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John's art website


1875 to 1914

In the 18th century there was a strong tradition of Volunteer forces being established in times of emergency, notably during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars. Following the 1848 revolutions throughout Europe the Volunteers were reformed, and in 1859 Volunteer Rifle Corps were established in Barnstaple, Bideford and Ilfracombe. Following this, a Volunteer Artillery force was formed in Ilfracombe and a battery established on Hillsborough. There is very little published information about the Ilfracombe Volunteers, most of the details below are from the Ilfracombe Chronicle's, kept at Ilfracombe Museum. (1)


Detail of 1889 Ordnance Survey map (from Ilfracombe Devon Artillery Volunteers were founded in June 1875 by Robert John Graham Simmonds, second in command was William Huxtable. In July Mr Simmonds' Captaincy was confirmed. In 1876, the Government decided, apparently for the first time, to equip certain Volunteer Artillery forces with heavy guns and in November it was announced that "A rifled gun with a store of powder, shot, shell, etc., will arrive at Ilfracombe at once". It is likely that the gun arrived the following year and the battery was established then, at Beacon Point, on the north-west side of Hillsborough. An access track was made right around Hillsborough, to the end of Hillsborough Park Road, still used as a footpath today. Even so, it must have been quite a job to deliver and mount the gun! (2)


The battery is shown on the Ordnance Survey map of 1889 (above left). At the centre of the site is what looks like a simple kiln (i.e. without stoke holes) which may have been used to make lime to construct the battery, but it appears older and may be a pre-existing signal beacon (hence the name Beacon Point?). The guns were on a concrete platform to the north-west of the 'beacon', overlooking the approach to the harbour, and the magazine was at the opposite edge of the site to the south-east. To the west was an iron pole (marked F S on the map); a red flag was flown on it when the guns were being fired. Around the site was a dense network of paths (none are open today) including routes down to Broadstrand Beach, Fishing Rock, Blythe’s Cove and through Joe Moon’s. (3)


Battery at Beacon Point c1900 (A Galliver)The Chronicle's are missing from July 1876 to the end of 1884, but it appears that Capt. Simmonds retired after a few years and W Huxtable took command. Certainly by 1885, the 10th Battery 1st DAV was commanded by Captain W Huxtable and there was a rifled 64-pounder gun and a smooth-bore 32-pounder gun (a mortar) at the battery on Beacon Point. In May 1888 Capt. Huxtable died (aged 36!) and was succeeded by Captain Slade-King. In July, the Volunteers held a meeting in Combe Martin, establishing a force there. At the end of the year a new 64-pounder gun replaced the old 64-pounder on Hillsborough, which was "sent to Combmartin for the half-battery formed there". Over the next few years the mortar on Hillsborough was replaced by a second 64-pounder gun (right). (2)


By 1904 the two 64-pounder guns were outdated, being muzzle-loading and mounted on standing garrison platforms, which were difficult to turn from side to side. Two new guns were expected, since that May the "the shooting was good and will possibly be the last time from the obsolete 64 pr guns" and in December "they would soon have the new guns". The old guns were probably sold to the Council since in November Sgt. Twiss "offered to sell to the Council the old artillery guns at Hillsborough for £12" and in December he "wrote to say he would accept any offer the Council is disposed to make. It was decided to offer 4 guineas" but nobody today knows what happened to them (4).



The new guns finally arrived in November 1905 (Wilson 1976 p 78)The new guns finally arrived at the end of 1905 (left and below right). In November that year it was reported that "two 6" breech-loading guns and mountings are on their way here" and in December they "now have the new guns". These were mounted on C pivot traversing platforms that could rotate from side to side. The rails of one is still in place; the rails of the other have fallen onto the beach below (5).


