Devon Remembers

Devon Remembers logo

To Commemorate the Centenary of the First World War


Devon County Council has teamed up with a range of partner organisations, including the Royal British Legion, Exeter City Council, Torbay Council, 43 Wessex Brigade, Royal Navy, Exeter University, Devon Museums Group, Devon Arts in Schools Initiative, Devon Adult & Community Learning, trade union groups and local history societies, to instigate, support and co-ordinate community projects across Devon & Torbay commemorating the centenary of the First World War.

Project launchProject launch

Project Launch Event at Devon Heritage Centre, February 2013

Aims of our Devon Remembers Project

Our project is called ‘Devon Remembers’, and through it we aim to:

  • Recognise and pay tribute to the sacrifice and contribution that the people of Devon made during and after World War One
  • Bring communities together to discover stories about their past and forge new relationships for the future
  • Create a legacy collection of images, objects and documents contributing to the national archive
  • Help the younger generation to find out about and understand the experiences of the conflict and the impact that it had on their community
  • Assist communities to help themselves by signposting resources and funding opportunities available to them

782M6699G-H-Z6Ide war memorial

Support for community war memorials

The central focus of the Devon Remembers project is on public war memorials. Devon County Council is making available £150,000 from the Investing in Devon fund to support communities to restore, renovate and maintain war memorials across Devon. The grant fund will be administered by the Community Council of Devon on behalf of the County Council. A similar scheme is in operation in Torbay.

More than 11,000 men and women from Devon died in the First World War, and there were around 2,000 war memorials set up in local communities, as well as by schools, clubs, churches and even businesses.

While many memorials survive and are well maintained, many have fallen into disrepair and lie largely unnoticed.

The Devon Remembers project will bring the county’s legacy of war memorials and those they commemorate back to prominence and re-position them at the heart of their communities.

As of March 2014, fourteen applications for money to restore local war memorials have been received and approved, and it has been agreed to lower the minimum grant sum to less than £750 so that small scale projects can now take part.

Heritage Lottery Fund support for project

In 2013, the Devon County Council submitted a bid to the Heritage Lottery Fund to support up to 50 individual community projects conduct intergenerational and interpretative projects exploring the stories behind the names recorded on their war memorials and, in some case, the names that are missing from memorials. The bid was successful, and Devon County Council’s Heritage Service received a First Round development grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund for this strand of the Devon Remembers project.

In March 2014, Emma Waldron was appointed to the post of Project Development Officer to carry out the necessary work. She is working two days a week on the project until mid- September 2014. Much of her time has so far been spent talking to local history groups to identify projects that could be supported by us as part of the project.

Emma has been in discussions with around 90 community groups and individuals since she started work in March, and is now firming up plans for research projects that might be supported by our project if we are successful with a Round Two application. She is attending the Devon Museums Group meeting at Castle Drogo on 14 May, to update the group on the Devon Remembers project.

All of this is allowing us to engage with Devon’s communities about the huge range of Centenary activity being planned over the next four years, identify the projects the Council is able to support and plan the infrastructure to capture all the information we wish to collect for the benefit of future generations.

The aim of this element of the Devon Remembers project is therefore to stimulate wider engagement from schools, residential homes, local history groups and services organisations in exploring the heritage and stories inspired by memorials and investigating the legacy of the conflict on their communities. This will encourage research and the accumulation of a legacy collection contributing to an online digital archive, exhibitions, publications and artistic productions, all of which will be presented at a grand event to mark the conclusion of the centenary.

This part of the Devon Remembers project will run for four years and is led by us at Devon Heritage Services. Planned outcomes include:

  • Improving access to private and public library and archive objects, books, documents and artefacts
  • Creation of a legacy collection of physical and digital material
  • Capturing stories, memories, photographs, research and events data on a project website
  • At least 50 public engagement events held in communities, including ‘roadshows’ with digitisation opportunities and talks by experts
  • Submission of Devon information to national databases
  • Commissioning a major exhibition with touring versions
  • Commissioning community drama, creative writing, visual art and music productions
  • Production of attractive publications on First World War heritage
  • Signposting to resources and funding opportunities available in Devon and elsewhere
  • Promoting and publicising events through an online events calendar

Guide to researching World War I sources

The Heritage Service will offer signposts to resources available both within Devon and further afield and provide practical assistance with research.

During a month’s volunteering at Devon Heritage Centre, university student Roisin Hannon produced a research guide to First World War resources held here and by other organisations, and to resources available online. She also compiled a database of WW1 references held by the Devon Heritage Centre, which expands on the information provided by the subject index cards in the searchroom.

Devon Arts in Schools Initiative (DAISI) project

A separate bid has been made to the Heritage Lottery Fund’s Young Roots funding stream, submitted by the Devon Arts in Schools Initiative (DAISI). This project will be led by young people from a small number of selected groups with diverse characteristics and will involve the production of creative outputs through working with skilled practitioners in a variety of art forms inspired by the First World War.

1516M add fLaunch event displayE C Rayner 1896-1932

Getting Involved  

The Devon Remembers project will offer numerous opportunities for people of all ages and backgrounds to get involved, either through volunteering, sharing memories, records or artefacts, or through participating in a wide range of activities and events, both on-site and in the community.

