You can search the website from the Home Page



This section will contain items from when Ashburton was involved in national, or international conflict. Sometimes men and women were leaving their town to fight or support their cause - voluntarily or because they were conscripted. Sometimes the war came to them.

Above: A cannon presented to R E Tucker by his brother* Gen Sir Charles Tucker in 1904.
From my own collection
Western Times 20 April 1904 p4 col4

* I believe Sir Charles Tucker may in fact have been the uncle of R E Tucker. See the Tucker family in the sub-menu of the People and properties section

                                                    The 1500s

Expenses from the Churchwardens' Accounts -

20s was given to nine men 'going to war with our lord the King.'* This took the form of seven angelles, one riall and one half angell.**
Devon and Cornwall Record Society, Churchwardens Accounts of Ashburton, 1479-1580, Alison Hanham, The Devonshire Press Ltd., Torquay 1970, p113

*The war was against France. See the review of 
Henry VIII and Francis I: The Final Conflict, 1540-1547, by Dr. David Potter
 - Accessed 16-1-2014

**All these were gold coins. See the Royal Museums Greenwich website - Accessed 16-1-2014


20s was given 'to men going to war.'
Ibid p115


32s 2d was paid to provide clothing for three 'shouldyers'.

12s 4d was also noted down for swords and daggers, presumably an additional expense; 9s 4d was paid in cash. 
Ibid p117                                             

The Devon Heritage Centre holds a document from 1598, listing men who own a corslet, and the parishes where they lived. Ashburton is one of the 11 parishes.
Devon Heritage Centre, Ref 3799M/3/O/4/10 - accessed 03-03-2024
A corslet was a piece of armour made to cover the top half of the body. Images often show them as being made of metal.
The one shown is constructed from slats of wood held together with cords. Leather strips would hold it on to the body front and back.
Above: Corslet, courtesy of the British Museum.
© The Trustees of the British Museum
Released under aNonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International (CC BY-NC-SA 4.0) license.

                                                   The 1600s

                                  The English Civil Wars 1642 - 1649

                       SPRIGGE, Joshua, ANGLIA REDIVIVA (1647)
England's Recovery: Being the History of the Motions, Actions, and Successes of the Army under the Immediate Conduct of His Excellency Sr Thomas Fairfax, Kt. Captain General of All the Parliaments Forces in England.

Pages 164-165 January. 'The army marched that night towards Ashburton, the enemies head-quarter the night before. A party of horse was sent to see if the enemy had quit the town (as his Excellency had intelligence they had done) who finding the enemy at the towns end, were engaged with them, beat the enemies Rearguard through the town, took nine men, and twenty horse, and inforced the rest of their horse to flie severall wayes, being two regiments of the Lord Wentworths Brigade (that were left of five) three of them being taken at Bovey-tracy.
Lords day January 11. The Generall, after that by Spies he had sent intelligence to Plymouth, of the retreat of the Enemy, marched with the army to Totness (where the Enemy had a foot quarter, but upon our advance quitted it) leaving one regiment at Ashburton.'

Pages 331 to 335 
An edited transcription of "A Journall of every dayes Martch of the ARMY under the command of his Excellency Sir THOMAS FAIRFAX; with the names of the Townes and Villages where the Head Quarters have been; the distance of miles,and how many nights the Quarters continued in each Towne or Village"

Jan 10      to Ashburton         6 miles 1 nights
(Sprigge says 1645, but the year then ran from late March - we should say it was 1646)


In 1845, the Western Times referred to some 'shot', weighing four pounds, found in an old tree near the Abbey (in ruins at the time) at Buckfast. It must, concluded the paper, be from the Civil War, when Fairfax pursued the 'Royalist rear guard' in January 1646 - he had come through Bovey Tracey, and was advancing towards Totnes and Dartmouth.
Western Times 22 February 1845 p3 col2

A four pound shot was dug up from under the old market house (at the Bullring), recently demolished. 'Sir Thomas Fairfax quartered for a day in the town and left a small force there'
Exeter Flying Post 16 January 1851 p7 col1


 Above and below: Extracts from an unknown school magazine, concerning the Puritan advance upon Ashburton. The sources for the information are unknown, but it makes a good story.
Many thanks to Jeremy Hatch for this document.

By tradition, No 4 North Street is the old Mermaid Inn - and also by tradition, this is where Thomas Fairfax stayed for his one night in Ashburton.

Charles Worthy, vicar and historian, linked the two together - in 1874 he said that the old Mermaid Inn was currently occupied by a baker called Mr Gregory.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 23 January 1874, p3 col3

 My own photographs 2013

'Ashburton - where the house in which Fairfax lodged is still pointed out - speedily fell...'
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 4 June 1859 p9 col5

In 1861 Mr Henry Eddy drew up plans for new Police offices and a lock-up house between North Street and Cad Lane. The site was, according to the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, adjoining what had been known as The Mermaid Inn, where Oliver Cromwell's officers stopped.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 April 1861 p7 col2


In 1990 builders were carrying rubbish in a bag whilst renovating the Royal Oak Inn in the town. A piece of glass cut open the bag, and a musket ball fell out.

The debris was then searched, and amongst other finds were: several small grey military tunic buttons

an old leather double buckle military belt

four musket balls

three clay pipe bowls, one with a military insignia

Advertiser/Post 1 June 1990, p22 col 1-2


                            Pension petitions for soldiers and sailors
Richard Tailor, a Worstedcomber of Aishberton, petitioned the Justices of the Peace at the Quarter Sessions in 1663. He had been, he said, 'A constant loyall souldier under the commands of the Collonels Sir Edward Seymour and Sir Hugh Pollard Baronett dureing all the late unhappy warrs' and had 'receaved a bullet into his head by w[hi]ch togeather w[i]th distempers caused by Watchings and coldnes as he was upon duty there hath happened a moisonne [?] distillation into his eyes whereby he hath for sevrall yeares last past bin disenabled to earne a maintenance for him selfe and his wife two yeares since stricken w[i]th blindnes..'
Devon Heritage Centre ref QS/128/3/1 - Accessed 11-10-2018
See People and Properties 1600s and before for a list of supporters of the petition

John Lescombe, from Ashburton, was one of two sailors petitioning at the quarter sessions in 1673 for support. Together with James Goswell of Denbury he had fought under the command of Captain Berry in The Resolution against the Dutch 'in the last warr against the Hollander', and both men had been wounded. John had a wife and four small children to support, and was awarded £4 per annum.
Devon Heritage Centre ref QS/128/3/4 - Accessed 4-11-2018

Mary Heathman was a widow in 1675. Mary's husband, Thomas, had been an able seaman aboard The St Andrew, commanded by Sir John Kempthorne, and had fought against the Dutch. He was wounded and later died, leaving his wife with a 'sucking child'.
Various people petitioned for a pension for Mary: George Prowse the vicar; Peter Fabion and Batholomew Finimour, churchwardens; Richard Knowlinge, Thomas Luscombe and Thomas Kelly, constables; Elizabeth Scobell, Thomas Harris and William Frind.
Devon Heritage Centre ref QS/128/3/2 - Accessed 4-11-2018

Above: Petition for an old soldier.
Sold privately, not in my possession - many thanks to both the vendor and buyer for permission to use the image.
John Bastard, vicar, was one of those putting his name to a petition to help an old soldier of Ashburton. John Bastard was vicar between 1680 and 1721. Other signaturies included John Acland, John Sunter, Rich. Knowling and John Caunter.

Addressed to the Worshipful the Justiss's of the Peace for ye County of Devon, it was 'the humble Petition of Matthew Jesup of Aishburton in ye County aforesaid Worsterdcomber. He had been a 'soldier in the late Queen's service in the right honorable ye Earle of De Lorain's Regiment in Major Thomas Belasycers Company' and had hurt his left hand; 'now he is become so infirm and weak in his left arm that he is not able to work at his trade so that he is reduced to great straits and become a real object of Christian Charity and Compassion and must have evidently perished had not the parishoners of [the aforesaid parish] charitably contributed towards ye petitioners Relief and Support. Therefore ye petitioners most humbly desire you to grant him such a pension as you in your wisdom shall think fit..'

A Mathewe Jessop the son of Jacob was baptised in February 1658/1659
(It was still 1658 until March 24th according to the Julian calendar then used)
Parish records
A Matthew Jessop was buried on 18th June 1728. An Affid[avit]* was made by Margaret Ireland on the 19th.
Parish records
*The affidavit was to confirm that the corpse had been wrapped in wool - a meaure to assist the wool trade. Otherwise fines had to be paid.
The Statutes at Large, from the Twelfth year of Charles II to the Last year of James II, Danby Pickering, vol8 Cambridge 1763, p420
Above: Extract from the free eBook The Statutes at Large

1675. Lewes Gold had been 'pressed for his Ma[jest]ies service' and served for a year under the command of Colonel John Russell. He was injured on the Fairfax during the Dutch wars, and spent nine months in St Bartholomew's Hospital near Smithfield in London. He had completely lost the use of his right arm. Thomas Reynell, Edward Yarde and William Bogan supported Lewes' petition, which secured him £3 per annum.
Devon Heritage Centre ref QS/128/3/3 - Accessed 5-11-2018


Thomas Gould petitioned for a pension in 1682. He had served Charles I in the late wars and had been an ensign under Capt Andrew Woodley for about two years. Afterwards he was a lieutenant under Capt Richard Cabell. He received 'severall wounds in his right hand and side in a fight near Taunton' which prevented him from earning his living.
Devon Heritage Centre ref QS/128/3/5 - accessed 5-11-2018

In 1685 William Yelling petitioned the Justices of the Peace for Devon. A husbandman, he had served King Charles in the civil war under Captain Cabell. The (unspecified) wounds that he received in the conflict resulted in his being unable to support himself or his family in his old age. The vicar, John Bastard, supported William's claim, as did Barth[olomew] Kelley, Samson Bounds, John Hurst and Walter Furneaux.
William received a gratuity of 5 shillings, plus an annual pension of 30s.
Devon Heritage Centre QS/128/3/7
Featured on - accessed 24-06-2023

A transcription of maimed soldiers, predominantly civil war casualties, from the Devon Quarter Sessions is available on Genuki at - Accessed 07-02-2018
Ten are from Ashburton.


                                                  The 1700s/1800s

Capt. Richard Sainthill R.N., who had been born in Topsham, captured a French West Indiaman (a ship) in the 1770s. Seventeen days later he was himself captured by 3 French ships, and taken into Brest. He was allowed to return to Britain in exchange for the Captain on the Modeste, Mons. Lefer de Chantelon, then a prisoner of war in England. Monsieur Lefer de Chantelon had written to him:
'Ashburton, Feb 5th, 1779.
Sir - I have received your letter, and am very anxious that the steps you are taking, and those I am myself about to adopt, may succeed in causing you to remain in your own country and in sending me back to mine. I have written to Messrs. Peter Thellusson, in London, to assist you with their good offices; I have also had the honour to write to Lord Shelburne, and have had my request to him seconded by Capt. Cosby, serving in the squadron of Admiral Keppel, and who, I am informed, is in intimate aquaintance of the former. I request you to communicate with Lord Shelburne, as well as with Messrs. P. Thellusson and Company, who cannot fail to add much weight to our just solicitations.
I have the honour to be, with perfect consideration,
Your servant,
Mons. Lefer de Chantelon.'
The United Service Journal and Naval and Military Magazine, London, 1830, p32

                                              Baptisms and burials in the Ashburton register.