This shows the new guns in action (Pullen & Harding 2003 p 120)The Volunteers were disbanded in 1908 and the 10th Battery became part of the local Territorial Army. By 1913, No. 1 Heavy Battery Ilfracombe, commanded by Captain F H Thomas, had over 80 members. That year, Territorial Efficiency medals (for 12 years service) were presented to the following by Lieutenant-Colonel Bellamy of the Royal Artillery: Battery Sergeant-Major Bale; Sergeants Brooks, Ellis, Lynch, Duggleby; and Corporal Pugsley (below left).  The Territorial’s left Ilfracombe on 8th August 1914 to fight in France and many never came back. (6)


Territorial Efficiency Medals April 12th 1913 (Lamplugh 1996 p 61)

The guns are said to have been buried soon after the start of WW1, so that Ilfracombe could not be classed as a fortified town and be fired upon by enemy vessels. The wooden traversing platforms are said to have remained in place for a long time afterwards. The guns were supposedly blown up for scrap during WW2. The charge used must have been too strong; there are some pieces of cannon on the beach below and a piece is said to have fallen through the roof at Lewis' Cafe in Beach Road - not much of the metal can have been salvaged! (7)


Beacon Point has suffered a great deal of erosion and neglect in the last ninety years. Cliff falls at Blythe’s Cove have closed the paths above the Cove, through Joe Moon’s and down to the beach. The bottom of the path to Broadstrand has eroded away. Half of the concrete gun platform has fallen onto the beach. The whole area, including Joe Moon’s, and a small earthwork that may be an extension of the Iron Age hillfort, is very overgrown and inaccessible for most of the year. Left to itself, what is not destroyed by coastal erosion will be eventually destroyed by the unchecked undergrowth.


< Mining        Victorian >

(1) French Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars Volunteers

"What is now known as the Territorial Army has had a more confusing history than the Militia, and the two have often coexisted. While the Militia were an institution of the State, the volunteers were supposedly self-sufficient forces raised during crises (notably the 1650s, 1660s, 1715, 1745, and from 1778-1782). The first specific volunteer legislation was enacted in 1782, but the principal units were created as infantry, artillery and mounted yeomanry during the French Revolutionary and Napoleonic wars. The embodiment of the Militia for long periods in the latter part of the 18th century contributed to the formation of the Volunteer movement, which originally took the form of companies within Militia regiments. Volunteers were to serve in support of the local civil power, but could occasionally serve outside their locality, in which case they were paid and lodged as regulars......In 1816 all Volunteer units were disbanded, and the yeomanry were reduced, many serving for years without pay. The yeomanry continued to play an important role in the maintenance of law and order until the establishment of local police forces." (article British MILITIA, TERRITORIALS AND VOLUNTEERS, An Introductory Overview, T.F. Mills 1 June 1996, from website ).


There was a Napoleonic Wars battery at Ilfracombe and Appledore (Duffy, Michael 1999 Coastal defences and garrisons 1480-1914 in Kain & Ravenhill 1999 p 161)


1848 Volunteers

"During the year 1848 revolutions broke out throughout the continent of Europe and shook every throne except those of Russia, Spain, and Belgium." (Encyclopaedia Britannia 1970 Vol.17 p 188)

The Volunteer Movement was created out of a concern for home defence in the early 19th century. The Duke of Wellington was concerned about the country’s defences and suggested a force be set up, in a letter of 1847, to Sir John Burgoyne. There was some general opposition to the idea of a force of ‘amateur soldiers’, but on 12 May 1859 the War Office gave sanction to form a Volunteer Corps (Litchfield &  Westlake 1982)


"The revolutions of 1848 in continental Europe, and the emergence of the French Second Republic and Second Empire fuelled British mistrust of France (despite their alliance against Russia) and gave rise to a renewed Volunteer movement. The middle class formed "Rifle Volunteer Corps" (as well as some artillery and engineer units) in most towns throughout the country. The government grudgingly recognised these, and in 1860-63 organised them into administrative battalions. In 1881 the RVCs became volunteer battalions of regular infantry regiments (for example, the 1st Yorkshire East Riding Rifle Volunteer Corps became the 1st VB of The East Yorkshire Regt.)" (article British MILITIA, TERRITORIALS AND VOLUNTEERS, An Introductory Overview, T.F. Mills 1 June 1996, from website )


"1859 - Volunteer Rifle Corps have been raised at Ilfracombe, Barnstaple and Bideford" (IMN 2000 p 9)


"In the late 1850’s Britain became very uneasy about the military ambitions of Napoleon III of France. A wave of patriotic fervour swept the country and saw the establishment of numerous Volunteer Rifle Corps set up to defend their own local areas. Every town in North Devon formed their own groups - made up of local men - each with its own distinctive uniform." This is followed by an article on the Barnstaple Corps - the Sixth Devon Volunteer Rifles. (Peter Christie, NDJ February 27th 2003 p 57)


(2) Hillsborough Battery to c1890

The 1874 Ilfracombe Chronicle does not mention the Ilfracombe Volunteer Artillery.


