Remembering our Police Officers who lost their lives in the First World War

Old photo of Police OfficersThis research began with a request from Assisstant Chief Constable Paul Netherton who wanted information on police officers from what is now the Devon and Cornwall Policing area who were killed in the First World War so that they could be remembered. Locating this information presented a number of difficulties:-

Our own personnel records in the Historic Collections of Devon and Cornwall Police are not complete, and it goes without saying that during 1914 to 1918 there were a number of separate forces in existence. - In 1914 the Police Forces in Devon and Cornwall were Barnstaple Borough, Cornwall Constabulary, Devon Constabulary, Exeter City, Isles of Scilly, Penzance Borough, Plymouth Borough, Tiverton Borough and Truro City. Furthermore, research from various sources reveals a very different attitude towards casualties than prevails today.

All police officers who joined the military during World War One, as either reservists, volunteers or conscripted, were required to resign from the police. In Cornwall, having resigned, their constabulary number was re-allocated to a recruit almost immediately. In Devon however, the number was left vacant until mid-1919. Men who survived the war and were demobbed were required to pass a medical examination before being re-employed as Constables. We know in Cornwall that they were then given a new constabulary number, but we have no knowledge of the "Re-joining" procedure relating to the other forces

Cornwall, Devon and Exeter City Police commemorated officers who fell between 1914 and 1918 with war memorials. However, we cannot be certain that the names of all the men who died as a result of the war are recorded, as will be explained below.

Old photo of Police Officers - 2There is no memorial to the men of the Plymouth Borough Police, if any of them were killed; yet we know that twenty one men from Plymouth joined the Colours during the war. From rattle to radio: The history of policing in Plymouth by Ernest Dickaty makes no mention of World War One. Some of the personnel records for Plymouth men are held in the Historic Collections of Devon & Cornwall Police and are in the process of being catalogued, but these records do not include details of the men's death, and it appears there is no list of the names of men who left the police force to join the Colours during the war.

There also appears to be no record for Devon or Exeter City of those who returned, or records of those who were medically unfit for police duty because of injuries sustained in the conflict. We certainly know of some Exeter City men who returned but did not continue as constables, but we do not know if that was their choice or because they were not fit in "Wind or limb".

As a general rule men who were killed or died before being demobbed were considered for inclusion on war memorials. The names of men, who had been injured and demobbed, before dying as a result of the wounds they had received, were often omitted from memorials. These men are sometimes referred to as "The completely Forgotten".  More than 182,000 men were discharged as "Invalids" before 1918, thousands of whom would have died before 1925, the year in which the majority of war memorials were erected and consecrated. The Bodmin Police Memorial was consecrated in April 1921, this was very early, the peak year for consecrations was 1925. Two men who had been discharged from the Army - died as a result of their military service - one, well before the memorial was erected. Their names were added to the plinth rather than the main panel. Unlike every other man named on the Police Memorial, they appear on no other Cornish memorial.

I have discovered that policemen seem to be an unrecorded class of men on First World War memorials, possibly because they were all young men, often not from the area where they were serving when they enlisted, so were not considered for that village memorial. Having left the area in which they grew up, they were no longer resident there, so were left off that memorial as well.

Many towns with several parishes had a "Central" memorial which did not list the men killed, e.g. Exeter and Devonport. It was common practice for individual churches to erect plaque type memorials in their respective places of worship, to include members of their congregation. Currently in Cornwall, where a great many people were of the Methodist persuasion, there is an active policy of moving memorials from redundant Methodist Chapels to the local Parish Church (C of E). Village memorials were usually "Organised" by the parish and tended to include only members of the Church of England. It often fell to professional organisations, such as large employers, to erect memorials to their staff and good examples here are the Great Western Railway Memorial at St David's Station in Exeter, and the Police Memorials at Headquarters, Heavitree Road and Bodmin Police Stations

How then to remember our fellow officers who gave their lives during the First World War? A solution designed to avoid offending anyone, would be to lay wreaths on the Police War Memorials at Bodmin, Heavitree Road, Middlemoor and St Andrews Church Plymouth (a Second World War plaque).

I have listed below the known deaths from Cornwall, Devon and Exeter City Police. I believe there were no deaths of policemen from Barnstaple Borough, Penzance Borough, Tiverton Borough or Truro City Police.

