Cheriton Fitzpaine lost 14 local men to World War One. Tom Mildon died of his injuries but is not included on the village war memorial because his death occurred so long afterwards. Elly Babbedge tells his sad story.
Thomas Smale Mildon, born 1890, was the son of farmer Alfred Mildon and his wife Isabel Smale and grew up in Upcott Barton, Cheriton Fitzpaine with siblings Robert 1886, William 1888, Alfred jnr 1893, Frederick 1894, Loveday Mary 1895 and Ralph 1897. Upcott Barton is a Grade 2 listed 15-roomed farmhouse dating back to the early 16th century and the family moved in around 1894, with the boys helping their father on the farm. They attended Cheriton Fitzpaine Council School where in 1904, a Diocesan Inspector put in a special word of praise for some of the older boys, including the 14 year old Thomas, for the ‘very thoughtful and intelligent answering’ of his questions.
Aged 24, Tom signed up for the Coldstream Guards in 1914 and married Olive (Lilian Olivia) Locke two years later in 1916. She was the daughter of local baker, Harry Locke, who operated from the large double-fronted premises on the corner of what is known either as Doctor’s Lane or Locks Lane, leading up to Jack’s Acre.
Harry had moved from Sandford with his brother John and late in 1881, married a Crediton girl called Harriet Fielding. It is difficult to imagine how the two met since earlier that same year, Harriet was far away in Newton Abbot serving as a parlour-maid in the household of a vicar. However, once settled in Cheriton, Harriet aided her new husband in his business and bore Edith 1883, Lilian Olivia 1885 and Ernest Harry 1889.
WW1 records show that Tom was Private 20874 with badge number B35108. He served in France and was invalided out of the army in October 1918 with a gunshot wound to the stomach. Local memory reveals that his stomach wound never closed satisfactorily and Olive and her sister-in-law Loveday Mildon nursed him daily for many years whilst, despite his dreadful injuries, he did his best to contribute his skills to the bakery business. Loveday by all accounts was a devoted younger sister who had achieved her British Red Cross examination in 1913 and worked firstly at St Gregory’s Children’s Hospital in Plymouth and then at the Victoria Hospital in Lewes, Sussex. When her brother was sent home, she gave up her public nursing and attended him daily, dressing his wounds and administering pain-killing drugs. Tom and his wife had by this time had a baby son, Thomas Mildon jnr and a daughter, Edith, was born to the couple in October 1919.
Thomas Mildon eventually lost his fight for life in January 1922. His army pension card stated that his death was attributed to his injuries and a widow’s pension was duly issued. His exhausted and heart-broken sister Loveday Mildon then appeared to give up and died from influenza only one week later, having been ill herself for three weeks. To compound the tragedy, Olive found herself to be pregnant. A daughter, Ruth Mary Mildon, was born posthumously later that year. Sadly, Ruth died aged 19 when undertaking hospital work in 1941. Her brother, Thomas R Mildon jnr, was shot down over Germany in 1942 when on a flying mission with the RAF. Thomas jnr had married Bettina Hickman in 1940 and a daughter, Jennifer, was born posthumously the year he died. Jennifer lived until she was ten years old.
Olive Mildon, widowed in 1922 with three children under the age of ten, married Reginald Elworthy in 1926, taking over the family bakery business from her father in the 1930s. Only one of her children, daughter Edith, survived the Second World War, marrying John F Cook in 1949.
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