1875 June "THE VOLUNTEER ARTILLERY. A meeting of the 14th Devon Artillery was held at the Town Hall, on Tuesday the 1st instant at 7-30 p.m. There were from forty to fifty intending volunteers present. The roll having been called, Mr J. Graham Simmonds explained that owing to the preliminary expenses being heavier in the case of a volunteer artillery, than a volunteer rifle corps, it was absolutely necessary if the battery was to be financially a success, that each man should contribute ten shillings to the fund - five shillings at the time of measurement, and five shillings on delivery of clothing, -the clothing was to be contracted for by a well-known London firm, at a cost of about £4 a man, and credit would be given for a period which would enable the corps to earn the greater part of the amount by means of the capitation grant: each man signing a special agreement that he would earn two consecutive grants, or pay the amount of grant. The officers were then elected, viz., R. J. Graham Simmonds, 10, Apsley Terrace, Captain; W. Huxtable, Russell House, Lieutenant; G, Leigh, West of England Bank, Treasurer : Mr. Wood. Hon Secretary; the Hon Surgeoncy being left open for the present. The men were then divided into squads, and the preliminary drills fixed for Tuesday and Friday evenings at 8, and Wednesday and Saturday mornings at 6-30. The clothing agreement having been signed by those present, it was given out that the contractor would measure all those who paid the first instalment of their fee, on Thursday the 3rd instant. With a vote of thanks to the Chairman the proceedings ended" (Ilfracombe Chronicle 1875 Sat. June 5)


1875 June - Advertisement by Artillery Volunteers for Trumpeters (Ilfracombe Chronicle 1875 June 19th)


1875 July The Ilfracombe Chronicle  reports that Robert John Graham Simmonds is to be made a Captain (Sat. July 3 1875)


1875 October "ANNUAL INSPECTION OF THE 14TH DEVON (ILFRACOMBE) ARTILLERY VOLUNTEERS. The first annual official inspection of the 14th Devon Artillery Volunteers took place on Thursday last. The event had been looked forward to with great anxiety by all the members of the Corps, inasmuch as the opinion of the Inspecting Officer as to the extent of efficiency attained, decides whether the members of the Corps are to get their ''capitation grant' or not. The Inspecting Officer was Col. Bolton, R.A - who has now recovered from the indisposition which led to the postponement of the inspection the preceding week. It bad been arranged that the inspection should be held on the ground enclosed by the new Jetty, but owing to the uncertain state of the weather, the Colonel thought it advisable to hold the inspection under shelter, and he wisely settled it to take place at the Drill Hall, Market Street. The men assembled at four o'clock, in full uniform - side-arms, shakos, haversacks, all complete, and a very handsome appearance they presented. They numbered 46 men, rank and file, and officers all told, viz., Lieut. Huxtable (who, in the absence of Capt. Simmonds, was in command), Surgeon Gardner, Sergt. Bamford, two trumpeters, and 41 men -It was a general remark that they looked as smart and soldier-like as if they had been drilled for years instead of months. Shortly after the time fixed, Col. Bolton, accompanied by Lieut.-Col. Adams and Adjutant Keating, commenced the inspection. The men (who form what is termed a 'Battery') were put through the following manoeuvres:- Company Drill, Carbine ditto, and Gun ditto, by their officer, Lieut. Huxtable. The first-named section included movements tolerably well-known to most Volunteers, such as 'forming double column' ditto 'sections' ,'fours' , 'firing at 200 yards', 'preparing to receive cavalry' &c., &c. The whole were executed with admirable celerity, and drew forth the encomiums of the numerous onlookers. The men having competed the Carbine drill, marched , four deep, to the armoury, where they lodged their carbines and returned to the drill-hall for the big gun drill, This also was executed in a very satisfactory manner. Altogether, expressing the opinion as an outsider, we must say that the inspection passed off in a highly satisfactory manner. On the conclusion of the drills, Lieut- Col. Adams, on behalf of himself and Col. Bolton, (who, we believe is by official etiquette, prevented from expressing an opinion personally to the Corps, before his report has been considered at head-quarters), expressed the great pleasure they had felt at seeing the Battery go through their drills. They considered the greatest credit to be due to Lieut. Huxtable, and also to Sergeant-Instructor Bamford for the highly pleasing results of their teaching of the Corps. Col. Bolton then personally and specially Complimented Lieut. Huxtable on the professionally smart and soldier-like bearing of the whole Corps, and their perfect knowledge of drill. He also separately complimented their Sergeant-Instructor, Bamford. Lieut.-Col. Adams, R.A., in the morning of the same day, inspected the drill-shed, the Armoury and the site for the Battery, with all of which he appeared well pleased." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sat. Oct. 15th 1875)


