During the First World War, the cathedral was a focal point in the community for prayer and remembrance, as it is today. During the course of the war, a number of the cathedral’s own personnel were deeply and personally affected by the war. Several members of the choir saw active service, and many others had family members away at war.
An article in The Western Times dated 18 February 1916 indicates the numbers involved:
“The Dean and Chapter have placed on the wall of Exeter Cathedral, near the west door, a framed list of the named of those belonging to the Cathedral who are engaged in the war, together with the names of their near relatives, including the Derby recruits. Prebendary Ponsomby has the longest list of relatives with the colours, viz. nineteen, the Surveyor (Mr Harbottle) coming next with seventeen. The Lord Bishop of Exeter has four, the Dean two, the Precentor (Dr Trefusis) three, Chancellor Pryke three and the Archdeacon of Exeter eight. No fewer than five of the regular choirmen are with the colours, viz. Messrs. A. Norman Kendall, T.W. Plowman, R. Froggatt, A. Sutton Jones, all with the 4th Devons, and P.A. Coulter, 4th Royal West Kent Regiment. The choir will be still further depleted when those who have attested under the Derby Group Scheme are called up.”
War Service of Cathedral Choirmen
Researcher Phil Hobbs – himself a former member of the Cathedral choir – has been using the Cathedral Library & Archives to research the choir in the 19th and 20th centuries. As part of his ongoing work, he has discovered the following about his predecessors during the First World War:
Walter Belgrove: Choir Supernumerary from March 1898; Lay Vicar from March 1915. War service in 1918 – military hospital until May 1919. Returns to Choir in 1919 as Lay Vicar. Died in Exeter, September 1944.
F Gandy Bradford: Choir Supernumerary from April 1916. On war service from 4 June 1917. Returns as Assistant Organist in April 1920 – leaves in August 1929 to become Music Master at Exeter School.
William John Cotton :Choir Supernumerary from July 1905; Secondary from September 1913; Lay Vicar from March 1915. War service from June 1916 – Royal Garrison Artillery. Discharged 2 February 1919. Returns to the Choir in March 1919 as Lay Vicar. Died in Exeter, 1947.
Percy A Coulter: Choir Supernumerary from May 1913. War service from April, 1915 (4th Royal West Kent Regiment). Doesn’t return to the Choir.
F R Froggatt (KIA): Frank Reginald Froggatt was born in 1888 at Eyam, Derbyshire. He was the son of John William Froggatt, a grocer and postmaster, and his wife Kate. By 1914 Froggatt was in Exeter, as a supernumerary in the Cathedral Choir. By 1916 he was one of five choir members on active service at the same time. He served in the 4th Battalion Devonshire Regiment from September 1914. He was wounded in October 1915 and killed in action in Mesopotamia on 3 February 1917. He was interred in the Amara War Cemetery. His name is inscribed on the war memorial in the churchyard at St Lawrence Church, Eyam and a service of remembrance was held in the Cathedral on 26 February 1917.
Wilfrid Isaac: Choir Supernumerary from November 1914. War service from December 1916. Returns to the Choir by March 1918.
Arthur Sutton JonesL Choir Supernumerary from March 1913. War service with 4th Bn Devonshire Regt from September 1914, largely in India/Mesopotamia. Joins the RAF as an officer at the end of the war – doesn’t return to the Choir.
August John Norman Kendall: Choir Supernumerary from March 1892. Lay Vicar from 1913. Aged 51 when war broke out. Bandmaster with the 4th Bn Devonshire Regt from September 1914. Discharged 20 June1916 – ‘No longer physically fit for war service’ (due to tropical anaemia/malaria). Returns to the Choir in 1916 as Lay Vicar and Punctator. Died in Exeter, 1955.
T W Plowman: Choir Supernumerary from February 1912. On war service with 4th Bn Devonshire Regt from September 1914. Back in the Choir by March 1919 as Lay Vicar.
Eric Walter Roper (KIA): Voluntary Choir from 1907. On war service with 17th Bn Royal Fusiliers. Died of wounds 12 September 1916 in France, aged 26.
W Travett: Choir Supernumerary from June 1913. War service from May 1916. Returns to the Choir in June 1919.
This blog first appeared in February 2017 on the anniversary of the centenary of F. R. Froggatt’s death.