cross logo
Sergeant Arthur E. Born
1354  (Devonshire Regiment)

6th Battalion Devonshire Regiment ‘C’ Company

      Arthur Born’s name does not appear on the Winkleigh Roll of Honour displayed in the church. However, his name is listed in the Ashreigney Deanery Magazine for September 1914 as one of the very first Winkleigh men to serve, and we think that his connections with the village justifies the inclusion of his record on our site.

      Arthur Edward Born was born in Coldridge in 1873, the son of William who had married Emily Fisher in 1862. His father William was a boot and shoe maker, born in Brushford about 1839. Arthur's mother Emily was 6 years older than his father William. Unfortunately William was to die in 1882 leaving Emily (recorded as Emeline in the 1891 census) to bring up the children. It seems that her sons William, Charles and Arthur had been able to provide income for the family during the previous nine years. By 1891, son William had married and left the family, with son Charles continuing as a shoemaker and Arthur, now 18, being a sadler, and younger brother Alfred, 15 a carpenter's apprentice. The youngest brother Froude aged 12 was still at school. About 1899 Arthur married Maud Mary Lambdon and moved to Wembworthy where he was employed as a rural postman. The 1911 census records him living in Wembworthy with his wife and their daughter Ruby Irene age 8 and son William Edward age 5.

      We are extremely fortunate that unlike the majority of individual records destroyed in the London blitz, Arthur’s have survived, and we are thus able to trace his service: the documents are numbered on the right of this account. The Territorial Army was created as a result of the Haldane reforms in 1906, which envisaged a force of 300,000 men in fourteen large infantry divisions, including field artillery and ancillary services, a battalion of cyclists per division, and with the Yeomanry Regiments providing a matching 14 cavalry brigades. The Territorials were designed to be the main force in home defence - to repel enemy coastal raids and deter the threat of a possible invasion if war broke out. Service overseas was intended to be strictly on a voluntary basis. On this basis the Territorial Force had finally come into existence on 1st April 1908, and was initially very successful in attracting recruits, responding both to the national mood regarding German expansion of their fleet following the launching of British super-battleships, the Dreadnoughts, and the fact that the annual camp provided young men with between 8 and 15 days paid holiday which their employers were constrained to permit, though there were many complaints about this in many areas of employment. The invasion scare of 1909 and the popularity of Guy du Maurier's play ‘An Englishman’s Home’ which opened in London in January 1909, both boosted the idea of the necessity of a well-equipped Home Defence Force: 30,000 recruits alone were recruited in the foyer of the theatre before the scare subsided. The publication of Erskine Childers’ novel ‘The Riddle of the Sands’ in 1903 also had an enormous effect on public opinion.

      Document 1 shows that Arthur attested to join the 6th Devons Territorials on 22nd February 1911 at Winkleigh. His occupation as a postman, residence in Wembworthy and age 38 are recorded. His medical, Document 2, the second page of the attestation, records his health as good in all respects. Document 3 is his service record, recording his annual camps: 1911 at Minehead, 1912 at Willsworthy and in 1913 at Bulford Barracks on Salisbury Plain. On August 4th 1914 the battalion was encamped for the annual summer camp at Woodbury Down, from where they moved to Fort Renny, Plymouth on 9th August, where they were embodied by law for the duration of the war on 4th August . It very soon became apparent that in spite of the fact that the Battalion could be classed as no more than only very partially trained, they were going to be asked to volunteer for overseas service. This was certainly not what the Territorials had been enlisted for, having been repeatedly assured they would only be required for home-service. In fact, the vast majority was eager to go and if they had not been given the opportunity many would undoubtedly transferred to the regular or New Army battalions, thus ruining a fine and established Territorial battalion. By mid-August the change had been made, and the vast majority of the 6th stepped forward to volunteer to a man, though quite a number failed to pass the required medical tests. Those who did not, or could not volunteer returned to Barnstaple to form a second line nucleus, the 2nd/6th Devons. For the time being Arthur decided initially to remain at home.

