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Exmouth - 5th Viscount.,
Hon. Edward Addington Hargreaves Pellew

 

The Coronet of a Viscount

The 5th Viscount Exmouth
at Shoreham 1915 in front of a Maurice Farman Shorthorn biplane.

"Click Image to Enlarge"

Mons Trio, awarded to Lieut. 5th Viscount Exmouth

Mons Trio
 (1914 Mons Star, War Medal & Victory Medal)

In April 1911 an air battalion of the Royal Engineers was formed, consisting of one balloon and one airplane company. In December 1911 the British Admiralty formed the first naval flying school, at the Royal Aero Club ground at Eastchurch, Kent.

In May 1912 a combined Royal Flying Corps (RFC) was formed with naval and military wings and a Central Flying School at Upavon on Salisbury Plain. The specialized aviation requirements of the navy made it appear, however, that separate organization was desirable, and on July 1, 1914, the naval wing of the RFC became the Royal Naval Air Service (RNAS), the military wing retaining the title Royal Flying Corps.

On the outbreak of World War I in August 1914, the RFC, possessing a total of 179 airplanes, sent four squadrons to France. 

On April 1, 1918, the RNAS and RFC were absorbed into the Royal Air Force (RAF)

 

Biography of 5th Viscount Exmouth by Doctor Graham Thompson

gdthompson@btinternet.com

Edward Addington Hargreaves Pellew, 5th Viscount Exmouth, was born in Torquay at a nursing home on 12th November 18901 with a silver spoon in his mouth. The Pellew wealth had come from the prize money earned by the 1st & 2nd Viscounts in the Royal Navy, added to which there was income from sales of timber, mining royalties & rents from tenant farmers.

He succeeded to the title, Viscount Exmouth when just 8 years old.

He probably started his education in the care of the governess who taught his older sister but went onto Evelyns Prep school in Hillingdon2. According to RAF service records he then went to Eton from 1905-09 & Trinity College, Cambridge from 1910-12 but does not appear to have graduated. I suspect he did not get on with Latin & Greek very well and he seems to have spent a great part of his vacations at Brooklands3 racing cars. He did his own servicing, & took part in 22 races.

RACES AT BROOKLANDS:

            DATE

            RACES

            CARS

         18/06/1910

               3 & 9

 ISSOTA-FRASCHINI

         17/06/1911

               1 & 3

            BENZ

         20/07/1911

           1, 6 & 8

            BENZ

         15/06/1912

           1, 3 & 8 

    HISPANA-SUISSE

         13/07/1912

           1, 3 & 7

    HISPANA-SUISSE

         27/07/1912

     Hill Climb   RAC &

           Associates

GALA DAY

    HISPANA-SUISSE

         29/07/1912

   Skilful Driving Race

BENZ

         05/08/1912

           4, 6, 9 & 11

Race 4 2nd / Race 6rd

HISPANA-SUISSE

         05/08/1912

            4, 6 9 & 11

KOMNICK

"Click Image to Enlarge"

                                  

Isotta-Franschini            Benz about 1910               Hispana Suisse

 

He also found time to go to New York on a P&O liner at the age of 21.4

He was in London when a devastating fire broke 5 out in the Canonteign house coal cellar. This contained coal, wood & a supply of paraffin for lights. Not a good distribution of fuel! The butler raised the alarm but the horse drawn fire brigade took far too long to arrive having to come from Exeter. His mother, the dowager Viscountess, & his sister marshalled the servants to carry out all the valuable goods: paintings of forebears, Jewellery, & the ladies’ clothes. The servants lost everything possibly because they were on a higher floor. The building was almost entirely destroyed. The Viscount returned from London a few days later. 

When the 1st World War broke out he signed up with the Royal Berkshire Regiment, 7th Service Battalion; probably as all good old Etonians do. After basic training he applied to join the RFC. His application on 20th October 1914 reads:

‘I have owned and driven motor cars for 8 years and am considered a good mechanic. I have done all my own mechanic work for track racing for 3 years and have been very successful.

I have seen aeroplanes in all stages of construction.

I am willing to bring a motor car with me.’ 6

This was endorsed by his Commanding Officer, Lt Col. R Bray: 

‘This officer is known by name as a very proficient and fearless car driver and though I know nothing of aeroplane work he should make an excellent recruit.' 7

The CO clearly didn’t understand these new-fangled machines probably thinking they were very unsafe & why on earth would anyone want to fly through the air? No good would come of it. The RFC was referred to as ‘the suicide club’

He would have spent 4 weeks in the class room where he learned theory & practical matters.

The log book held in Devon Heritage Centre was from this time 8. He wrote extensive notes on various aircraft & their functioning with detailed notes on how to service the different makes of engine.

Later he would have been allowed to go up on a plane.

The basic training plane was usually a Maurice Farman Shorthorn F11.9 It had a Renault air cooled engine & its pistons did not fit snugly into the cylinders. It made such a racket when it was cold that it was called the 'Rumpity'. It was horrible to fly & had a stall speed of 5mph below its top speed. Speaking tubes were introduced later so in 1915 there was little communication between the two. Imagine the wind whistling though the rigging & having to wrap up to avoid whole body frost bite!

He would have sat in front of the instructor with his hands lightly on the controls & observed what happened with the aircraft when the instructor carried out manoeuvres. If the ‘passenger’ didn’t respond the instructor would kick the back of the seat. Any wind above 5mph would mean flying was cancelled. Practice therefore took place in early morning (5am) & late evening when it tended to be calm.

It was difficult to fly & was universally unpopular.

‘It looked like a Victorian bathtub caught in an explosion of bailing wire.’ 9 

One entry in his cadet log book10 shows him as ‘passenger’. ‘Attempted to reach Farnborough but failed each time [due to] engine failure’. They appear to have tried three times that day.

After typically 2-3 hours instruction the trainee would be told to fly solo. The accident rate was high. One cadet a day would die with several critically wounded. They were then encouraged to do solo flights going higher & for longer. (I get the feeling that the instructors wanted to reduce their hours in case the novice stalled the craft so they were made to go solo as soon as possible.) If there was a shortage of pilots at the front training was cut further.

He would then have gone onto a Higher Training school which had more highly powered craft & flights were longer.

He would have been paid 7s 6d a day with extra once he had passed ground school.

He gained his Royal Aero Club certificate (No. 1073) on 25th January 191511. & this confirms he flew a Maurice Farman & trained at Shoreham.

His service record shows he graduated as a pilot in the RFC on 4th May 1915 becoming a 2nd Lieutenant (flying general list) 12, 13

In a letter from the War Office dated 2nd June 1915 he was directed to proceed to Keyham Dock Plymouth (which is part of Devonport) by 2pm 3rd June 1915 for passage to Egypt on a transport. He was allowed 45 cu.ft. or 9cwt luggage.

A note dated 17/6/5 (sic) from Army Headquarters Cairo  read; 'With reference to our conversation this morning you will please proceed to Ismailia tomorrow morning the 18th Instant and report yourself to Major Messy, Commandant, Rl: Flying Corps. Warrants attached.

He served in Egypt RFC 4th June 1915 – 5th Oct 1915 (HQ Ismalia) where he flew planes on patrol along the Suez Canal to prevent the Turks gaining control of a vital waterway.

Life changing events then took hold. Within weeks he contracted Amoebic Dysentery. This would have been due to contact with contaminated water. He was sent back to Canonteign. He was offered a voyage on a hospital ship but requested & got a berth on the P&O liner, SS.Maloja. He travelled from Port Said to Folkestone arriving 11th October 1915.

'Lt. Ld. Exmouth is invalided from Egypt and has permission to go via Marseilles to England as a passenger in a P&O if he so wishes provided no expense is incurred by the Government'

(Signed) Jas. Langhorne, Major, DAQM9, Canal Defences 30/9/15 14

Incidentally, Maloja was sunk off Dover just 5 months later in February 1916 having hit a German mine with the loss of 155 lives.15

By this time he was clearly developing Ulcerative Colitis.Poorly treated Amoebic dysentery will often become Ulcerative Colitis, a truly nasty disease often as bad as some types of Cancer.

I apologise if some of you are unsettled by such unpleasant symptoms but I am going to include them to underline what misery this man had to endure.

It is a relapsing /remitting disease. Symptoms are mainly severe griping abdominal pain, profuse diarrhoea, blood & pus. This is inevitably accompanied by a feeling of debility & poor health because vital substances are not absorbed so you do not absorb protein carbohydrates & vitamins, becoming anaemic, weak & losing weight. Some bouts can lead to death if not treated as an emergency. It is surprising how long the doctors took to diagnose Ulcerative Colitis. Although the disease would have been recognised from ancient times it was first described in 1859.

