On this day in 1915, George Robins Saffin (1886-1915) was killed on the Western Front in the Great War.
George, a private in the 1st Battalion of the Devonshire Regiment, lost his life in Belgium.
Aged 29, he was married and had five young children.
He was based in Jersey with the 1st Devons when they sailed to Le Havre in France in 1914, arriving there on August 22, 18 days after Great Britain declared war on Germany.
In September that year, the battalion suffered 100 casualties from shelling before helping to capture Givenchy Ridge the following month.
From November, they occupied Messines Ridge, enduring heavy rain and sleet and fighting in waist-deep mud and icy water for five months.
The book, The Devonshire Regiment 1914-1918, recorded that ‘it was a wet winter and the rain came down in torrents. When the weather took a turn for the colder the rain merely changed to sleet.
‘The trenches were always falling in, and though before the end of November a certain amount of timber appeared for use in them, the demand for it easily outstripped the supply.
‘The problem of drainage was almost insuperable. Often men had to spend hours at a time knee-deep and even waist deep in liquid mud.
‘They could barely stagger away when at last relief came, and the ground behind the trenches was already pitted with shell holes full of water through which the exhausted troops had to grope their way back to billets.’
George’s death on March 27, 1915 was announced in The Exeter and Plymouth Gazette on April 16, 1915.
‘The sympathy of the whole (Cheriton Bishop) district has been extended to Mrs George Saffin and her young family of five children in the irreparable loss they have sustained by the loss of her husband, Pte George Saffin of the 1st Devons,’ reported the newspaper.
‘Deceased, who was a reservist called up at the outbreak of war, was highly esteemed in the parish and was formerly in the employ of Mr Seward, of Lewdon (Farm), who spoke of him as a very able and obliging workman.
‘This is the second of our band of heroes from this little parish to give up their lives in fighting for their country. Three others have been wounded.’
George’s five children were: Elsie May, who was eight when her father died, James, who was seven, Lillian Jessie, who was five, Elizabeth, who was three, and Arthur George, who was ten days away from his first birthday when his father lost his life.
George was buried at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery near Ypres, and is remembered on Cheriton Bishop and Drewsteignton War Memorials.
George married Amanda White (1879-1934) in 1907 in Drewsteignton. Amanda was the daughter of William George White (1856-1931) and Mary Ann Lee. William was the son of Eliza Tancock (1828-1896) and Samuel White (1829-1891). Eliza was the sister of Sarah Tancock (1851-1900), who married Daniel Arscott (1857-1922) on October 17, 1877 at Tristram Chapel, Puddington. Daniel was my great-grandfather.
Born in 1886 in Drewsteignton, George was the son of James Saffin (1862-1938) and Martha Robins (1860-1917). In 1911, he was living with Amanda and his three eldest children at West Downs, Cheriton Bishop and working as a farm labourer.
Amanda, born in 1879 in Drewsteignton, married gardener Ernest Gidley (1881-1958) in 1923 in Drewsteignton. She died in 1934, aged 55 and was buried at the Holy Trinity churchyard in Drewsteignton.
George’s grave at Kemmel Chateau Military Cemetery near Ypres. Photo by Marvin and Samme Templin.