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Remembered Today:

Paul Roberts

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Discovered: a postcard revealing a remarkable family sacrifice




There have been many great discoveries and surprises since I wrote a book about my great-great-grandfather, John Roberts, who had 30 grandsons serving in the Great War.

Perhaps the greatest surprise of all has come in the smallest of packages – in the shape of an old and fragile postcard.

It features a picture of John and the following 20 words:

‘Mr John Roberts, of Witheridge has 30 grandsons on active service. The old man is naturally proud of his boys.’

The postcard clearly demonstrates that John, an agricultural labourer for more than 70 years, was something of a celebrity in Devon a century ago.

It belongs to a family living in Mid Devon – and it may well be the last of its kind.

Talks about my new book, History Maker, have led to numerous first-time meetings with descendants of the grandsons who served in the Great War.

Just recently, I met two daughters of Pte Frank Roberts, who survived after being shot in the head in fierce fighting in Palestine.

Frank was serving with the 16th Devons when he was wounded in an attack on a remote hilltop village near Jerusalem on December 3, 1917.

He endured a 300-mile journey by camel to hospital in Cairo, with the bullet still in his head – and returned to his battalion just a few months later.

After the war, he married Alice May Bending and they had three daughters and a son.

His surviving daughters, aged 93 and 95, live in Devon, and remember him as a very hard working farmer, and a ‘strict’ father.

It was a great privilege to talk to them – two more cousins of mine that I didn’t know existed until the publication of History Maker.

The picture shows how the postcard of John looks.

john roberts postcard photograph.jpg


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It was wonderful to have the opportunity to talk in Morchard Bishop in Devon on Sunday, August 12 about John Roberts and his 30 grandsons who went to war.

About 50 people attended the event – which also included a delicious cream tea – at the Memorial Hall.

It was lovely to return to the village of my birth, and where my parents, Syd and Nellie Roberts, lived for most of their lives.

There were many familiar faces in the audience – family, former neighbours and friends I grew up with in Morchard.

The talk - the fifth held in Devon so far - helped to raise more than £200 for Memorial Hall funds.

John Roberts’ remarkable story was broadcast on television, on BBC Spotlight, and on BBC Radio Devon the following day.

I was so pleased to have the chance to talk on air about John and his grandsons who went to war, seven of whom never made it home.

It can be seen – until 7pm tonight – on the BBC iPlayer on the following link (the interview begins at 14mins 20secs into the show).


Earlier, I spoke to presenter David Sheppard – ‘Shep’ – on the Breakfast Show.

This interview is available for 28 days on the following link (it begins at 1hr 20mins 4secs into the show)


The BBC are keen to film the John Roberts Family Reunion at the Waie Inn, Zeal Monachorum on Saturday, October 13.

…Another £120 was raised for St Margaret’s Hospice from book sales at the weekend. This means that History Maker has now raised more than £2,500 for the hospice and other good causes.

Edited by syd
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