We have started to give lectures on the project in order to bring to local history groups more detail on the project and its outcomes. Last week we had an enjoyable evening speaking to the Neroche History Group who made us very welcome. More lectures are planned in Devon and Somerset.

Neroche History Group

 

After formally submitting our data to the Somerset Historic Environment Record we have noticed that their official database is starting to reflect the information we have provided. Records we know that have been updated are

War Memorial, Corfe, PRN18183
Church of St Nicholas and churchyard, Corfe, PRN43199
Church of St Peter & St Paul, Churchstanton, PRN34180

The record for the Church of St Nicholas has been updated to include the beautiful interior tapestry remembering local men who fought in the First World War (See below). The result of this new information being added to the HER database is greater visibility should they become involved in any development works, thus strengthening of their preservation. It will also help historical researchers. We are in the process of submitting our data to Devon HER and the Imperial War Museum, watch here for updates.

First World War memorial tapestry, Corfe church of St Nicholas

First World War memorial tapestry, Corfe church of St Nicholas

One of the advantages of using a Geographic Information System to map entities like war memorials is that you can create maps based on any particular criteria stored in the database. This gives us the ability to ask certain questions of the data in order to answer specific questions.

A question that could be asked of the Blackdown Hills War Memorials Project is “What regiments are mentioned on the memorials, and what does this tell us about local recruitment?”
A way to approach this is to map mentions of the main local regiments to see if any patterns emerge. The prominent local regiments were the Devonshire Regiment and the Somerset Light Infantry, as well as the Yeomanry of West and North Somerset, below combined with the SLI for ease of use.

If we map the mentions of The Devonshire Regiment then we see that they all occur on the Devon side of the county border:

BHWMP_reg_logos_devon

The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention The Devonshire Regiment (represented by the regimental badge). Devon – Somerset border shown as dotted green line.

If we map the mentions of The Somerset Light Infantry (and associated Yeomanry Groups) we can see that they occur all over the AONB:

The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention the Somerset Light Infantry or associated yeomanry regiments (represented by the regimental badge). The Devon-Somerset border is show as a dotted green line.

The locations of war memorials in the AONB that mention the Somerset Light Infantry or associated yeomanry regiments (represented by the regimental badge). The Devon-Somerset border is show as a dotted green line.

From these results it can be seen that the recruitment into the Devonshire Regiment appears to respect county lines. By contrast men serving in the Somerset regiments were from all over the AONB.

A massive drive was made in 1914 to recruit as many men into the ‘New Armies’ as possible. Recruitment centres were set up and men came from miles around to sign up – many expected to be home by Christmas. The main centre for recruitment into the Somerset Light Infantry was in Taunton, about 10 miles north of the AONB. The SLI expanded massively, from having two Battallions and one Reserve in early 1914 to eight Battallions on active duty by the end of the same year. The Devonshire regiments along with their respective Yeomanry forces did the same, also expanding exponentially, with their focus on Plymouth and Exeter to the south.

Recruitment into the Forces (the Army in this case) was simple enough, but the internal workings and needs of different regiments once you were in was entirely different. Although a man might initially sign on with the Devonshire Regiment there was no fixed guarantee that that man would stay within that regiment. In Broadhembury for example there are two officers who died whilst serving in the West Kent Regt., despite having signed up in Devon. These men were officers, and were most likely moved to fill a gap in officer numbers sometime during the war, possibly after deployment to the front.

Privates and NCOs were reallocated much less often, but when they were it was usually according to individual skillsets. We must keep in mind that the men that signed up in 1914 were not unemployed previously. Many of them came from working class but skilled families of blacksmiths, farriers, carpenters, or mechanics. These were all very highly sought after proffessions and men were moved from regiment to regiment to replace any gaps which occurred. If this was the case on the Blackdowns any movement of men may well have occurred before troop deployment; for example if the Devons had 13 Carpenters and the SLI only had 5, some balancing of books might take place. This would enable any specific skillsets to move from the Devonshire Regiment to the next closest, the Somerset Light Infantry.

The recruiting process was simple, but the intentions of the human mind are not. Many men signed up with the regiments they held closest to their hearts; perhaps a relative had served with a certain regiment previously; perhaps historic greviences within the family meant a mind was swayed; maybe the distinction of Light Infantry was appealing? Researching individuals was not part of this Project’s remit; we cannot tell if someone in Broadhembury identified more with Somerset than Devon; we cannot tell if that person commuted that way and so signed up in Taunton; but what we have done is present the information that we know in a clear, accessible form that everyone might use to answer these and other questions.

NB: It should be noted that not all memorials mention the regiment of the soldiers. These maps were made using the available evidence and this is assumed for the purposes of illustration to be representative of the true situation. It should also be noted that the data includes names listed on rolls of honour, a subset of the whom were lost in battle.