1875 Nov. "14TH DEVON VOLUNTEER ARTILLERY: FIRST ANNUAL DINNER. The first annual dinner of the 14th Devon Artillery Volunteers, since the formation of the Corps, took place on Monday evening last, when the officers and privates assembled at the Ilfracombe Hotel, to dine together. Although the dinner was intended as the first annual one, its immediate object was to present an address to Capt. R. J, Graham Simmonds, conveying the gratitude of the members of the corps for the great energy and perseverance displayed by him in working for its formation. Most unfortunately for this object, Capt. Simmonds, was in the morning of that day seized with a fresh attack of a serious malady that seized him during his recent arduous military drilling at Woolwich, whither he went to make himself perfectly competent for his command; and he was in consequence unable to be present at the dinner in the evening. so that the presentation could not be made personally. It would, perhaps, be as well to describe the address. It is handsomely illuminated, in the medieval style, and is couched in the following terms : To R. J. G. SIMMONDS, CAPTAIN COMMANDANT OF THE 14TH DEVON ARTILLERY VOLUNTEERS. We, the undersigned, on behalf of the members of the above corps, have the greatest pleasure in presenting you with the following address. We cannot express too warmly our most sincere thanks for the indomitable energy and perseverance displayed by you in overcoming the difficulties which we know were placed in your path in the formation of the corps. Also we thank you heartily for having taken the trouble and expense of going through two months' course of instruction and hard drill in the School of Gunnery, at Woolwich, for the benefit of the Corps. Trusting you will continue to command the Corps in the able manner you have to this present. We are, sir, Your most obedient servants, W. Huxtable (Sub-Lieutenant), Wm. Mills Turner, T. G. Withycombe, Thos Hancock, A. Huxtable, J. J. Laugdon, W. H. Burgess, E. H. Lang, Wm. Beer, J. S. Gautord. The words are surrounded by an appropriate coloured border, representing the flags of England, while on the left of the address, at the top, is a field piece, and on the right a battery gun, at the side being the rammer, sponge, &-c; also in the corners are shells &c., all beautiful and accurately drawn. The work is that of Mr. W. E. Beer, and does him very great credit indeed. The address is set in a handsome gilt frame, kindly presented by Mr. J. S Catford. The dinner commenced at 7 o'clock, the following being THE MENU Soup a la Royale.-Mulligatawny - Cod Fish. Turbot - Fried Fillet of Soles - Boiled Chicken - Roast Beef. Haunch of Mutton - Plum Pudding - Apple Tart. Wine Jelly - Blancmange - Junket. 'We need hardly say that the dinner was put on the table in first class Mr. Bonn's, the manager, ability in this being too well known to need recapitulation. Suffice it to say, everything was highly satisfactory and Mr Bonn played the host to perfection. The chair was taken by Lieut. W Huxtable...........A Corps had been started three years ago, but after a time it came to a dead stop, for want of officers; then Capt. Simmonds came into the town and took the matter up with much energy, till at last they presented one of the smartest Batteries in the West of England. He (Lieut Huxtable) did not say this for himself, but went by the words of Capt. Adams, who, during the Inspection, said 'This is the smartest Battery in the Brigade.' Great credit was also due to Capt. Simmonds for having passed his examination, after three months' hard training. Lieut. Huxtable then proceeded to draw attention to the hard discipline Capt. Simmonds had had to go through during his training. Capt. Simmonds had passed his examination, perhaps as well as any man could pass it; having only three ahead of him on the list. His object in undergoing the training was to obtain a practical knowledge, which would be serviceable in the Corps. (Applause) He would now read the address. This having been done, the Chairman proposed 'Health and Long Life to Captain Simmonds'. The toast was drunk with musical honours, and three cheers were given for the Captain. Mr. Stabb then rose to propose 'Success to the Volunteer Movement all over the Country, and the 14th Devon Artillery Volunteers especially.' (Applause.) Success was a hard word, and it was a difficult thing to command it. Many difficulties arose in the formation of a Corps, and a great part of their earliest success was due to Mr. Attwood, who had been assisted by Dr. Slade-King. (Applause) Here was the first step. Then came Mr. Simmonds, who helped to get them out of their difficulties, and now they were firmly on their legs." (Ilfracombe Chronicle 1875 Sat. Nov. 13th) The article is quite a lot longer!