      On September 15th the 6th were told they were going to France, but to their huge disappointment the order was cancelled: together with the 4th and 5th Territorial Battalions they were instead destined for India, to ‘replace’ the 2nd Devons regular Battalion, on their way back to land in France. They were ‘consoled’ by a special telegram from the King which stated that in taking on this duty the 6th Battalion was ‘helping him and the kingdom as much as if they had gone straight to the front’. The King himself inspected the Wessex Division on 28th September, following an earlier inspection by Lord Kitchener. The whole Division then was sent on embarkation leave before embarking at Southampton on 9th October, the 6th Battalion on the troop-ship ‘Galeka’, one of ten transports in the convoy, escorted by two British cruisers as far as Gibraltar. The French navy then took over for the next stage of the journey to Suez where the Division was detained for some days owing to the outbreak of war with Turkey (see the special topic on this subject attached to this account). Passing Aden, and learning of the sinking of the German cruiser ‘Emden’, it was possible for the ‘Galeka’ and the ‘Nevasa’ (transporting the 4th and 5th Devons) to make their way unescorted to Karachi. On disembarking, the 6th Devons made their way to Lahore, where they stayed until December 17th 1915 when orders were received to mobilize for Mesopotamia.

      The whole journey out must have been a hugely exciting adventure for the battalion, some compensation in fact for their change of posting. A series of exciting adventures and experiences, albeit in exhausting conditions now awaited these Winkleigh men whose lives hitherto had been confined to a tiny area around the Winkleigh district and for whom, in the old days, a visit even to Exeter or a summer day’s outing to Ilfracome or Wollacombe would have seemed a real treat. Many indeed had joined the Territorials in order to secure a paid two-week summer ‘holiday’ with plenty of sport on the annual camp, but here was the astonishing world of India with its colour, heat, smells and sights suddenly in their grasp. All this was to change, of course, when the reality of service in an Indian summer and an exhausting training schedule became apparent, but at the start at least many would have found their war hugely enjoyable.

      Arthur Born soon followed the battalion out to India. Document 9, the Service Table, records that he embarked on 14th November and joined the battalion at the Lahore cantonment on 20th December 1915 (Document 4). Here, Document 5 shows that on 8th February 1915 he signed the agreement to subject himself to overseas service: he had not done this, of course, in August 1914 and the official paperwork had been neglected later. Arthur was obviously a very useful late addition to the service in India: on 6th October 1915 he was promoted to Sergeant (Document 3).

      The 6th Battalion of the Devons was one of the finest Territorial battalions in the British army, proven beyond doubt by their years of service in India and Mesopotamia. Together with the 4th and 5th Battalions, their role was to act as ‘Internal Security’ troops, at a time of unrest when the situation in India was becoming more dangerous for the occupying colonial power. At the same time, rigorous training programs had to bring these as yet only half-trained troops up to the level of those serving in the regular army. Officers, N.C.O.s and men were sent on a variety of courses - signalling courses at Kasauli, machine-gun courses at Kota Gheri and musketry courses at Rawal Pindi. In particular, the 6th Battalion had to find two companies to garrison Amritsar and a further detachment to garrison the Lahore Fort. The remainder of the Battalion was stationed in the so-called ‘Lahore Cantonment’, renamed from its original name ‘Milan Mir Barracks’ because of its reputation for malaria. On March 1st 1915 the Battalion was inspected by Sir John Nixon, G.O.C. Northern Army (later to take command of the British operations in Mesopotamia) who complimented the Battalion on its physique and discipline, after which, in very hot weather the Battalion proceeded to take the Kitchener Test, in March 1915 - devised originally for the New Army battalions, a thorough examination of fitness in all branches of field-service. Among other things this included a forced march of 15 miles in full equipment, followed immediately by a mock-attack using live ammunition. Not a man fell out, and the 6th Battalion’s results headed the list of all the Territorial battalions in the Punjab.

