Lest We Forget…

Lest we forget…

On Monday 4 Aug 2014, at 6pm, the parish dedicated four oak trees in memory of the four men who made the ultimate sacrifice in the First World War. The ceremony took place  at the new church graveyard and parking area, at St Bartholomew Church  –  see photos

The War Memorial at Mount commemorates those who fought for their King and Country in the First World War and, in particular, those three brave souls who laid down their lives for our freedom – Claude Chapman, Thomas Henry Knight and Thomas Henry May…

So question:  Why did we plant four oak trees, when just three men are named on the stone? (see picture)  

The answer: The three men commemorated on the War Memorial at the cross roads (and whose lives are described below) were all men born in the parish.  The fourth man, Samuel Percival Trounson was, we think, the nephew of the Rector’s wife at the time and lived in the Rectory at Warleggan.  His name is on the church organ which is also a War Memorial and that incumbent, Revd Leggo, was instrumental in collecting the parish for this organ.  That is the only explanation that seems plausible.  Incidentally, if you count the number of names on the organ Memorial there are more than on the stone Memorial.  Just another Warleggan parish anomaly!! 

Claude Chapman was only 19 when he died in what is now Iraq on 8th May 1916 and is buried in the Amara War Cemetery.  The son of Thomas and Bertha Chapman he was born at Crossways just across the road from the Memorial on which he is remembered.  Claude was only 17 at the start of the Great War and he joined the 1st/4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment who in October 1914 sailed for India.

Germany had for many years before the war assiduously developed Turkey as an ally. The Turkish army was led by German ‘advisors’, as was much of its trade and commerce. Although this campaign began simply to secure oil supplies for the Royal Navy, victory over the Turks became believed by some – notably David Lloyd George and Winston Churchill – to be a less costly way towards defeat of Germany than the painful battering at the Western Front. Pushed by Germany – which also tried to encourage a Jihad (Muslim Holy War) against the British forces – Turkey was to strongly resist the British incursion

Britain relied heavily on oil to keep its dominant navy at sea. It determined very quickly on the outbreak of the war with Germany to protect its interests by occupying the oilfields and pipeline near Basra in November 1914.  The forces fighting in Mesopotamia were principally of the Indian Army with only a few British formations.

In March 1915 the Hampshire Regiment landed at Basra with the 33rd Indian Brigade. 1915 saw some tactical moves by the British to seize important areas beyond Basra.  Eyes increasingly fell on the lure of the Mesopotamian capital, Baghdad. But the Turks defended their territory with great fervour and despite some early successes the British and Indian Forces had to retreat to Kut-al-Amara south of Baghdad where the garrison surrendered on 29 April 1916.  It was probably during this engagement that Claude Chapman was wounded and died the following week at Amara which was the hospital centre.

Lessons were learned. Following the fall of Kut, the British ordered Major-General Stanley Maude to take command of the British army in Mesopotamia. He introduced new methods, which culminated in a decisive defeat of the Turks in February 1917 and the capture of Baghdad in March 1917 and German schemes for Turkey were finished.

The conditions in Mesopotamia which Claude had to endure defy description. Extremes of temperature (120 degrees F was common); arid desert and regular flooding; flies, mosquitoes and other vermin: all led to appalling levels of sickness and death through disease. Medical arrangements were quite shocking, with wounded men spending up to two weeks on boats before reaching any kind of hospital. These factors, plus of course the unexpectedly determined Turkish resistance, contributed to high casualty rates in the Mesopotamia engagements : 11,012 killed, 3,985 died of wounds, 12,678 died of sickness, 13,492 missing and prisoners (9,000 at Kut) and 51,836 wounded.

Tommy Knight, as seen in a locket

Thomas Henry Knight was born at Pantersbridge on 24th April 1888, the second son of William Peter Knight and his wife Mary.  On 9th September 1888 the four month old boy was wrapped up in a fine shawl and baptised at Mount Bible Christian Chapel.  At that time Peter Knight was working as a labourer but by 1893 the family were living at Mount Post Office just behind the War Memorial.

We believe Tommy (as he became known) at the age of 14 started work with a road gang repairing the local roads.  He certainly became renowned as something of a poacher in the neighbourhood and kept the family well supplied with rabbits and game.

However, that work was interrupted by the Great War and shortly after the outbreak of War Tommy enlisted at Bodmin into the Royal 1st Devon Yeomanry and was transferred to the 9th Battalion Devonshire Regiment who embarked for France in July 1915.

The Devonshire Regiment’s Diaries record the events of that fateful month of October 1917 during what became known as the Third Battle of Ypres and the struggle for Passchendale.  An attack astride the Menin Road was needed to prevent the Germans thinning that sector to mass troops further north.  The attack was fixed for 5.40 a.m. on October 26th.  By 9 p.m. on October 25th all were in position.  From 4.30 a.m. on 26th the German shelling increased and so, too, did the rain.   Outside a trench it was impossible to live; inside a trench it was almost impossible to move.

At 5.40 a.m. the 9th started forward but almost at once came under an intense line of rifle and machine gun fire.  Tommy Knight was one of the 143 of his Regiment killed on Friday 26th October 1917 at Polygon Wood, near Gheluvelt, Belgium, where also 151 of the Battalion were wounded, in an action where only one officer survived unscathed.

After the battle was over, General Haig’s Chief of Staff visited the front and seeing the endless pools of mud and slime, overlaid with the torn and twisted debris of war, he is said to have burst into tears and cried “Good God, did we really send men to fight in that?”.

Tommy is commemorated on a panel of the Tyne Cot Cemetery in Flanders, Belgium – the largest British War Cemetery in the world.   At Tyne Cot there are 11,871 marked graves and on the wall at the back of the cemetery are the names of almost 35,000 soldiers (including Tommy) who have no known grave and who fell in the Ypres Salient from August 1917 to the end of the War.

Thomas Henry May was born in 1892 the son of William John May and his wife Elizabeth who farmed at Sina about half mile out the road from Mount past the Chapel and take the right turn at the crossroads.  As well as his work on the farm at Sina, William was a blacksmith to provide an income to raise their family of 9 children.    Elizabeth’s home was Devonport and with this background it was probably not unusual for William their eldest son to join the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war but somewhat unusual at that time for Tom (their third child) to become Stoker 1st Class on submarine E37.

This was early days for the submarines but the E-class diesel-driven submarines did outstanding work during the First World War.  56 E Class submarines were built between 1911 and 1917 but more than half their number were lost.  Fairfield Govan began work on constructing E37 on the Clyde in December 1914 and she was completed in March 1916. However, only 9 months later on 1st December 1916 she was lost in the North Sea off Harwich, probably mined, and the crew of 30 perished.

Tom May was 24 when he died and is commemorated on the impressive Naval Memorial on Plymouth Hoe.


More stories from the past…


COMMENTS - write your comment here

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

%d bloggers like this: