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HONITON: Hidden memorial uncovers Honiton war hero’s story

Thursday, 04 September 2014

Local historian Tony Simpson has uncovered the story of one of Honiton’s forgotten war heroes, Captain Geoffrey Weldon

Local historian Tony Simpson has uncovered the story of one of Honiton’s forgotten war heroes, Captain Geoffrey Weldon

A LOCAL historian has trawled through the archives to help piece together the story of one of Honiton’s forgotten war heroes. History enthusiast Tony Simpson committed hours of research to the project, after stumbling upon a unique war memorial hidden among the trees in woodland – part of the Tracey estate – just outside Honiton. Though not officially listed among Britain’s thousands of monuments to the First World War, Mr Simpson believes the memorial – which commemorates only one soldier, Captain Geoffrey Weldon – may be one of the first to be built. Mr Simpson said: “Few people visit and to my knowledge there is very little public knowledge of the memorial or the man it honours. “These private monuments were very common early in the war [before official ones were commissioned] and this must be among the earliest war memorials in the country. “It certainly pre-dates the town’s monument outside St Paul’s Church.” Intrigued by this forgotten piece of history, Mr Simpson set about unearthing more about the elusive figure, Captain Weldon. Digging through archive materials and records almost a century old, he eventually found that Captain Weldon was the son of the Reverend Edric Weldon and his wife Gertrude, who inherited the Tracey estate. He was educated at Eton and the Royal Military Academy, before being posted to France at the outbreak of war, to serve as captain in the Royal Field Regiment. Captain Weldon and his battalion fought bravely for over two years of the conflict, before he suffered fatal injuries from a shell during the Battle of the Somme in September 1916 – almost 98 years ago to the day. Mr Simpson added: “For over two years Captain Weldon appeared to have luck on his side - many young officers did not survive long on the battlefronts. “Then came the Somme, the most ambitious assault ever by the British army and the most wasteful of life. “A report states that Captain Weldon and his battalion had been in action in one of the worst spots on the Somme front, where he was badly wounded by a shell. “Though the battle was preceded with a massive bombardment that split many soldiers’ eardrums, Geoffrey Weldon seems to have been a calm and quiet man, since a fellow officer said: ‘I never heard him speak a harsh or hasty word’.” Captain Weldon is buried at Étaples with over 10,000 others in the largest Commonwealth cemetery in France, and he is also commemorated on the war memorial in Awliscombe. Mr Simpson would like to find out more about Captain Weldon’s life, and anyone with further information should call the newsdesk on 01297 446161 or email jack@pe

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