Friday, 10 October 2014

The Race for the Sea:17 September - 22 November 1914


A cap badge of the Devonshire Regiment.  Private Frank Miller was the first member of the Regiment to be killed in action during the Great War

The retreat of British forces from Mons was followed by attempts of both sides to outflank each other, during what became known as the Race to the Sea. This part of the Western Front in Northern France was the scene of some of the heaviest fighting of the first year of the war. It included the battle of La Bassée, which lasted from 10 October to 2 November 1914; Private Frank Miller was killed on 21 October while serving with the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment.


The Le Touret Memorial
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

The son of James and Louisa Miller, of ‘Southcotts’ on Exmouth Road in Colaton Raleigh, the 27-year-old is remembered on the Le Touret Memorial, near the town of Bethune in Northern France. It commemorates over 13,400 British soldiers who were killed in this sector of the Western Front from the beginning of October 1914 to the eve of the Battle of Loos in late September 1915 and who have no known grave.   

The Le Touret Memorial, pictured above,  bears the name of a second Colaton Raleigh man, Private William Jesse Clapp, from the same battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, who was killed in action two days later.  
Both Frank Miller and Jesse Clapp are remembered on the memorial in Colaton Raleigh church. 

Pic:  Aubers Ridge British Cemetery
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

A third man from Colaton Raleigh whose name is listed on the church memorial is Private Herbert George Riggs, who died from his wounds at this early stage of the Great War. The 2nd Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment in which he was serving had been in Egypt when war broke out. On 6 November 1914 the battalion landed at Le Havre as part of the 23rd Brigade, 8th Division, and it was during one of its engagements in Northern France that Private Riggs was wounded. He died on 27 November, aged 28. He may well have been buried initially at the Winchester Post Military Cemetery in the village of Laventie before being moved in 1925 to the Aubers Ridge British Cemetery at Aubers in the Nord district of France.


Image credit: Lancing College

Also part of the Race to the Sea was the Battle of Armentières, which took place from 13 October to 2 November.  Second Lieutenant Lionel Holford Hughes, pictured above,  was killed by a stray shell on 29 October in the trenches near Rue du Bois, a small village two miles south of Armentières. He was the only son of Allen Edward Hughes and his wife Evelyn Emma. His father, an earthenware manufacturer, is recorded as residing at Wychdon Lodge, Weston, Staffordshire, but by 1914 they had moved to ‘Cintra’, on Coastguard Road in Budleigh Salterton.  


Lionel Hughes’ grave is in Ration Farm Military Cemetery, a short distance south of the village of La Chapelle-d'Armentieres, on the south-eastern outskirts of Armentieres.
Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Aged only 19, Lionel Hughes  had recently left Lancing College in Sussex, where he excelled in many sports; for two years he represented the College in shooting at Bisley. While still at school he was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the 3rd Battalion, North Staffordshire Regiment.  

The culmination of the Race to the Sea came between 19 October and 22 November with the First Battle of Ypres. The town in Western Belgium was the last major obstacle to the German advance on Boulogne-sur-Mer and Calais; although the battle was an Allied victory losses were heavy on both sides as the British, French and Belgian forces held back the invaders. 

Yet another young officer with a link to our area was lost when Lieutenant Charles Vivian de Grete Edye was killed in action on 30 October at Ypres. From an old service family with many distinguished naval connections he was the 28-year-old son of Ernest and Kate Edye. His parents moved from Teddington, Middlesex, to East Devon in the post-war years and are listed as living at both West Hill Lodge - now replaced by flats as West Hill Court in Budleigh Salterton - and Syon House in East Budleigh.

Born in Twickenham, he was educated at Bradfield College in Berkshire. He was gazetted Second Lieutenant in the Duke of Cornwall's Light Infantry in August 1905, and had served at various stations abroad, including South Africa and China. 


Image credit: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Vivian Edye’s name appears on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial seen above,  as well as on the All Saints’ church war memorial and Budleigh Salterton’s war memorial. 

‘The Great War at Fairlynch’ 2015 exhibition at Budleigh Salterton’s very special museum! Reviews included: “Wonderful display on WW1, informative, bright and relevant. Well done!! 

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