Category Archives: People behind the Names

The People Behind the Names Private Randall 1879-1916

Thomas Randal was born on the 5th February 1879 to Richard and Jane Randall (nee Rose). Thomas was one of seven children, when he was born the family were living at Lily Cottages which can be found opposite the Chichester Arms, in Mortehoe. The family later moved to Sunnycliffe which they ran as a boarding house. 

Thomas’s father, Richard Randall was born at Chickerell, near Weymouth in 1839 and joined the Royal Navy from the merchant service in January 1860. He saw service on many of the old ships of war, notably the ‘Colossus’ St. George and Trafalgar. He was then transferred to the coastguard service, and was stationed at Westward Ho for eight and a half years before moving to Mortehoe for nine years, Thomas was awarded the good conduct medal in 1875, retiring in 1887. For many years he was the caretaker of the lifeboat at Woolacombe

Richard, died in 1908, following a long illness, he had been well known and was highly respected in the area and the North Devon Journal described him as ‘being a typical Old Salt,  he was a great favourite of the juvenile portion of the large number of visitors who, year by year, come here for relaxation or in search of health.

Married to Laura, Thomas was working a as cook. He moved to Canada when war broke, and he enlisted with the Canadian over-seas expeditionary force in May 1915.  His papers at the time of his enlistment show him as being 5ft, 6 inches tall, with a dark complexion, brown eyes and dark hair. He was 36 years old when he enlisted, along with his brother. 

Private Thomas Randall (433207) had been stationed in France for some months, he saw a great deal of fighting with his Battalion, before he was killed in action on the 29th May 1916. His death was recorded in the local press, describing Thomas as a hero, an amiable disposition and much liked by his friends and comrades, worthy son of worthy Parents. His death is much regretted. 

Pte Herbert Perryman

Herbert Perryman was born in 1885 to Alfred and Mary Perryman. He would marry Ella Moule in 1908, where following their marriage they would live in Georgeham. Prior to his service in the first World War, Herbert worked with George Yeo in Mortehoe. Herbert would enlist with the Devonshire Regiment, first serving with the 1st Battalion and then the 2nd, with whom he was serving with when he would be killed on the 9th May 1915. The battle of Auber’s Ridge took place on the 9th May 1915 and would claim 250 causalities from the regiment including that of Pte. Herbert Perryman. The battle was a disastrous attack that cost 11,000 British casualties for no material gain; it was a minor supporting operation to a much larger French attack.

A letter to his wife from Pte. Ward with whom Herbert served, told that Pte. Perryman was in a traverse, when a shell burst, a piece of shrapnel struck Perryman and killed him. He went on to say that: “His fellows always found Private Perryman a true and sincere comrade.” The letter read: Dear Mrs. Perryman, It was with the deepest regret that I am writing these few lines to you, to let you know that your dear husband was fatally injured on May 9th, but I am very pleased to tell you he passed away most peacefully, and as I was with him till the last, I thought it was my duty to let you know.

I am sure we shall miss him, for during the time we have all been together we always found him a most faithful and straightforward comrade, and like many more of our brave heroes, had died for a just and worthy cause. The only thing we can hope is that our loss will be his gain. I am sure my comrades join with me in extending to you our deepest sympathy in your sad and recent bereavement, trusting God will strengthen you and help you to bear up during this terrible and most trying ordeal, and trusting that you will bear up as best you can under the circumstances. A touching memorial service was held on Sunday evening in Georgeham Baptist Chapel, where Herbert had worshipped. There was a large attendance.

Kenneth Vernon Dodgson – People behind the Names

Kenneth Vernon Dodgson was born in Harrow on the 25th June 1891 to Reverend Francis Vivian and Constance Mary Dodgson. His father, Reverend Francis Vivian, had previously been the Chaplain to Dr Barnardo’s Home. Kenneth was educated at King’s School Canterbury where he was a member of the Officer Training Corps, he went on to Pembroke College, Oxford where he would win his college colours for rugby and serve as a Private in the Oxford University Officer Training Corps. Kenneth enlisted for service at the outbreak of war, in his application he expressed a preference for a commission in either the 3rd Battalion Devonshire Regiment, the 7th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment or the East Kent Regiment. He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Devonshire Regiment on the 21st of August 1914 and was promoted to Lieutenant on the 5th of February 1915. Following training in the UK he embarked for France with his battalion from Southampton on the 25th of July 1915 and disembarked at Le Havre at 7.30am the next morning. The 25th of September 1915 was the opening day of the Battle of Loos The battalion crossed and took Breslau Trench in only 12 minutes with Kenneth Dodgson being one of the few officers who made it to the objective but he was overwhelmed by chlorine gas in Breslau Trench and his body was not recovered

His father, Francis, received the following telegram dated the 1st of October 1915: – “Deeply regret to inform you that Lt. K.V. Dodgson 8th Devon Regt. was killed in action between 25th + 27th Sept. Lord Kitchener expresses his sympathy.” Kenneth’s mother would die in 1930, she was president of the women’s British Legion and died in Surrey, her grave at Mortehoe Cemetery was lined with laurels and hydrangea blooms.

