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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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War Memorials



Recruiting poster for the Devonshire Regiment (1)
Recruiting advert used in many Devon papers in 1915


From The First World War Glossary:


Conscription : In January 1916, Parliament passed the first conscription laws (compulsory enrolment) ever passed in Britain. At first only single men and childless widowers aged 18 to 41 were called up. By 1918 compulsory service had been extended to include all men aged 18 to 51. More than 2.3 million conscripts were enlisted before the end of the war in November, 1918.


In 1915, when the following extract was printed, all men fighting on the Western Front were either regular soldiers or volunteers. As casualties began to rise, it became more and more urgent to find replacements. It was left to each Regiment to organise its own recruitment campaigns. However, as the year wore on and local newspapers began printing long casualty lists of the fallen wounded and captured, enthusiasm definitely waned until it became almost impossible to find volunteers even for the Devons - who were much loved locally, with the men of the Regiment being held in high esteem. Ultimately, of course, compulsion became the only way to maintain the optimum size of Britain's embattled army. For the first time, men were "called up". Local tribunals were set up to hear any requests for exemption and were given draconian powers to deal with anyone they believed to be shirking their duty - very few appeals to the tribunals succeeded and all their sessions were reported fully in the press to discourage other would-be applicants.


From The Western Express and Torrington Chonicle

20 February 1915


"Enthusiastic welcomes were accorded the detachment of 23 men of the 3rd Devons (under Lieutenants Bullock and Wreford), who, with their band (under Bandmaster Herniman) carried through a route march in North Devon for recruiting purposes. At Torrington, where the party arrived on Monday, the Mayor (Alderman S. Webber) and the members of the Town Council did all in their power to make the men comfortable during their two nights' sojourn in the town. On Monday evening, an excellent supper was provided, and Tuesday evening's entertainment took the form of a smoking concert. Those responsible for the arrangements were, in addition to the Mayor, Messrs. T. Haywood (Chairman of Committee), H. Slee (Hon. Treasurer), W. Luxton, H. Blatchford, F. Webber, W. Ashplant, L. Parkhouse and L. Palmer.


Tuesday's programme embraced a tour of the villages lying around Torrington, viz. Langtree, Stibb Cross, Shebbear, Petrockstowe, Merton, Dolton and Beaford. Prior to leaving Torrington, the troops, under Lieuts. Bullock and Wreford, and headed by the band, marched through the town, the inhabitants according them an enthusiastic send-off. They entered the cars on the outskirts of the town and Langtree was reached in good time, the visitors being welcomed by the schoolchildren, under the supervision of the schoolmaster. Langtree was gaily decorated and a hearty reception awaited the visitors. The Rev. B. Hallows presided over the meeting and expressed the hope that the campaign would be successful. Mr. C. A. Millman followed with a rousing appeal, after which one recruit came forward and was duly attested. The soldiers having been supplied with cigarettes and apples, a move was made to Stibb Cross where another enthusiastic reception was accorded them.


Half a mile outside the village, a large concourse of residents had assembled, and joined in the procession to the Square, where the scholars of the Council School and the students of Shebbear College helped to swell the crowd. Addresses of welcome and wishing God-speed to the cause were given by the Rector (the Rev. T. E. Fox) and Mr. Quance (Chairman of the Parish Council) while a vigorous appeal was made by Mr. C. A. Millman for more recruits. Baskets of fine apples were given by the scholars of the County School and boxes of cigarettes by the gentlemen to the troopers. A hot dinner was catered at the Devonport Hotel by Mrs. Mills. Before the military visitors joined up for their next march, the Shebbear Collegians gave hearty cheers for the Allies. At Petrockstowe, the company had another hearty reception and were again regaled with smokes and fruit.


Somewhat behind the scheduled time, Torrington was reached at 5.20. After a parade around the town, the men dispersed to their billets, but assembled later on for a smoking concert in the Drill Hall. The chair was taken by the Mayor (Alderman S. Webber) and speeches were given by Messrs Millman and Howard.


No fewer than nine young men gave in their names. Included in this number was a Boy Scout, who announced his intention of joining the band. At the close of the concert, Lieutenant Bullock (who is in charge of the troops) thanked the Mayor, Corporation and inhabitants for their generosity.


On Wednesday, the troops proceeded to Holsworthy, a distance of 26½ miles, passing through Monkleigh, Buckland Brewer ( for bread and cheese) Parkham, Woolfardisworthy, Bradworthy and Sutcombe. Torrington gave the troops a hearty send-off. This little North Devon town, with its population of 3,000 or so, has sent 270 men to the defence of the country.


During the first two days of the tour, the weather was remarkably fine, but on Thursday morning rain was falling heavily as the party motored out of Torrington en route for Monkleigh where a hearty welcome awaited them from the Vicar (Rev. L. H. Lermit) who stated that only two more men were required to make up a total of 10 per cent. Monkleigh had already sent 33 men. After a speech by Mr. Howard, the two men required came forward. The villagers were most hospitable, cigarettes and apples being distributed by Miss Roach and Mr. Turrall. A welcome was waved by the school children.