July 1779 buried Jean Esgurey or Esqurey a French prisoner on parole
Parish records

June 1781 William the son of Benjamin Addick of the Yorkshire Light Dragoons and his wife Eliz. baptized,
Parish records

Aug 1780 Josef Augustin Gonsales a Spanish prisoner on parole
June 1782 Gerard Witmont a Dutch prisoner

Transcription by Mr. and Mrs. Hatch. Thanks to Jeremy Hatch for providing these.

The Napoleonic Wars (various dates given, but broadly 1793 - 1815 ) and the War of 1812, between Great Britain and the United States.

During the wars,  various towns were designated Parole Towns. Here, provided they abided by certain rules, some prisoners of war could live amongst the inhabitants - Ashburton was one such town.

The National Archives holds registers of French prisoners of war on parole 1794-98 at Ashburton, Bodmin, Callington, Tavistock and Tiverton
Ref ADM 103/601


'The second day they are paroled and sent to Ashburton, 24 miles from Plymouth; they must pay their own expenses to get there. While they are there they must pay 1s 3d per diem, or 8s 6d sterling per week. Beef is 10d per pound, bread in proportion, and every other necessary equally dear....'

Extract from a memorial addressed to the Secretary of State, by James Orm, Joseph B Cook, Thomas Humphries and others, masters of American vessels, who were prisoners of war in England, and returned to the United States in the cartel ship Robinson Potter
see entry for November 12th 1812


'The prisoner is allowed to walk within one mile of the town centre but he must not enter open land or road.....'
From 'Rules to which all prisoners of war on parole must observe' in Ashburton Museum, reproduced in Prisoners of War in the Dartmoor Towns, Trevor James, Orchard Publications, 2000, p 17

Above right: Parole stone, one mile from the town.
My own photograph 2013


'Aug 8th 1795 [Ashburton] was full of French prisoners, who were there on their parole. There were 300 of them in the town, and of course it appeared more like a French than an English town. Most of them appreared strong and active men, and some had very interesting countenances. They were very well dressed, but that is easily accounted for, as our government allow the officers half a guinea, and the men 5s 3d per week, for their maintenance. We spoke to one little boy, (of which there appeared a great number) who was selling sticks (it being market day) and who told us they had all been taken on 1st of June, and that he was on board the Juste*. When we asked him if he desired to return to France he answered, "Me have one father and mother, and brother and sister, and me wish to see them again." He appeared to have no idea of the Revolution, Convention **, etc.'
Journal of a Tour around the Southern Coasts of England, John Henry Manners, 5th Duke of Rutland, London, 1805, p100ff
* The Juste, originally Le Deux Frères, was captured by the British after engaging the Queen Charlotte on the 'Glorious First of June' 1794. - Accessed 17-3-2016
Colburn's United Service Magazine and Naval and Military Journal, 1843, part 2, London, p176 - Accessed 17-3-2016

** The French Revolution began in 1789. The Convention Nationale governed France from 1792 until 1795.

In 1795 William Sunter, a magistrate of Ashburton, sent a letter to Robert Mackreth, the town's MP. 

He said that 300 French prisoners were on parole in Ashburton, and that it was rumoured that the number would increase to 500. He wanted the MP to approach the Admiralty and suggest that some prisoners be moved to towns further from the coast.

There were, he maintained, insufficient provisions for the inhabitants as it was, with no cattle fit for slaughter; he had intervened at one market so that the soldiery and poor could buy potatoes at a reduced price, and he was then threatened with his life if he did it again. Some of the principal inhabitants had decided to buy foreign corn at Plymouth and had sent 2 overseers of the poor to buy some. A cartel of millers prevented them buying any at all.
National Archives HO 42/34/160 
Folios 361-362. - Accessed 11-1-2014

In 1854 the Western Times reported that the figurehead of a French ship could be found in the north aisle of St. Andrew's Church. It was, said the article, from the French frigate La Virginie, which had been captained by M Bergeret. Lord Exmouth had taken the ship on 20th April 1796, and Captain Bergeret had been a parole prisoner at Ashburton.
Western Times 13 May 1854 p7 col4

'[In] 1798 Ashburton had formed the 9th Devon Corps, under Captain Walter Palk; they had clothed themselves with local-made serge, and so gained the name of Sergebacks...'
Memorials of Old Devonshre, ed F J Snell, MA, London 1904, p261

Commissions in the Ashburton Volunteer Association

Walter Palk, Captain

William Sunter, Gent, 1st Lieutenant

Thomas Soper, Gent, 2nd Lieutenant

Joseph Sunter, Gent, Ensign

London Gazette Issue 15039 7 July 1798, p4

[died] At Ashburton, Devon, Richard Hill Esq., captain in his majesty's navy -  he early displayed his nautical abilities in an engagement off the Dogger Bank in the last war, when the captain of the Princess Amelia, of which he was first lieutenant, being killed, he took the command, and after a very well fought action, succeeded in defeating his Dutch opponent. In the year 1795 he was appointed agent to the Transport Service for the West Indies, and when the large fleet of transports, under Sir Hugh Cloberry Christian's command, after experiencing the most severe gales in the channel, were parted from the admiral in a storm, Captain Hill took the superintendance of nearly the whole fleet, except a few scattered ships, and conducted them safely to Barbadoes, for which he received the thanks of the merchants and inhabitants of that island. During his voyages to the West Indies he had several violent attacks of the yellow fever, which materially impaired his constitution. After his return he was appointed to the Irish service, and whilst he was stationed in the Bay of Dublin was presented with the honour of the freedom of that city, and received its thanks for his hospitality and attention to the interest of the metropolis. His arduous and unwearied exertions for the benefit of his country (which were prompted by the most loyal attachment to his Sovereign) during his continuance on the Irish station, and in conducting French prisoners from that kingdom to different English ports, in the course of which he underwent the most harrassing fatigue, in all the severity of the last winter, have been considered by the faculty as the principal cause of the complaints which have terminated his existence. His last appointment was as Regulating Captain at Jersey, and his physicians imagined the change of air might conduce to his recovery; but his disorders, of which the seeds had been sown in the West Indies, and matured by his illness in the Irish employ, increased so rapidly that he lived but a few days after he was brought to Ashburton.'
The Monthly Magazfine for 1799, July - December, vol 8, London, 1800, p673. Available to read free through Google Books - Accessed 9-12-2015

Amongst Ashburton wills in the Prerogative Court of Canterbury (PCC) - Richard Hill, captain in the Royal Navy and now commander of his Majesty's store ship Dromedary, August 1799


On the 3rd September 1801 the Exeter Flying Post reported that a Serjeant and 12 men from the 29th Regiment of Foot had left Plymouth with a 'park of artillery.' (guns, ammunition, carriages etc.) in case of invasion. They had come to Ashburton, the town being half way between Plymouth and Exeter.
Exeter Flying Post 3 September 1801, p4 col4

Henry Pinson Tozer, Captain
Charles Kendall, Gent, 1st Lieutenant
London Gazette Issue 15418 17 October 1801, p4

'As we approached the environs of Ashburton our curiosity was excited by several parties of decent looking men whom we overtook, walking slowly towards the town. From their conversing in a language which we did not understand, we quickly discovered that they were foreigners, but to what nation they belonged we were unable to determine....When we reached our quarters, one of our first enquiries was, who these strangers (many more of whom we saw in the town) might be? to which we received for answer that they were Danes, who had been detained in England at the time of the Copenhagen Expedition, and had been sent as prisoners to Ashburton.'
The Topographical works of the Rev. Richard Warner, 1802, Vol3 A tour through Cornwall, p35
Freely available through Google books - Accessed 16-1-2015

'In 1802 came the "Peace of Amiens" or, as it is frequently called, the "Cloamen Peace". It was a fragile, patched up affair, by which Bonaparte gained breathing time. "It was a peace everyone was glad of and nobody proud of". Volunteer affairs became quiet, many corps were disbanded, among them the Ashburton Sergebacks. Old soldiers were discharged from the line regiments, and militiamen sent to their homes.'
Memorials of Old Devonshre, ed F J Snell, MA, London 1904, p260

 'It was in 1803 that the Haytor Regiment was formed ... [Ashburton were] now again formed and became a company in the Haytor Regiment,  under Captain Tozer.'
ibid p 261


                                            21st October 1805 - The Battle of Trafalgar.                      

Above: The Battle of Trafalgar by J M W Turner, [Public domain] via Wikimedia Commons

                             Boys and men involved in the battle who were born in Ashburton.

John Ball aged 15

William Ferris aged 17

John Murch aged 19

John Murch aged 40

Robert Pengalley aged 27

William Pengalley aged 24

Robert Smerdon aged 20

Richard Webber aged 50

Robert Whiteway aged 38

Andrew Wickham aged 30

1864 On the anniversary of the Battle of Trafalgar Captain Rogers of Waye House gave a dinner and tea to all the soldiers, sailors and mariners of the borough. All had been involved in conflict of one sort or another, and one of them had been wounded at Trafalgar itself, on board The Belleisle.
Western Times 28 October 1864 p8 col3
For more on Capt. Rogers, see Ashburton and the East India Company

John Murch aged 19 had entered the Gibraltar Hospital on October 24th, 1805 with wounded feet, so this seems the most likely candidate. John Murch aged 40 was also on the Belleisle, as were the two Pengalleys - both Robert and William had 'run to the Spaniards' in August, but had both joined the Belleisle in Barcelona in September.


In 1807 Danish prisoners of war were held on two ships - The Prince, and El firme. The masters and mates were due to go on parole to Ashburton, Totnes, Tiverton, Okehampton (Devon) and Launceston (Cornwall).
Morning Chronicle, 17 December 1807 p4 col1 

Burial November 13th 1808 - Christiana Holbeck, daughter of Peter, a Danish captain
Parish records


Above: Dartmoor Prison, originally constructed for prisoners of war

From my own collection

The conflicts with France and America caused a great logistical problem on what to do with the prisoners of war. Originally the French prisoners were kept in decommissioned ships, or hulks. The ships were still afloat, usually in harbours, which led to fears in Devon about them being so near the Plymouth Royal Naval Dockyard. The welfare of the prisoners was also a concern.

In 1806 construction began on a building on Dartmoor to house these prisoners.

