Rank: Serjeant 1871
Regiment: 1/24th Bn., London Regiment
Died: died 24 May 1916
Newton Poppleford War Memorial
Other Memorial: Arras Memorial, Kings School, Ottery St Mary [Google]
PDF Download: VERRIOUR Bernard
Bernard presents us with a puzzle. The British Army relies on a tri-part system of leadership from the front by a commissioned officer, efficiency from the ranks based on training and experience, and continuity of all these merits coming from experienced non-commissioned officers.
Few of the enlisted men on the Newton Poppleford War Memorial were promoted beyond private, because there were plenty, until around 1918, of experienced men from the ranks of the regular army, who could be promoted as necessary. What was different about Bernard Verriour?
Well, he enlisted some time in 1914, and died 1916 aged 21 with the rank of serjeant. This means that he progressed through three ranks of NCO’s (non commissioned officer) in two and a bit years. The only clues we have are that his army record shows that he served 14 months in France. In 1912 he was 18, so is it possible that he joined the army just before war was declared, and thus was a regular soldier. His father was Arthur Verriour, born in Cheltenham, and who married Jessie Pinch. She came from an established Cornish family in Lanhydroch.
They wed in Woolwich in 1891 and they had moved to Newton Poppleford by 1911. Arthur was Head Master at Newton Poppleford School. He had seven children, and in 1911, two of his daughters were employed as assistant teachers, probably at the village school. In that year, Bernard was aged 17 and still a scholar.
The Kings School, Ottery St Mary, memorial board shows that Bernard was a student there. So as a grammar school boy the army must have considered him suitable for promotion. He could have been officer material but at that time, these were selected exclusively from public school or university. A junior officer’s life expectancy in “the line”, was just six weeks; at least as an NCO Bernard lasted 14 months.
The family had lived in Woolwich, Sheerness and Lewisham so it was to his London roots that Bernard returned when he joined The Royal Fusiliers, London Regiment, 24th Battalion (The Queen’s). He was posted to France and served there for 14 months. He was killed in action, possibly in the battle of Deville Wood on 24 May 1916, just prior to the first battle of the Somme. He is remembered both on the Newton Poppleford war memorial and also on his school’s war memorial board in Ottery St Mary. His father died in 1918, just two years after his son. Bernard has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial, in Pas de Calais, France.
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