      The Punjab was in a state of continuous unrest around Lahore and Amritsar: in March 1915 a rising was imminent at Rawal Pindi, but was contained in time. However, up to 500 men had to be kept back at any one time from moving up into the hills, an otherwise normal procedure for a whole battalion in India to avoid the summer heat, meaning a great trial for those that had to endure an exhausting and boring life in Lahore. The war-diary makes references not only to Lahore as a ‘hot-bed of sedition’ but also to the ever-present dangers of heat-stroke, malaria and dysentery. The 6th Battalion held together well, health remained good and only 12 cases of venereal disease were reported. The great hope was for active service, best of all for service in France. As a result, when 29 men were called for in April, and a further group in August, to volunteer to join the Dorsets (with the rumour that they were on their way back to Europe) practically the whole battalion stepped forward. Two Winkleigh men, in fact, were selected, Privates Frederick William Davey and Frank Turner, but it was not to France but to Mesopotamia that they were sent, destined to die in horrible circumstances as prisoners of the Turks after enduring the siege of Kut.

      At the end of a very trying year, in December 1915, the Viceroy himself visited Lahore for the celebration of the Indian Officers’ Durbar, the 6th Battalion providing a splendid Guard of Honour: Colonel Radcliffe was congratulated on the finest performance ever witnessed by the Viceroy, and with this commendation ringing in their ears, the Battalion was warned off on December 17th for transfer to Mesopotamia. With just time to celebrate an early Christmas, (the Battalion was actually relieved by the 1st/5th Devons on Christmas Day), the Battalion moved down to Karachi and embarked for Basra on 30th. Little did those eager, fit and well-trained men realise the hell that awaited them.

      Arthur Born remained behind in India, (Document 4), not medically fit or too elderly for service in Mesopotamia, and remained there until 10th February 1916 having presumably transferred to the 2nd/6th Battalion. Document 6 shows us the story. Document 7 shows that he was twice in hospital at Dalhousie, first from 8th – 21st September 1915 with an eye problem and shortly after this he sprained his foot off duty and was back in the Dalhousdie hospital for nine days from 5th to 13th October 1915, followed by rest in the cantonment for 3 days until 16th. Document 8 gives the details, and Document 9 reports the Court of Enquiry in which he was exonerated from blame - the army being careful to prevent self-injury or malingering. A medical certificate dated 18th October 1915 returned Arthur to ordinary duty (Document 10).

      We return to Document 4 which shows that Arthur’s period of service in India ended on 18th May1916. He was now 43 years old and probably suffering from the extreme heat of the Lahore cantonment, a barracks that would normally be vacated in the height of summer. The necessity of keeping a garrison on station in such turbulent times prevented any evacuation of the troops into the hills. Arriving back in England he would have moved at once to the Devons’ depot in Exeter, and was discharged on 29th May 1916.

      It is a sad reflection on the attitude of Kitchener to service in India and Mesopotamia, regarded then as a ‘sideshow’, and in spite of the King’s encouraging telegram to the Battalion before their departure that their service would be honoured just as if they had proceeded to France, that the 1915 Star Medal (for all those who had volunteered and saw service in France, Belgium and Gallipoli 1914-1915) was not awarded either to those who served in India or who had already seen action in Mesopotamia. The war-diary reports that when this decision was announced to the battalion, there was great disappointment and protests were made to re-consider the situation, but to no avail. Arthur, however, received some compensation. Arthur had served in the peace-time Territorials for at least four years before the war. Arthur’s medal card which is illustrated on the right of this account, records that besides being awarded the British and Victory medals, and of considerable importance and interest, he was also awarded the Territorial Force medal. It was instituted in April 1920 and was applicable only to men or women who had served in a unit of the Territorial Force or the TF Nursing Service. To qualify, the soldier must have completed four years or more service prior to 4 August 1914, and if not still serving must have rejoined by 30 September 1914; they must have agreed to serve overseas by the same date; they must have served overseas at some point up to and including 11 November 1918; and they must not have otherwise qualified for a 1914 or 1914-15 Star. With these provisos the medal is the rarest of the 5 British Great War medals.: Only 33,944 were issued after it was established.

      With the war now building into its most intensive phase Arthur was free from further service, and no doubt returned to his home in Wembworthy and his friends in Winkleigh.

16 July 2011


Click on an image for a larger picture

Document 1

Document 2

Document 3

Document 4

Document 5

Document 6

Document 7

Document 8

Document 9

Document 10

Document 11

Medal Card