South Devon Branch report: Jul 2016 to Jan 2017


In July a few of our members took part in a joint excursion with the Exeter Branch around the historic parts of Topsham, followed by a boat trip down the Exe estuary which was enhanced by a commentary given by Tony Buller. Full details appeared in the 2016 Exeter Branch report.

Our autumn talks got off to a good start in November with ‘Dartmoor Photographers 1860s to 1870s’ given by DA’s immediate past-president, Dr Tom Greeves, who treated us to a delightful tour of Dartmoor as it appeared to our Victorian ancestors. Using the works of the early photographers such as Francis Bedford, Archibald Coke, William Spreat, William Merrifield and many others, Tom, despite suffering from a bad back, took us on a clockwise tour of Dartmoor starting at Chagford. In those days, the moor was a much more open landscape and many of the attractions which drew visitors to Dartmoor now look very different. Without the present-day vegetation, the photographers of the early 19th century brought their skilful interpretation to great effect and we, looking at Tom’s collection of images, were able to appreciate what they accomplished and how they played their part in promoting Dartmoor as a unique landscape well worth visiting. The gathering showed their appreciation to Tom for a splendid hour spent looking at very early photography.

At the December meeting Mr Louis Fletcher gave a talk on some of the Devonians who served during the Anglo/Zulu wars of 1879 and of others connected to the county. After a short history of events leading to the conflict, he mentioned the Battle of Rorke’s Drift where the British contingent was commanded by Plymouth-born Lieutenant John Chard who was awarded a Victoria Cross for his valour and leadership in successfully repelling several thousand Zulu warriors with just over one hundred British soldiers in January 1879. The fate of the French Prince Imperial in June 1879 was also outlined in significant detail: the slaughter of the impetuous young Louis Napoléon caused considerable embarrassment to Queen Victoria who had given a guarantee of his safety to the young man’s mother, the wife of the late Emperor of France. A scapegoat for the débâcle was found in Lieutenant Jahleel Brenton Carey, a Brixham man, who was subsequently court-martialled and sentenced to be cashiered. Eventually he was reinstated but his career had been ruined. His immediate commanding officer at the time was Major Redvers Buller who excelled himself during the campaign against the Zulus and was awarded a VC. Buller, from Crediton also featured, controversially, as a General in the Boer War. Richard Harrison, another officer in Natal at the time and on the fringe of the incident that led to the death of the Prince Imperial lived to the age of 94; he died at Galmpton near Brixham and was buried at Higher Ashton church in 1931.

The January AGM was followed by a raffle and a delicious tea organised by the committee members.

The South Devon branch always welcomes new members.

– put together from separate reports by the Branch Secretary


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