At Buckland Brewer, refreshments were provided locally, Mr. and Mrs. W. H. Rogers of Orleigh Court being especially kind in this respect. Here Mr. G. H. Fairbrother joined the party and took with him Recruiting Sergeant Greenaway in his motor-car. Mr. Rogers (Chairman of the parish Council) mentioned that 28 men from the village had joined the colours out of a population of 650 - Mr. Millman made a special appeal to the farmer's sons and Mr. C. R. H. Bruce distributed cigarettes.


The village of Parkham was soon reached and fortunately by this time the weather had cleared somewhat. Here one recruit was forthcoming. Mr. Howard appealed to the men in the name of Drake, and urging them not to let "Drake's Drum" beat in vain. Mr. T. H. Folland (Chairman of the Parish Council) mentioned that 45 out of a population of 850 had enlisted. Cigarettes were distributed by the school children and the troops were welcomed by Rev, S. A. Hensley and Mr. and Mrs. J. Paton who have three sons with the colours.


Woolfardisworthy did not yield any material results, but the greeting extended to the men by the Vicar (Rev. F. C. Courtenay Burrough) and the Chairman of the parish Council (Mr. Paul Bond) was most hearty. Refreshments were provided by the villagers, the arrangements being in the hands of the Vicar and members of the Parish Council. The former issued a few days ago a special appeal to the employers to allow their men an hour or so off on the occasion of the arrival of the soldiers. In the course of a brief speech, he mentioned that out of a population of 475, a dozen or so had joined the colours. Mr. Millman also spoke and Lieutenant Bullock thanked the villagers for their generosity.


A lengthy halt was made at Bradworthy, which lies in the Tavistock Division, where the arrangements were in the hands of Messrs W. H. Stantan and F. S. Sprague. At the gathering the Square, Mr. Howard made a forceful appeal and one man was enlisted. After dinner, the troops again paraded in the Square and made further efforts to obtain recruits but all in vain.


Recruiting Poster for the Devonshire Regiment (2)

Another recruiting advert used throughout Devon

The caption reads:

"Have you a butler, groom, chauffeur, gardener or gamekeeper serving you who at this moment should be serving his King and Country?"



Then Colonel Griffen addressed the crowd, and remarked that no one of any intelligence could feel the war was not justified, and that being so, the country wanted more men. "Why don't you come forward, " he exclaimed. "Are you always going to look with your mouths wide open and let others do your work? Do not let the soldiers go away and leave Bradworthy in contempt. Are there none of you here here with any spirit or enterprise? What will your sons say of you in years to come if you do not join the army? Will none of you make any self-sacrifice? You are content to die and have a decent funeral and you think you will get to heaven. The path to heaven lies through sacrifice. Good God, men of Bradworthy, are you content to stop here and let others do your fighting? Get up and show yourselves and do not for ever hide behind the women's skirts."


Notwithstanding  this appeal, no more recruits came forward and the party left for Holsworthy, passing through Sutcombe en route. Here they were welcomed by Rev. A. J. R. Wheeler who stated that six out of 300 had volunteered. the explanation of the small attendance was that the majority of the men were at Holsworthy market. Cigarettes and chocolates were given the troops by the ladies of the village.


Fifteen minutes before scheduled time, the pretty little town of Holsworthy was reached. It was market day and the streets were crowded. At the meeting in the Square, Alderman G. H. Higgs remarked that he saw one man in the crowd who had six sons; not one of them had gone. Could he not spare some of them to serve their King? Later in the evening, a smoking concert was held, Mr. W. J. Wightman presiding. From the 1000 inhabitants 100 men had been sent.


Up to date, 26 names had been enrolled but, comments "The Western Morning News" representative who accompanied the march: "The apathy of the young men in the country districts is, in many cases, almost unbelievable. Beyond all doubt, much of the blame rests with the farmer's sons, who, if they choose, could set an excellent example to the labouring classes". At Buckland Brewer, for instance, half a dozen stalwart labourers were appealed to, but their reply was "We'll go when the farmers' sons go. Let them lead the way."


When especially interrogated by Mr. Millman, one young farmer replied, "We'll stay at home and do the farming; let others do the fighting." Similar excuses were heard at Parkham. "Us farmers' sons be going to stay home and look after the grub and the money," was the answer actually given. "But look at this man, " said the questioner, bringing forward one of the soldiers. "He has been to the front and done his share. Won't you join and help the others?" "I never asked him to go," said the unwilling farmer. "I won't join, so there." "Then you ought to be kicked!" was the well-merited reply. Frequent excuses were: " I'll go when I'm compelled," and "When the Germans come, we'll join the Army." It was no use to explain to such laggards that by that time it would be too late; it was merely a waste of breath."


On Thursday, Holsworthy was left at 9.30 and the route was taken through Halwill Station, Ashwater (dinner), St Giles on the Heath, Petherwin Gate, Yeolmbridge to Lifton.


The first four days produced 34 recruits."


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