The prison was finished in 1809, taking first of all French prisoners of war, followed by Americans in 1812
- Accessed 14-01-2016

The Battle of Salamanca, 22nd July 1812. 'The 11th [North Devonshire Regiment], as leading its brigade, was pushed forward under a heavy fire, and was soon engaged in a desperate struggle, and drove the French from their ground. At the close of the action a French division made a very determined stand to recover the retreat. The 6th British Division again attacked, led by the 11th, and as the darkness came on overpowered the French, who fled in confusion. They lost 16 officers, 325 men; only 4 officers and 67 men came out unwounded. The 11th captured a battery of guns and a green standard without an eagle. The 122nd French Regiment, which was opposed to the 11th with two battalions, numbering 2,200 strong, the next day only mustered 200 men; they were mostly taken prisoners. Captain Lord Clinton, uncle of our late Lord Lieutenant, was despatched with the news direct from the field, and carried with him the green standard. He landed at Plymouth, and in a chaise and four rattled up the road to London. As he passed throught the towns on the way he exhibited the standard, and persons now living in Ashburton* remember seeing him pass through; he was at that time Lord of the Borough of Ashburton. The 11th earned the nickname of "The Bloody Eleventh" from the part it had taken in that terrible day.'
Memorials of Old Devonshre, ed F J Snell, MA, London 1904, p253
* The first edition of the book was 1862


'After the examination, the officers who were entitled to their parole, (such as the commanders and first lieutenants of privateers mounting fourteen guns, commanders and first mates of merchantmen, non-combatants etc.) received it and were sent to the little village of Ashburton, in Devonshire, or Reading, in Berkshire; the former is situated about twenty-six miles inland from Plymouth, and the principal place of confinement for paroled officers. The town of Ashburton is pleasantly situated in a healthy and fertile part of the country, where every article of provision is more easily obtained and at a much cheaper rate than in many other parts of the kingdom. Here all the officers on parole had their names registered, and particular personal description taken of them. They had allowed them by the British government one shilling and six pence, which is equal to thirty three and a quarter cents, money of the United States, per day, each man. With this small allowance, great numbers of paroled officers were compelled entirely to subsist, for having no other dependence and no friends in this country, they were obliged to purchase clothing, board, and lodging, and all other necessaries of life, and to make use of every economy to prevent themselves from suffering, not withstanding the cheapness of provisions, and the facility of obtaining them. They were permitted, during the day, to walk one mile on the turnpike road towards London or Plymouth, and at a certain early hour every evening they had to retire to their respective lodgings, and their to remain till next morning; those were their general restrictions for all the days in the week, except two, on which every officer must answer at a particular place appointed by their keepers, in the presence of their agent or inspector.'
'A Prisoner in England', The Prisoners' Memoirs, or Dartmoor Prison...The Entire Captivity of the Americans in England, New York, 1852, p5ff

'We alighted at Ashburton, and hardly were seated, when the room was filled by Americans. This was a depot for captains and other officers of privateers, they crowded around us with anxious looks to hear the news, each had some distinct question to ask about their home, family and friends; but they all united in a desire to know particulars repecting the capture of the Chesapeake*. It was an interesting sight to observe a number of fine looking men, prisoners of war on parole, each with a countenance beaming with interest and intelligence, listening with eager attention to the detail of an event which they had but imperfectly understood; they would know the most minute particulars, and each man shook his head with a smiling look of approbation, when declaring, "I knew the Chesapeake must have been taken by surprize, not by a fair fight, yard arm and yard arm, broadside and broadside. We have lost no honour" said these hardy citizens, as they left the room.'
Travels in England, France, Spain, and the Barbary States in the years 1813-14 and 1815, Mordecai M Noah, Late Consul of the United States for the city and kingdom of Tunis, New York, London, 1819, p27
*The USS Chesapeake had been captured by HMS Shannon on June 1st 1813


Andrew McDonald, a captain of land forces, was released from parole at Ashburton in 1814. He was allowed to return to the United States as long as he did not engage in any activity that contributed to hostilities between Britain and America. His safety was guaranteed provided he left England within 41 days, travelling to Dartmouth for a passage in the St Philip American cartel.
Document sold privately, not in my possession


'[The cruise of the Argus] continued prosperous until she came in conflict with the British sloop-of-war Pelican...Early in the action Capt William Henry Allen was mortally wounded and taken below; shortly after the first Lieutenant William H Watson was severely wounded and taken to the wardroom. The command of the Argus then devolved on Lieutenant William Howard Allen; his conduct was cool, deliberate and such as received the admiration of the crew, and the approbation and praise of his superior officers. After fighting was useless, the Argus was surrendered to the Pelican, a perfect wreck. This was on the thirteenth of August 1813. Lieutenant Allen was taken to Ashburton, England, where he was detained eigtheenth months a prisoner of war; but he was exchanged before the close of the war, and returned in a cartel to Norfolk...'
Biographical Sketches of the Distinguished Men of Columbia County, William Raymond, Albany 1851, p46ff

Uriah Phillips Levy  was also on board the Argus, and was parolled at Ashburton. 
During his career he suffered from anti-Semitism and prejudice because he entered the navy as a lieutenant instead of as a midshipman. Remembered as an outstaning officer, he was also instrumental in the abolition of flogging, but during his time in the navy he faced six courts-martial and two courts of inquiry. On two occasions it was recommended that he be dismissed from the service: President James Monroe and then President James Tyler reversed these recommendations.
Eventually Levy was promoted to commodore of the Mediterranean Fleet, equivalent to admiral.
A philanthropist, Levy used much of his wealth to restore the home of Thomas Jefferson, which had fallen into disrepair.  
Trevor James, Prisoners of War in Dartmoor Towns, Orchard Publications, Chudleigh, 2000, p23
Alexander M Bielakowski, Ethnic and Racial Minorities in the U S Military, ABC CLIO, 2013, p390
Ira Dye, quoted by Marc Leepson, Saving Monticello: The Levy Family's Epic Quest to Rescue the House that Jerrson Built, The Free Press, New York, London, Toronto, 2002, p57

On the 21st November 1814 William Pottenger married Frances Broom at Ashburton

According to Trevor James, William was an American Midshipman who had been on board the Argus. He was in Ashburton lock-up when his fellow shipmates were sent home in November 1814, and Trevor James speculates that this was because the parish feared there might be soon be a child to support.
James says that the couple eventually returned to William's home in Philadelphia.

Prisoners of War at Dartmoor, Trevor James, publ. Mcfarland and Co. Inc., 2013, p97ff

Obituary notices. 'In Hagerstown, Mid Lieut. William Pottinger, of the United States navy, aged 39. During the late war he was actively and usefully engaged in the navy, and an officer on board the brig Argus, in her sanguinary engagement and capture in the British channel, by the Pelican, a foeman of double force.'
The New-England magazine, vol 4, January 1833, p264

Jan 16th 1845, House of Representatives. 'Also, a petition of Frances Pottinger, of Hagerstown, in the State of Maryland, for a pension: which was referred to the Committee on Naval Affairs.'

Journal of the House of Representatives of the United States, the second session of the twenty eighth congress, Dec 2nd 1844, Washington, p215


General Count Lobau and other officers were taken prisoner at the Battle of Waterloo - they also were sent to Ashburton on parole.
Hull Packet, 25 July 1815 p3 col2

R G Beasley Esq.  to the American Prisoners of War, on parole at Ashburton.

Agency for  American Prisoners of War, London 23rd March 1815

Gentlemen, I have to inform you that the Treaty of Peace, having been ratified by the President, the release of the prisoners of war will commence without delay.

Although I have not as yet received any instructions from our Government, I have engaged, and am fitting out four vessels, for their conveyance, to proceed to Plymouth to receive them, and shall use every despatch in sending them to the United States.

I am, etc. R G Beasley
British and Foreign State Papers, volume 3, p139


Above and above right: Documents from an unknown printed source connected with the French prisoners of war. Joseph Gribble, agent for the prisoners, certifies that the bearer, M. ?? is a French prisoner of war residing at Ashburton, and that he is bound by his Parole of Honour to the faithful Observance of the above Regulations. Dated 4th July 1815.
Many thanks to Jeremy Hatch for these documents


In July 1815 reported that 200 French prisoners, taken during a recent battle, had landed at Stonehouse Point before being marched to Dartmoor. 'Their appearance is truly deplorable, having been stripped of everything by the Prussians.'
The officers were moved to Ashburton, on parole; one of them said that his regiment had been 'wholly annihilated'.
Globe, 4th July 1815, p4 col2

In January 1816 vessels sailed from Plymouth Dock, transporting French prisoners to Morlaix. A gale prevented the ships from docking; returning to the English coast one ship went into Dartmouth, and another into Plymouth. A third ship was driven onto the rocks in Bigbury Bay; and 50 officers, who had been on parole at Ashburton and Taunton, tried to save themselves by stripping off their clothes and jumping into the sea. Twenty four men died, with nineteen of them washed up on to the beach.
Public Ledger and Daily Advertiser, 18 January 1816, p3 col2


Died at Ashberton during the war 

Mar. 10, 1815 B. Elvel*, Gloucester, Mass. Firefly. 
Mar. 25, do. Abraham Burnham, , Mass. Price. 
The prisoners' memoirs, or Dartmoor Prison, New York 1852, 151

* Benjamin Ellwell in Devon FHS Ashburton burials 1813-1837, 1997. Both are shown as 'American prisoner/parole'

Right: Grave of Francois Guidon, a French prisoner of war - this is to the right of the church entrance, just by the steps going up to the church hall.

My own photograph 2013.

'Ici repose Francois Guidon natif de Cambrai en France

Sous lieutenant au 16th Reg. de Lign, Decede le 18 7bre 1815 age 22 ans.

Recquisat in Pace'


In 1873 a M. Brard, aged 84, died in Bloomgate. Born in 1789, at the start of the French Revolution, he had had an eventful life. He had been wounded during the French wars, brought to England on a man-of-war, and eventually sent to Ashburton on parole.
Hamilton Advertiser 30th August 1873, p2 col5



In his book French Prisoners' Lodges, John T Thorp discusses a certificate granted to a Mason of the Ashburton French Prisoners' Lodge

He says: 'A Certificate granted to an initiate of this Lodge, is the only record of its existence that has been discovered up to the present time. Unfortunately, although the document is signed and sealed, it is not dated, but it was, in all probability, issued between the years 1810 and 1814.

This interesting document, the design of which is
roughly drawn by hand on parchment, is 17 inches
by 14 inches in size, and is entirely in the French
language. As a general rule, these Prisoners' Lodge
Certificates were wholly written in French when, as
in this case, they were issued to a French Brother,
shewing clearly that they were intended to be used
in French Lodges only.

Although unfortunately somewhat faded, the Certificate is in an excellent state of preservation, (being) a large red wax Seal* in an oval tin box 2 inches by 2 inches, attached to the document by a narrow light blue ribbon, being particularly fine.

The recipient, Paul Carcenac, appears to have taken
the two first degrees only, while the letter " C " appended to four of the signatures, denotes that these Brethren also had only attained the similar rank of Fellow-Craft (Compagnon).

It will be noticed, that in this Certificate the recipient
is obligated to affiliate himself to some regularly war-
ranted French Lodge, immediately on his return to
his native land, thus recognising the Lodge at Ash-
burton as an irregular or temporary one only........

........It is very unfortunate that no further details of this Lodge are forthcoming, and it would also be interesting to know during what years and for how long the prisoners were located at Ashburton, in order that the date of the Lodge could be approximately determined. Enquiries in the town and neighbourhood, however, have resulted in nothing, even the presence of French prisoners there being entirely absent from local tradition. '

(Translation of the certificate):


The very worshipful Lodge of St. John, under the
distinctive name of United Friends, at the Orient of
Ashburton, England, to all regular Masons spread
over the surface of the earth.

Greeting. Fortitude. Unity. 
We Master, Officers and members of the very 
worshipful Lodge of St. John, under the distinctive 
title of the Lodge of United Friends, at the Orient 
of Ashburton, England, certify and attest to all 
regular Lodges and to all regular Masons spread
over the surface of the earth, that our very dear
Brother Paul Carcenac, assistant commissary, is a
member of our worshipful Lodge, that he has received the two first degrees of Masonry, Apprentice and Fellowcraft, and has worked amongst us to the entire satisfaction of all the Master-Masons. We therefore pray all Brethren and all worshipful Lodges in the Universe to receive and admit him as such after the usual proof, and obtain for him such assistance as he needs, offering to reciprocate in similar circumstances, and obtaining a promise from him that he will affiliate himself as soon as possible after his return to France, to a regular Lodge, duly recognised by the Grand Orient of France. In witness whereof, we have delivered to him the present certificate, signed by us, countersigned by our Secretary, and sealed with the Seal of our worshipful Lodge — and in order that it may not be used by any other Brother except the said Paul Carcenac, we have caused him to place his signature in the margin, Ne Varietur.

