Until the First World War, Otterton had been a peaceful village with people mainly working in the agricultural or fishing industries. The large granite cross standing proud on the hill outside the Church is a constant reminder of the loss felt by the Village after this “War to end all Wars”. This War Memorial was erected in 1920 by public subscription at a cost of £116 to commemorate the 16 men who died in WW1; later the names of a further 7 men who died in WW2 were added
It is here each year on Remembrance Sunday that Otterton villagers gather to remember not only those 23 men who gave their lives but also those who returned from the two World Wars, many of whom were scarred by their experiences. In the Church is a Book of Remembrance with information on the backgrounds of those that died in WW1, and it is hoped those from WW2 will be added in the near future.
How many Otterton men fought in WW1 is not known, but a photograph from 1920 shows a Church Parade of about 40 ex-servicemen, so along with the 16 that gave their lives that makes 56. With the population of the Village at that time standing at 617, that would give a figure of at least one in eleven of the total population.
As research is ongoing for WW2, there are no similar comparisons available. However, what we do know is that in WW1 of the 16 that died, only 2 were in the Navy, 1 in the Government Works Department, and the remaining 13 in the Army. Of the 7 who died in WW2, there were 2 in the Navy, 1 in the RAF, and 4 in the Army. The Cross is Grade II listed.
Most of those that died are buried in the country of their death, or where their ship went down, but in the peaceful Otterton Churchyard there are the graves of 3 from WW1 (Gilbert Follett, Hubert Payne and Cecil Till), and the then Vicar’s son, Martin Grimaldi, from WW2.