1876 Nov. "HONOURABLE LOCAL DISTINCTION - We are glad to be able to announce that the Government, having decided to place a few of the picked corps of Artillery Volunteers on the same footing as the Royal Artillery with regard to heavy gun stores and ammunition, has selected as one of those to receive this distinction the 11th DVA Corps. This is a concession never before made to any but regular Artillery. A rifled gun with a store of powder, shot, shell, etc., will arrive at Ilfracombe at once, to be permanently retained in readiness for emergencies. It says much for the ability, perseverance and tact of the commanding officer and all those under his orders that this corps should be considered by Government capable of taking upon itself such a responsibility. This will no doubt tend to stimulate the men and encourage them to that strict attention to discipline so necessary in their success as a corps, and will be an encouragement to the officers to pursue their endeavours to retain for this little body the high character it has obtained. Any argument against the usefulness and efficiency of the Volunteer Artillery would at once be silenced by a reference to that part of the body under Captain Simmond's command" (Ilfracombe Chronicle 1876 November 11th)


Unfortunately the 1876 Ilfracombe Chronicle is only extant until June, then there is a gap until 1885. The Ilfracombe Gazette is complete in 1876, but there is no reference to the Volunteer Artillery, then it too has a gap until 1886.


The Devon Volunteer Artillery Ilfracombe Battery Militia existed from 1878-1908 (written on back of a photo of the old guns, used above, from A Galliver)


"Towering over Hele and sheltering it from the winter gales is Hillsborough Hill......It is reached by passing along the path in front of Lastone Terrace and crossing through a field near the Brimland's Barn, keeping to a small footpath, which leads round the western side, and thence to the top. There is also a path round its eastern slope forming a charming and pleasant walk leading to the practice battery of the 14th Devon Artillery Volunteers." (Walters 1884 p 31-32)


Feb.1885 Ilfracombe Chronicle has a large article regarding the "10th Battery 1st DAV" Annual Dinner chaired by Capt. W. Huxtable (IC Feb.. 21st 1885 p 2 co l5)


May 1885 Ilfracombe Chronicle contains a section for visitors and this month the description of Hillsborough first refers to a "modern gun and mortar in position on Hillsborough" (IC May 30th 1885)


Sept. 1885 Reference to Annual Inspection of Ilfracombe Artillery "Tenth Battery 1st DAV" Captain Huxtable in command, others present are Lieut. E J Slade-King, Sgt Brindley, 4 other sergeants, 49 rank and file. Colonel Newman, commander Western district RA, "having first asked several questions relative to gunnery, gun practice was carried on, first from the 64-pounder rifle gun, and then from the 32-pounder smooth bore gun. The practice was particularly good, as any of the projectiles would have struck a passing vessel"   (IM, newspaper cutting in Hillsborough folder, marked 14th Sept. 1885, presumably from the Ilfracombe Gazette)


