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Review of 'Smitten Down Yet Not Destroyed'

by

Tim Dunce

‘Smitten Down Yet Not Destroyed’* is, as its subtitle indicates, ‘A Record of the War Dead of Bovey Tracey, its War Memorials and Those who Served’.  It is an extremely detailed publication, representing the culmination of a great deal of research undertaken over a long period of time.  It is divided into a number of sections, each of which can stand alone, or can be read as a complete book.

The introduction places the two world wars of the twentieth century firmly into the overall historical context of the times; explaining how the Great War arose seemingly out of nowhere, and plunged the world into ghastly battles (such as Passchendaele and the Somme) that would forever be synonymous with the period 1914-1918.  A brief examination of the interwar years is followed by an analysis of why conflicts occur. The introduction concludes with a review of the concept of war memorials - both when first erected and latterly as a focus of remembrance through the years.  This leads into Chapter 1; Bovey’s actual war memorials.  There are a surprisingly large number of such memorials - at least ten (two others being lost). All are described in detail, and accompanied by photographs.  It is noteworthy that, in 2015, six roads in a new housing development on the outskirts of the town were named after Great War casualties.  The worldwide nature of the fighting is shown by a map indicating the whereabouts of each man’s place of death.

The town war memorial commemorates 56 men who died in the Great War; Chapter 2 is a biographical roll of these men.  It is here that the remarkably detailed research is shown; each man’s birth and place of residence, together with educational, family and employment history, is given, followed by precise and complete information of his military career. The date and place of death is given, as is his place of burial or memorial, together with any personal inscription chosen by his next-of-kin. Medal entitlements are given for all casualties.  Where the man’s estate is known, its value is given, together with the name of the person to whom it was granted. Some photographs survive; these are shown in the text.

Chapter 3 is a biographical roll of the 14 men and one woman who died in the Second World War and are commemorated on the war memorial.  Details similar to the Great War casualties are given, including surviving photographs.  Chapter 4 is a statistical summary of casualties on the town war memorial, which, although brief, makes interesting reading.

Chapter 5 gives full biographical details of men associated with Bovey Tracey, but who are not commemorated on the war memorial.  There is always a link with Bovey for these men; perhaps they had been born or enlisted there, lived or worked there.  Whatever the reason, their details are as comprehensive as the men in Chapter 2.  Chapter 6 is a biographical roll of the Service personnel (seven men and two women) buried in the town cemetery. A photograph of each headstone is shown.

Chapter 7 is particularly striking; listing the 659 individuals from Bovey Tracey who served with the armed forces during the Great War.  The chapter commences with details of how this list was compiled, and it is noteworthy that in 1921 the total population of Bovey was 2,789, thus 659 was a high proportion indeed.  Inevitably, of some individuals, almost nothing is known; perhaps only their name, but in the vast majority of cases an immense amount of information is given.  This reveals the enormous complexity of the armed forces, the many and varied ranks, regiments and units now long-forgotten. The book concludes with a number of interesting photographs relevant to the text.

In summary, this publication demonstrates what can be achieved by determined investigation of records dating back, in some cases, more than a century.  Bovey Tracey is fortunate indeed to be the recipient of such hard work - it now has what must be one of the finest books of this type ever to be produced.  In the years following the Great War communities throughout Great Britain declared that the names of their war dead would never be forgotten.  Sadly, memories have faded and far too many brave men and women who made the ultimate sacrifice have been forgotten.  ‘Smitten Down Yet Not Destroyed’, published one hundred years after the Battle of the Somme, will ensure that Bovey Tracey’s war dead will be remembered for evermore.

*from verse 9, chapter 4, Corinthians, on the original War Memorial tablet.

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Published June 2016.  £15.00 (+£4 p&p if required).  Limited Edition of 200 copies; A4 brown hardback with gold block lettering on front cover and spine, 88 pages.  No ISBN.

Cheques should be made payable to Bovey Tracey Heritage Trust and sent to the Trust's treasurer at 3 Summerhill Close, Liverton, Newton Abbot TQ12 6JJ.