The India connection - burials in Sidmouth Cemetery

PUBLISHED: 15:56 23 October 2015 | UPDATED: 15:56 23 October 2015

John Pleydell-Bouverie with head coachman Mr Garrick

Photo courtesy Geoffrey Leader

John Pleydell-Bouverie with head coachman Mr Garrick Photo courtesy Geoffrey Leader

Archant

Those stalwarts of Sidmouth life Peter Orlando Hutchinson and William Trump, of Trump's Stores, are buried next to each other near the chapel in the town's cemetery.

Neil Grant and Caroline CarmichaelNeil Grant and Caroline Carmichael

However they may sometimes wonder whether they are actually buried in British India given the background of numerous army officers buried nearby.

It is now largely forgotten that Sidmouth was a favoured retirement and holiday destination for officers returning from India. The British Indian Army was organised in groups centred on Bengal, Bombay and Madras, and Sidmouth cemetery has burials from all three groups. For example:

• Major Edward William Hicks of The Marino (died 1884).

Blackmore Hall in c1915

Photo courtesy Geoffrey LeaderBlackmore Hall in c1915 Photo courtesy Geoffrey Leader

• General Julius Bentall Dennys of Manor Road (1907).

• General Robert Andrews Cole of Manor Road (1907).

• Major General George Wynne Cole (1908).

• Colonel Robert Gedoin Jenkins (1911) – Sidmouth born.

• Captain Harry Torriano Pritchard (1920).

• Colonel Charles McNeile of Salcombe Hill Road (1925).

• Colonel Charles Dennys of Fortfield Terrace (1928).

• Major Frank Slade of Millford Avenue (1930).

• Colonel Walter Cave of the Royal Glen Hotel (1932).

• Colonel Charles Reginald Phillips of Vicarage Road (1934).

• General Henry Strachan Elton of Laskeys Lane (1934).

• Major Robert Sidney Waters OBE (1955).

• Colonel Edmund Ludlow Perry DSO of the Redlands Hotel (1957).

• General Corrie Hudson CB DSO of Knowle Drive (1958).

Some officers served with mainstream regiments stationed in India on rotation or sent there for particular campaigns. For example:

• General Thomas Milles of Manor Road (died 1903) served with the 75th (Sterlingshire) Regiment at the relief of Lucknow in 1857.

• Colonel Edward Elliott Carr CB CBE of Station Road (1926) fought with the Royal Scots Fusiliers on the North East and North West frontiers.

• Colonel Arthur de Vere Willoughby Osborne of Coburg Terrace (1934) was stationed in India for the whole of World War 1 with the South Lancashire Regiment.

The Devonshire Regiment had deployments to British India too. Buried near Peter Orlando Hutchinson is Brigadier General Montagu Creighton Curry (1856 – 1931), who as a young Captain served with the Devons on the Tirah Expedition of 1898. That was an arduous campaign fought in bleak conditions to take back control of the Kyber Pass.

The Tiger’s Tomb – Colonel Charles James William Grant VC

Colonel Charles Grant (1861 – 1932) is the only Victoria Cross hero buried in East Devon. He came from a Scottish family with a tradition of service in the Indian Army.

He won the VC in 1891 in astounding circumstances when as a young Lieutenant he volunteered to go into Manipur in an attempt to free five British captives. Unfortunately the prisoners were murdered and Grant’s detachment of 80 Gurkha and Punjabi troops was attacked by most of the Manupuri army. His small force had to fight off waves of assault for ten days and at the height of the battle there were over 2,000 attackers.

Later, he went on to command regiments in the Indian Army before he and his wife Mary retired to England in 1913. They moved down to Devon after World War 1 and finally came to Sidmouth to build Western Field on Manor Road. He died at Western Field in 1932 and Mary Grant continued to live there until her death in 1959. She is buried in the same grave as her husband.

The grave was restored in 2014 by the Sidmouth Branch of the Royal British Legion and was dubbed ‘The Tiger’s Tomb’ by the Sunday Telegraph. That reflected a comment by his men that he fought like a tiger when, seemingly on the brink of defeat, he went out with just 10 Gurkhas and drove away several hundred enemy soldiers.

The grave now attracts visitors, including Captain Neil Grant RN (retired) from Taunton and his cousin Caroline Carmichael from Selsey. Colonel Grant was their great-uncle. They both remember visiting Western Field in the 1950s when Mary Grant was living there as a widow and recall a house crammed with mementoes from a life in British India.

Speaking at the cemetery Neil Grant said, ‘the new memorial stone with a photo of Uncle Charlie is absolutely magnificent. My grandson found out about it when he was doing some research for his GCSEs and we couldn’t wait to come here to see it.’

Colonel The Honourable John Pleydell-Bouverie – Blackmore Hall and Gardens

Photographs by courtesy of Geoffrey Leader

The Hon John Pleydell-Bouverie (1846 – 1925) was born at Longford Castle in Wiltshire, the fourth son of the Earl of Radnor. He became an officer in the 17th Lancers, a prestigious cavalry regiment famous for its role in the Charge of the Light Brigade. He served with them in the Zulu War of 1879 in South Africa, fighting at the Battle of Ulundi. The 17th Lancers were then sent to India and were stationed there for the whole of the 1880s.

John Pleydell-Bouverie and his wife Grace Harriet set up home in Lucknow and their only child, Eveline, was born there. Mrs Pleydell-Bouverie had been born in India herself, at Neemuch, the daughter of Lt General Robert Mallaby.

After retirement the Pleydell-Bouveries purchased Blackmore Hall in central Sidmouth, a large house with splendid gardens. It had previously been the home of George Scott of the Bombay Civil Service and his wife Augusta. The Pleydell-Bouveries bought it from Sidmouth Urban District Council, reportedly for £2,000, with the council keeping back the areas now covered by the tennis courts and bowling greens.

Colonel Pleydell-Bouverie died at Blackmore Hall in 1925. His wife sold the house and gardens back to the council in 1952, having moved across to Coburg Terrace, where she died in 1953. She is buried in the same grave as her husband in Sidmouth Cemetery.

Blackmore Hall was demolished in 1953 and the site is now occupied by the car park for the library and health centre. The only part of the house surviving is the tiled floor of the veranda, which now serves as the plinth for the row of benches just inside the gardens.

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