born in 1921 and was therefore exactly the age from which the first conscripts would be chosen. He had attended the Village school and moved from there to Kings School Ottery St Mary. He was a member of St Luke’s Church choir which was led then and for many more years by Mrs Harrison (nee Roberts). F S Roberts’ name appears above Alan’s on the King’s School Memorial Board.

An examination of those previously referred to in these stories of the Village’s war casualties will show that most of them were either regular servicemen, territorials or volunteers for special duties. Alan continued this pattern, joined the RAF and volunteered to fly. Following the usual intensive training he qualified as an Engineer, General Duties. “General duties” is the rather quaint description that the RAF gives to personnel who are more commonly described as ’aircrew’. He probably wanted to be a pilot but it is a fact that if one doesn’t achieve pilot selection, the position of engineer is usually offered. Engineer is rarely a first choice but is accepted as a good second. In practice, the engineer often gets to do a bit of piloting anyway when the pilot needs a rest -- or for whatever other reason. Everyone has to pay a visit to the flare shute from time to time!!

It is the Engineer’s job to understand how every mechanical part of the aircraft works; the airframe structure, all the electrics, and then, all the armaments. He was frequently also the bomb-aimer.

Alan passed all his aircrew exams was promoted to the rank of Sergeant and was posted to 76 Squadron at Linton-on-Ouse, and thereafter to Middleton St. George. If the number and station name seems familiar this is probably because by 1942, No. 76 squadron was being led by Squadron Leader (later Wing Commander) Leonard Cheshire.

Alan’s father Aaron was a Norfolk man as were many generations of his family before him. He had been born in the village of Poringland, Norfolk in 1882. He is recorded as being an Army pensioner and from his date of birth it is certain that he served in the First World War. Alan’s mother Louisa (nee Farley) was born in Dawlish in 1886. More than 250 slow miles lie between these two places of birth. How does a Norfolk man meet a Devonian girl? The truth has been explained by Alan’s sister Jean, who lived her life in Newton Poppleford. Louisa was a resourceful girl and managed to get a position as a domestic servant in the Royal Palace of Hampton Court. Amongst the numerous staff at the palace was a gardener from Poringland, Norfolk; they met, and married. The record shows that they married on 8th April 1915 in Newton Poppleford Church so it appears that by then, Louisa’s parents had moved to this village. They had five children; Bessie Ellen, born 1916, Mary Louise, born 1918. Vera and then Alan born 1921, followed by Jean who subsequently married, and became Jean Ashmead. In 2013 she is currently living in Budleigh Salterton. Vera was employed during the War at Bletchley Park as a “code buster”. She met and married a G.I., became Vera Langlois and moved to America in 1946.

After “aircrew training” and flying Hampdens, Alan did a ‘conversion course’, to fly Halifax bombers, His next operational posting was to Linton-on-Ouse then after a month, to Middleton St. George. His first operation from ’Middleton’ was probably on the night of 12th/13th June 1941. Just 10 days later he and his crew, flying a 9 Mark 1 Halifax No. L9492 were part of a mission to bomb the major naval base and ship-building port of Keil, Germany. His aircraft was shot down and he was killed over Buxtehinde at 23.09 hours on 23rd June 1941. One member of the crew survived. This survivor visited Aaron, Louisa and their family in 1946 to tell them of his friendship with Alan and about their life together in the RAF.

Sergeant A.Turner, lies near his fellow crew members, in a service grave in Becklingen war cemetery which is located on Luneberg Heath. Alan would probably wryly observe, that at least he was in the right place to oversee the unconditional surrender of the German forces, which took place on Luneberg Heath on 4th May 1945.

He is commemorated on the Village War Memorial and on the Memorial Board at King’s School, Ottery St Mary

Last updated 8 July, 2021

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