 All the following records were obtained from The National Archive, Kew. (WO339/11782) I had asked if they could send me photocopies. They said they would but it amounted to 186 pages & would cost 168. I politely replied; ‘No thanks, I am sure you are very busy’. I therefore went to London & searched them myself. TNA were very efficient & had the folder waiting for me so don’t feel daunted at the idea of visiting.

The Viscount attended the Red Cross Hospital at Stover Park on 24th October to see the Surgeon in charge, H. Goodwyn FRCS. He was later seen at Mr Goodwyn’s house, Church Style, Bovey Tracey at frequent intervals & signed off sick  for weeks at a time & clearly was quite unwell.

By April 1916 he gave his address as 6, St James Place, Buckingham Gate. Presumably to make it easier to visit his London physician & the RFC medical board.

By September 1916 he was fit for light duties & was with the 8th wing, RFC, Scampton (York). He was fit enough to go to Brighton in 1917 where he contracted German Measles & was admitted to the Borough Sanatorium, the military hospital being full.

He commented in a letter that he was continuing with Salol (Phenol Salicylate, a mild analgesic & antiseptic) & Ovaltine. This is no longer the mainstream of treatment!

He was then sent all over the country to different bases interspersed with periods of illness. He was deployed at various camps on light duties in Tadcaster, (Bramham Moor), & Lincoln. By August 1917 he was acting adjutant at 65 Training Squadron & Y Squadron at Loch Doon, Ayrshire (Loch Doon School of Aerial Gunnery) but during this time he had several acute episodes of UC & was laid off sick. Then he turns up in Durnford Hospital, the military hospital in Devonport.

On 25th June 1918 listed ‘No further use in RAF, Cat. E in Army’ & on 15th July 1918 relinquished his commission because of ill health16. After that his medical records are not available.

 The London Gazette records this on 20th July 1918. The Victory Medal, British War Medal & the 1915 Star were awarded on 12th December 1922 after his death.

In 1921 he had been well enough to sail to Gibraltar on the P&O liner, Kaiserin Auguste Victoria.17

In the middle of 1923 he drove himself up to London in his Rolls Royce to have surgery to his bowel but died soon afterwards, aged 32 at 19, Beaumont St. Marylebone, Middlesex18. Soon after his beloved Rolls Royce was stolen never to be recovered19

His death certificate shows he died on 17th August 1923 of Carcinoma of the Colon which he had had for 4 months & had had recent surgery.

He left 62,492 2s 9d at probate.20 This compares with 18000 left by his father.21

He was buried in the vault in Christow Church & has three memorials

The communion rails were erected in his memory by his family, Fig. 1. There are two tablets, Fig. 2 & 3 recording his demise as well.

"Click Image to Enlarge"

                   

                     Fig.1                        Fig.2                       Fig.3                   

By the way altar rails were originally constructed to keep animals such as horses, which parishioners would insist on bringing into the church, away from the altar 22

He was succeeded by his cousin, Henry Edward Pellew, a naturalised American citizen.

Every year we remember those who died in the War but we forget those who died of their illnesses or injuries after cessation of hostilities & the Treaty of Versailles.

The Viscount was born with a silver spoon in his mouth but this did not protect him from what we all could suffer. He still managed throughout his very disabling & painful illness to serve his country. He was called 'Little X' in the family23 but I think he was Big in his strength of character. He is representative of all those who suffered illness & injury during & after the war but who carried on in silence.

References

Abbreviations

TNA National Archive
GRO General Register Office
DHC Devon Heritage Centre
 

1.   GRO Birth Certificate

2.   1901 Census return RG13/1176

3.   Brooklands Museum

4.   Ancestry.co.uk/Incoming Passenger Lists

5.   Western Times October 19th 1912

6.   TNA WO339/11782

7.    ibid

8.   DHC, 7818M; This is the Canonteign collection. It is not indexed but covers the period of the Pellew family ownership

9.   www.thearodromeforum

10. Log book in DHC 7818M

11. Royal Aero Club Aviators Certificate via ancestry.co.uk/ military

12. Service Record  NA, WO339/11782

13. London Gazette

14. WO339/1178

15.  www.wrecksite.eu/wreck.aspx?11685, accessed 17/8/15

16. WO339/11782

17. Ancestry.co.uk/outgoing passenger lists,accessed 2/9/15

18. GRO Death Certificate

19. Personal communication from The Hon.Peter Pellew

20. Probate Will

21. Probate Will

22. Keith Thomas, Man and the Natural World, 2nd edition, p.113,OUP

23. Personal communication from The Hon.Peter Pellew

 

See http://Pellew/Exmouth for details.

 

 

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