Peter Hinchliffe
Heritage & Learning Resource
Devon & Cornwall Police
October 2014

23 men left the force to serve with the Colours.

These men are listed on the Devon Constabulary War Memorial at Middlemoor:

BERRY William PC58

Not on Winkleigh Memorial

Buried Haringhe Cemetery, France

Single man from Winkleigh

Joined 01.01.14

Resigned to enlist 30.06.15

Private 95420 2nd Bath Royal Fusiliers

Died of wounds 04.10.18

DUNSCOMBE Frederick T PC342

Named on Topsham Memorial

Buried at Doullens Cemetery

Single man from Topsham

Joined 01.04.13

Resigned to enlist 31.03.15

Previously served with Devon Territorials

Lance Corporal 23607Grenadier Guards

Wounded 29.05.18

Died 11.11.18

GORDON Walter PC291

Cannot find his name on Torrington Memorial

Buried Le Touret Cemetery, Belgium

Married with 2 children, from Torrington

Previously served with Coldstream Guards

Joined 01.04.05

Resigned to enlist 05.08.14

Lance Corporal 4569 Coldstream Guards

Killed in Action, Belgium 31.12.14

GREENSLADE Frederick PC257

Not on Witheridge Memorial

Buried St Sever Cemetery, France

Single man from Witheridge

Previously served with Devon Yeomanry

Joined 01.05.13

Resigned to enlist 20.11.15

Lance Corporal 2848 Military Police

Died of wounds 29.04.16


May be on Pinhoe Memorial

Buried at Pinhoe Cemetery

Married man from Oakford

Joined 27.02.12

Resigned to enlist 13.04.16

Sergeant 75621 Royal Garrison Artillery

Killed in Action 16.12.17

HOSGOOD Sidney John PC425

No known grave

Named on Thiepval Memorial, France

Marital state unknown, from Minehead

Joined 01.04.14

Resigned to enlist 30.06.15

Private 20258 Somerset Light Infantry

Killed on the Somme 16.09.16

MINERS George Augustus PC252

Buried St Catherine

Single man from Plymouth

Joined 01.01.14

Resigned to enlist 28.11.15

Lance Sergeant Northumberland Fusiliers

Killed in Action 03.04.17

PALMER Herbert Slade PC417

Not on Cullompton Memorial

No known grave name

Named on Menin Gate Memorial, Ypres

Marital state unknown; from Cullompton

Previously served with 1st Dragoon Guards

Joined 01.05.13

Resigned to enlist 05.08.14

Lance Corporal 6276 5th., Dragoon Guards

Killed in Action 31.10.14

SANDERS George PC232

There are no individual names on Devonport Memorial

Buried at Awoingt Cemetery, France

Single man from Devonport

Joined 01.08.14

Resigned to enlist 17.02.16

Corporal 162524 Army Service Corps

Died from wounds 04.11.18

SHARP Samuel Feltham PC29

Named on Chudleigh Knighton


Buried at Aubigny Cemetery, France

Married man from Chudleigh Knighton

Previously served Devon Territorials

Joined 06.06.15

Resigned to enlist 06.05.15

Private 2033 12th Bat Gloucestershire Regt

Died of wounds 09.05.17

SPARKES Lewis Samuel PC324

May be on Tedburn St Mary Memorial

Buried Constantia Cemetery, Cape Town

Single man from Staple Fitzpaine

Joined 01.07.14

Resigned to enlist 14.11.15

Lance Corporal 2675 Military Police

Died in South Africa 24.06.16


The source of my research for Cornwall has been taken from a document held at Cornwall County Records office compiled by Frank Grigg, an ex Cornwall Sergeant.

37% of the men of Cornwall Constabulary served with the Colours during the First World War.