In the same year, the Rev. Vivian Dodgson offered a site in the gardens of Sunny Cliff, Mortehoe to be used as a garden for the British Legion Institute’s ex-Service men. The offer was made on the evening of Armistice Day: “As you know Mrs. Dodgson was always interested, in the cause of ex-Service men. Our elder son, Kenneth Dodgson served and gave his life at Loos in 1915. For his sake, Mrs. Dodgson, the late president of the Women’s Section of the British Legion always had at heart the interests of ex-Service men, and it was her delight to welcome them to Sunnycliff on the evening of Armistice Days. During her lifetime she often expressed the wish to offer a site in Sunnycliff garden for an institute, if no other site was available. I am now in the position to make this offer in the name of my family. The Rev. Vivian Dodgson would die in 1940, his funeral taking place in Mortehoe where he had resided for several years, and where he had made many friends during his time as a preacher and speaker on behalf of Dr Barnardo’s Homes The picture opposite shows the East window of the South transept of the Church. It is a simple lancet window and probably was installed when the South Transept was built in around 1307. The glass is modern and was given in 1946 in memory of three members of the Dodgson family. The window depicts the Virgin and Child. At the top of the window is the badge of the Royal British Legion probably connected to the people commemorated by the window.

Thomas Henry Nicholls 1892 – 1917

Thomas Henry Nicholls was born in 1892 in Worcestershire to Samuel and Eva (nee Butler) Nicholls. Samuel and Eva married on the 25th March 1886 in the Parish Church at Shipston in Worcestershire. On their wedding certificate Samuel is shown to be occupied as a painter whilst Eva was working as a domestic servant. The family would move from Worcester to Mortehoe, presumably for work, where they would live in 6 Ada’s Terrace, on Chapel Hill (shown above) The family home would consist of Samuel, Eva and their 6 children. Driver Thomas Henry Nicholls of the Royal Horse and Royal Field Artillery; formerly 12791 of the Royal Army Veterinary Corps would die on the 23 July 1917 aged 25. The family would receive the very sad news of Thomas’s death in 1917, the details were published in the local newspaper at the time: “Mr. and Mrs. S. Nicholls of Mortehoe have received the sad intelligence that their second son, Driver Thomas Nicholls, R.F.A., has died in Salonica presumably of malarial fever. The sympathy of the inhabitants is being extended to the bereaved parents and their relatives in their great loss. The deceased was of a bright and happy disposition and was much liked by everyone who knew him, and his death is much regretted. He was 25 years of age. He enlisted to serve his King and country in November, 1915 and saw service in France previous to being sent to Salonica. An elder brother is serving in India.

On Sunday afternoon a memorial service was held at the Parish Church (where the deceased was one of the bell ringers previous to enlistment), and was largely attended by sympathising friends. The father, sisters, and other relatives of the deceased soldier were also present. The service was impressively conducted by the Rev. T. F. Daffen (Vicar).” The family continued to live in Mortehoe, where sadly a few years later Eva, Thomas’s mother would die at home on the 10th March 1919. Leaving Samuel a widow. On the 26th June 1924 their eldest daughter, Edith married Mr Frederick W. H. Gammon of Mortehoe. On her wedding day Edith would be walked down the aisle in Mortehoe Parish Church by her father, she would be wearing a fawn crepe-de-chine with a matching hat and carrying an ivy bound prayer book, her sisters Ivy and Violet would be her bridesmaids. Following the ceremony the family and guests returned to Ada’s terrace, to the family home, for a wedding breakfast. On the 21st February 1928 her sister, Ivy Elizabeth married Samuel James Holwill of Mortehoe A few years later, in 1931 Samuel would die at home, the North Devon Journal reported that “many friends learnt with regret of the death at Barricane Farm, Mortehoe of Mr Samuel Richard Nicholls, aged 70. He had died suddenly of heart failure. Mr Nicholls was a most respected inhabitant of the area.