Delivered in Lodge, regularly assembled, the 29th
day of the 8th month of the year of the True Light.
French Prisoners' Lodges, A brief account of twenty-six lodges and chapters of Freemasons, established and conducted by French prisoners of war, in England and elsewhere, between 1756 and 1814, John T Thorp, Leicester 1900, pp52,53


Royal Hospital Chelsea: Soldiers' service documents for those born in Ashburton from
The reference is followed by the covering dates:

John Lewcroft, served in 36th Foot Regiment; 75th Foot Regiment; 76th Foot Regiment; 24th Light Dragoons; 8th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 48
WO 97/81/104 1786-1814

Richard Tapper, served in Devonshire Militia, discharged aged 61 after 18 years service
WO 121/17/88 1793

George Layman, served in 4th Foot Regiment; 5th Royal Veteran Battalion, discharged aged 39
WO 97/1127/543 1799-1814

John Coucher, served in Royal Artillery, discharged aged 36
WO 97/1221/43 1799-1816

Richard Canter, served in 28th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 36
WO 97/469/142 1803-1816

Thomas Angel, served in 4th Royal Veteran Battalion; 40th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 36
WO 97/1125/9 1803-1821

Thomas Joint, 
served in 28th Foot Regiment; Royal Army of Reserves, discharged aged 50 
WO 97/472/143 1803-1825

James Stroud, served in 28th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 40
WO 97/476/38 1806-1814
Also James Stroud, served in 28th Foot Regiment; 1st Royal Veteran Battalion, discharged aged 40 after 8 years 9 months of service.

WO 121/187/131 1816

Nicholas Couch, served in 81st Foot Regiment; 11th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 42
WO 97/906/93 1806-1829

James Hillock, served in the 1st Foot Regiment, discharged aged 29
WO 97/227/100 1807-1814

John Wicks, served in 5th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 30
WO 97/276/120 1811-1815

James May, served in 4th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 42
WO 97/264/31 1813-1836

Richard Chalk, served in 90th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 40
WO 97/987/71 1818-1839

Joseph Eggbeer, served in Royal Sappers and Miners, discharged aged 43
WO 97/1149/57 1825-1845

William Cumstock alias William Comstock, served in 98th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 39
WO 97/1053/78 1825-1846

Thomas Trebble, served in 64th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 48
WO 97/781/20 1825-1847

Henry Hart, served in Royal Artillery; Royal Marines, discharged aged 41
WO 97/1234/121 1829-1850

George Layman, served in 4th Foot Regiment; Royal New South Wales Veterans; 5th Royal Veteran Battalion, discharged aged 53 (in 1830)
WO 97/1204/80 1830

Thomas Maunder, served in 60th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 25
WO 97/736/99 1832-1836

James Wallace, served in Royal Sappers and Miners, discharged aged 46
WO 97/1152/120 1832-1854

Thomas Vinning, served in 7th Dragoons, discharged aged 20
WO 97/136/68 1836-1837

Thomas Hannaford, served in 46th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 22
WO 97/605/127 1839-1843

Walter Newland, served in 97th Foot Regiment; 11th Foot Regiment, discharged aged 27
WO 97/1049/43 1840-1850


                                                       The Crimean War (1853 - 1856)

Mr John Hern, portreeve, chaired a public meeting to raise funds to support 'the widows and orphans of our brave soldiers and sailors who have been engaged in the eastern war.'
Western Times 25 November 1854 p7 col5

In 1855 the South Devon Militia were recruiting in Ashburton - something that had not been seen for many years

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 24 March 1855 p4 col2

In July 1856 a company of Dragoons from Exeter arrived in Ashburton, and stayed for two days. On the day they left a company of the 11th Hussars arrived, going in the other direction.
Western Times 12 July 1856 p7 col3


                                                                        The Zulu War (1879) 

When Sir Charles Tucker's regiment arrived in Dublin following the Zulu War, many had no boots, and their red coats were in tatters. Sir Charles refused to have new clothes for the men before they marched through the city, saying that the British public should see how their soldiers were kept.
Western Times 15 February 1935 p9 col2
For more on Sir Charles, see The Tucker family sub-menu under the People and properties section



                                                           The 1900s         

                                                    The Boer War (1899-1902)                                                            

At the prize giving for the A (Ashburton) Company of the Haytor Volunteers it was announced that 15 men had volunteered for garrison duty. 4 men had volunteered for the front, and had all passed their medical examination: they were to be sworn in that evening (applause).
Western Times 18 January 1900 p3 col5

The Totnes Weekly Times featured 'A Letter from an Ashburton Man' in its columns for the 5th May. Private W Jeffery, of the 1st Devons, wrote to his parents in April from Arcadia Camp in Ladysmith. He said that they were recovering their strength again, were getting good food, and all was quiet at the moment. They didn't know whether or not they would be sent further up the country. He said that thousands of British men had been killed or wounded, but that the Boers had lost more than them. Although they were too weak to cheer much 'There was great rejoicing in Ladysmith the day we got relieved I can tell you*....We will all be glad when this is over.' Private Jeffery said that on January 6th their regiment made a charge that would never be forgotten, 'I want you always to remember that day as I shall'.
Totnes Weekly Times, 5 May 1900, p3 col5
*The township of Ladysmith was under siege from 2nd November to January 27th.

Above: The Devonshire Regiment in a position facing Pepworth Hill, roughly 4 miles from Ladysmith.
H W Wilson, With the Flag to Pretoria, Harmsworth Brothers, 1901, p85

In August 1900 Mr Mildmay, Mp, wrote to Mr Windeatt of Totnes concerning the surrender of a Commandant Prinsloo. Mr Mildmay said that he would be pleased to get back to Devon, and mentioned that a Mr Foaden, of Ashburton, had left his card with him in Durban. 
Totnes Weekly Times 15 September 1900, p8 col5

Corpl. Louis Harvey arrived in Ashburton in August 1901, and was greeted by the Band of the Volunteers and the Hele Band. He was drawn through the town, which was decorated with flags and bunting, in an open carriage, and was the 'central attraction' of a torchlight procession. Mr E Tucker made a speech outside the Golden Lion, congratulating Corpl. Harvey, who had seen a great deal of service at the front.
Western Times 5 August 1901, p3 col8

When peace was declared in May 1902, Ashburton was 'somewhat tardy' in reacting to the news: the Western Times put this down to a hoax declaration that had been made some weeks previously. 

But mottoes and flags gradually appeared.
Western Times 6 June 1902 p10 col3

When Lieutenant Dawson arrived back from South Africa, the band of A Company, VBDR, played 'See the conquering hero comes' as the train drew into the station. A detachment of the Volunteers pulled a carriage containing Lieutenant Dawson and his parents to the top of West Street, where he made a speech praising the role of the Volunteers in the war. 
Western Times 14 August 1902 p7 col3

John Harris Leaman, born in 1859, had joined the Northamptonshire Regiment and had been involved in the Boer War, fighting at Majuba Hill. 

At the time of his death in 1936 he was living at 5, Station Cottages.
Western Times 6 November 1936 p7 col2

Pte G Routley, of the Devonshire Regiment, was awarded the Queen's South Africa 1899-1902 medal. George was attested for the 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment in September 1898, aged 18 and 5 months. He served in South Africa during the Boer War and was discharged by the end of 1904*. Although his age at attestation indicates that he was born around April 1880, other records show his birth date to be a year later.
British Army Service Records
Parish records
*The 1901 census shows G Routley, the son of T[homas] G[eorge] and Ellen, as a general labourer living at Rewlea Cottages. 1901 census RG13, piece no. 2053, folio 47, p 25
Medal sold privately, not in my possession

Francis Whiddon, also born in 1859,  ( is listed amongst the New Zealand Boer War Servicemen. A miner, he had joined the 10th Contingent, North Island Regiment B Squadron, departing from New Zealand on 14th April 1902. His next of kin was his mother, Sarah Whiddon of North St., Ashburton.

The 1861 census has a Whiddon family living near to the Victoria Inn in North St. At the head is Jane Whiddon, and with her is her 37 year old daughter, Sarah. Jane has 3 grandsons with her - the middle one is 2 year old Francis. Although Sarah is unmarried, several children appear with her as their mother on other censuses.
1861 census RG09, piece no.1405, folio 58, p25

The online cenotaph at the Auckland Museum has a memorial at the Waikaraka Park Cemetery to F Whiddon N Z Forces, South African War 1902, died 8th October 1935, aged 76. Further information on the website confirms his service no. of 8764, and adds that he was in the Mounted Rifles. - Accessed 28-08-2016


Above: Photograph of the memorial to Francis Whiddon, provided to by Paul Baker in 2013.
Many thanks to Auckland Museum Online Cenotaph for allowing me to use this image.

                                                   World War 1 

Above: Men assembling outside St Lawrence Chapel, St Lawrence Lane
From my own collection

Ashburton and the Call to Arms – 115 men now serving
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 22 September 1914
 p6 col6

'A number of Ashburton Territorials arrived home on Friday evening, looking very fit and well, and are eagerly looking forward to their visit to India.'Western Times 29 September 1914 p6 col4

'My grandfather, William Martin, joined the Army and spent 3 years in China: when he came home he married my Grandmother on October 4th 1913 at Devonport. During WW1 he served all over the world and fought in the trenches in France. He vividly remembered all that happened. He was buried alive more than once by hand grenades exploding near him. He was recommended 5 times for the Distinguished Conduct Medal. Modestly he joked about the time he carried to safety a man who had had his legs blown off and placed him in the care of another man who subsequently received the D.C.M. Later he received a medal for gallantry under fire and was mentioned in Italian orders. He was recommended for the Distinguished Service Medal, received the Military Medal and the Meritorious Service Medal. By the time he left the Army he was a Sergeant Major. He died in 1982 aged 92'.
Many thanks to Christine Lunt for the information above

Above: Men from Ashburton off to war, marching down St Lawrence Lane. They are the 5th Devonshire Regiment, en-route to Plymouth before embarking at Southampton. They went to India and then on to Egypt, and eventually to France, and were involved in battles such as The German Retreat, the Hindenburg Line, Battles at Bullecourt, Cambrai, Bapaume, Arras, and many more.

'My Grandfather John Henry Yolland, a Lance Corporal, can be seen at the rear, left. He was awarded the Military Medal + Bar and mentioned in dispatches, like many who were involved. All very brave men.'
John Germon.


Many thanks to John Germon for the photograph and information. John's grandfather is also in the group picture below, centre.

Three Ashburton men living in Canada volunteered at the beginning of WWI. John Shillabear, William Skinner and Ernest Nicks came over with the Canadian Contingent for a short leave at the end of 1914. They were 'accorded a hearty welcome by a large circle of friends.'
Western Times 6 November 1914, p10 col1

                   The 14 year old recruits

'My father, William Smerdon, was born in 1900. He joined up as the war started - he was only 14.

My mother's father, George Routley, and two of his brothers joined up: Frederick and Wilf, who was a postman. Only George and Wilf came back from the war'.
Many thanks to Ernie Smerdon for the information above 

The postcards right and below (from my own collection), come from albums connected with W T Gill, 1/5 battalion, Devonshire Regiment, 1914 - 1921. (The albums are not all in my possession)

The soldier on his own is believed to be W T Gill himself. Written beside the photograph on the right is 'Taken at Mooltan age 14'

The birth of William Thomas Gill was registered in the Newton Abbot district in the first quarter of 1900.
See The Gill family, under Individual Families

'No 4 Section H. Coy Mooltan 1914'
Below: The group photograph has this written on the back: 'No 4 section H Coy Ashburton Men, Devon'.