These men are listed on the Cornwall Constabulary War Memorial at Bodmin Police Station:

BRAY Frederick John PC201

Buried Etaples Cemetery, France

Named on Memorials at Priory Park, Bodmin, the Police Memorial at Bodmin Police Station and Liskeard

GRAY Walter PC211

Named on Stratton and Police Memorial at Bodmin Police Station

LUKE Herbert John PC26

Named on Police Memorial at Bodmin

Buried at Lapugnoy, France

Single man from Liskeard

Joined 01.04.13

Enlisted from St Mawes 14.11.14

Gunner 137897 Royal Garrison, Artillery

Died of wounds 03.05.17

Married man from Westbury, Wilts

Previously Royal Marines Light Infantry

Joined 01.04.13

Enlisted from Stratton 04.08.14

Corporal Royal Marines PLY/14099

Died 03.08.16

Married man from Egloshayle, Bodmin

Joined 17.04.09

Enlisted from Launceston 31.05.15

Lance Corporal, Military Police P/1522

Died from wounds 13.04.18

ROWE Samuel Charles PC88

Buried Douchy-les-Ayette, France

Named on St Blazey Gate Memorial,

Bodmin Priory Park Memorial and Bodmin Police Memorial

Single man from St Blazey

5 years Royal Garrison Artillery

Joined 01.04.12

Enlisted 04.08.14 from Torpoint

Sergeant 25062 Royal Artillery

Killed in Action 23.03.18 at Arras

SOLOMON William John PC196

No known grave

Named on Thiepval Memorial Nanpean, St Stephen, Priory Park Bodmin and Police Memorial at Bodmin

TOM Samuel PC198

Buried Outtereene, France

Named on St Minver, Bodmin, Priory Park, Bodmin and Police Memorial at Bodmin Police Station

WEBB Charles Leonard PC81

Buried Cologne, Germany

Named on Hessenford and Police Memorial Bodmin

Single man from Whitmoor, St Austell

Enlisted 30.04.16

Private 26444 Duke of Cornwall

Killed 16.09.16 on the Somme

Single man from St Minver, Wadebridge

Joined 21.01.13

Enlisted from St Austell 12.12.15 Sergeant Royal Artillery 137924

Died of wounds received in Action

Single man from Liskeard

Previously 2 years with Royal Engineers

Joined 01.12.13

Enlisted from Camborne 04.08.15 as a reservist Sapper 18164 Royal Engineers

Died of wounds as POW in Germany

on either 04.02.25 or 04.08.15

The two men named below died after demob from the Army and after they had rejoined the Cornwall Constabulary. Their deaths were, however, attributed to their military service in the war.

CORTIS Stephen PC190

Named on Police Memorial at Bodmin

Married man from Gwenap, Redruth

Joined 01.03.15

Enlisted from 29.02.16

Died of consumption 06.02.19

THOMAS John Henry PC131

named on Police Memorial

Married man from Crowvan Helston

Joined 01.12.14

Enlisted from Bodmin 17.02.17

Private DCLI

Re-joined after war

Died 29.09.21

Exeter City

11 men enlisted in the Army and three men were seconded to become Military Drill Instructors.

These three men are listed on the First World War Memorial plaque at Heavitree Road Police Station:

CLARKE Walter James PC

ELLIS Percival PC48

Buried Namps-au-Val Cemetery, Aimens, France

Named on Upton Pyne Memorial

Married man, two children from Awliscombe

Previously served with Devon Regiment

Joined 06.10.13

Resigned to enlist 05.08.14

Lance Corporal 8000 2nd Devons

Killed in Action 11.07.15

Single man from Upton Pyne

Joined 10.10.12

Previously served with Army Service Corps

Resigned to enlist 05.08.14

Corporal 51356 Cheshire Regiment

Died from wounds 06.04.18

HAMMOND Wilfred PC24

Buried at Bush House Cemetery, Ypres

Married man from Tenbury, Worcestershire

Previously served with Royal Field Artillery

Joined 06.10.13

Resigned to enlist 05.08.14

Bombardier 47456 Royal Artillery

Awarded Cross of St George (Russian)

Mentioned in Despatches 02.06.15

Killed in Action, France 27.08.17

Barnstaple Borough Police

There is no record of any man leaving to serve in the armed forces.

Penzance Borough Police

Three men left to serve with the Colours and all three returned after the war.

Plymouth City Police

21 or 23 men served with the Colours. We have no record of their names or whether any of them were killed in the war.

Tiverton Borough Police

Three men left to serve in the Army and all returned.

Truro City Police

There is no record of any man leaving to serve in the war.

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