Bampton War Memorial
The war memorial is situated at the bottom end of High Street, near the old railway bridge. It commemorates those who died in the two world wars. It is now Grade II listed. Below is a detailed account of how Bampton was affected by the two World Wars.
TO THE GLORY
The commemorative paving slab shown here was added in October 2015 at the base of the War memorial to honour AM Read VC, killed September 25th 1915. See more about him below.
This is part of a national scheme of specially comissioned stones to commemorate every UK soldier awared the Victoria Cross in Word War I.
Also added in October 2015 was an additional name, that of C Toze who was killed in Flanders on October 24 2015. His family (the very extended Toze family of 50 from England, Wales, USA, Canada, and Luxembourg visited Bampton earlier that year) noticed his name was missing, and paid to have it added. Charlie Toze was born and bred in Bampton, and his name does not appear on any other UK memorial.
Mr. W.C. Carnell, who was blinded in the war, on Sunday afternoon unveiled the Bampton War Memorial. The cross is of Dartmoor granite, and is erected at the junction of High Street and the South Molton Road. It records the names of 41 Bampton men who fell in the war. The names were read out by Mr. J. Penwarden J.P., and the vicar (Rev. E.V. Cox) dedicated the memorial. Rev. F.W. Hurford (Baptist) read the Scriptures and offered prayer, and Rev. J.F. Luke (United Methodist) delivered an impressive address. Wreathes laid at the foot of the memorial included those from Bampton Legion, officers and men of the 4th Devons, and the Urban Council. A muffled peal was rung on the church bells.
Anketell Moutray Read was not born at Castle Grove but was often a visitor because his mother lived there after his father died. He was a hero of the First World War. "On September 25th 1915 near Hulloch in France he was partially gassed, but went out several times in order to rally parties of different units which were disorganised and retiring. He led them back into the firing line and regardless of danger to himself, moved about under withering fire encouraging them, but he was mortally wounded whilst carrying out this gallant work.
He had shown conspicuous bravery on other occasions, particularly on the night of 29/30th July when he carried out of action an officer who was mortally wounded, under a hot fire of rifle and grenades." London Gazette 18 November 1915
On the left ius the plaque in the church dedicated to his memory.
We understand that a Blue Plaque has been erected (11th September 2009) ourside the birthplace of Anketell Moutray Read at 56 Shurdington Road in Cheltenham. On 25th September 2015, there was also a commemorative Paving Stone laid in Cheltenham to remember him - information here.
The Great War During The Great War, life carried on much as normal in Bampton. Aerial reconnaissance and anti-aircraft guns were for the future, but Bampton mens’ lives were nonetheless lost in the battlefields abroad. Anketel Moutray Read, whose mother lived at Castle Grove for a few years at the beginning of the 20th century, belonged to the Royal Flying Corps, then joined the Northamptonshire Regiment of the Army, where he became a Captain. He was very active in a battle at Hullock in France, where his gallantry in rallying his men whilst partially gassed and under heavy fire earned him the highest military honour, the Victoria Cross, albeit posthumously. He died in action on 25th September 1915, and was buried at Le Routoire near Loos in France. His medal is kept at the Northants Regimental Museum. He never lived in Bampton, but was an occasional visitor to his mother. There were also four Military Medals awarded; to Ernest Gillard (23rd Canadian Regiment), Clifford George Irish (Royal 1st Devonshire Yeomanry), Percy Henry Irish (Royal Garrison Artillery), and John Wood (Royal Marine Light Infantry). A further 213 men from the parish are listed as having fought in The Great War, and the emblems of those regiments to which the men of Bampton belonged have been in-filled in the War Memorial Window in the parish church, along with the names of those who were killed.
