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World Wars



 The Commemoration of the Centenary of the Declaration of the Great War


In order to decide on the best manner by which the Parish of Yarcombe should commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the Great War, it is necessary to remind ourselves as to how those who were more immediately involved decided to recognise those who gave their lives in the conflict.

In the Baptist Chapel there is a wall plaque made of carved wood into which has been set three brass plates, the heading of which reads:-

 “To the Glory of God & in honour of those connected with this Church & Parish who served in His Majesty`s Forces during the Great European War”

Two plates list those who served in the Armed Forces and the third central plate records “Our Brave Dead” who are listed as follows:

Batten T Hawkins WT
Bachelor TJ Hooper C
Bond EJ Spiller FB
Bibbs EJB Wakely W
Collins H Willie JH
Doble H  


In St John Baptist Church, set behind the south door on the wall are to be found three ceramic tiles on which the following names of those who gave their lives are recorded:


John T Bachelor RGA
Tom Batten Ox and Bucks Light Infantry
Ernest Bond Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers
Henry Collins Somerset Light Infantry
Henry Doble Devonshire Regiment
Walter T Hawkins Devonshire Regiment
Fred B Spiller AIF


It is immediately apparent that the Baptist Chapel records eleven of the fallen whilst the Church records seven, the reason is apparent from the inscription in the Chapel  “…those connected with this Church and Parish…” 

In the hunt for more information about those brave men who gave their lives, Mary Smith kindly gave me access to the Minute Book of the Parochial Church Council from that time, and whereas not much real information can be gleaned, in the Vestry Minutes of Easter 1916 we have the following entry:

“Mention was also made that the names of those who gone to war should be recorded in the minute book and an oak screen be put up in the Church as a War Memorial with their names inscribed on it”.


George Bennett  4th Devons
Samuel Culverwell  RAMC
Reginald Culverwell  RAMC
Sidney Doble RU
James Doble  4th Devons
Joseph Doble  4th Devons
Walter Hawkins 3rd Devons trfd to 1st Devons
Ernest Phillips SLI
Reginald Pring Yeomanry
Alfred Purse SLI
Walter Wakley  SLI


In the minutes for April 1919 there is the following entry:

“It was decided to put a brass plate in the church with the names of those who have fallen and a printed list framed of those who served their country during the war”.

From the above War Memorials we are already beginning to find the names of those who gave their lives, their first names and initials and the name of the unit in which they served.   From this information we may be able to find out more about the service career of each of these soldiers.    I will undertake the necessary research during the coming year and I would be extremely grateful of any information, photos, memories that may still be available from members of families who are still resident in the area.

When I mentioned this project to Brian Smith he drew my attention to a grave that lies to the left of the path as you approach the south door of the Church which he stated was still maintained by the War Department.   The gravestone commemorates Ernest John Bond of The Royal Enniskillen Fusiliers who died in Exeter on 17th May 1919; from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission, who is the body who still maintains this gravestone, I discovered Ernest was the son of Jesse George and MA Bond of Grovewell Cottage.   I will provide more information about Ernest Bond later in this article.

However on the morning I visited the churchyard to examine this gravestone I met John Salter and he told me the following fascinating piece of information: 

The original village war memorial was in the form of a wheeled funeral bier, however this proved not to be the most practical because it could not be manoeuvred down the steps in the churchyard, so in about 1950 the incumbent Rev Clough took it to the Vicarage for storage, it was never to be seen again.   But there is a tale within a tale, Mr Clough was man of private means and when the Socialist Government came to power in 1948 decided to emigrate to New Zealand and shipped himself and his motor car, a Humber Snipe, off to the Antipodes.   The car was on another ship and when it arrived the Customs wanted to charge £500 duty.   Mr Clough did not take kindly to this request so he shipped his family and car back to the UK and took up his position once again in Yarcombe!”

It would appear from this information that the Village after the conflict decided to have as a War Memorial a piece of equipment that not only would serve as a fitting Memorial to the Fallen but would also serve a practical purpose.

Firstly we need to establish if there are any records of this bier; and it may explain why the Memorial in the church is a low key monument.   In any event one suggestion made at this month’s meeting of the Parish Council is that perhaps a model be made of this bier and that it should be preserved in a fitting place in the Church.

The first person who has contacted me with information about one of our Glorious Dead, is Elaine Munt who lives at Hay Bungalow.   Elaine very kindly came to tea with Susanne and myself and brought with her a photograph, taken outside Lower Waterhayne Farm of the Bibbs family taken in a 1910 or thereabouts, all in their Sunday best, one amongst which is identified as Ernest John Benjamin Bibbs aged about twenty.   Sad to record this young man was killed on 10th November 1918 at Hestrud in Belgium whilst serving with the Machine Gun Corps.   He was born in Yarcombe in 1887, the son of Robert Henry Bibbs and Mary Jane (nee Mathews).   From the census records we assess that this Bibbs family must have moved to Birmingham in about 1895, where the family raised yet more children and where Robert Bibbs worked as a coal agent.   From his medal card we learn that Ernest Bibbs enlisted in the South Notts Regiment in 1915 and was sent to France in September 1915, he later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps and at the time of his death was a sergeant.

As a final note to this first article I referred above to the grave of Ernest John Bond whom we suspect may have been a prisoner of war and was repatriated to Exeter where he died in 1919.   This man was the son of Jesse Bond who was born in Stockland and in 1911 was living at Birch, Yarcombe with his wife Mary Ann and their 6 children.   His occupation is listed as Parish Relief and is, I suspect, not related to the Bond family who lived at North Waterhayne at that time.

Key to Abbreviations
RGA Royal Garrison Artillery
AIF Australian Infantry Force
RAMC Royal Army Medical Corps
SLI Somerset Light Infantry
RU Possibly Release Unit or Ram Unit


These are early days, I still have to research the Minutes of the Parish Council and I am hoping Thelma Clarke may find the minutes of the Baptist Chapel.   Please, if anyone has any information or ideas as to how we as a Parish might commemorate this centenary please contact me. 

Steve Horner

01460 234 342  



John Batten.   Died in South Africa 30-12-1900.   Born 1879 son of Eli and Mary Jane Batten served with the Somerset Light Infantry in the Boer War.   Died of disease Springfontein 30/12/1900

He is buried with Mary Jane Batten Died 27-01-1910.   Nee Corner born 9/10/1849 Tiverton.   Married Eli Batten 1875 Eli and Mary Jane had seven children.

Eli Batten Died 18-04-1924 born 25/01/1846 Whitestaunton

Thomas Batten. Died in France 23-03-1918.   Brother of John.

The record states that the latter 2 are buried with John and Mary Jane.   In my opinion not possible as it was customary for those killed in action to be buried where they fell.   I assume Eli and Mary Jane wanted to commemorate their two sons who fell in action.

Nora R M Batten Died 21-02-1922 As yet I cannot trace this lady.

Robert Batten Died 16-05-1937 at Membury (1878-1937).   Brother of John and Thomas.   Married Lucy Jane Doble (1879-1967).

Buried with:

Lucy Jane Batten Died May 1967 (wife of Robert).

Samuel Batten Died in Exminster (1882-1956).   Brother of John and Thomas.   Married Elizabeth B Doble and buried with

Elizabeth Bessie Batten (wife of Samuel) who died in Ottery St Mary 16-10-1963.



Memorial Stone in the Baptist Chapel Yarcombe




The resting place of  John Batten.   Died in South Africa 30-12-1900.   Born 1879, son of Eli and Mary Jane Batten; served with the Somerset Light Infantry in the Boer War.   Died of disease Springfontein 30/12/1900.










Service Record




(Click for larger images)