Thursday, 18 February 2016

A most cheerful company commander: Captain Ernest Cecil Blencowe Blencowe, 16 February 1916

Captain Ernest Cecil Blencowe Blencowe’s name is recorded on both the Budleigh Salterton Roll of Honour in St Peter’s Church and on the town’s War memorial.

Born on 10 March 1881 in Derby according to Fairlynch Museum researcher Sheila Jelley, Ernest was the son of Ernest Gottwaltz  and his wife Sarah Harriet Ellen née Smee. The brewery and wine and spirit business of Gottwaltz and Lind, of Paignton, in which a certain Ernest Gottwaltz had been a partner, was dissolved on 24 June 1890 according to the London Gazette. However the family were sufficiently well off for young Ernest to be sent to Saugeen School, ‘A Preparatory School for Boys for the Public Schools and the Navy,’ located in Derby Road, Bournemouth. The school has since closed, demolished in 1935 to be replaced by houses.

A page from Sherborne School's WW1 Memorial Book 
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In May 1896 he was registered as attending Sherborne School in Dorset, his family’s address being recorded as Culworth, a large Victorian house on Northdown Road in Bideford.  At Sherborne he was attached to the boarding house of The Green. 

He left the School in August 1899 and by 1901 was living in London and had changed his name. In 1910, according to Fairlynch Museum research, he married Ellen Mary Blanche Edwards. It seems, according to his will that he was living at Moose Jaw, a city in Saskatchewan, Canada, but he was also registered at an address in Bayswater, London. However by 1913 he and Ellen had moved back to Devon. Their daughter was born in Budleigh Salterton, where they seem to have been living at ‘Westcott’, 5 Links Road, known at that time as Golf Road.

A Dorsetshire Regiment cap badge

Ernest had volunteered to join the Dorsetshire Regiment, serving with the 6th (Service) Battalion. The Battalion was shipped to Boulogne in France on 14 July 1915 as part of 50th Brigade in the 17th (Northern) Division. It was engaged in various actions on the Western Front including, in 1915, holding front lines in the southern area of the Ypres Salient.

Ernest was killed in action on The Bluff, near Hill 60, Ypres Salient, on 16 February 1916, whilst serving with ‘A’ Company of the 6th Battalion. The area in which he was killed was the scene of fierce fighting throughout the Great War.  It was taken from the French by German forces on 10 December 1914, recaptured by the British on 17 April 1915, retaken by the Germans on 5 May 1916, ceded back to the British on 7 June 1917 (the first day of the Messines offensive), taken once again by the Germans in April 1918 (during the great Spring push) and finally captured by the British on 28 September 1918.

The Regimental History described Captain Blencowe as ‘A most cheerful company commander of “A”. It noted also that he had changed his name from Blencowe-Gottwaltz to Blencowe-Blencowe, ‘as a precaution against possible capture’. He was posthumously Mentioned in Despatches, as recorded in the London Gazette of 15 June 1916. His name appears on Panel 37 of the Menin Gate Ypres Memorial in Belgium, pictured above.

On 13 June 1916, Ellen suffered a second blow when her father, the Reverend Nathaniel Edwards, died at their home on Links Road, four months after losing her husband.

‘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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