On 14th December 1917, Bampton Urban District Council set the following food prices: milk 1s.10d. per gallon; topside of beef 1s.4d. per lb.; pork legs 1s.3d. per lb.; pork skull 6d.; butter in rolls or bricks 2s.4½d. per lb. At that time and well into the 1930’s, labourers earned 8d. per hour, foremen and fitters earned 9d., whilst the well paid were the carpenters and blacksmiths who earned 1s. per hour. The hire of a horse and cart with a driver for a day was 6s. Their thirsts were quenched by ale, 48 flagons [96 pints or 12 gallons] of which cost 18s.8d.
In 1921 the British Legion was formed, and by 1923 it had an active branch in Bampton. The first Hon. Secretary was Henry Jones, a Bampton man who had served with the 1st Devonshires in The Great War and was discharged medically unfit. He was the custodian of the Drill Hall, Poor Rate collector, and assistant Overseer of the Poor. He had been a Colour Sergeant before the war, acting as Drill Instructor for the 3rd Battalion Volunteers at the hall. He left the army as Sergeant Major. The British Legion remained in Bampton until the mid 1960’s.
The Second World War In common with the rest of the country, precautions were taken during the 1939-1945 war to ensure as far as possible the safety of those living in and around Bampton. The black-out was enforced by the Air Raid Precaution Wardens, all road signs were removed, and petrol rationing was in force. Church bells were silent, to be used only in the event of an apparent invasion by the enemy. Wonham House, rebuilt in 1850 by the then Lord of the Manor, John Collins J.P., was obtained in 1939 for the duration of the war as a mental hospital, which had evacuated itself from The Flower House, Beckenham Hill Road, London. Most male residents of Bampton either volunteered or were conscripted into the Armed Services, exceptions being age, ill health, and those employed in ‘reserved occupations’. Women began doing work hitherto regarded as mens’, and many joined the Womens’ Land Army and worked on the farms. One woman became the first female porter at Bampton Station, the regular porter having entered the Royal Navy.
Those who left for the Forces were replaced by evacuee children and their teachers who were lodged in various homes, the organisation of which was effected by the Baptist Minister, Rev. P. H. Jones. Mrs. Vicary, wife of the butcher in Fore Street, was prominent in housing these children – she often had children from four or five families staying. A school for Jewish boys, St. Mary's Lodge School, came from 21 Tower Road, Branksome Park, Bournemouth, to Bampton and settled at Wonham Barton - Headmaster D. M. J. Langdon L.C.T.P. In the Jewish Chronicle 26th July 1940 page 2, there is an advert for St. Mary's Lodge School of Bournemouth saying that it had been evacuated to Wonham Barton, Bampton. At some point, the school transferred to The Old House in Frog Street, but when or why is not known. Today, there is no record of the school having existed, either in Jewish circles, or in any County records in Bournemouth or Devon.
Those of the population who remained entered one of the Civil Defence Units - the Home Guard, the Royal Observer Corps, or the Special Constabulary. Fines were imposed in magistrates’ courts for failure to attend Home Guard practices. Air Raid Precaution Wardens and other people were sent to Heathcoat’s in Tiverton to make parachutes. A Girls’ Training Corps was also formed for those aged between 15 and 18, preparing them for National Service. The members of the Royal Observer Corps received training in the recognition of aircraft, and reported aircraft sightings from look-out posts on Bampton Down and in a field off Morebath Road. An army battery with gun emplacements and searchlights was installed on Hukeley Hill [the one now crowned by a TV aerial], just to the east of Bampton.
