Honiton’s World War One heroes

Honiton War Memorial. Picture: Terry Ife

Honiton War Memorial. Picture: Terry Ife - Credit: Archant

Honiton lost 140 of its sons to World War One, primarily in the fields of Europe. The war memorial beside St Paul’s Church in High Street pays tribute to 66 of these who gave the ultimate sacrifice for their country. Steve Jennings remembers them.

William Ackland grave

William Ackland grave - Credit: Archant

Robert Major Harenburg was born in Honiton in early 1899.

His grandmother, Mary Ann Bell Major, was also from Honiton, a servant girl who met Edward Harenburg whilst in London. He was a leather bag maker, born in Berlin. On October 22, 1865, they married and settled in the nation’s capital.

One year later a son was born, but tragically Edward Junior only lived for a year. A second son, Alfred, was born in 1868, but Edward Senior died of TB just twelve months later. Widow Mary Ann sought a quieter life so took her son, Alfred, back to Honiton where she remarried and had 3 more children.

Alfred Harenburg grew up in Honiton where he worked as a gardener and a postman, he married Maud in 1889 and they had 5 sons and a daughter. Robert was their fourth son.

William Ackland grave

William Ackland grave - Credit: Archant

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Robert joined the 8th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment to fight for his country. One can only imagine how much teasing this country boy from Honiton endured because of his German surname. On July 1, 1916 - the first day of the Battle of the Somme - 20191 Private Robert Major Harenburg fell at Mansell Copse alongside four other Honiton men. He was only 17.

His body, like many thousands all around him, lay in no man’s land but, three days after the attack, the Germans were forced back and the Devonshires collected their dead. He is buried in the Devonshire Cemetery, near Mametz, and a wooden plaque was erected which read: “The Devonshires held this trench, The Devonshires hold it still.”

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Of the five Honitonians - the others being Charles Smallbones, Albert Bowles, William Glade and Christopher Payne - only Robert is named on the plaque.

These men were among 140 that fell in the conflicts from 1914 to 1918. Robert’s name is one of 66 remembered on the war memorial in Honiton’s High Street. Behind every name lies a tale of courage and poignancy.

William Ackland grave

William Ackland grave - Credit: Archant

William John Hooper was born in Payhembury in 1887, the son of Francis John, a dairy manager, and Sarah Ann (nee Norton). He enlisted in the Devonshire Regiment in Honiton in 1902 but was discharged in July 1905, some say due to him being a little naughty by nature! He married Maria in 1905 and they had two sons and a daughter. But when war broke, he was so determined to fight for his country he re-enlisted in the Dorset Regiment in Dorchester using his mother’s maiden name. On December 7, 1917, 15868 Private W. J. Norton died of his wounds and is buried in Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium.

The Devonshire Regiment played significant contributions to some of the bloodiest battles of World War One; the aforementioned Somme, The Battle of Loos and The Bois Des Buttes.

Private Frederick Angel Buckingham was one of nine Honiton men who died on the first day of Loos, on September 25, 1915, but he is one of only two named on the memorial.

Frederick was born in Honiton in 1886, son of Frederick, a timber merchant at Littletown, and Maud (nee Dolling). In November 1915 Mrs Buckingham received a letter from his Company stating that Frederick was posted missing on September 25 and expressed the opinion that he was taken prisoner. He never returned and has no known grave.

William Ackland grave

William Ackland grave - Credit: Archant

But these are more than names on a stone, they depict real people, Honiton people who gave their lives for their country. Among them Private Harold Gordon Lake, born in Honiton in 1895, the son of a shoemaker who lived in King Street. He died aged just 22. And Henry Langelaan, 21, whose father Henry was a stonemason in New Street. Private Langelaan was fatally wounded advancing with the Duke of Cornwall’s Light Infantry on July 26, 1916, and died on August 16, 1916, at Wigan Voluntary Hospital.

Private Reginald Percy Knowles was born in Honiton in 1890 the son of Job and Ellen of Town Mills. He married Amy O’Connor in 1917. He enlisted in Honiton and fell at Somme in December 1917 aged 26. His officer in command wrote to his widow to say: “His death is greatly regretted by the officers and men of the Company as he was a most willing soldier and worker, and liked by all with whom he came in contact. He died a soldier in his country’s cause.”

Some Honiton families lost more than one son to the war. The Prewer family lost Samuel and William within two months in late 1917. The Power’s lost Alfred and Albert in a little over 14 months and the Durbin’s, who lived in Northcote Lane, lost Percy, aged just 18 in October 1917, and his brother Seth (22) in November 1918.

The first man to fall was the ironically named William Henry Warr on October 19, 1914. Born in Lyme Regis in 1887 his body was only found in a French field in 2009 and identified by MoD specialists using DNA samples. Almost 100 years to the day after he fell, he and another 11 men were given full military honours.

