This month we look at two brothers from Ilfracombe who were both lost, one in the Somme, the other at sea, within the month of August 1916.
William George Carpenter Conibear, who served in the 9th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, was born in Ilfracombe in 1894.
The family is local to Ilfracombe for at least 2 generations, and have quite a
large extended family in the area.
William was the eldest son of George Edward and Marian Conibear, his mother’s
maiden name was Knight , they married in November 1893, both his parents
were born in Ilfracombe.
William has a younger sister and brother; Hilda born 1895 and Edgar born 1896.
In this announcement of Hilda’s birth the family are living at 2 Trafalgar Cottages.
A search for this address brings no results so the cottages may no longer exist.
The harbour area was extensively remodelled at one point and these cottages
might have been there.
The 1901 census, when William was 7, shows the family living in Regent Place,
Ilfracombe, George Conibear’s occupation is given as Postman.
In 1911 the family have moved to St Brannocks Road, George still working as a
At this date, when he is 17, William’s occupation is given as Joiner, his sister Hilda
is a Dressmaker and young Edgar, aged 14, is an Errand Boy.
The family has increased by two; Lillian, born 1903 and Horace, born 1904.
Edgar joined the Merchant Navy in 1915.
This is a report of a Post Office Dinner which William’s father George attended and
at which he sang, from the
North Devon Journal of Nov 16th 1911
Evidently Mr Conibear senior was rather given to public performance as an earlier report, from the North Devon Journal of August 15th 1901, shows.
This gives us a little insight into the Conibears’ family life.
William enlisted on the 29th January 1916 in the 9th Battalion, Devonshire Regiment.
He was wounded on the Somme, 6 weeks after first going out to the front, on 3rd August.
At first he was reported to be progressing satisfactorily, in a hospital in France, but died of his wounds on 27th August 1916.
He was 23.
William is buried in the Bois-Guillaume Cemetery, in a north-eastern suburb of Rouen
Bois-Guillaume Cemetery. (Courtesy of http://www.findagrave.com)
He was awarded the Victory and British medals.
There is some confusion in the newspaper reports, they give his occupation as apprenticed to Messrs Thomas and Sons, Jewellers in Ilfracombe High Street. The 1911 Census clearly shows his occupation as joiner. It’s possible he was apprenticed to Alfred James Thomas, Cabinet Maker, of Oxford Grove, Ilfracombe, perhaps the two businesses have been confused as they have the same last name. This is only a guess.
Edgar Stanley John Conibear, William’s younger brother was born in 1896.
The 1911 census shows his occupation, aged 14, as Errand Boy.
He served in the war in the Merchant Navy.
Edgar first went to sea on a passenger ship, the Persic, as a steward, in early 1914, sailing to Sydney, Australia, arriving in May of that year.
We next hear of him as an apprentice on the Merchant Navy Ship Honiton, he was indentured at Glasgow in 1915. The Honiton was mined 2 nautical miles East of Longsand Light Vessel and beached at Shoeburyness, on the 30th August 1915. The ship was a total loss, it was on passage from Buenos Aires for Hull with maize and linseed. The crew seem to all have been rescued safely.
Edgar’s next ship was the Bideford from which he was reported as lost on the 1st
Edgar was awarded the Mercantile Marine Medal and the British Medal.
The surviving family continued to live in Ilfracombe, George and Marian were still
living at 81 St Brannocks Road in 1939 and Hilda, still single, is living with them,
George is retired from the post office.
Lillian Sandra German Conibear married William E Richards towards the end of
1930. In 1939 they were living in Slade Road, Ilfracombe. By a remarkable coincidence they were living in my house.
William is working as Head Gardener and Cow Man. It appears that they have two
children as there are two other people living at the address whose records are
closed, this indicates someone either still living or who died after 1991.
Horace married Emily Tucker at the beginning of 1929, in 1939 they were living at
Number 12 St Brannocks Road, there are also 2 closed records on their entry so
presumably these were also children. Horace was working as a Drapery & Furniture Salesman.
George died in 1951 and his wife Marian in 1954
Hilda died, still unmarried, in 1981, Lillian in 1968 and Horace in 1971. Fortunately
Lillian’s husband survived the Second World War, it may be, as he was working with
livestock, that he was in a reserved occupation.
The family grave commemorates both William (as George) and Edgar as well as their parents and sister.
Census records – Ancestry Library Edition (Available to use free of charge in any Devon library, charges for printouts apply)
1939 Register – findmypast (Available to use free of charge in the Local Studies Centre, subject to demand on the day as a limited subscription, charges for printouts apply.)
Page from the crew list on the Passenger Ship Persic, Edgar underlined – Copyright http://www.northeastmedals.co.uk/britishguide/
Deaths at Sea – findmypast (as above)
Conibear Family Memorial Marlborough Road Cemetery Ilfracombe – http://www.findagrave.com
Photographs courtesy of http://www.roll-of-honour.com copyright © Paula & Dave Kennington 2006