Remembering great bravery

A local doctor made a passionate speech on a cold winter’s day in December 1920 when the War Memorial was unveiled in the village of Praze, west Cornwall, in memory of the 23 young men from the parish of Crowan who died in World War One.

This was Dr. William Blackwood of Camborne who had led a party of local men to the Western Front in 1914 and served there in the Royal Army Medical Corps throughout the four years of war. With his men he saw the most terrible battles of a terrible war – including Neuve Chapelle, the Somme and Passchendaele.
Blackwood urged the large crowd in Praze on 15 December 1920 to remember the sacrifice of those from Crowan who had fallen. He would have been wearing his Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with a Bar. In the whole of World War One, 9,881 DSOs were awarded but only 768 with a Bar.
Blackwood ended the war as a Lieutenant Colonel. But despite these significant military honours, he went straight back to his practice as a doctor in Camborne when the conflict ended.

His modest grave is in Camborne graveyard, a simple inscription on the headstone: ‘His Duty Done’.

In the church hangs the banner of the Old Contemptibles (WW1 veterans) branch he founded.

This Remembrance Day, we will remember his great bravery and inspirational leadership by laying a wreath on his grave – as will the grandchildren of some of the men he led to France and Belgium. These men included Leslie Pentecost, W.J. Phillips and Fred Negus, whose great great grandson Corey Williams plays in Camborne Youth Band and took a 100-year-old bugle back to the Western Front in 2018 to commemorate the centenary of the end of the war.

Above right: the Remembrance Day ceremony in Praze in 2014, marking the centenary of the start of World War One.