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Written by Jim Woolley   
Tuesday, 10 March 2015 23:16

A Chance For All Local Family Historians To Play Their Part

A major objective of our Heritage Lottery Fund Project is the publication of a Memorial Volume to honour the sacrifice of our Great War dead but this is only part of the story. Another equally important objective is to establish the effects of their passing on the community at large, and to do this we have to carry-out a great deal of in-depth research into every one of them. Each death will have affected no only the immediate family but also his grandparents, his cousins, his neighbours, his work mates and anyone else who knew him. As you will appreciate, such research is very time consuming and will not always be successful, as my regular pleas for help in the Gazette testify.

This month I make a more general plea for your help. If you are a member of a local family whose forebears served in the Great War and you have already researched you family tree, it would save us a great deal of time and effort if you were willing to share at least some of the results of your research with us. Some of you have already done so and we greatly appreciate the help you have given us.

If there is anyone out there who has caught the “genealogy bug”, with access to either Ancestry or Find My Past or similar, and who feels they would like to get involved in the Project, please give me a call.

John Charles Piney or Charles John Piney ??

I am having great difficulty in identifying this member of the Piney family, listed on the West Hill War Memorial on West Hill Road as “Cpl C.J.PINEY”. My difficulty classically illustrates the basic problem involved in undertaking such research, a lack of any overall framework within which to work. When one researches one’s own family, one at least has an inkling of the overall picture, relative ages, locations, etc. Hence my regular pleas in the Gazette for help from the family concerned.

To be listed on the Memorial, he would have needed to have a connection with West Hill, Salston or one of the other small communities in the area. He would also have needed to have someone living in the area at the time when the Memorial itself was designed and erected, “to put his name forward”. He is not listed on the Memorial Window in St Michaels Church, so presumably neither he nor his parents were regular church-goers. The War Memorial also gives two initials, less common than those only giving a single initial.

Piney is an unusual family name nationally, but has a heavy concentration in East Devon. To put this in perspective, in the forty year period between 1860 and 1900, there were 30 Piney births listed in the Honiton Registration District alone.

The Great War

Nationally, according to “Soldiers Died in the Great War”, published at the end of the conflict, only three soldiers named Piney died in the conflict, all from Devon.

On our database we have nine male members of the family listed as having served, with two having made the ultimate sacrifice, an F.Piney and a J. Piney, who are both listed on the Ottery St Mary War Memorial.

Frank Piney, son of Richard and Harriett Piney, of Yonder Street, was killed in action at the Battle of Loos on 25th September 1915, serving with the 8th Devons.

John Charles Piney died in India on the 12th September 1916 whilst serving with the 2/4th Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment. If this is our man as seems likely, ignoring the reversal of initials, who were his parents and what was his connection with West Hill ?

The Records list a Charles John, born 1873, son of John and Louisa, a John, born 1891, son of Richard and Harriett, and a Charles John, born 1895. The 2/4th Devons was a second line Territorial Battalion whose members had a wide age span, so any of these three could be the one. Or he could be none of them !!

An earlier researcher who worked on the item on the Ottery St Mary 1914-1918 War Memorial on the “Devon Heritage” website plumped for John, born 1891, although examination of his Baptismal Records give no mention of any other Christian names. I prefer Charles John, born 1873, but I can find no evidence of a West Hill connection.

Please Help to Solve The Mystery

If you can shed any light on the identity of the man commemorated on the West Hill War Memorial and his connection with West Hill I would very much like to hear from you. Please call me on 01404 812176.

Jim Woolley