Tale of two vil­lages shows ran­dom car­nage of war

Western Morning News (Saturday) - - News -

Just 40 miles of road sep­a­rate the vil­lages of North­lew in Devon and Herods­foot near Liskeard.

But in terms of what they suf­fered dur­ing the First World War they could not be far­ther apart.

North­lew pro­por­tion­ally lost more men in the con­flict than any other vil­lage in Bri­tain.

By con­trast, Herods­foot was a Thank­ful Vil­lage, one of just 53 in the coun­try that suf­fered no fa­tal­i­ties. It is the only such vil­lage in Devon and Corn­wall and is “dou­bly” Thank­ful – no­body from Herods­foot, near Liskeard, was killed in the Sec­ond World War ei­ther.

Al­though there were of­fi­cially 22 men from North­lew who were killed, and who are named on the war me­mo­rial in the vil­lage church­yard, re­search done in the lead-up to the 100th an­niver­sary of the start of the First World War re­vealed that four oth­ers from the vil­lage and parish near Oke­hamp­ton also lost their lives.

That means more than a quar­ter of those who left North­lew never re­turned – more than dou­ble the pro­por­tion that the na­tion suf­fered as a whole.

About six mil­lion were mo­bilised for ac­tive ser­vice in the UK Armed Forces dur­ing the 1914-18 con­flict, and of those just over 700,000 were killed – about 11.5%.

“When you know that is pro­por­tion­ally the big­gest loss of any com­mu­nity, it brings it home,” said North­lew parish clerk Janet Miller­ship.

“It is quite some­thing to re­alise. The num­ber is vast when you think of the size of the parish at that time.”

The vil­lage’s com­mem­o­ra­tion of the 100th an­niver­sary of the start of the Great War drew in­ter­na­tional at­ten­tion.

Images in 3D were pro­jected on to homes around the vil­lage square, de­pict­ing scenes from the Bat­tle of the Somme – the blood­i­est in Bri­tish mil­i­tary his­tory. There were march­ing bands and a fly-past by a 1917 bi­plane. A cas­cade of pop­pies fall­ing across build­ings in the vil­lage. Twenty miles of road verges were sowed with poppy seeds.

By con­trast, the com­mem­o­ra­tion this week­end is more mod­est. There is an af­ter­noon tea to­day in the vil­lage hall for older peo­ple to get to­gether and mark the 100th an­niver­sary of the end of the war.

To­mor­row there will be a cer­e­mony at the war me­mo­rial at 10.45am, with Oke­hamp­ton Col­lege Big Band fol­lowed by a ser­vice in the church.

But that does not mean that those who fell are not so much in mind. “You recog­nise names from the me­mo­rial in fam­i­lies across the parish still to­day,” said Mrs Miller­ship.

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