Activities will include talks, open days, object handling, diary/poetry readings, research guidance, creative workshops and drop-in sessions for people to bring in items for inclusion in a community archive.

Planned creative productions include working with professional practitioners on creative writing, visual art, music and drama projects, all of which will be showcased on the website, in the exhibitions and at the event at the conclusion of the project in 2018.

Many people have records relating to World War One, such as photographs and letters, as well as stories which have been passed down through the generations.  People will be encouraged to upload these to an online community archive, which will capture the unique and personal experiences of the people of Devon, and help to create a lasting legacy collection and deeper understanding of the conflict and its impact across the county.

If you would like further information on the Devon Remembers project, see the official Devon Remembers: First World War 1914-1918 webpage.  If you  would like to volunteer your time or expertise, or have any suggestions or comments for the project team, please contact the project mailbox at  You can also contact Devon Heritage Centre at .

Devon Heritage Centre activities

Tim Wormleighton, Heritage Services Manager, gave a briefing on the Devon Remembers project to the Place Scrutiny Committee meeting held at the South West Highways Headquarters at Rockbeare on 14 March, 2014. It seems to be well supported by members. He pointed out that there is now more material and resources available on the official Devon Remembers Project website and all members have been sent information about the project.

Devon Heritage Centre held an awareness event for Royal British Legion volunteers on 31 March 2014, which was very well attended.  The Royal British Legion is running a project to link with schools and other community groups interested in researching the lives of local soldiers, data from which will contribute to the Devon Remembers project.

The volunteers received a tour of the ground floor strong rooms, viewed a selection of original documents and were given an overview of online resources for research into the First World War.

During June 2014, Project Development Officer Emma Waldron continued her work liaising with community groups undertaking research into soldiers’ lives and the impact of the conflict in Devon. She hosted meetings at the Devon Heritage Centre for representatives of local history groups, in connection with their World War I projects.

She is now starting to work up a detailed activity plan as required by the Heritage Lottery Fund, for our second round funding application.   Leaflets, posters and pull-up banners have been  produced to promote the Devon Remembers project, and these are on display in the Devon Heritage Centre, Devon County Hall and libraries, among other locations.    

Planning for various events over the summer is continuing, and a Devon History Forum First World War event is planned, to be held at the Devon Heritage Centre on 8 September, 2014. This event will focus on research advice and will include a number of presentations and case studies on various aspects of that theme.

Tim Wormleighton, Heritage Services Manager, attended the annual exhibition of military vehicles, equipment and photographs mounted by the North Devon Veterans Association in Bideford on 28 June, 2014, and promoted our project.

Irene Andrews, Access and Service Development Manager, and Deborah Phillips, Senior Conservator, attended a performance of ‘For King and Country!’ at the National Trust property Killerton House on Friday 13 June, 2014. It was performed by schoolchildren, done with gusto and some skill, describing the effects of the war on the house, family and staff. The organisers were very glad that our staff attended and mentioned the Devon Heritage Centre in their announcements.

On Saturday 26 July 2014, Irene Andrews and Emma Waldron will be attending the Mid Devon Show at Halberton, near Tiverton. The central focus of our presentation there will be the Devon Remembers project.

First World War 100 - the National Archives programme

The National Archives hold the official UK government records of the First World War, including a vast collection of letters, diaries, maps and photographs.   To mark the centenary of the war the National Archives are running First World War 100 , an extensive programme of activities and events, spanning a five-year period between 2014 and 2019. For full details of these and the rest of the programme visit their First World War 100 webpage to see all of their First World War records, including advice on how to carry out your research.

Operation War Diary – a National Archives Project

The unit war diaries (record series WO 95) represent one of the most popular collections held by The National Archives. In January 2014 the first batch of digitised unit war diaries, have been released online, and Operation War Diary, an innovative project in partnership with the Imperial War Museums and Zooniverse, has been launched. With over 1.5 million pages of unit war diaries due to be released over the coming months, the National Archives need your help to transcribe the pages and unearth the hidden stories.

Imperial War Museum Centenary Partnership: First World War centenary projects

The Imperial War Museum [IWM] was established in 1917, while the First World War was still being fought, to ensure future generations understood the causes and consequences of war, to collect and display material as a record of everyone’s experiences during that war, and to remember the men and women who served.   

The museum is commemorating the Centenary by leading the First World War Centenary Partnership, a global network of cultural and educational organisations, as well as opening new First World War Galleries at IWM London and a new major exhibition at IWM North, and launching its own digital online initiative Lives of the First World War, and other educational projects.

BBC: World War One

Find out what's happening on the BBC and around the UK to mark World War One a hundred years later.  The BBC: World War One website also includes a growing number of stories which show how the war affected people of the United Kingdom and Ireland.1 At Home: a growing collection of stories that show how WW1 affected the people and places of the UK and Ireland.

WW1 autograph books3rd-4th Devons Battalion Depot Sergeants MessWWI Autograph books

Other useful links:

Royal British Legion logoRoyal British Legion
Somerset remembers logoSomerset Remembers
WMT logoWar Memorials Trust
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Torbay Council War Memorials
IWM logoTorbay Council logoDCC logo