Lest we forget

As the centenary of the outbreak of war approaches, Devon County Council, along with many other organisations, is preparing to help remember the Fallen of World War 1. Devon Remembers has been launched. This is a grant scheme to support the conservation of war memorials. Associated community research projects are planned.

Devon Remembers More than 11,000 Devon men and women died in the 1914-18 Great War and their suffering and sacrifice is honoured in around 2,000 memorials. Each of these is unique to the community that erected it, both in the form taken and the individuals who were commemorated. While memorial crosses, obelisks or simple stone tablets were frequently chosen; other communities erected memorial halls, stained glass windows or dedicated new recreation grounds.

Tavistock Town Council undertake regular maintenance on the war memorial in Abbey Place. The memorial was erected in 1921, by public subscription at a cost of £450. It also commemorates the dead of WW2. This was the first ‘total war’ on a global; and industrial scale, involving conflict on land, at sea and for the first time in the air. Britain’s small professional army became a citizen army, swelled by Territorials and Yeomanry from the counties and then by conscription. Soldiers airmen and nurses from Devon served on the Western Front in France and Flanders, at Gallipoli in Turkey, in Italy, Macedonia, Egypt, Palestine and Mesopotamia (modern Iraq). Devon’s Navy and merchant seamen served across the world’s oceans. At home, civilian men and women joined the war effort as more land was brought into cultivation for much needed food, factories and shipyards were converted to military production and some stately homes became hospitals for the wounded. Extensive forests were planted for mining pit props and other industrial timber.

The Great War has had a lasting impact on the British people, communities and landscape. The conservation of memorials, recording and researching the individuals who are named on them, where and how they served, and the communities that they left and that their comrades returned to, are just one contribution to a range of commemorative projects that will be undertaken across Britain and around the world over the next 5 years.

Is your community war memorial recorded on the Devon County Historic Environment Record? Have a look on Heritage Gateway [try a search for Where = County (Devon), What = War Memorial and When = Date Range (1914AD – 1918AD)]. If not, let us know and send us details (email: archaeol@devon.gov.uk). Do you have other sites that were involved in the First World War in your neighbourhood – coastal defences, wartime wrecks, drill halls, rifle ranges, hospitals, factories? Let us know and help the research effort.

For more information about Devon Remembers or to apply for funding to restore a public war memorial that commemorates WW1, visit the Community Council of Devon’s website, or email Lesley@devonrcc.org.uk