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Devon County

Devonshire Rgt.

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From "The Torquay Directory"

An extract from the obituary notice of Major Rodway

7th January 1880

"The task that Major Rodway had undertaken (in the initial setting-up of a Volunteer Company) was no easy one; prejudice in high quarters had to be overcome and indifference and apathy even among the people themselves had to be removed. He persevered, however, and while in Exeter the Companies formed about the same time dwindled down to sixteen men, Captain Rodway, by the aid of Torquay's inhabitants, was able to maintain a Company and a half of Rifle Volunteers in a complete state of efficiency. All this entailed enormous labour, for at that time there were no Capitation grants and Volunteers had to pay for their rifles as well as their uniforms, but no labour was too great for Major Rodway to undertake, for his heart was in his work. He succeeded in demonstrating the practicability of raising a Volunteer Force and by the example of what had been done in Torquay showed that the people might be trusted with arms without any danger to the State. It was upon the experience of the actual working of the Volunteers of Torquay that the Government in 1859 were induced to issue invitations for the formation of the Volunteer Companies, and this was the origin of the Great Volunteer movement, which has since spread over the length and breadth of the land."


Perhaps that exhilarating night when Captain Rodway and his men had quelled an angry mob at the Town Hall helped to fire up  everyone's enthusiasm, for here was a brush with reality - something tangible that could be prepared for in advance; there was a purpose in all the drilling and the firing practices after all.


It did not rain on May 25th 1854 and this time the public display of their skills attracted many spectators:


From "Trewin's Exeter Flying Post"

1 June 1854

"The Torquay Company of the Exeter and South Devon Volunteer Rifle Corps had a grand field day on Tuesday 25th of May in respect of Her Majesty's birthday.


About eighty members were present, and after assembling in Palk Street, they marched to the Western Pier where a folie de joie* was fired and hearty cheers were given for the Queen. The corps then proceeded to the new road under Waldon Hill**. Several floating targets were laid down a few yards from the shore and a rapid fire was commenced. In the course of an hour, many of the targets were in a sinking state, notwithstanding that there was a heavy swell, and some that were brought on shore had as many as 60 bullet holes in them.


The company afterwards went through several movements at Tor Abbey. There were large numbers of spectators and the precision with which the evolutions were  gone through was highly creditable to the corps."


As the years went by, Henry Rodway's personal enthusiasm and drive continued to inspire the Torquay Rifles and kept them going from year to year. But he was a man of many parts and over a period of some thirty years, turned his capable hands to inventing and on at least two occasions secured those ideas through Letters Patent.


The first time was in 1842 when he patented the Rodway Horseshoe which could be fitted without using nails. A Squadron of Cavalry was shod with the new shoe, and a favourable report was made to the War Office, but nothing further came of this idea. In 1878, not long before his death, he patented the Rodway Life Buoy - a small cylinder of gas worn around the neck to keep the wearer afloat. In tests, this device appeared to give good results and was often discussed in the local newspaper but that was as far as it went. 


Rodways patent life buoy

Henry Rodway's patent for a life buoy - taken out in 1878

©Arthur Rodway


*  Random free fire into the air

**Later known as the Torbay Road which was constructed to connect Torquay with its new railway station initially and now connects Torquay with Paignton.



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