The project leaflet has just been published, featuring a map of all the war memorials in the Blackdown Hills AONB. It spotlights some of the more distinctive examples, and contains links to related resources for further exploration of the subject. Copies of the leaflet have been distributed to local museums: Allhallows Museum Honiton, Museum of Somerset Taunton, Wellington Museum. We have a number of spare copies, you may apply for these via the email address:  blackdownmemorials@gmail.com

You can access an electronic version (PDF) from the sidebar on the right of the page or by clicking HERE. JPG images of the pages can also be clicked on:

Leaflet 1 THUMB

Leaflet 2 THUMB

Thank you to everybody who contributed to the publication, which we hope will raise awareness and promote preservation. Watch this blog for further postings on the war memorials of the Blackdown Hills.

The fieldwork phase of the project is now complete. The final set of memorials to be recorded were those around RAF Upottery. On the day we met up with Robin Gilbert of the South West Airfields Heritage Trust who told us the story behind the Moonhayes sentry-box memorial and gave us a tour of the new heritage centre at Cherry Farm. The very last memorial to be recorded was that housed at the Smeatharpe Village Hall, where we were kindly given access by parish councillor and hall administrator John Cornish.

The BHWMP team with Robin Gilbert of SWAHT.

The Smeatharpe Village Hall Great War Memorial. L-R Andrew Read (BHWMP), Steve Trick (BHWMP), Robin Gilbert (South West Airfields Heritage Trust). Photo: John Cornish.

The project publication, a map of all memorials in the Blackdown Hills is currently with the printers and will subsequently be distributed to local museums. An electronic version will appear on this blog at the same time. Work now begins on the legacy phase of the project where we formally share our database with various organisations, and conduct further outreach in the form of talks to local history groups, and write-ups for local history society newsletters.

Please continue to check this blog for the publication of the project leaflet and further maps, statistics and observations of the 50 memorials catalogued.

The South West Airfields Heritage Trust website can be found here.

As with any academic project it has become necessary for us to impose some restrictions on what we can class as a War Memorial. This has led us to use the following definition:

A War Memorial is any commemorative object which is dedicated to either individuals or groups, named or unnamed, who have died in battle or as a direct result thereof.

Under this definition we have weeded out a few niggles and avoided having to look around whole graveyards for a general who died having choked on a larger than average potato at his 78th birthday party. The definition also means that we miss out a few important places in the survey, as they cannot be classed as war memorials, but Monuments.

English: A daguerreotype portrait of the aged ...

A daguerreotype portrait of the aged Arthur Wellesley, 1st Duke of Wellington taken in 1844.

The most famous of these monuments on the Blackdown Hills is The Wellington Monument. Dedicated to the memory of  (debatably) the most famous man in 19th century British warfare, the Wellington monument is exactly that: a Monument. The Duke of Wellington served all over the world throughout his career, especially in India, Spain and most famously at Waterloo in 1815. He was also lucky enough to survive the experience, come back, become prime minister and die at the ripe old age of 83. The people of Wellington, rightly being proud of their namesake, errected a 53m (175ft) high obelisk to him, but under this definition it is not a war memorial.

One of the reasons this project is important is because it records the names of those who died in conflict, most of whom remain unknown to any and all passers by. There are authorities on everyday subjects, but very few authorities on everyday people. Whilst it is not the aim of this project to research the lives of the people who are named on the memorials, it is one of our aims to enable people today to have access to information about those everyday working men who died in the conflicts of yesteryear. We hope that this project will lead in to other projects and that the data we collect will inspire and enable others to research relations listed on Blackdown Hills memorials.

Fieldwork is now finished, and by the end of September we hope to release an information leaflet to parishes on the Blackdowns and any interested Museums in the area. We are also working on a website to host all the data we have gathered and to give you further information about any follow-up projects we may undertake in the future. Watch this space!

53m tall, shaped like a bayonet, one of Britain's finest Monuments.

53m tall, shaped like a bayonet, one of Britain’s finest Monuments.

Amidst the concerns regarding the protection and perpetuity of war memorials in the UK, there are bodies dedicated to their maintenance and longevity. The War Memorials Trust distributes grants for the upkeep of memorials, administering monies provided by English Heritage and the Wolfson Foundation. These are small grants up to £2,500 or large grants up to £30,000. To date they have helped maintain hundreds of memorials around the UK.

A memorial in the Blackdown Hills has been fortunate to receive money from this scheme. In 2010 parishioners in Membury applied for a small grant to repair their village memorial which had suffered severe frost damage to the steps. They were successful and received a grant of £1,380 which funded repairs to the steps using the local Tolcis stone.

Membury War Memorial

Membury War Memorial

You can read the full story in the Grants Showcase section of the War Memorials Trust website here:

http://www.warmemorials.org/search-grants/?gID=788

If you are concerned about a local memorial then you might want to consider applying to the Trust for help. You can read more about the range of grants they offer here:

http://www.warmemorials.org/grants/

As part of our survey we record the condition of the memorials we catalogue. Encouragingly most of those so far encountered are in a good condition, especially the interior ones as to be expected. There are a few exterior ones however that are becoming very weathered and we will be forwarding a list of those most in need of attention to the War Memorials Trust.

Thank you to Ms Robson and Mr Tennant who told us about the works at Membury memorial.