Saturday, 31 March 2012

Archie Huggins, from a family of Devon stonemasons, becomes history. His name is on Lydford War Memorial

This morning I’ll go to the British Library.  It gets crowded at this time of year: the university students have exams to prepare for.  While it’s nice to see them, beavering away – even to imagine that one is one of life’s students oneself – they do clog the place up.  Don’t they have their own libraries to go to?  However, there are fewer of them on Saturdays, particularly when the sun shines.

My mission – and on this I don’t think that many of my young co-library users will be able to help me – is to discover whether organised took place on Dartmoor before 1914.  Discover?  I should say confirm, because I am pretty sure it is.  But since I make passing reference to it in my book War Memorial, just finished, I have got to be certain.   G.T.Teasdale-Buckell’s The Complete Shot, 1907, will be able to help me.

You see, Archie Huggins, a splendid young stonemason who played football for Tavistock and performed in horseback tugs of war at county shows, was a member of the Royal North Devon Hussars, originally a territorial regiment which sailed to Gallipoli on board the SS Olympic, sister ship to Titanic, in 1915.  They left Devon on August 12 – the Glorious Twelfth, the opening of the Grouse Shooting Season.  (You see why I need to know.)   That was in 1914.  First stop was Winchester, where, improbable though it may seem, given its inland location, there had been an invasion scare.  The subsequent 12 months they spent in Essex, getting bored in the very out of season holiday resort of Clacton.

I laughingly think that the grouse business is one of my last checks.  It won’t be; it never is.  Editor and copy editor will raise dozens more.  But unpicking the family history of the war memorial has consumed me for the past year, and I will be sorry when it ends.  If it does. 

If you'd like to see the book at Penguin, click this

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