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Pupils from Buckfastleigh Primary School march to the station to go off to basic training, although it will all be over by Christmas.Photo © 2014

For the first time the SDRT Museum Support Group made an application to the Heritage Lottery Fund with the intention of putting on a special event to commemorate the beginning of the Great War, entitled It Will All Be Over by Christmas. Working in partnership with our local community we were supported by Buckfastleigh Town Council, the Valiant Soldier museum, Orchard Millennium Green Trust, Buckfastleigh Primary School, Buckfastleigh Girl Guides and Community Police. HLF agreed to pay £3,000 from their First World War: then and now fund, and along with a grant from Buckfastleigh Town Council and a significant contribution in kind from the SDR Trust we organised a pageant over three days. The first two days enabled all 230 children from our local school to participate and on Sunday over 50 local residents dressed in early twentieth century costume, along with an owl named Martha, joined in. The pageant started at the Town Hall where “recruits” signed on, took the oath and were given the King’s Shilling. Parading through the streets of Buckfastleigh, street theatre enacted events that would likely to have happened when raw recruits were encouraged (or otherwise) to join up. Singing First World War songs the pageant progressed to the Valiant Soldier where everyone got the chance to see their wonderful Great War exhibition. After a well earned rest and refreshments on the Orchard Millennium Green the pageant moved on along the road to the railway station. Here there was a marvellous display of a 1912 Hudson car with many other pre 1914 artefacts provided by Tom and Fiona Harvey, along with a disgruntled farmer and his wife, complete with chickens, who were very unhappy about the fact that their farm worker had joined up. After a quick visit to the SDRT museum everyone boarded the special 1.00pm steam train for training, which was actually a free return trip to Totnes with time for a picnic.

Following HLF guidelines the pageant received excellent media coverage. This included local television with five or six minutes on Spotlight. There was also excellent coverage in all the local papers and a number of mentions on Radio Devon. The whole pageant was photographed by Dave Lawson, a local professional photographer. All in all an excellent event that could not have possibly happened without the amazing efforts and support of many volunteers.

Two 2014 Guides wearing genuine 1914 uniforms. Pete Small and Martha the Owl look on Luckily there was a man with a red flag, so the car could legally be driven onto the public highway
Squire Knowling chauffeurs the Ladies Knowling and Distin in Tom and Fiona Harvey’s 1912 HudsonPageant poster
Capt Roger Gibbs swears in the good citizens of Buckfastleigh Graham Squires leads school pupils into the Valiant Soldier for a farewell drink
The “boys” are waved off on their way to the front All the enlisted men received the King’s Shilling – their first pay in His Majesty’s service.
Some had already spent it in the Valiant Soldier!
Photographs © JBrodribb 2014

We now have displays about the Great War in the SDRT Museum, and these complement those in the Valiant Soldier. They are still being developed, and will also change as the four years of the war changed.

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© South Devon Railway Association 2014

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