Friday, 14 November 2014

Cornwall in the First World War

During this month, each weekday I'm posting a different image showing Cornwall's First World War.

 Today, Truro’s war memorial on Boscawen Street honours just one woman from the First World War: deceptively delicate-looking Cora Cornish Ball.  Born in 1896 to a large family, for a time Cora lived in Kenwyn village near the city.  Her father had various jobs and the family moved around the local area.  Despite that, Cora kept up her schooling until she was 14 or so, and in 1917 the slim young girl volunteered for service with the Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps.

As Corps No.2717, Cora travelled to France where she served near Calais.  Her WAAC uniform consisted of a khaki cap atop her short dark bob, with a matching khaki jacket and skirt; regulations stipulated the skirt must be no more than 12 inches above the ground.  During her war service, perhaps because she’d stayed on at school Cora reached the rank of Forewoman, equivalent to an army sergeant.

The WAAC was formed in 1917; it provided storekeeping, vehicle maintenance and clerical duties for the British Army, as well as telephonists, waitresses and cooks, freeing more men to take up fighting roles.  In the following year the WAAC was renamed Queen Mary's Army Auxiliary Corps; between January 1917 and November 1918 more than 57,000 women enlisted.

Cora received two medals recognising her war service: the Victory Medal, and the British War Medal.  Sadly though, only 11 days following the Armistice she died, perhaps a victim of the terrible flu pandemic sweeping Europe at the time.  Cora Ball was laid to rest in Les Baraques Military Cemetery at Sangatte, near Calais; she was just 22.

Cora’s name appears in a 1920s manuscript titled British Women’s Work During the Great War, held by London's Imperial War Museum, which includes rolls of honour recording the hundreds of British nurses and servicewomen who gave their lives on active service.  Today, as well as being remembered by Truro’s monument Cora Ball is honoured on the memorial in her home village. 

My book, 'Cornwall In The First World War', is published by Truran. With 112 pages and 100 images, you'll find it in bookshops across the Duchy. It's also available through Amazon:

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