People behind the Names – Eustace Edward Faull

Eustace Edward Faull was born in Glamorgan, Wales his was the son of Joseph and Eleanor Faull. Eustace’s father Joseph would die when Eustace was just six years old, he would then go on to lose a brother and two sisters before he turned twenty six. In 1904 in Barnstaple, Eustace would marry Lois Eunice Pugsley from Mortehoe. Eustace’s wife Lois and her family lived at Landscape House, Mortehoe, the family worked at the train station which at the time was a short walk away. Lois’s parents Richard and Grace lived at Netthercott before moving to Georgeham and then to Mortehoe. Eustace left for Queensland on the 23rd January 1913 with his brother in law John Pugsley. They sailed to Sydney, Australia on-board the P&O’s Ballarat ship. The Ballarat was a steamer that left Tilbury with 1137 passengers onboard it would arrive at Sydney’s Miller’s Point at 8 o’clock on the 15th March 1913. The voyage was marked by some trying incidents. At the outset the vessel had to contend with severe head winds as far as Las Palmas, where it stopped on January 29 for provisions. Following this enroute to the Cape, an epidemic of measles broke out amongst the children on board causing chaos and distress. After leaving Capetown, where 1400 tons of coal, malts, and passengers were taken on board, still further trouble occurred. At dawn on February 27, a steward named W. F. Sankowski, 19, a German-Australian, jumped overboard.

Despite this when arriving in Australia, Captain Hanson spoke well of the class of passengers he had brought out, stating they were mostly of the agricultural, artisan and domestic classes. Eustace would sign up for war service in Brisbane, his records describe him at the time of enlistment as being occupied as a painter. He was 35 years, 11 months old, with blue eyes and having a fair complexion. Eustace saw active service in many countries. During his time at war his records show that he was given punishment for being “absent without leave for 2 days” in 1915. Later that same year he was admitted to St David’s Hospital in Malta where he was suffering with dysentry, he survived and was later moved to a home for convalescence. The Australian Red Cross Society records document that Private 357 Eustace Edward Faull was part of the 25th Battalion, he was declared Killed in Action on the 14th November 1916 after previously being reported Wounded and Missing. Lois wrote many letters enquiring about her husbands where abouts, aware that he was missing she would receive the news of his death in 1917. Some of these letters are shown below:

Dear Madam We very much regret to inform you of evidence regarding your husband – No. 357 Pte. E. E. Faull given by Lieut. Healy of the same unit, to whose brother he was batman. Lieut, Healy states that Pte. Faull was killed with his brother at Flers on November 14th 1916 and he has seen his grave on the field. He describes your husband who was a signwriter as 5’9” in height, about 40 years of age with a slight grey moustac

he. We are also informed that your husband is buried 1 mile East of Le Sars and 2.5 miles south west of Bapanme and we are applying to the graves registration bureau for a photograph of his grave which will be sent to you as soon as circumstances allow, although it may be some time before the application can be noted. Should we obtain further information about him we shall gladly advise you and trust that it will be some consolation to you to know that his grave is registered. Assuring you of our sincere sympathy in your lose.


January 26 1917

I am asking if you will kindly enquire as to my husband Pte Eustace E Faull 357 who was wounded on the 14th November 1918. I was informed from headquarters that he was wounded in France by no other particulars. I am most anxious as I think its quite time I heard something and should be so grateful if you will look into this for me. Yours faithfully Wife of E. E Faull

Ulysses & James Harris Mortehoe Brothers

The People behind the Names – Ulysses & James Harris Mortehoe Brothers

Private James Harris and his brother, Sapper Ulysses Marfleet Harris, were from Mortehoe and both lost their lives in the First World War. William Bale Harris was born in 1873 and married Emma Marfleet Karslake twenty years later in 1893, the couple would start their family life in Mortehoe. Their first child, Ulysses Marfleet was born in 1894, the couple would go on to have a further 6 children. Head of the house, William B. Harris was a grocer, by trade and was described in Alan Bidgood’s ‘Woolacombe at War’ book as “a man of striking appearance who owned Harris’s grocer’s shop. He was always attired in a triangular white apron and with his bushy hair and a glorious while walrus moustache completing the picture. I can still envisage Mr Harris standing behind the counter wringing his hands as he exchanged pleasantries with each customer crossing the threshold” William Bale Harris was a well known member of the local community, and in later life he would be the superintendent of Mortehoe Methodist Sunday School. When he died in April 1941 the local newspaper reported his death which stated that he “was a native of the parish, and for many years he had been proprieter of a grocery store. He held many offices in connection with Mortehoe Methodist Church, and was well known in the district as a local preacher. He was also associated with various parochial activities.”

Ulysses their eldest son was born in 1894. Ulysses signed up for active service as war was declared, he would train at the Curragh Camp, Ireland. At the time of his enlistment his records describe him as being, 5ft, 6inches tall with blue eyes and brown hair. He left for active service on the 4th July 1915 and participated in the historic landing at Suvla Bay in August. He served in the Gallipoli Peninsula for four months and afterwards went to Salonika. He was in the Serbian fighting and took part in the Serbian retreat early in December. In 1916, the family received a letter from the Sergeant informing them that on the 10th May, their son, Sapper Harris was seriously injured through an accident, but he was progressing favourably and hopes of recovery were entertained. Sadly the family received further news on the 12th May informing them that Ulysses had died. The accident in which Ulysses had been involved required an investigation, on the 9th May at 17:15 three trucks were heading down a line coupled together, Sapper Harris was brakesman in the first truck and sustained his injuries when the brakes of the third truck failed, forcing them to collide at high speed.

