Sunday, 13 November 2016

Remembering the fallen of the First World War

Thousands of people attended the recent Remembrance Day commemorations across Cornwall and I was honoured to be able to lay a wreath at my local war memorial in St Enoder Churchtown (above).

It is right that we remember the dead from all conflicts but, as we continue to mark the centenary of the First World War, it is especially important that we learn more about the war which engulfed the globe between 1914 and 1918 and led to the tragic deaths of millions, leaving no community untouched.

2016 is particularly poignant as it marks the one-hundred-year anniversary of the Battle of the Somme, one of the bloodiest battles of the whole conflict, which took place between 1st July and 18th November 1916. Forever etched on the consciousness of a continent, it also marked an intensification of the Great War and a resultant rise in the number of casualties.

In my home area of Fraddon, Indian Queens, St Columb Road and Summercourt, some sixty men, mostly clay workers and farm labourers, did not return home from WW1.

Thirteen lost their lives in 1916. Six of these men were killed in action on the Western Front, with Frederick Langdon (Fraddon), Henry Francis Osborne (Penhale) and John Thomas Andrew (Trevarren) buried alongside thousands of their comrades in France and Belgium. No known grave survives for the other three: George Bullock (St Columb Road), Basil Henry Gregor (Fraddon) and William Nicholls (Retew), and they are remembered on the Thiepval Memorial. A colossal structure, it includes the names of over 72,000 British and Commonwealth soldiers who died in the Somme sector.

According to his “medal card” a seventh soldier, Samuel John May (Fraddon) succumbed to an unnamed disease contracted when on active service in France. Having returned to the UK, he passed away and is buried in his home parish in the churchtown at St Enoder.

By 1916, the conflict was increasingly global with diseases, including malaria, also taking a terrible toll.

Two local men from the Summercourt area, Arthur Carhart and Samuel Gill, died in India, while Arthur Randolph Kendall (Fraddon) and Walter Vincent Trenerry (Summercourt) died in Iraq. Arthur Kendall was a prisoner at the time of his death. Harry Osborn, a former resident of St Enoder Parish, who had lived in South Africa for many years, also died from malaria and is buried in Tanzania (formerly known as German East Africa).

Closer to home, Philip Charles Rundle (Indian Queens) died whilst based at the HMS Vivid training unit at Devonport. He was aged only 17 and the cause of death was recorded as pneumonia. He is buried in Bodmin, close to where his parents were living in 1916.

Each year, as the names of the fallen are remembered, it is important that we task ourselves to discover much more about who these men were, what they did in their lives, what happened to them, and the consequences of their deaths for their families and friends.

[This will be my article in this week’s Cornish Guardian].

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