Writing in the album says that the battalion boarded HMT Nevasa at Southampton in 1914, and were bound for India. They ended in Europe 1918-21.

On Coronation Day (of George VI) 1937 Bandsman W T Gill gave a salute. He was, according to the Western Times, a former bugler with the 6th Devons T A.

In 1949 he was described by the Exeter and Plymouth Gazette as a bugler in the 5th (POW) Battalion of the Devons in the 1914-18 war.
Western Times 21 May 1937 p10 col2
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 11 November 1949 p7 col4 

Below: This certificate says that Pte Gill was with the 4th Reserve Battalion Wilts. Regiment when he became a First Class Signaller on July 5th 1918

From my own collection

'31. Bugle Band. 5th Devons. Woodbury 1914'.
Written underneath is 'War declared when we were here Aug 4.'
Also written between the two photographs is 'Bugler Warren sounded stand to 10.45pm Aug 3rd.'
Stand-to appears to be short for Stand-to-arms, a procedure carried out just before dawn and just after
dusk (in theory the most likely time for attack) where men stood with their rifles loaded and bayonets fixed. - Accessed 29-05-2017

From my own collection

Photographs taken in India by W T Gill

Above: 'Dhobi Ghats or washing places Mooltan under armed guard.'
Above: 'Orderly 21st Cav at Mooltan'
Above: ' "D" Company pet Mooltan Punjab'
Above: 'Plough man Mooltan Punjab'
Above: 'Medical Corpl Multan'
Above: 'Dalhousie N India'
Above: 'Rifle range Mooltan'
Above: 'Shisti water carrier' [Bhisti]
Above: 'Regimental sports Baniket'
Above: 'Meine Meer' [?]
Above: 'Indian well Lahore'
Above: 'River Crenab' [Chenab?]
Above: 'Pathancote rest camp railhead Dalhousie 64 miles'
From my own collection

In 1919 the Western Times ran an article about four sons of Mr and Mrs W Bovey of Blackmoor, Ashburton, who had all fought in the 1st World War.
Corporal James M Bovey was in the 2nd Devons at the start of the war, and had served until late 1918, when he had been discharged after a bomb smashed his leg.
Sergeant Thomas Bovey joined up in Australia, later went to Egypt, and then came to England as an instructor. He was then sent to France, suffered frostbite and rheumatism, and was returned to Australia for discharge.
Pte John Bovey joined the 1/5th Devons (Territorials), moving to India with his regiment in October 1914. In 1917 he was sent to France, later being invalided home with tuberculosis, and discharged.
Private Joseph H Bovey, joined the Royal Marine Light Infantry as soon as he was old enough in 1916, arriving in France in 1918. He had been taken prisoner in March of that year.
A fifth son, William Bovey, had been attested at the start of the conflict but then had been rejected on medical grounds.
Western Times 14 March 1919 p7 col 3,4,5

Photograph labelled 'Jack Bovey, Blackmoor 1919'
From my own collection

A photograph in my collection in poor condition (not shown) is labelled
'J Bovey and F Ryall, Multan'.
F Ryall is probably Francis W Ryall, who was 9 years old and living in North Street in the 1901 census. He was the son of Francis C Ryall, a woolcomber, and his wife Selina.
1901 census RG13, piece no 2053, folio 26, p17

A Francis William Ryall, born 1891, died in 1986 in the Newton Abbot registration district.
England and Wales deaths transcriptions, 1837-2007, available via

From my own collection
Left: 'F Ryall and friend, 1916'
Below: 'F Ryall'
                                                                    Pte Warren
Left and above: A postcard from Private Warren, signed 'W W', to a Mrs Ryall at 45, North Street, Ashburton. He is at a camp near Paignton, and writes, 'Dear Aunt, Just the postcard to let you know I am quite alive and well'.
From my own collection

Some years later Selina Ryall was living at 45 North Street.
1939 register

Francis W Ryall (item above) was probably her son, and Pte Warren may well have been 'Bugler Warren' mentioned by W T Gill (above)

                                             George Edgar Stone.

George Edgar Stone was born in Dean Prior in 1892, and was still living there at the time of the 1911 census, in the same household as his parents, George and Maria, two sisters and an elder brother. 18 years old, he was a painter's apprentice.
1911 census RG14, piece no. 12841

He may have married Mary E Bowden in the September quarter of 1918. A Mary Elizabeth Stone is mentioned on George's memorial in St Andrew's Churchyard.
Marriage ref George E Stone married Mary E Bowden, Sept Q 1918, Newton Abbot 5b 331

George was 'gazetted' (ie his name appeared in the London Gazette) after being awarded the Military Medal. He was Private 241015 of the 5th Battalion Territorial Force, Devonshire Regiment.

Supplement from the London Gazette, 11 Dec 1918, p14656

His medal card is held at the National Archives., ref
WO 372/23/171565

George died in 1956, aged 64
Above: George's medals from WWI, including the Military Medal with the red, white and blue ribbon, awarded for bravery in the field.
Above: From George Stone. 'My grandfather George Edgar Stone with his daughter Roma (my aunt Roma Woods nee Stone) taken in the courtyard to the rear of the Golden Fleece, St Lawrence Lane. This picture was taken about 1950 - the family stayed there until the 1960s.'
Many thanks to George for the photographs and the above information.


J H Foaden, the youngest son of Mr J H Foaden of Sparnham, was awarded the Military Medal in 1916. A Lance Corporal with the London Rifle Brigade, he won the medal for bravery in action, and was believed to be the first Ashburton man to receive the honour.
Western Times 10 August 1916 p3 col3


Arthur Pengelley.
Arthur Pengelley was probably the Arthur Pengelly son of Emma, baptised at Ashburton on March 8th 1883.
By 1891 his mother had married Eli Dodd, and the family are living in Ebenezer Cottages, Cad Lane, Ashburton.
Parish records
The 1901 census has Arthur (although the name looks more like Pargelly) with Eli and Emma at Whistley Cottages - 18 year old Arthur is a Seaman in the M[erchant] Service.
In June 1903 he enlisted in the RFA at Devonport. Aged 20 years and four months, his current occupation was that of Seaman. He was given a regimental number of 31649.
Bombadier A Pengelly, Reg. no. 31649, 112th Battery RFA, was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal 'For conspicuous gallantry during the attack on Hooge on 9th August 1915. He assisted in keeping up communication under very heavy shell fire, and although wounded at 4pm conotinued at his work till he was relieved at 5.30pm.'
Recipients of the DCM who performed further acts of distinguished conduct were awarded a Bar, and Arthur received one in September 1918. He showed 'Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while in charge of an anti-Tank gun. The gun early received a direct hit, and this N.C.O. then led his detachment to reinforce neighbouring infantry. He also took part in a bombing attack. Later he organized a party to take a wounded officer to the dressing-station. Finally he took command of a platoon of infantry and held a position for two days, until he found out where his own battery was an rejoined it. He rendered valuable service.'
As the certificate underneath shows, he also earned the Military Medal, an award instituted in 1916 (backdated to 1914).
1901 census RG13, piece no. 2053, folio 8, p7
Medical history.
Supplement to the London Gazette, 15 September 1915, 9181

Supplement to the London Gazette, 3 September 1918, 10259
Above: Certificate confirming the award of the Military Medal to Arthur Pengelley.
From my own collection

At least 2 Ashburton men embarked with the Australian Imperial Force during the First World War:

Private Stanley William Mann embarked on the 5th January 1916 with the 8th Reinforcements, 23rd Infantry Battalion, 9th Infantry Brigade. A single man born in 1895, his next of kin was his mother, Mrs Gill of 38 East Street, Ashburton.
Australian Imperial Force Embarkation Roll 1914-18
Stanley William T Mann's birth was registered in the Newton Abbot registration district in the March quarter of 1894.
In the 1901 census 7 year old Stanley is living in East Street with his father William Henry Mann, his mother Elizabeth Mary Mann, 3  older brothers, and Mary's father Daniel Townsend.
By 1911 Stanley is the only son living with his parents, and very shortly after the census was taken both his parents died: Elizabeth Mary, aged 61, was buried on May 16th, and his father William Henry, aged 63, was buried on May 23rd. The parish register records that both burials were certified by Leonard J W Babb - the Wesleyan minister.
1901 census RG13, piece no. 2053, folio 36, p3
1911 census RG14, piece no. 12727
Parish records

One of Stanley's brothers, Edwin Richard Mann, died in October 1917 (see Roll of Honour WW1 M-S), and is described as the younger brother of Mrs T Gill, of East Street. This is presumably the same Mrs Gill who is named as Stanley's next of kin.

Private William James Pengilley embarked on 13th February 1915 with the 2nd Reinforcements, 15th Infantry Battalion, 4th Infantry Brigade. A single man born in 1885, his next of kin was Mrs W Pengilley, Orley House, Ashburton.
Australian Imperial Force Embarkation Roll 1914-18  
See also - Accessed 30-08-2016

Orley House had been bought by Mr W Pengilley for £510 in 1905.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 30 June 1905 p3 col4

In 1915 26 wounded Queensland soldiers returned to Brisbane from the front. Amongst them was Private W. J. Pengilley, whose mother, W. Pengilley, was from Orley House, Ashburton. Private Pengilley's regimental number was 1419, and he was in the 15th Btn.

The Telegraph, Brisbane (Queensland) 21st August 1915 p6 col8

The Brisbane Courier (Queensland) 1 September 1915 p7 col6

Available on the free site of Australian newspapers (Trove) at                                                             

Right: Frederick Charles Rodgman
Thanks to Nancy Frey for this photograph

Frederick Charles Rodgman was born in Bideford, but moved with his parents to Ashburton in the late 1890s. In 1913 he left to seek his fortune in Canada.
At the outbreak of war he enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces, trained at Val Cartier, Quebec, and sailed for England in September 1914, arriving in Southampton on the 14th of October 1914.
While training on Salisbury Plain he became ill with appendicitis. His medical record states he was operated on in Tidworth, Wiltshire.
 He spent 7 weeks in hospital then went home to Ashburton for two weeks furlough.
His unit left Bristol for Lazarre, France on the 8th February 1915, in February 1915 was in Rouen, France and in March 1915 was in Bologne, France. He was hospitalized as a result of complications from his operation and this time he was sent back to England on a Hospital Ship. He spent time at the Canadian Military Hospital at Shorncliffe, and was officially discharged from the Canadian Expeditionary Force as a Sargeant on the 22nd June 1915.
On the 17th November 1916, Fred enlisted in the Leicestershire Regiment. In early 1917 he completed a 20-week officers' training course in Newton Ferrers, Devon and received a commission as a 2nd Lieutenant.
He was then seconded to the 23rd Reserve Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Forces but spent most of his military service in hospital with recurring problems resulting from the appendix operation, or at home in Ashburton recuperating.
He was eventually discharged on 20th February 1919 by King's Regulation 392 Sec. xxv which is 'service no longer required'. He was allowed to keep his temporary rank of lieutenant. There is a note written on his medical papers giving a summary of his military career with the notation "He is a tailor and he ought not to have gone. He stole his way into the trenches".
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for the information above.
For more on the Rodgman family, see under Individual families 2


In 1956 the British Medical Journal reported the death of Harold Arthur Rowell, M.C., Croix de Guerre (Belgian), MRCS, LRCP. A colonel, AMS, retired, he had lived at Oaklands, [Rew Road], Ashburton. He died on February 28th, aged 68.
British Medical Journal, April 7 1956, p813

Harold was baptised in Wolborough parish in October 1887, the son of William John Rowell, an architect, and Harriet. Their abode was Devon Square.
Wolborough parish records

In the 1911 census Harold, a 23 year old medical student, was living with his father, sister, brother, and three servants at 9, Devon Square, Wolborough, Newton Abbot.
1911 census, RG14, reg district 272, piece no 12754

His medal index card for 1914-20 shows that he was in the Royal Army Medical Corps, attached to the Cameron Highlanders. In his third record he had risen to the rank of Major.
British Army Medal Index Cards, 1914-1920, ref
Above: Oaklands, Ashburton.
My own photograph 2017

In 1916 the Western Morning News reported that Dr H A Rowell, son of the late William Rowell, had been awarded the Military Cross for distinguished conduct at Loos.
Western Morning News 17 Jan 1916 p3 col2

He did not marry until 1926, at which time he was living in Cherton Square, London. The 39 year old,  a captain in the RAMC, married Dora Edith Hudson, aged 22.
Parish records.

