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TOWEDNACK WWI CASUALTIES
The Towednack War Memorial inside the church records two casualties from WW1 – Robert Phillips and John Kitchen Quick. Their centenaries were marked in July 2016 and August 2015 respectively by sharing some information with the congregation and by ringing the bells in their honour. The ringing is part of a Central Council of Church Bell Ringers initiative to commemorate the centenary of all ringers lost in the Great War and both casualties are recorded on the Rolls of Honour as being Towednack ringers and members of the Truro Diocesan Guild. The Rolls of Honour are a work in progress and the current total stands at 1364 with 42 of these being Cornish ringers.
Not much is known about Private Robert Phillips. He was 19 when he died in Wareham Military Hospital on July 5th 1916. He was born in Towednack, the son of William Phillips of The Clay Works, Nancledra, Long Rock, Cornwall. He enlisted at Penzance with the Duke of Cornwallís Light Infantry 7th Battalion, service number 16609 and is buried at Wareham Cemetery, grave BB9.
Presumably the Clay Works address could refer to Bakerís Pit or to Castle an Dinas. If any family historian has more information about Robert Phillips it would be much appreciated – firstname.lastname@example.org
On Sunday July 3rd the bells were rung half-muffled for the centenary of the Battle of the Somme and to honour Robert Phillips. At midday on July 5th 2016, the centenary of his death, the Tenor bell tolled 19 for the years of his life. And on July 8th John Pladdys conducted a peal of Stedman Triples in his honour.
Rather more is known about Lance Corporal John Kitchen Quick. He served with the Australian Imperial Force 28th Battalion and died of pneumonia in Egypt on 14th August 1915. He was related to Sir John Quick, one of the founding fathers of modern Australia.
John Kitchen Quick was born at Trevessa on 7th October 1888, part of an extended farming family, the middle child of three and the only boy. His parents were Matthew Quick and Mary Jane Quick nee Kitchen. His father, Matthew, was one of 9 children and at one time there were Quicks living at Trevessa, Trevega, Bussow, Breja and Beagletodden. We donít know much about Johnís early life but from the memorial in Towednack Church# we know that he was both a chorister and a bell ringer. He would have grown up helping on the farm and gone to the village school until the age of 10 or 11. Rosewall Mine was virtually on his doorstep so it is possible he worked there and took that experience with him to the Australian goldfields. On the 1911 census at the age of 22 he is listed as a farmerís son, working on the farm. Intriguingly, he claims on his 1915 enlistment papers to have served 7 years with the 1st Devon Yeomanry but so far I can find no record of this. Our National Forces Archive only records his Australian service.
We donít have any pictures of John but we do have a description from his army enlistment papers. He was 5ft 5ins tall, weighed 147 pounds, had a 38 inch chest, dark brown hair, a dark complexion, blue eyes and a gold tooth.
In 1905 when Towednack bells were restored John would have been 16 going on 17. Initially there were just 4 bells, the original 3 mediaeval bells having been recast and a fourth added – the back four bells of our present ring. These would have arrived from the Warner foundry in London, presumably by train to St Erth or St Ives, possibly by sea, and then by horse and cart to the church. Even today a set of bells on the ground is an impressive sight and one can imagine that John would have enjoyed this and the subsequent task of manoeuvring the bells into the church and winching them up through the tower with block and tackle.
Johnís father had married late at the age of 45 and our Johnís famous cousin, another John Quick, was considerably older. Born in 1852, also at Trevessa, this older John Quick emigrated to Australia with his parents at the age of 2 and had a quite remarkable life. Having survived a childhood in the Bendigo goldfields, where living conditions were comparable to a refugee camp with very high mortality rates (his father died of fever in 1856), Cousin John left school at 10 to help support the family, did manual work, learned shorthand, became a newspaper reporter, obtained a law degree and subsequently a doctorate, was called to the bar, became an MP and a judge. And he wrote the definitive work on the Australian constitution that remained the standard text for the next 70 years.
However, this cousin John Quick is most famous for his pivotal role in enabling the federation of the Australian states into the one country we know today. John Quick was formally knighted for this on 1st January 1901 the day the new country came into being. He was elected unopposed as MP for Bendigo and served for the next 12 years. Sir John Quick is now recognised by a blue plaque at Trevessa provided by the Cornish Association of Victoria in Australia in 2002 with the help of the present owners, Adrian and Margaret Bigg.
Back to Towednack in June 1911. The Australian High Commission are in London and Sir John is one of the representatives attending the Coronation of George V. He makes a visit to his birthplace at Trevessa, to meet his Cornish relatives for the first time. One wonders what impression that visit made on our ringer. Sir John had no children and had clearly done well for himself in Australia. Whatever the motivation, in 1913 John Kitchen Quick set sail for Australia and was working as a miner in the Kalgoorie goldfields when war was declared in 1914.
John enlisted on 4th March 1915 and on 29th June 1915, after initial training, probably at Blackboy Hill, the 28th Battalion set off from Fremantle aboard HMAT Ascanius and disembarked at Cairo, presumably around early mid-July, for further training in preparation for Gallipoli. Yet within a couple of weeks, on 2nd August 1915, Lance Corporal Quick was admitted to the hospital at Heliopolis. He died from pneumonia on 14th August, coincidentally just 10 days after his own fatherís death back here at Trevessa. John Kitchen Quick is buried in the Cairo War Cemetery.
Towednack ringers are a novice band and several members were away so we have been creative in trying to connect with the bells as John Quick would have known them. He would have learned on the original 4 bells so on the Sunday preceding 14th August, just before the service, we rang 16 rounds on the back 4, his age when the bells were installed. By the time John left for Australia in 1913 two more bells had been added, the 3 and 4 of our present ring. He would have rung the bells and been prayed for on the Sunday before he left for Australia. We rang 24 rounds on the back 6, his age at leaving Towednack. Finally, instead of the 5 minute bell the tenor tolled 26 – the age at which John died.
The actual centenary is Friday 14th August and at the time of writing I was hoping that some of our local ringing friends would ring a half-muffled quarter peal at Towednack in memory of John Kitchen Quick. Some Methods are named Delight Major, ďDelightĒ indicating the type of Method and ďMajorĒ that itís rung on 8 bells. Searching the Methods database for something suitable I came across Quick March Delight Major. No doubt the gentle humour was intentional. In the event the QP was not possible and at 11am Jenny Nankervis tolled the Tenor bell 26 times for the years of his life.
As part of the Australian Centenary events the names of all 62,000 casualties in WW1 are being projected from dusk to dawn high up on the walls of their War Memorial buildings. Each name is projected for 30 seconds and the event is running throughout the centenary so the whole sequence gets repeated about 30 times. Our ringerís name will next be projected on 3rd September and so, at 1.59am, for a short while the name of Lance Corporal John Kitchen Quick, late of this parish, will light up the night sky at Canberra in Western Australia.
We will remember them.