Evacuee returns to North Devon to find brother’s grave

Happiness and tragedy recalled in Newton Tracey by 83-year-old from Kent who spent her childhood in North Devon during the Second World War.

A WARTIME evacuee whose brother died in Newton Tracey has made an emotional return to the village to mark his grave.

Eileen Luscombe, then Humphries, was evacuated to the village in 1941 with her mother, sisters and young brother Leonard, who was stricken by meningitis and died at the North Devon Infirmary in Barnstaple on his fifth birthday.

He was buried at the churchyard in Newton Tracey, but although his death was recorded, the exact spot was never documented, nor was a memorial erected.

So earlier this year, more than 70 years later, 83-year-old Eileen returned to the village with her son Jeff to honour the memory of her little brother and place a cross on the spot she is certain contains his grave.

Despite the best efforts and searching by villagers and church members, including Margaret Smith and Muriel Moore, no record can be found to confirm the location.

But Eileen, from Kent, is happy she has been able to continue to preserve Leonard’s memory and hopes to return to the village next year.

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The family had been moved to Newton Tracey because they had relatives there – Eileen’s grandmother Elizabeth (Cook) Joy was born there.

“I was very happy in Newton Tracey, or as happy as you can be in circumstances like that,” she told the Gazette.

“We went from there to Fremington and a couple of different schools, but my fondest memory was of Newton Tracey because it is such a lovely little country village.”

Leonard died when Eileen was aged 12 and she recalls the shock: “It was heartbreaking, because I didn’t realise as a child how ill he was,” she said.

“It was absolutely horrible but I think children are quite resilient too. When we lived there we used to go to Leonard’s grave every week and I always wondered why my parents never got a memorial.”

Margaret Smith also remembers going to Leonard’s funeral, which had been on a Sunday and the same day as her sister was baptised.

The bearers at the funeral were four young lads, including Margaret’s brother James and 13-year-old Dick Cutland, who still lives at Lovacott and says he remembers feeling nervous of the task he had to do that day.

Eileen said on her return this summer everyone had been very kind, showing them around the cottages she remembered and the churchyard.

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