On the 1939 Register Dora Edith Rowell is living at Cob Cottage, Torrington, Devon. She is the wife of an officer on active service.
1939 Register, available through

In 1940 Maj (temp Lt.-Col) H A Rowell MC was to be Lt.-Col from 27th July 1940.
Second Supplement to the London Gazette, 26 July 1940

Harold went to France with the British Expeditionary Force in 1915, and remained there until 1919, where he was OIC Surg Div 1 Gen Hosp. He was in North Russia Aug-Oct 1919. From 1920-23 he was in the Black Sea, and was in Shanghai in 1927. He was stationed in India between 1927 and 32, and again between 1936 and 39. He was a temporary Colonel between 1942 and 43.
Commissioned Officers in the Medical Services of the British Army 1660-1960: Roll of Officers in the Royal Army Medical Corps 1898-1960, R Drew, 1968, p146

'Druid Plantations were filled by Canadians in the 14-18 war. Ausewell Hill was made impassable by the lumber waggons.'
Note made by Mr. or Mrs. Hatch, pre 1998. Source of information unknown.
Thanks to Jeremy Hatch for this document.


YMCA 'huts' were recreational facilities for troops, where they could get refreshments, and sometimes extras such as reading materials. They were set up within 10 days of war being declared, initially at places such as railway stations within the UK, but quickly spreading to Le Havre in France, and later to main centres of operation such as Rouen, Boulogne, Dieppe, Etaples and Calais. By the end of 1915, hundreds of huts were near to the front.
There was also a hostel in France for relatives of those soldiers who were dangerously ill, with a YMCA car being used to transport the relatives from the port.
Most of the staff were voluntary, and most were women. - Accessed 28-10-2018

In June 1918 Ashburton Hut Week raised £359 15s 7d'
Western Times 25 June 1918 p6 col4

Above: Fund raising events for Ashburton YMCA's Hut Week.
Many thanks to John Germon for this item.

In August 1916 Admiral Beilesford wrote to the Spectator, proposing a fund to provide education, 'preferably for a sea career' for the children of members of the British Mercantile Marine who had died or sustained permanent injury during the war. 'It is accordingly proposed by means of Flag Days, and through the generous support of those who can afford to subscribe amounts large and small, to organize a Fund having this definite object in view.'

The admiral signed himself President of the Sailors' Day Fund

The Spectator, 26 August 1916, p11

Right: A member of the Rodgman family collecting for 'The Sailors' Day' in Ashburton.
Many thanks to Nancy Frey for this photograph

1917 C. Luxton, who won 4th prize in Form IV at Ashburton Grammar School, donated its value to the Red Cross War Fund.
Certificate dated December 1917, held at Devon Heritage Centre, ref 3503M/Z/2 - Accessed 28-10-2018

The only Luxton in the 1911 census for Ashburton was aged 25, but Frederick William Luxton, a Police Sergeant, was living with his wife and young family at Witheridge, Devon. Charles Luxton, his son, was aged 5.
In May 1913 Police-Sergt Luxton, of Ashburton, was one of the bearers at the funeral of A. Nott, who had been a Police Sergeant.
1911 census RG14, piece no 12726
1911 census RG14, piece no 13288
Western Times 30 May 1913 p14 col1


In 1919 Mrs Herring-Mason's Operatic Society gave 4 performances of The Pirates of Penzance. The considerable proceeds were to be donated to the Ashburton War Memorial Fund.

Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 6 March 1919 p4 col3

Right and below: A children's concert was scheduled to begin at 3pm, followed by sports.
Right: In the evening a concert was to be given by the Ashburton Pierrot Troupe, including songs such as 'Tommy Atkins of the Line' and 'Hurrah for England'.
Dancing would follow at 8.30pm, and the day was to be rounded off by a display of fireworks.
The town bells were to be rung at intervals throughout the day, and the Town Band was due to play in different parts of the town during the morning.
Left and below: Ashburton's Peace Celebration was held on the 19th July 1919. Details from the programme show that it was to begin with a procession from the top of East Street, followed by a reception of service men in the recreation ground.
Many thanks to John Germon for this item

Unfortunately it rained heavily on the 19th, and the outdoor sports and firework display had to be postponed.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 25 July 1919 p13 col1


'The Great War cast a long shadow over the early 1920’s. Veterans of the conflict sadly shook their heads at any mention of comrades who had failed to return. The newly erected war memorial was a constant reminder of local men and youths who were killed in the conflict'.

Many thanks to Hazel Bray for the above recollection.                                  

Above and right: The unveiling of the War Memorial, 24th October 1920.
Many thanks to Lerida Arnold for the two photographs

                Roll of Honour World War I

This section has now moved to a separate sub-section of Ashburton in Peril

Left: The memorial to members of the Constitutional Club who died in World War 1

Many thanks to the Constitutional Club for allowing me to take this photograph, 2014

Above: The memorial in the Methodist Chapel. The names are: George Bray, Hubert Hext, Cecil Honeywill, Joseph Lowrey, Edwin Mann, Frederick Moore, John Rosewarne and Louis White.

My own photograph 2015


                                                  World War II 

WWII rifle range, Halshanger Common.
Above: Bank constructed to absorb ammunition.
Below: The mechanism to raise and lower targets, The construction of the range probably took some time to complete.
My own photographs, 2015
Many thanks to Keith Ryan for dating the range

Writing to the Western Morning News in August 1938, I D Jago of Baberton House had great concerns about a proposed visit of members of the Hitler Youth Movement to the country. Three weeks in England, including 5 or 6 days walking along the east coast to Grimsby, could, Mr Jago* argued, provide some 'useful information'. He quoted an example from the previous war, where some German nephews of a British officer who spent their holidays in Britain 'afterwards turned out to be most proficient in the making of maps.'

Western Morning News 20 August 1938 p5 col4
A month later, on September 30th, Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain signed a non-aggression treaty with Adolf Hitler, and said that we had 'Peace for our time'.
*I am assuming it was a Mr Jago.

        Roll of Honour World War II 

 This section has now moved to a separate   sub-section of Ashburton in Peril.

The first cases for infringing the blackout regulations in Ashburton came to court in March 1940. Arthur Leonard Ruth of 24 North Street was fined 5s, and Frank Thomas Livingstone of 22 North Street was fined 4s. The chairman of the bench said that future offences would be dealt with more severely.
Express and Echo 16 March 1940 p5 col6

A milk office was established at the Town Hall by July. Mr W T Lomax was the milk officer.This presumably was in connection with the National Milk Scheme, 'designed to provide milk for those persons most in need of it, on grounds of nutrition, namely, children under five, and expectant and nursing mothers, and its benefits are restricted to such persons.'
Western Times 5 July 1940 p6 col3
Robert Boothby, answering a question on food supplies in the House of Commons, 31 July 1940 - Accessed 5-12-2016

Invasion seemed a very real possibility in 1940, and it was important to slow down the enemy if they reached Britain's shores.
One measure taken was to remove road signs, and in July the Western Times was able to report that Ashburton was fully compliant with the regulations regarding road signs.
Western Times 5 July 1940 p6 col3 - Accessed 5-12-2016

In November 1940 the Western Morning News reported that people were getting annoyed at the scaremongering stories of 'havoc' allegedly caused by bombs in mid Devon. Putting the record straight, the paper said that there had been no direct hits on any village in the district, and whilst there were craters in fields, orchards and on the moor, the greatest damage to property had been some smashed windows and a few dislodged roof slates. 
Nobody had required hospital treatment, but there were victims when a bomb fell in a field some distance from Druid Farm, Ashburton, occupied by Mr R Daw. On this occasion a fox took advantage of the fact  that  a sow abandoned her new-born litter and took refuge in a hedge. Apart from these casualties, the only other deaths were 'a few field mice, a frog and numerous rabbits.'
Western Morning News 21 November 1940 p5 col4

In January 1941 Arthur Palk, manager of Eastman's Ltd., butchers at 4 East Street, was summoned before magistrates for supplying meat that was in excess to the amount allowed under rationing. 
The manager explained that people were 'fed up with mutton', and that as a consequence not everybody was buying the amount they were entitled to. Sometimes, he said, he was left with 200-300lb of meat on a Saturday night.
Rather than trim a leg of lamb to the rationed amount, and ending up with a pile of waste, he had allowed some customers to have more than they should have.
He also said that 
the influx of refugees made it  difficult to keep up with things.
Prosecuting for the Ministry of Food, Mr Taylor of Paignton said that if a butcher had a larger quantity of meat than he could sell he should inform the meat allocation committee.
The Chairman of the magistrates fined Mr Palk 7s for each of the six customers involved, and three of the customers themselves were also fined 5s: Mrs Violet Sampson of Buckfast; Mrs Ethel Simpson of West End Terrace  and Mrs Winnifred Mabel Annesley of the Home Park Hotel.
The summonses against Maj William Rendell of Torns,  Mrs Winnifred McKinley of Roseland 
and Mrs Ada Rowland of Headborough were dismissed.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 31 January 1941 p5 col3
In 1941 Ashburton held a War Weapons Week. Townspeople congregated at the Bull Ring to hear the amount raised, which came to £1000. The total raised by Ashburton and District now stood at £39,067 8s 4d.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 5 September 1941, p8 col2


                                              John Henry Leaman

John Leaman, a 29 year old labourer, married Maud Woolacott in July 1914. John was the son of Joshua Hamlyn Leaman, a miner.
Parish records

John Henry Leaman was born in October 1914, and baptised in December of the same year. He was the son of John Leaman, a private in the 1st Devons, and his wife Maud. The family were from East Street.
Parish records

In September 1940 Mrs Maud Leaman, of 36, North Street, learnt that her son, Pte John Leaman, was a prisoner of war. Some months before she had been notified that he was 'Missing, believed killed'.
Western Times 6 September 1940, p6 col1

In November 1941 the hon secretary of the London Devonian Association received a letter from Mr John H Leaman, 'an old Ashburton Grammar School boy'. Captured during the retreat from Dunkirk, Mr Leaman was writing from Stalag XXB in Germany. The letter had taken 2 months to get to the Association - John had been busy harvesting on a farm when he wrote.
Before the war Mr Leaman had been employed 'at a large business house' in London.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette, 14 November 1941, p3 col6

In August 1945 the Western Times told the story of Pte H Leaman, who was from 1, Tudor Buildings.
Mr Leaman was in the 5th Batt. Devon Regiment from 1931 to 1935. He enlisted with the Devon Regt. in 1939, and was transferred to the Queen's Royal Regiment in 1940. He went to France with the British Expeditionary Force, and was with the 51st Division when he was taken prisoner at St Valery in June 1940.
Whilst in captivity he was made a member of the International Executive Board of Entertainment at Strassburg; chairman of camp committee at Danzig; area secretary of sport and entertainment in West Prussia and Secretary of the Prisoner of War Reunion Club for ex-POWs of Stalag XXB.
He was liberated by the British 2nd Army in April 1945, and was said to be in the best of health.
Western Times 10 August 1945, p6 col5


'My Grandparents, Mr William Martin and Mrs Beatrice Dorothy Martin moved into the London Hotel in West Street in 1940.... he and Granny housed American Army Officers on the top floor during the 40's.'
Many thanks to Christine Lunt for the information above

There were evacuees in the house during the war - my mother used one of the bedrooms as a food store, and had food piled from floor to ceiling. Frankie was a Special Policeman at this time.
From the reminiscences of the late Hugh Abbott

Dutch evacuees were taught in the staff room of the Council School (ie the Primary School).

