Richard’s Life


This image of Richard is taken from Harrow Memorials of the Great War Volume I

Richard Graves-Sawle, from Porthpean, St Austell, was killed in battle in 1914.

Here is his brief biography:

  • Born 1888, to Charles and Constance Graves-Sawle
  • Trained at Sandhurst, then enlisted into the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards in 1908
  • Married Muriel Heaton Ellis 6th August 1914
  • Left for front (France) on 12th August, having been married for only six days
  • Went through the retreat from Mons and the Battles of Marne and the Aisne
  • Killed in action 2nd November 1914 by a sniper’s bullet to the head whilst standing on a communication trench

The aim of this project is to show stories that would have been common nationwide. Hopefully Richard’s experiences can give an insight into the lives of the millions of others who were killed in the First World War.

Family history

Richard's family tree

Richard’s family tree

Richard was from a notable Cornish family. His father was a baronet, and, as the only son, he was heir to the Sawle family estate.

Richard was survived by his parents and both sisters, Hyacinth and Rosemary.

Joan, preferring to be called Rosemary, became a prominent figure in the St Austell community (see the West Briton dedication to her life). When she died in 1971 she left the family home, Penrice House, for the use of the community. We were lucky enough to be able to visit the house, which is now a care home (see the video in our memorialistion section).

Also, although Richard left his wife Muriel at home when he died, she went on to marry twice more.

There are graves and memorials for most of the family in their own private chapel in Porthpean, just outside of St Austell. St Levan’s Chapel can still be visited today. A memorial to Richard can also be found here and his name appears on the Celtic Cross at Holy Trinity Church, St Austell and on the second panel at Menin Gate in Ypres, not far from where he was killed. See more about the memorials on our memorialisation page.

Details of His Death

At the end of Richard’s diary transcript, there is a detailed account of his death:

“He had taken charge of a Company which had lost its Captain, and was  pinned to an advanced trench distant about 80 yards from a wood full of  German snipers. A French attack had developed through our lines, but had been repulsed, with the result that the communication trenches were required to give shelter to the French. In order to make his way from the  officers’ dug-out to his Company, Lieut. Graves-Sawle had climbed on to the  top of the communication trench when he was shot in the head by an explosive bullet from a sniper’s rifle, and died about two hours later.”