1888 Ilfracombe Chronicle has many references to ‘10th Battery 1st Volunteer Brigade Western Division Royal Artillery’. Weekly drill details are common and often refer to ‘left’ and ‘right’ battery and has the names of those on duty. For example IC Jan 14th 1888 mentions Capt. Huxtable, Sgt Stainforth, Cprl Brooks, Trumpeter Jones, others mentioned later in the year include Lieut. Slade-King, Sgt Twiss, Bombadier Thomas, Sgt Turner, Cprl Crookwell, Trumpeter Coates, Sgt-Mjr Burgess


May 1888 Ilfracombe Chronicle reports the death of Capt. Huxtable, aged 36, who was 10th Battery’s first Lieut. (IC May 19th 1888 p 3 col 5) May 1888 Ilfracombe Gazette reports the death of W Huxtable, aged 36. "on the formation of the 10th Battery of Volunteer Artillery, he was its first Lieutenant and succeeded Captain Simmonds when he retired". (IG 1888 May 15th p5 c3)


July 1888 Ilfracombe Gazette reports that the Ilfracombe Volunteers visit Combe Martin, to establish a battery there, along the lines of one already established at Braunton. Mr Slade-king refers to the Ilfracombe Battery as having been in existence for 13 years (IG July 24th 1888 p 6 c 1)


Dec. 1888 "New 6" M.L. [muzzle-loading] Rifled 64 pounder gun arrived from the Ordnance Dept. for use of 10th battery and a special parade was called for 6.30 on Tuesday evening to mount it at the battery at Hillsborough. The 64 pounder which has been so long in use by this battery will be sent to the Combmartin for the half-battery formed there." (Ilfracombe Chronicle Sat Dec. 22 1888 p 4 col 5)


(3) Plan of Hillsborough battery 1889

On Beacon Point is a gun battery of late 1800’s and manned by 14th Devon Artillery Volunteers, the guns were removed in 1914, brick structure to east is likely to be a magazine, central beacon is more probably a lime kiln (lime adhered to side, not visible from harbour) and suggests that the metal post may be remains of a beacon (Walls 2000)


(4) Hillsborough battery c1890 to 1904

A photograph of the old 64 pounder guns, shown above, has written on the back "picture taken 1900-1914, Battery Sgt. Teeling is on the left, the Devon Volunteer Artillery Ilfracombe Battery Militia existed 1878-1908. The guns were blown up in 1915" (A Galliver). I showed a copy to the Palmeston Fort Society who replied "Yes, the two guns are 64prs on standing garrison platforms, but I thought that the one’s at Ilfracombe were on C pivot traversing platforms. Garrison standing platforms do not need iron racers. Perhaps there were more than two guns mounted?" and referred to an earlier visit by one of their members who wrote "I have been to the Volunteer battery at Ilfracombe. It is on the headland to the East of Ilfracombe. It was a typical Volunteer battery of 1880s/1890s period and was equipped with two concrete traversing platforms, for probably 64 pounders. When I visited it two years ago it was in a poor state of repair, both from vegetation and the erosion of the headland by the sea. In fact the left hand emplacement had half toppled over the cliff onto the rocky foreshore below, as parts of the racer could be seen." The mystery is easily solved since the old guns were replaced in 1905 by new guns.

In the 1904 Ilfracombe Chronicle, nearly every week, are ‘orders for the week’ for No.10 Company 1st DRGA (Vols), chief officer Lieut. J Clifford Wing, (IC Jan 9th 1904 p 5 col 5).


By May 1904 the guns are clearly getting old, a report of the annual Inspection says "the shooting was good and will possibly be the last time from the obsolete 64 pr guns" (IC May 21st 1904 p 5 col 5) and a further report at the annual Dinner "he hoped they would soon have the new guns" (IC Dec 24th 1904 p 5 col 4). In November "Mr F W Twiss offered to sell to the council the old artillery guns at Hillsborough for £12" (IC Nov 5th 1904 p 5 col 2) (Sgt Twiss was a member of DRGA) and "Mr F W Twiss wrote to say he would accept any offer the Council is disposed to make. It was decided to offer 4 guineas" (IC Dec 10th 1904 p 5 col 2)


"An appeal has been made for information on the 19th century guns that once pointed out into the Bristol Channel from Hele Bay in defence of Ilfracombe. The guns once formed the Volunteer Battery built in 1978, but were bought in 1904 by the Town Council for four guineas and have not been seen since. Now Hele resident Dr John Moore is asking that the guns be found and possibly replaced near the original site of the battery, which was destroyed in 1917. The site is eroding and he fears the historical interest could be lost forever" (North Devon Journal, page 1, Nov. 29th 2003) No useful information was received regarding the whereabouts of the guns. They were probably melted down and the metal re-used.


