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Philip Coombe

by Imogen Smith | People

Born 25th September 1891 in Bishopsteignton, Philip Coombe is remembered for his brave service during the First World War as well as his local accomplishments as a builder. Though some thought him a ‘hard man’, the Coombe family archives shows Philip to have been a lover of poetry, animals and his family.

Photograph of Philip Coombe and Grace Coombe née Loud, 1969, inscribed in ink on reverse.

Photograph of Philip Coombe and Grace Coombe née Loud, June 1969.

Early Life

Before the First World War, Philip trained as plumber and heating engineer. In 1913 he went to Canada with his eldest brother Daniel (a.k.a. Peter) Coombe (born 1887). According to his nephew, Robert Coysh, Philip worked in the Canadian Pacific Railway workshops until the beginning of the First World War.

Photograph of Philip Coombe (centre) and 2 unidentified men, around 1910.

Philip Coombe (centre) and others, probably before the First World War. The two men to Philip’s right and left are yet unidentified.


Philip joined the 20th Battalion Canadian Expeditionary Force and fought with his comrades in some notable battles such as Vimy Ridge and Passchendeale. According to Robert Coysh’s memories, Philip came home wounded three times during the war. In 1915 he was wounded at Ypres. He later became a Sergeant. In 1917 he was at Passchendaele and received the Military Cross.

Photograph of Philip Coombe and two other soldiers 'Somewhere in France' in 1917.

Philip Coombe (centre) and two other soldiers during the First World War. The reverse of this photograph reads ‘Somewhere in France’, ‘Next stop Germany’, ‘Philip’.

This letter, dated November 6th 1917 and entitled ‘In the Line’, was sent from Philip to his mother Mary Coombe née Major.

Letter from Philip Coombe to his mother Mary Coombe, 1917.

Letter from Philip Coombe to his mother Mary Coombe. Dated November 6th 1917.

The letter reads:

“Dear Mother

Just a few lines to you to day I was just thinking a fortnight ago today we were having a good at home. I have not heard from Paul since I got back I hope He is not hard up again. Mr Wallis wrote and told me the Photo was finished and it is a food one don’t forget to get me three of the one Standing. Well I have not seen any Papers lately so do not know how the war is going along of course around here its lively and no doubt you will of seen by the reports in the Papers. Its cleared up lovely again to day Sun Shining which is a rare thing in this forsaken Country. How is everything going at B.T. had quite a Budget from the School House I certainly has a good time when I was at Home well not much news only lots of Artillery going all the time sending R[illegible] to the Hunn Keep smiling everything is going fine with very Best love from your loving Son Philip”

Photograph of Philip Coombe photographed in 1918 at Bramshott camp, Aldershot, Hampshire.

Philip Coombe photographed in 1918 at Bramshott camp, Aldershot, Hampshire.

Philip was decorated and received medals including the Distinguished Conduct Medal, awarded to him in 1919. Any help identifying the medals pictured below would be greatly appreciated, you can get in touch via our Contact page!

A display of Philip Coombe's military memorabilia.

A display of Philip Coombe’s military memorabilia including medals, pins and a photograph.

Husband & Father

Philip may have met his wife-to-be Grace Loud through his sister Lois Coombe (1896-1973) who is said to have gone to school in Maidencombe with Grace.

Photograph of Grace Coombe née Loud with a cat and Philip Coombe, around 1925.

Philip and Grace Coombe, likely shortly after they married in 1925.

Philip and Grace had their only child, Molly, on 18th October 1929. The family lived at ‘Locarno’ which is probably one of the houses on Berry Hill, Bishopsteinton.

Photograph of Philip and Molly Coombe with cats, c. 1935.

Philip and Molly Coombe in the garden with some of their pet cats. This photo was probably taken in the late 1930s.

Philip Coombe was on the parish council during the Second World War and possibly after, working closely with school master Clifford Wallis, among others.

Photograph of a Philip Coombe possibly on Fore Street, Bishopsteignton, 1932, front.

Photograph of a Philip Coombe in 1932, possibly on Fore Street Bishopsteignton.


Philip became well known in the village as a builder. For example, he built Wallis Grove, the Gourds’ garage on Radway and a house on Church Road for Clifford Wallis himself.

Part of a plan for a house built for Clifford Wallis in Bishopsteignton.

Part of a 1938 plan for a house for ‘C. B. Wallis Esquire’ on ‘Field Number 877’ which is now on Church Road, near St John’s Manor, Bishopsteignton.

Philip died in 1970 leaving behind his wife and daughter.

More information, images and stories will be added to this page over time. If you have anything you would like to contribute, please get in touch!