Remembered by Wendy Major                                                   

There was also an evacuee school in the old manor house above Holne Cross (which later burnt down)

Remembered by Wendy Major


"Our house was large – we had 6 bedrooms. F J Badcock had lived in it once, and still owned it. During the war, when we had evacuees, there were 14 in the house altogether".

(From Ernie Smerdon. See Growing up in the 1940s for more on Ernie's childhood)


On the Exeter Memories website Sylvia Hart, who was 9 when WWII began, remembers that the American Army had a camp at Ashburton. The personnel were all black - the white Americans had been separated to camps around Exeter to avoid trouble between them. - Accessed 2-01-2016


Edward Fabyan Windeatt of Druid, Ashburton, is listed in a book of remembrance and war record of Mill Hill School. He was a senior company officer of the NFS (National Fire Service) from 1942-45, engaged in the administrative side of the service, particularly disciplinary matters. He was in the part-time fire service from 1938-42, and assisted during the Plymouth Blitz and later at Exeter. - Accessed 2-01-2016


See also 'The War Years' section of the Wilderness and Greylands School, and the war medals of George Pengilley in the 1940s section of the Virtual Museum.


                                          Ashburton must not burn!
Bottom of letter regarding Fire Guard Organisation, below

Left and below:

Mrs D A Ferguson was appointed as Group Leader for The Fire Guard Organisation in 1942. Mrs Ferguson lived at 1, Woodland Road, and was leader of Group 20, covering Woodland Road and Whistley Hill.

Documents and photograph are from my own collection


Above: Card confirming Mrs Ferguson's appointment. 
It reads: Ashburton Urban District Council Fire Guard Organisation. 
Head Fire Guard Mr G S Clarke Hazeldene, Ashburton
Deputy Head Fire Guard Mr D D O Williams
Headborough Road, Ashburton
Group No. 20. Your appointment as leader of the group is hereby confirmed

By February 1945 there was a Homecoming Fund in Ashburton for returning service men and women. Maureen Baldwin, aged 15, was chosen as a 'pin-up' girl at a dance in aid of the fund - she had been evacuated from Plymouth.
Western Morning News 20 February 1945 p6 col4


                                                RAF Ashburton

A ring of early warning radar stations, built before and during WWII, had the codename Chain Home. Known as 'stations', they used radio waves to detect aircraft at long range. - accessed 01-02-2021

Each station was autonomous, but administration, which covered things such as technical services, pay and personnel was controlled by Wings.
M J B Scanlan, Chain Home Radar, a Personal Reminiscence, GEC Review, vol 8, no.3, 1993, reproduced in - accessed 04-02-2021

Between 1941 and 1946 the technical control wing of No. 78 Wing RAF was at RAF Ashburton. - accessed 01-02-2021

David Speake graduated with a first class honours in Physics from Cambridge in 1941. He joined the Ministry of Aircraft Production, to work on the ground based radar programme. After the war he joined Marconi's Wireless and Telegraph Company, and by 1965 was Director of Research.
Obituary, Chelmsford Science and Engineering Society - accessed 01-02-2021
He was at Wing HQ at Ashburton in 1943, covering stations on and near the south coast.
The source mistakenly says that Ashburton is in Somerset. - accessed 01-02-2021

Technical Officer Peter Harrild was stationed in the Orkney Islands in 1943 at one of the early Chain Home stations. He was ordered to Shoreham in Sussex, but had to report to no. 78 Wing headquarters at Ashburotn and the Southern Chain monitor at Brandy Bay in Dorset on the way.
Roy Taylor, The story of RAF Truleigh Hill, Brighton, p27

In 1943 Jean Marjorie Coleman was a radar operator at RAF Jacka, Portloe, Cornwall, a Chain Home radar station. By 1944 she was at RAF Ashburton.
Jan Gore, Send More Shrouds, Pen and Sword Military, 2017

                                               The Home Guard

The Local Defence Volunteers (later known as the Home Guard) began in Ashburton in 1940.

Col P Lyon and Major E H Varwell were in command.
Western Times 7 June 1940 p7 col3

A procession of the RAF, Home Guard and Civil Defence units, led by a military band, began Ashburton's War Weapons Week.
Western Morning News 26 August 1941 p6 col2

Above : Hole in the wall at the junction of Vealenia Terrace and Whistley Hill
My own photograph 2013

 Photo above right. The story goes: The Home Guard were of course prepared to defend Ashburton in case of attack. The idea of the hole above was that men (one man?) behind the wall would aim a weapon through the hole at anyone attempting to enter the town via Whistley Hill.

The Home Guard met in the Drill Hall, Love Lane, for weapons instruction. On one occasion a live cartridge went through the wall of the drill hall and up through several gardens.

They went up to Rippon Tor on guard duty. This suggests that the Ashburton troup may have been part of the 14th (Moorland) Battalion. 

Some members of the Home Guard: Jack Bligh, George Hole, Charlie Harding, Herbert Hamlyn, Jim and Bill Keats, Stan Gill.
Thanks to Wendy Major and Robin Bligh for the information above. Their father was in the Home Guard.

William Henry Ireland died, following an operation, in 1942. He had been a member of the Home Guard and the British Legion.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 2 October 1942 p5 col4 

                                     The ARP (Air Raid Precautions)

By January 1939 the town had spent 18 months making plans in case of air raids, achieving at one stage 'a better average of volunteers than any town in Devon.' Now Capt S T Stidston had to report that Exeter thought that Ashburton did not require protection. As result Ashburton would not now be allowed a decontamination squad, a repair or demolition party, an ambulance or first aid equipment. No money used for ARP purposes would be refunded from the county rates.
Western Morning News 11 January 1939, p4, col6

Three days later an acerbic reply from Stella Hawke pointed out that an official booklet available for tuppence  would have informed the district organizer that it had never been the Government's intention to provide first aid posts, ambulances or decontamination squads for towns of fewer than 3000 inhabitants.
Western Morning News 14 January 1939, p4,col5
According to d
ata originally from Devon Facts and Figures, (part of the Devon County Council website, no longer available)
the population of Ashburton in 1931 was 2505.
Quoted in - Accessed 19-2-2016

A year later, however, Totnes joined the town in a combined exercise at Ashburton. Two motor ambulances and other vehicles came from Totnes; Ashburton personnel included ARP Wardens, Special Constables, Regular and Auxiliary Fire Brigades, St John Ambulance and Nursing Divisions, and the Road Repair Party.
Western Times 31 May 1940, p7, col1

                                 More activities on the Home Front

By the end of September 1939, less than a month after war was declared, a register was taken of all British citizens. In addition to name, age, address and occupation the register also notes any activities helping the war effort. Here are a few Ashburton people and what they were doing on the home front:

Francis W S Abbott at Lyndhurst, Special Constable with Devon Constabulary
Reginald S Andrews at Cross Lanes, Special Constable
George E Browning, North Street area, part time Fireman
Arthur Matthews, North Street, ARP Warden
Montague H Needham, Hele House, Head Warden
Elsie Robinson at Little Barn, Territorial Army Nursing Reserve
Emma M Stidston at Ashe, Warden in the ARP, section 8
Edith E Tuckett at Headborough, WLA (Women's Land Army) on own farm
Mary E Whitley at Welstor, Civil Nursing Reserve

In 1940 Ashburton WVS were appealing for aluminium for salvage, which the Council was going to help collect.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 12 July 1940 p7 col4

The Housewives Section of the WVS met at Ashburton in 1943. The Group Housewife, Mrs B D Wood, was unable to attend, but the Divisional Head Housewife, Mrs Lucas was present.

The Women's Voluntary Service for Air Raid Precautions (later the Women's Voluntary Service for Civil Defence) was formed in 1938. They provided support, particularly after air raids, in various forms, including running information centres and mobile canteens, arranging temporary accommodation for those who had lost their homes, looking after older people and organizing salvage collections.

The Housewives Service, intended for those women with other commitments, involved people volunteering to give emergency aid in their immediate locality.
Western Times 29 January 1943 p7 col6 - Accessed 9-12-2016

                      Auxiliary Home Guard Units - The British Resistance

In the event of the United Kingdom being invaded, there were highly secret, trained units ready to resist Nazi occupation. These were called Auxiliary Units or GHQ Auxiliary Units, and consisted of specially selected civilians with good local knowledge. The training centre was at Coleshill House near Swindon, but the members of the units continued training in sabotage and unarmed combat once they returned home. Operational Bases (hideouts) were constructed - concealed bunkers containing food and ammunition where men could hide, if necessary, for in some cases up to a month. By the end of 1941 there were 534 in use. - Accessed 19-12-2016

Above: Fort Austin.
Image distibuted under a Creative Commons Licence via

Captain Stuart Edmundsen was put in charge of organizing resistance in Devon and Cornwall, and he began by using Fort Austin in Plymouth as the local headquarters.
'The Last Ditch', David Lampe, Frontline Books, Yorkshire 2013, p87ff (Orignally published 1968)

Originally one of the Palmerston Forts, Fort Austin was built as one of several to protect the Royal Dockyard against a French invasion in the 1860s.
See for an extensive range of photographs - Accessed 13-1-2016

In November 1943 Major Wilfred Welchman 'Bill' Harston took over
from Captain Edmundsen as Intelligence Officer in charge of Devon. A headmaster in civilian life, he had previously been an unarmed combat instructor at GHQ Coleshill. He was living at 17 East Street, Ashburton at the time. - Accessed 18-12-2016

In effect this made Ashburton the headquarters for resistance in the south-west, albeit at a time when the threat of invasion was fading (the Auxiliary Units were stood down in late 1944).
Commenting on accommodation addresses for Intelligence Officers, David Lampe writes, 'Framlington, Suffolk...became the headquarters for East Anglia, and Ashburton in Devon for all the South-west and also for a part of Wales'
'The Last Ditch', David Lampe, Frontline Books, Yorkshire 2013, p157 (Originally published 1968)
Left: 17 East Street - Resistance headquarters for Devon in 1943.
My own photograph 2016

Major Harston died in 1970, in the New Forest registration district.
Above: Major Harston's actual sword.
© Great Scott Antiques Many thanks to Christopher Scott for permission to use this image
Left: Major Harston's medals.
Many thanks to Geoffrey Thursfield

Right: All members of the Auxiliary Units were issued with a Fairbairn-Sykes fighting knife like this one. Major Harston's actual knife (plus his sword from his earlier army career) was sold via a militaria website in 2015 - the vendor, Christopher Scott, says of it that it 'was rather tired and well used!'
Very many thanks to Roy Shadbolt for permission to use this illustration.
See his website on the Wilkinson F-S Collection at
Thanks also to Christopher Scott of Great Scott Antiques


                                                   A real life 'Q' 

"See Q for any equipment you need" (Casino Royale , Ian Fleming, chapter 3)

In the James Bond books (and more especially the films) there is a fictional Q branch which supplies ingenious gadgets and weapons to assist the spy.

