Top BBC presenter discovers Camborne war hero ancestor
A top BBC presenter has discovered that he has an unexpected direct family link to Camborne and that local World War One hero Dr William Blackwood was his great grandfather.
BBC Radio 3 presenter Petroc Trelawny grew up near Helston and attended Helston School. He is the face of the BBC Proms and currently presents a weekday morning show on Radio 3. On New Year’s Day 2020 and 2021 he was the host for the BBC broadcast of the Vienna New Year’s Concert. For more about Petroc Trelawny, click here.
Until hearing of our research into the 25th Field Ambulance and the Camborne miners in World War One, he had not known of his great grandfather’s wartime heroism.
“Frederick Blackwood, my grandfather, was a GP in St Keverne,” he said. “I knew he had grown up in Camborne, but was not aware of the achievements of his father, William Blackwood.”
In the years before World War One, William Blackwood had trained St John Ambulance teams in the town to help with First Aid provision in the mines. When war broke out, he set off to the battlefields with these men. They joined the 25th Field Ambulance and served on the Western Front throughout the 1914-18 conflict.
A Lt. Col. by the end of the war, Blackwood won the Distinguished Service Order (DSO) with a bar – in other words, he won it twice. This was incredibly rare. In the whole of WW1, 9,881 DSOs were awarded, but only 768 with a bar.
“We’ve discovered many of the descendants of the 25th Field Ambulance who still live locally,” says Bridging Arts director, Susan Roberts. “But until now we had not found any descendants of Dr Blackwood. We’ve been researching his story for several years now and it’s become clear that Dr Blackwood is something of a folk hero in Camborne. There are still – a few – people who actually remember him, others can remember their parents or grandparents talking about him.
“It’s so great to have discovered this connection with Petroc Trelawny which further cements his memory and is something of which Camborne can be so proud.”
Camborne Youth Band followed in the footsteps of Dr Blackwood and the Cornish miners in 2018, to mark the centenary of the end of the war. In the Band was Corey Williams, the great great grandson of one of the miners who played his 100-year-old bugle back on the Western Front. Click to view a film about this.