(5) Hillsborough battery 1905 to 1908

Nov 1905 - "2 6" breech-loading guns and mountings are on their way here" (IC Nov 11th 1905 p 4 col 5) and at Annual Dinner it was reported "now have new guns" and a transfer is proposed from 1st to 2nd DRGA (IC Dec 16th 1905 p 5 col 3)


The new guns are shown close-up in this picture, shown above left, from c1906 (Wilson 1976 p 78). The picture, of a larger view, shown above right, was probably taken at the same time judging by the photographer's camera. It has the caption "The practice Battery for the Ilfracombe Volunteer Artillery Corps was situated on the eastern side of Hillsborough. The Corps was formed in 1859 and every member was expected to attend an annual fifteen-day camp for battery training" (Pullen & Harding 2003 p 120). An original of the left picture is in Ilfracombe Museum, covering a larger area, with c1900 handwritten on the back (Hillsborough box, ILFCM 9652)


(6) Territorials

"A company of Volunteers existed in Combe Martin c1900, [from 1888, see above] and its members transferred to the Territorials. The headquarters were in the old Wesleyan Chapel building (opposite the present Methodist church) the uniform was scarlet tunics and dark blue trousers, worn with peak caps. Previously the volunteers had worn helmets. A cannon was housed in a galvanised shed at the bottom of Sunnyside, behind the church. The Combe Martin Territorials had a band. There was also a strong Territorial force at Ilfracombe and they wore dark blue uniforms and also had a band. Once a year, the company’s joined and went to Berrynarbor for a united service. Captain, later Major, D R Manning commanded Combe Martin detachment and Major Thomas (of Thomas jewellers) the Ilfracombe battalion." (Parsons 1981 p 51)


In 1913 the Volunteer battery force are part of the Territorials and their commander is Capt F H Thomas, other officers named in orders etc. being Lieut. T F Day, and Lieut. G S Gold (IC Feb. 1st 1913 p 4 c 5) the adjutancy was given up by Capt Arnot and was succeeded by Capt Reynolds (IC Feb. 15th 1913 p 4 c 6), Cprl Strout, Tptr Harris (IC March 1st 1913 p 5 c 4) Sgt Lynch, Tptr Becker (IC March 8th 1913 p 5 c 5) Cprl Friend (IC 29th March 1913 p 5 c 4) Sgt Mjr Twomey, Sgt Mjr Glasby, Batt Sgt Mjr Bale, QMS Edwards, Sgts Brooks, Ellis, Duggleby, Knill & Wright (IC April 12th 1913 p 6 c 1&2) Parade of No 1 Heavy Battery (about 80 present) with National Reserve (38 present, 60 members total) and Territorial Efficiency medals presented by Lt Col Bellamy to Batt Sgt Mjr Bale, Sgts Brooks, Ellis, Lynch, Dugglesby and Captain Pugsley  Others listed during the annual Dinner are Cpl Hobbs, Strout; Br Huxtable, Davey, Cook; Sgt Lynch, Ellis, Brooks, Twomey; Gr Klee, Grant, Comer, Gavin, Challacombe, Moore, Moon, Ireland; QMS Edwards; trmp Becker, Dr Gibbs, Collins, Houlford, Dendale, Knill (IC Dec 6th 1913)