Some familiar Honiton names are on the memorial; Broom, Channon, Dimond, Dunn, Gigg, Edwards, Harris, Knight and Larcombe are families who lost sons to the war.

Private Cyril Perryman lived in King Street with his foster parents William and Ellen Dare. He tried to join the Royal Navy at the outbreak of war but was too young, so he joined the Merchant Marine. A survivor of two torpedo hits, he died of his wounds aged 19, on September 7, 1918.

Ordinary Seaman William Ackland served on HMS Onyx and died just 13 days before Armistice. But he was subject to an application from the Agricultural Committee requesting his release from service in February 1918, stating his specialities in veterinary surgery were much needed at home. It was declined.

William married Flossie Alice Dowell and they ran the Lamb Inn in the High Street and had three children – Ruby, Dorothy and Leslie. William died of influenza in Plymouth on October 29, 1918. His son, Les, continued to run The Lamb until it closed in 1974.

The last man to pass who is remembered was Driver John Bartholomew Lucas, of the Heavy Transport Company. Born in Dunsford in 1892, the only son of Frank, a postman, and Francis Louise (nee Heard), he worked as a ‘wheeler’ at Mickelburgh’s iron foundry in Mill Street. He enlisted in the town on November 18, 1915. He was admitted into hospital in Salonika with influenza and died aged 26 on December 20, 1918, and is buried in Greece. He will be remembered in a vigil in the town, 100 years after he died.

It is unfathomable, 100 years later, to truly understand the conditions that the men who fought in World War One endured on a daily basis, or the horrors they witnessed. Not just in battle but of disease and malnutrition. An estimated six million soldiers fell in this conflict, 140 of them from Honiton. And they are all heroes. Every single one of them.

In part three, Steve remembers the 74 forgotten heroes; men who bravely fought for their country and whose names we must never forget.

Soldiers named on Honiton War Memorial

19 10 1914 William Henry Warr

30 10 1914 William Samuel Stone

30 10 1914 Robert Richard Bromfield

03 02 1915 Francis George Strawbridge

25 03 1915 Sidney Charles Gigg

13 04 1915 George Summers

15 05 1915 Frank Channon

16 05 1915 Geoffrey Bury Ramsbottom

22 05 1915 John Evans

11 07 1915 Walter James Clarke

17 07 1915 Sidney Percival Rowland

05 08 1915 Richard George Tucker

25 09 1915 Embert Frederick Knight

25 09 1915 Frederick Buckingham

30 10 1915 William Charles Densham

08 03 1916 Hugh Harry Brown

05 04 1916 William Charles Gollop

19 04 1916 Edward Burrough

13 06 1916 Bertrum John Tucker

01 07 1916 Robert M Harenburg

17 07 1916 Edward Wyatt

16 08 1916 Henry Thomas Langelaan

23 08 1916 Wilfred Gould

15 09 1916 Alfred George Power

03 10 1916 Walter Buncombe Webb

29 12 1916 John Grenville Tweed

05 01 1917 Albert Edward Lawrence

18 01 1917 Ancil Croydon Sansom

03 02 1917 Frederick Charles Bowden

04 02 1917 Edgar Robert Dimond

27 03 1917 Ernest Charles Hawkins

11 04 1917 William John Wood

29 05 1917 Charles Henry Ward

18 07 1917 William John Larcombe

28 07 1917 Alfred Edward Rabjohns

28 09 1917 Walter Channon

04 10 1917 Alfred John Dunn

04 10 1917 William John Prewer

17 10 1917 Charles Dean

26 10 1917 William Edgar Snow

24 10 1917 Sidney Retter

06 11 1917 Albert William Power

01 12 1917 Edwin Lewis Radford

05 12 1917 Harold Gordon Lake

06 12 1917 Samuel David Prewer

07 12 1917 William John Hooper/Norton

10 12 1917 Reginald Percy Knowles

21 12 1917 William John Wills

09 01 1918 Frederick Veysey Vosper

27 01 1918 Sydney Ernest Lock

13 02 1918 Reginald John Broom

22 03 1918 William Edwards

25 03 1918 Percy Durbin

07 04 1918 Ernest Edward Proll

12 04 1918 Tom Marshall

19 04 1918 Frederick Weed

24 04 1918 Frederick James Wood

24 04 1918 Frederick William Gill

15 07 1918 Harry Cecil Kallaway

08 08 1918 Rupert Frank Harris

28 08 1918 Frank Pope

07 09 1918 Cyril Arthur Gordon Perryman

26 10 1918 Walter James Riggs

29 10 1918 William Ackland

02 11 1918 Hubert White

04 11 1918 Seth Loveridge Durbin

20 12 1918 John Bartholomew Lucas

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