James Harris, worked with his father in the grocery trade and before the outbreak of war he was working in Bristol. As war was announced he enlisted with the Gloucester regiment and had been in France for nearly two years before being transferred to the entrenching battalion. James had been wounded twice, firstly when taking part in the first Somme battle and then before Cambrai. On Thursday 11th April 1918, the family learnt of the tragedy of losing their second son James. In the course of a letter conveying the sad news to his parents, the section commander said “we were in a very hot corner at this time, and death came very suddently. I have reason to think he suffered no pain. I have lost a dear friend, as we had been together since the division came to France.”

The People Behind the Names – William John Cowler (1897-1916)

William John Cowler was born in 1897 to John and Ellen Cowler (nee Hewitt). The family lived in Woolacombe at Holmesdale House, where they took in summer boarders and his father John worked as a Carriage Driver. William was an aspiring postal worker, first working in Mortehoe, then Barnstaple as a telegraphist, followed by Weston-super-Mare and finally in London. Whilst working in Whitechapel, London as a clerk with the Post Office, William would enlist for active war service, he was assigned to the Royal Engineers, regimental number 1388. Whilst sailing with the 29th Division, through the Gallipoli campaign, Sapper Cowler was admitted to military hospital and was invalided home with dysentery, but made a good recovery and continued to France. After spending some time at the base he was sent to The Front on special duty. Sadly on his second day at the front he fell victim to a German bomb. he had been at work in a dug out when an enemy bomb dropped on the roof, death would have been instantaneous. One of the officers wrote a touching letter of condolence to the relatives, this being accompanied by a cheerful letter written by Sapper Cowler, but which he himself had not time to post, shortly before his death. His friends and fellow comrades described him as a brave and gallant young solider. Mr and Mrs Cowler received several touching letters. All gave tribute to the happy disposition and ability of the deceased. The Sergeant Major expressed deep sorrow and heart felt sympathy. He says Sapper Cowler was killed by shell fire while on duty on June 26th, and states that a cross will be placed over the grave. The seargent major adds “Your son was a man of very pleasant disposition.”

A letter sent back to his old school in Woolacombe detailed William’s time at war:

Dear Mr. Slee; We’ve had a very hot time out here, and there’s plenty of fighting in front of us, but we are here to stay. When one looks at the cliffs and splendid natural cover here for defensive purposes, one wonders how a landing was ever affected. The only answer to a question as to how it was done would be to say that the landing was forced by the finest then existing regiments in the world. The Infantry fought splendidly, marvellously. Our Company was split up for the landing, and I, with four others, was transferred to the “River Clyde” which as you have read was purposely run aground to facilitate the landing of the troops. This landing- V Beach- was truly termed the most terrible of all. As we were only about 20 yards from the foreshores we had an excellent view of everything that occurred. Perhaps you would be interested to hear our general mode of living. Being under shell fire every day more or less, we have to live in dug-outs with a bomb proof roof, if possible. We get plenty of wholesome grub. Menu for day: Breakfast- bacon, bread, and tea; dinner-Bully beef stew (a mixture of bully beef, dried potatoes and carrots boiled up); tea- biscuits, jam and tea; Supper-cheese and biscuits. A daily repetition of this gets a bit monotonous, although it is possible to vary it a trifle. For instance, instead of biscuits and cheese for supper we are allowed to have cheese and biscuits. Would take too long to give a detailed account of our stay at Alexandria. Even by the time I’ve finished this, you will require an occasional reviver to wade through it. We sailed on April 8th. We were established in the gymnasium, sleeping on deck. Reached the Island of Lemnos in the Aegean sea on 12th. We lay anchored in a splendid natural harbour there until the 23rd. Was lucky enough about a dozen times, and had a chance of going through one or two of the villages near. The people were dressed like Greeks. The climate there was something similar to that of North Devon. All the wild flowers could have been found in the hedges and fields around Morte-Hoe. Fire broke out in the gymnasium on the 14th. Four of our fellows had caught German measles, so bedding had to be fumigated to prevent the disease from spreading. Fumigation candle set light to a blanket, and the whole room was soon blazing away right merrily. Several fellows’ kits were destroyed. Reached Tenedos on the 24th, and were transferred to the “River Clyde”. Landing took place on 25th April, Sunday morning. Shall never forget it. Please remember to all friends at Morte-Hoe Sincerely yours, W. J. Cowler

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