Captain Geoffrey Philip Tregelles

It is now the time of the centenary of the end of the Battle of the Somme. It seems a long time since we published our first blogpost on this subject in July so can only begin to imagine how long those months felt to those in the field of war.

Now, in Armistice Week, we publish the last of our featured Somme casualities, who actually died on the first day of the battle. Next month we will look at news in North Devon around Christmas and New Year one hundred years ago.

treglelles-photo-findagraveCaptain Geoffrey Philip Tregelles

“A” Company, 8th Devonshire Regiment

On Saturday 1st July 1916 Acting Captain Tregelles was killed in action at Mansell Copse due south of Mametz village on the Somme.

The action took place on the first day of the battle of the Somme with the Eighth Battalion Devonshire Regiment fighting as a part of the 7th Division.

Captain Tregelles was 24 years old.


Prior to this battle, an intense week long artillery bombardment of the German positions took place.

Many of the British shells fired during this bombardment turned out to be “duds” and it is thought that the German army were well informed about British tactics. The German trenches were extremely well constructed and many soldiers simply moved behind their trenches until the bombardment had ended.

The British were ordered to walk steadily towards the German lines and not to run, it seems that even under heavy machine gun fire they obeyed orders.

Many of the German officers in the trenches believed that had the British soldiers charged at a run then they would have overrun the German trenches with far fewer British losses.


Captain Geoffrey Tregelles was the only son of Mr George Tregelles and Mrs Marion Tregelles of Clarence Place, Barnstaple, Devon.

The deceased officer had attended Cambridge University and was reading for Holy Orders. He was a member of the Cambridge University Officers Training Corps and so when war broke out he joined up, in company with most university students.

Captain Tregelles was granted a commission on 26th August 1914 and joined his battalion in October 1915.

Within a year he was dead.


On the 1st August 1916 George Tregelles wrote a letter to the librarian of the Shakespeare Memorial Library stating that Geoffrey had studied at Cambridge and  “was enthusiastic for Shakespearian study “having been shown some of the library’s treasures by the librarian a few years previously. He had been so impressed that he wished for his copy of the book “In praise of Shakespeare”, to be sent to the Library.



George Tregelles wrote in this letter “My boy had an active original mind and took a keen interest in literature among other things. Had he lived he might have done some good work in that line.”

It is particularly poignant to read this in the 400th anniversary year of William Shakespeare’s death.



altar-frontalCaptain Tregelles was also commemorated in his local church at Newport where his parents commissioned an altar frontal and a super frontal in his memory. At the dedication ceremony in January 1917 it was said that he had been preparing to become a priest…when the war broke out and he volunteered for service… His chief concern was to do his duty well, even at the supreme cost of self-sacrifice. He was “faithful unto death”.

Sources – photographs of gravestones and memorials

Ancestry Library Edition – BritishArmy WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920 (available free online in the Local Studies Centre and in any Devon library)

British Newspaper Archive – North Devon Journal; Western Times (available free online in the Local Studies Centre)


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