1913 April "A great deal of interest was taken in a combined church parade of the No. 1 Heavy Battery, D.R.G.A. (Territorials), the local members of the National Reserve, the Church Lads' Brigade, and the Boy Scouts, which took place on Sunday last. After mustering near the Town Hall in High Street at 10-15, the whole body marched to the Parish Church. Capt. F. H. Thomas was in command of the Territorials. the other officers present being Lieut-Col. Bellamy, Capt. Adjutant C. H. Reynolds, R.A., Lieut. T. F. Day, Lieut. G. Gould, Sergt.-Majors Twomey and Glasby, Battery - Sergt.-Major Bale, Q.M.S. Edwards, Sergts. Lynch, Brooks, Ellis, Duggleby, Knill and Wright. The Officer Commanding the National Reserve was Capt. W. P. Alleyne, while the Rev. P. E. Barnes (Acting-Capt.) had command of the C.L.B. Mr Gilmour was in charge of the Boy Scouts. The Territorial rank and file numbered about 80; the National Reservists, 38 ; the C.L.B. about 30; and the Boy Scouts about 30..........After service the companies were again formed up, and headed by the Territorial Band (under Bandmaster Becker) and the C.L.B. Trumpet Band, marched to the Ropery Meadow, where they formed a square in front of the Pavilion. Lieut-Col. Bellamy then presented Territorial Efficiency medals to the following:- Battery Sergt-Major Bale, Sergts. Brooks, Ellis, Lynch, Duggleby, and Corpl. Pugsley. Addressing the Territorials, Lieut.-Col. Bellamy said he was pleased to see such a good muster. He explained that the medals he had presented were for 12 years' efficiency and attendance at the annual camp. He appealed to the men to make a special effort to be present in camp this year, and mentioned that employers in Ilfracombe were generally fairly good in giving their men leave." This has a photograph of the occasion, as above, with the caption "Photo by Phillipse & Lees, Kingsley Studio. Lieut-Col. Bellamy pinning on the Territorial Efficiency Medals" (Ilfracombe Chronicle April 12th p  6 c 1&2 1913)


"These soldiers receiving medals in April 1913 were Territorials, members of No.1 Heavy Battery, Devonshire Royal Garrison Artillery, which had its headquarters at Ilfracombe. Probably some of these men were on active service in France within eighteen months of this ceremony" Caption to picture of troops, shown above, copied from same picture as that in the Ilfracombe Chronicle April 12th 1913 (Lamplugh 1996 p 61)


"It seems that on 8 August 1914 most of the population of Ilfracombe attended a service conducted from the raised bank in the High Street by Prebendary HM Johnson, vicar of the parish from 1909 to 1938, as the local Territorials of the 1st Heavy Battery, Devonshire Royal Garrison Artillery, prepare to leave" (Lamplugh 1996 p 76)


(7) Guns blown up

"Long before, we used to have some cannons on Hillsborough on Hele side. Local Volunteer soldiers used to fire them. Then in 1915 they suddenly disappeared - some say they were taken for scrap metal, others say they were toppled into the sea because if they remained there Ilfracombe would be classed as a fortified town, which seemed silly. Anyhow they went" (Wilson 1976 pp 69-70)

Towering over the beach is Hillsborough, and at one time guns had been placed to fire across the bay and out to sea. Later these cannon had been pitched into the sea, as it was considered that the defences were strong enough. (ICTG 1985-6 p 3)


"The guns were removed from the battery at Beacon Point in 1914 to prevent Ilfracombe being classified as a fortified town" (Walls 2000 p 8)


"If you go down on the pier and look over on Hillsborough you'll see a flagpole, when they had the cannons on the cliff there and they were firing, they used to put a flag on there, and that pole was there before the first war. In the first war the U-boats usd to come in same as in the second war and under the rules of war, if they could class her as a fortified town they could shell her. So they buried them, when we were kids the carriages were still there and we used to play on them, in the second war when they wanted the metal they were going to dig up these cannons, when I was on leave from the RAF and I went inside my Uncle's Cafe (in Hele) and there was great big chunk of metal, so I said where did you get that and he said it came in the roof! They blew up the cannons (trying to get the metal from them to use). I met someone recently who came back and said that he was involved in this. He said it wasn't my fault, I was a sergeant, they couldn't send an officer so they sent me down but said pick up an officer in  town, but there were a lot of Pay Core Officers and so he probably picked one of them. They used twice the amount of dynamite and now there are pieces all over Hele, in the gardens! Now what I don't understand is they must have taken them down with horses, in the old days, why they didn't bring them up with tractors and go and blow them up, its a mystery to me." (Les Gear, Devon Wildlife Trust Coastal Scrapbook, Ilfracombe & Hele, 2002, Ilfracombe Museum)


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