For a few years during the war, Les and Irene Wills were farming at Druidshayne, which is perched on a hill just outside Bampton, and had only a steep rough stony track leading to it from the town. On the night of 29th March 1943, they were awoken by someone knocking on their door, having been wandering in the dark and somehow found the farm. He was a Scottish airman who had baled out from his plane but was not injured, and needed to get information to his HQ. He had baled out in case of mishap as his information was urgent and sensitive, although his plane went on and landed without any incident. Les trudged into town to get a doctor and the local policeman, and eventually away they went, the airman keeping in touch for a few years by sending Christmas cards. Some short while after this incident, a Land Girl who was working on the farm, Beatrice Maidment, met and decided to marry an American GI. She had no family of her own, and it was Les who gave her away at the wedding in Bampton church. Beatrice used Irene’s wedding dress (fortunately she still had it and it fitted!), and the reception was held at the farmhouse. The American Army supplied all the food, with tinned fruit and a good supply of whisky. Bride and groom stayed the night at the farm and left on the following day, never to be heard of again at the farm. It was not too long after this that Les was crushed in an accident in his tractor, then few and far between in Bampton, and was extracted from the tangle by a nearby farmer, George Bowden, who happened to see the wreck from one of his own fields at nearby Gumbland about an hour later. To this day, Les, now living in Ireland, is still partially crippled.
News of the Japanese surrender arrived in Bampton at about midnight on Tuesday August 14th 1945 – on the eve of V.J. Day. Within minutes the streets were filled with people celebrating the end of the war and knocking on neighbours’ doors to wake them. Someone appeared with an accordion, and there was dancing and fireworks until half past three. The following evening there was more dancing, the music being supplied by the Collacotts, who owned the White Horse Hotel, and yet more fireworks numbered in the hundreds, supplied by Mrs. Burrows who had the newsagent’s shop in Brook Street. Next day, there was a party for the children in the Church Institute [now St. Michael’s Community Hall] involving a free tea and a gift to each of 1s.3d, followed by a Social for everyone. The children left at about half past eleven whilst the merrymaking was still in full swing.
When the war was finally over, the Town Council ruffled more than a few feathers. They had organised a collection to give the home-coming troops a welcome to remember and collected a tidy sum – with which they cleared both the mortgage on the football field, and an ancient hedge following the line of the Saxon enclosure!
Early in the war, food became short following U-boat action, causing rationing to be introduced to eke out the dwindling supplies and to try and make the country self-sufficient in food. The local wildlife also felt the result of rationing, whether feathered or furred - much of it found its way into cooking pots, rook pie being a favourite. One local hostelry shortly after the war was selling badger meat as pork! Apparently the texture and flavour is very similar. Farmers had to cultivate otherwise waste land, and were instructed which crops to grow there. Lime and fertilisers attracted 50% Ministry grants, and whilst this may have softened the blow of extra work with fewer workers, times were still rough for some. One farmer, who had served in the Great War and had been wounded, found himself being directed to clear his waste land and grow potatoes. The land was overgrown with gorse and shrubs and, having no machinery, he had to clear this by hand. With the day’s work done, there was still no rest, for he had to do a night patrol with the Home Guard - two or three miles away.
A memorial plaque to those Bampton men who were killed is in the church. Scott's Quarries received a Ministry grant to install new equipment to increase lime production, and they were working round the clock, 7 days a week, producing lime, road and building stone, and stone and Tarmacadam for the runways at the new airfields at Exeter, Dunkeswell, Smeatharpe, and Chivenor. So busy were they that they could not keep up with the delivery of all they were producing, and George Wimpey were called in to help with their lorries. American lorries were also used.
Army Medical Units The Gospel Hall in Back Street [later to become a public hall then a house] was used as a First Aid Post. After the evacuation of Dunkirk, a dishevelled and worn-out Army medical unit arrived in Bampton in June 1940, complete with patients. They used the church hall as a hospital and the army men were billeted in the drill hall, whilst officers found lodgings in private homes. The Methodist Minister allowed the soldiers to open a canteen in the basement of his home, Forde House in Briton Street. When they left Bampton, an American medical unit soon followed, which also used the church hall as a hospital for their white soldiers, the black troops having to make do with tents erected on the surrounding church land. The drill hall was used as a holding unit. More Americans were billeted in some barns behind The Castle Hotel and on the hill beside High Street. The Americans set up a PX [Post Exchange] in the upstairs room behind The White Horse where all sorts of goodies, otherwise unobtainable owing to rationing, were available to the U.S. personnel, including the provisions for the wedding party at Druidshayne. The local children were never too far away – hoping for a handout of sweets! There were a few ‘prisoners of war’, although not in the normal sense. Some foreign Nationals in Bampton at the outbreak of the war were refused passage to their own countries, and were perforce stranded. There was a POW camp in Tiverton, near where East Devon College [now known as Petroc] stands, whence inmates were ferried daily to work on local farms.
