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ROUSDON:Rousdon plans to remember its fallen First World War men

Thursday, 03 July 2014

ONE of Devon’s smallest parishes, Combpyne and Rousdon, near Lyme Regis, is preparing to remember in a big way the sacrifices and hardships of its men, women and children during the First World War. Thirteen men who worked on the Rousdon Estate, and lived in the village or neighbouring Axmouth, were killed in the “war to end all wars” - for its population more men than the national average. Nearly every family suffered, from the humble farm labourer to the blacksmith, not forgetting Sir Wilfrid Peek’s family who owned the estate. Men from the village served in every quarter of the globe. Many of the fallen were killed near Ypres and others on the Somme, but some fell in Mesopotamia (Iraq), Gallipoli and on the Bulgarian front. Sir Wilfrid Peek’s brother Grenville was badly wounded in a cavalry charge the first day British forces saw action. He spent most of the war as a prisoner of the Kaiser. Life wasn’t easy for those that remained at home either. The pages of the parish magazine tell of hard times and difficulties; families torn apart by bereavement, the need for blackout in the church. The story of Combpyne and Rousdon at war is a microcosm of Britain at war. These times will be remembered by the village in a special event on August 4th, exactly 100 years after the start of the war. Laurie Hitchcock, member of the organising committee, said: “It was a bloody and awful conflict and probably should never have happened, but it did and we want to remember, understand and say thank you to our ancestors for their courage and fortitude.” The commemoration will start around the small village green with a rededication service at the war memorial, unique in that it is also a milepost. Relatives of seven of the fallen troops will attend to pay their respects. British Legion standard bearers will attend and buglers from the Army Air Corps will sound Last Post. The Axe Valley Community Choir, led by musical director Edward Jacobs, will lead the singing. The service will be followed by the opening of an exhibition at Peek Hall, which will include extracts from the stories of the troops from local historian Roy Jones’ forthcoming book. The exhibition will show life at home and at the front during the war. A short talk will be given by Rousdon resident, TV historian and author, Taylor Downing, and the afternoon will end with a “poppy” cream tea, during which the Axe Valley Choir will lead everyone in singing songs from the trenches. All proceeds will go to the Royal British Legion. Mr Hitchcock added: “We are planning a memorable occasion, not in any sense of celebration but to mark what was a pivotal changing point in the history of our country. Nothing was the same again after 1918 and we owe it to that generation to remember and learn.”

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