Part of Ian Fleming's inspiration for Q branch may have come from MI9, a War Office department that was set up in 1939 to  help British prisoners of war escape from enemy prison camps. 

An officer of MI9 is buried in the far section of Ashburton graveyard: Major William Christopher Clayton Hutton

Right: Memorial to Major Clayton Hutton
My own photograph 2013

The memorial reads: 'Christopher William Clayton Hutton  Major MI9 1939-45 whose escape devices aided so many prisoners of war.

Died 3rd September 1965 aged 71.'                       

On 9th May 1917, 23 year old Christopher Clayton Hutton, a Captain in the R F C, gained a certificate in flying from the Military School, Birmingham. He was flying a Maurice Farman Biplane.  Although the certificate states that he was born on the 16th November 1894, it probably should have read 1893 - his birth was registered earlier that year.* This birth date also appears on documents connected with an application he made for employment in 1944.
*March quarter 1894 King's Norton registration district

In his autobiography Clayton Hutton describes how he was rejected by the RAF at the start of World War II, but after badgering the Army was eventually interviewed by the Intelligence section. He was accepted after talking about his fascination with magic, illusionists and escapologists, and in particular about a challenge that he had once issued to Houdini.
Official Secret, Clayton Hutton, Crown Publishers Inc., New York 1961, pp 1-4.

He was given the task of devising escape aids for personnel finding themselves over enemy lines: items such as saws, wire cutters, maps and compasses. He had no previous plans or records to work from, but there were books written by people involved in previous conflicts.

After bumping into a schoolboy, he had the idea of getting sixth-formers to do the research for him - a co-operative headmaster set pupils the task of making a précis of all passages concerning escape.
ibid pp 9-14

Hutton's first task was to find and design maps that could be used by military personnel in enemy territory. He discovered that silk was the best material to use, because it was durable, could be concealed in small objects and did not rustle. But he had a problem with the ink running. Eventually he found that by adding pectin to the ink the problem was solved.
ibid pp 22-24

In 1942 he put together a 79-page top secret catalogue of devices, 'Per Ardua Libertas' - Liberty Through Adversity. The catalogue was for the use of American intelligence officers, and included coat buttons and gold teeth with hidden compasses and cameras disguised as cigarette lighters

In January 2013 a copy of the catalogue was sold for £5250 at Bonhams Gentleman's Library sale. 25 January 2013. Accessed 5-10-2013

In 1944 there was some question of his being employed in the Special Operations Executive - a secret organization set up in 1940 to send spies and saboteurs behind enemy lines.

A note on his records by the Special Branch of the Metropolitan Police states that although '18490' had 'nothing detrimental recorded', they had been informed in 1940 by MI5 that he was employed by MI9.

On the 11th February 1944 his vetting forms were stamped: Not to be employed. MI5 was advised to contact Lt Col Rawlinson 'concerning the above named', and there is reference to a telephone conversation. On the 15th February there is the additional note: Not employed - Owing to traces. Accessed 31-10-2013
National Archives ref HS9/7714 CS79725

When he died in 1965, he was living at 5 Foales Court, Stapledon Lane, Ashburton.
Probate records

'...intended to alert the recipients.
The collar studs need to have the paint scraped off to show the compasses underneath.
The button unscrews to show another.
The swivel [?] bar compass was hanging [?] on a piece of thread and the 2 dots would point north.
The map ... is particularly interesting and is 2 sided.
The other silk one was widely distributed during the war.
This visit to Ashburton has been to see the grave headstone. Mr Trigg is going to make a couple

of small alterations shortly (to change MI6 to MI9
 and to alter the spelling of the word YEARS).
Left and below: Part of a letter, now in Ashburton Museum, written to the vicar of Ashburton in 1966. The sender is unknown.
'Dear Mr Charnley,
Here are a few of the late Major Clayton Hutton's escape aids which might be of interest to the local museum.
The photographs have a few comments on the back.
The headed notepaper is an actual piece which would have been sent out with parcels to the POW camps. It was a fake fund used as a cover by the senders of the "loaded" parcels.
The lines by Runyan were...' [cont below left]
I think that I must have wrongly told him that Major Hutton was in MI6 instead of MI9. I don't imagine that...'
Many thanks to Bob Heath and to Ashburton Museum

Above: Map of Southern Italy

Below: Detail from map of Southern Italy, showing, amongst other things, that the direction of river flow was marked. 

Above and below: Escape maps printed on silk. This map shows an enlarged section of the Swiss border.

The maps above were probably used. They belonged to Gunner Hywel Morgan, who was shot down twice over Italy. On one occasion he lived with partisans in Italy for five months.
Many thanks to Trish Roberts for the above maps and information.
Thanks also to Sue Coney for her help on this topic

The maps were usually double-sided, thus getting as much information as possible onto the fabric.
Left: Detail of the map of Italy

Below, left and right: Maps of Spain and Northern Italy.

For more information see particularly Edouard Renière's article on escape devices: Accessed 03-07-2022

See also
The history of British cloth escape maps via - Accessed 5-10-2013
For more on MI9 go to and search for MI9 History - Accessed 5-10-2013


Right: Llamas in an Ashburton field, 1941
Many thanks to Sheila Lafleur for this photograph.

Wendy Major believes that this was to do with Paignton Zoo. Food for the animals was scarce during WWII, and the moors provided a free source of nutrition.
Many thanks to Wendy for this
The zoo began as a private managerie of Herbert Whitley Snr. One branch of the family later lived at Welstor.
See - Accessed 27-12-2019
Right: British servicemen on leave in Venice in 1945, in a gondola on the Grand Canal. Private W J Leaman of Ashburton is one of them.

They are: Corporal T Fenn, Mottingham, London
Private E W Jones, Esher, Surrey
Private Leaman
Private A Clark, St Johns, Deptford, London
Private G C Foreman, Warminster, Wiltshire
Photograph by Captain A R Tanner, War Office official photographer, catalogue number TR 2891 Imperial War Museum. © Imperial War Museum. accessed 01-04-2021                                    
                                             Victory in Europe
On VE Day the town was decorated and the church bells rang at intervals. After a thanksgiving service in the morning, there were children's sports in the Recreation Ground in the afternoon. Loud speakers broadcast the Prime Minister's address. Later a car led a 'furry dance' through the main streets, and at dusk a number of buildings were floodlit.
Above : VE celebrations in North Street.
With thanks to WW2 People's War. This is an online archive of wartime memories contributed by members of the public and gathered by the BBC. The archive can be found at

 In the evening there was a dance at the Town Hall, which was decorated with red, white and blue electric lights.
Western Times 18 May 1945, p6 col6 and p7 col3

From Cary Bazalgette: 'On the evening of what I now realise was the 8th May 1945 my mother snatched me out of bed and, she later told me, said, "You'll remember this, my girl!" I must have been carried to the pathway next to the recreation ground where there was an enormous bonfire, celebrating VE Day. I realised even then how enormous it was, because a full-size five bar gate had just been heaved onto it: the gate was silhouetted against the mass of flames, which were much bigger than it. I remember seeing sparks flying up and over the church tower. I don't remember how I got back to the house or being put back to bed, except I do remember my mother pulling back the bedclothes and whipping off my thick school knickers, which must have been put on me to keep me warm out of doors, and which were significant to me because I had just started school at what I later found out must have been Greylands.'
With many thanks to Cary

Another picture of the VE celebrations in North Street.

Below: Believed to be a photograph of all those involved in organizing the street party.
Many thanks to Richard and Frances Berry for these photographs.
                                         The Amethyst Incident

In April 1949 HMS Amethyst was making her way up the Yangtse River during the Chinese civil war. The ship came under heavy fire, the captain was mortally wounded and there were severe casualties amongst the crew.

Lieut.Com J S Kerans, who later joined and took over the ship. spoke in Plymouth about the incident in November. Praising the crew, he picked out the actions of Teleg. Jack French of Ashburton. When reading signals sent to Amethyst 'conditions were so appalling that to give him air a shipmate had to stand over him with bellows.'
Western Morning News 2 November 1949 p5 col6

There was a procession and civic ceremony when Jack returned to Ashburton. A car carried him and his parents, Charles and Elsie French to the Bullring where he was presented with an illuminated address and an inscribed tobacco jar. Brig. Ralph Rayner, the MP for Totnes, said, 'Well done, old boy.' Other events of the day included a church service, a tea and a civic ball, where Jack danced with Mary Luscombe, the carnival queen.
Torbay Express and South Devon Echo 7 November 1949 p3 cols4/5

Continued in column 2

Continued from column 1

Sadly, the tobacco jar may not have been much use to Jack, because he only smoked cigarettes. He had posed with a pipe in a picture and orgainizers of his welcome home thought the jar would be 'an ideal gift.' Mr R G Robertson, the portreeve, said, 'It's too late to change it now.' 
Torbay Express and South Devon Echo 31 October 1949 p5 col4

 Above: "HMS Amethyst WWII IWM A 30156" by Royal Navy official photographer - This is photograph A 30156 from the collections of the Imperial War Museums. Licensed under Public Domain via Commons -

                                             The British Legion

Above:  Poppies, Papaver rhoeas. Photo taken in 2002 by John Beniston, and  licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution

'Several young ladies kindly sold the Flanders poppy on Thursday last....'
Western Times 16 November 1923 p10 col1

The British Legion was founded in 1921 to provide support for ex-servicemen following World War I. Today it has the aim of providing financial, social and emotional care to past and present members of the armed forces and their families, and covers recent and past conflicts. It is perhaps best known for its annual fundraising Poppy Appeal.
 -Accessed 10-11-2013

In February 1924 a south-west conference of the British Legion was held at Exeter. Ashburton branch said that work at polling stations should be given to ex-servicemen where possible.
Exeter and Plymouth Gazette 18 February 1924 p7 col3

Mr Bradford, secretary of the Ashburton branch of the British Legion, organised the Poppy Day collections for Earl Haig's Fund in 1924. The collectors were the Misses B Adam, F Campion and N Swain.
Western Times 14 November 1924 p10 col2

Above and below: Oliver Victor Brooks, known as Vic Brooks, with the Devon County Standard.

From Carol Scott nee Brooks:

'My father, Oliver Victor Brooks, was the eldest son of Sgt Oliver Brooks V.C. Born in Windsor in 1919, he was known in and around Ashburton as Vic Brooks. 

He met Ashburton girl Pearl Yolland, of 4 Roborough Lane, and they married at St. Andrew's Church in 1941, continuing to live at No.4 afterwards. A former Territorial and Corporal of the Ox and Bucks Light Infantry, he joined the Royal British Legion after the war, and became the Standard Bearer of the Ashburton branch in 1946.

Six feet tall, broad-shouldered and strongly built, he was a smart representative of the Royal British Legion and Standard Bearers.

In due course he became the Devon County Standard Bearer, and won the Southern Counties Competition in Weymouth in 1953.

Vic then went on to win the National Standard Bearers Competition, carrying the National Standard at the Royal Albert Hall on remembrance services on numerous occasions, and also at Sandhurst Military Academy.

In 1958 he returned to Windsor, joining the Windsor and Eton branch of the British Legion.

He died in 1985.'

See also the Fire and flood sub-menu of Ashburton in peril for an account of Vic Brooks in the Fire Service.

Many thanks to Carol Scott nee Brooks for the photographs and information.