Falling Bombs and Planes The only bombs to be dropped in the area were three high explosive ones which fell at ten minutes to midnight on October 21st 1940 and exploded harmlessly in a field behind Chiltern Farm on the Morebath road. It cannot be known whether they were dropped in anger, or whether a passing plane, either British or German, had simply jettisoned them - or, indeed, if someone had evil designs on the Exe Valley Railway which ran nearby. On August 29th 1940, R.A.F. sources reported that a delayed action bomb had fallen to the north-west of Bampton at one minute to three in the morning. The Royal Observer Corps was contacted at 6.00a.m., who conducted a search and made enquiries, but they failed to find the bomb and it has not been found since. Sometime in 1944, a delayed-action bomb landed on the main railway line at Hele, north of Exeter, and caused all trains which used that line to be diverted on to the Exe Valley Line from Exeter in order to reach the Taunton line at Morebath Junction, and regain the mainline at Taunton. This caused a not a little interest one day at Bampton station when the 'up' and 'down' Cornish Riviera expresses passed each other. That diversion must have caused a bit of consternation for both train drivers, having to negotiate a single track and not very straight branch line! The only stretch of two-way track was at the station.
No crashing aircraft came down within the parish despite reports to the contrary, but there were a few near misses. On 29th March 1943 an R.A.F. Halifax plane crashed in bad weather near Wiveliscombe. The crew of five baled out and landed safely, and were looked after at Bampton before being taken by R.A.F. lorry to Exeter. On 2nd February 1943 a Typhoon nose-dived into the ground near Keens at Morebath. No survivors are known from that one. Another plane to fall in the area was a German Heinkel HE111H-4, identity 5J+DS, from 8/KG4 Squadron. It fell very close to The Red Deer at Oakford, having been shot down by Flying Officer I.K.S. Joll and Sergeant R.W. Dalton in an R.A.F. Beaufighter of 604 Squadron, at 3.45a.m. on July 5th 1941. The Beaufighter was damaged by return fire from the Heinkel, but so far as is known it continued its’ journey safely. The German plane had a crew of four, one of whom died in the incident, Ufz. F. Krenz. The survivors, Gefr. W. Furstenburg, Oberfw. K. Huth, and Gefr. W. Putz, baled out and were taken prisoner to Bampton police station, from which they were taken to the Prisoner of War Camp at Tiverton. Their plane was destroyed.
More damage was done in Bampton by military vehicles than anything else during the war. Damage was done to houses in Castle Street and Fore Street, and over the years of the war 48 incidents were recorded of damage or other traffic problems in the town. Of these, 25 involved U.S. military vehicles, 20 by British Army vehicles, and 3 by R.A.F. vehicles. A war memorial stands at the junction of High Street and the South Molton Road, where there is always a ceremony on Remembrance Day.
Another Bampton man of fame, although not in a war situation, was Sir Gilbert Nicholetts KB, CB, AFC who was born on 9th November 1902 at Wonham House, Bampton. He was the son of Edward Cornewall Nicholetts, a bank manager of Tiverton, and Ellen Fanny (née) Hollond daughter of John Robert Hollond, JP. On 23rd May 1933, The Tiverton Gazette reported on (then) Flight-Lieutenant Nicholetts’ long distance flight, jointly with Squadron Leader Gayford, from Cranwell, England, to Walvis Bay in South Africa.