Saturday, 22 August 2015

Another view of the Great War: Exmouth Museum


Visitors seeking local memories of the 1914-18 world conflict have only another six weeks to go until the main season ends at Fairlynch on Sunday 27 September. 

Our Great War exhibition can be seen again briefly when the Museum re-opens during the school half-term before finally being dismantled.  But our neighbours in Exmouth – all volunteers just as in Budleigh – staged their own Great War display and their museum remains open until the end of October.

Exmouth is just a few miles along the coast from Budleigh Salterton. So it’s no surprise to find, from a rummage in the archives, that at least a dozen men associated with the Lower Otter Valley who died on active service during World War One also had links to the larger town.

As at Fairlynch, there are photos of local men who served in the conflict. 

Among them is Private Arthur Palmer, pictured above, recorded as having died at the Battle of Loos on 25 September 1915. He’s described in Exmouth Museum’s ‘Faces of the Great War’ panel as living with his wife on Halsdon Road in the town.  Born in East Budleigh, he is listed on the war memorial in that village.  But his name appears also on Exmouth’s and Seaton’s!*

There’s a fine display of the medals won by some of these men.  

Exmouth Museum must have been delighted to be given by his widow the medal ribbons worn by the noted WW1 flying ace Douglas Carbery MC, DFC (1894-1959).   A British Artillery officer, he was credited with six aerial victories while attached to the Royal Flying Corps and the Royal Air Force.  He later returned to the artillery, and commanded an anti-aircraft brigade during World War II, retiring with the rank of brigadier.

Pride of place in the Exmouth Museum display goes to the town’s two VCs.

Featured above is Flight Sub-Lieutenant Reginald Warneford of the Royal Naval Air Service. He won his award on 7 June 1915 for destroying a German airship, but died in a flying accident ten days later. The epic tale of how he destroyed Zeppelin No 37 is well worth a read.

Two years ago, Reginald Warneford’s name was in national headlines after a government ruling that only British-born Victoria Cross recipients would be  honoured with commemorative paving stones in their home towns, and Warneford had been born in Darjeeling, India. 

Warneford's own drawing of his downing of the Zeppelin

A vigorous media campaign to reverse the ruling led to the laying of a special memorial flagstone during a VC dedication service at the Strand Gardens, Exmouth on Sunday 7 June 2015 – exactly 100 years after Warneford’s award-winning mission.  

Just as absorbing is the story of the bravery of the Royal Navy’s Lieutenant Richard Douglas Sandford, who was born in Exmouth. 

Pictured above, he won his VC for his command of submarine C3 in the daring raid on the port of Zeebrugge on the night of 23 April 1918.

There are helpfully informative notices in Exmouth Museum’s exhibition about episodes of the Great War such as the Gallipoli campaign...

... and even detailed explanations of how such hierarchies as infantry battalions were organised.

Among the wartime artefacts I noticed this tank crew mask looking like medieval chain mail.

And this vest pocket camera was one of a best-selling folding camera series made by Kodak from 1912 to 1926. Many remarkable photographs were taken by soldiers before the War Office issued its instruction banning cameras from the trenches in March 1915.

A neatly crafted example of ‘trench art’ on display is this cribbage board, made from a WW1 shell casing.

There’s a lot more to see in Exmouth’s Great War display. Don’t miss it. For more information about the Museum click on

* Others included Major Reginald Elliott, Private Arthur Lake, Private George Hooper, 2nd Lieutenant Alfred Carter, Major William Addington, Private Bertram Coates, Private Norman Pengilley,  Able Seaman Herman Hart, Boy 1st class Ernest Hewett, Able Seaman Leslie Hewett, Lance Corporal Ralph Hewett, Stoker Walter West and Seaman Thomas Troake. 

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