Captain William Blackwood (1879-1960) was a well-known doctor in Camborne. He served throughout World War One at the Western Front with the 25th Field Ambulance (Royal Army Medical Corps). He signed up soon after war broke out and in September 1914 led a group of local men (including many St John Ambulance men from Dolcoath mine) off to France.
They served throughout the conflict on the Front Line, providing vital medical assistance during the most terrible battles of the war – including the Somme, Passchendaele and the German Spring Offensive of 1918 (when many were captured).
A handsome, charismatic man, Blackwood inspired fierce loyalty. He was also extremely brave: he was awarded the Distinguished Service Order with a bar (in other words, he earned it twice over – something only a few hundred people did in World War One.) The official listing for the bar was on 3 June 1918:
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty while in charge of the evacuation of casualties from the Divisional front during an enemy attack. When communication with the advanced dressing station was but by enemy barrage, he re-established communication and personally visited the posts under his administration. Throughout the fighting he visited the forward area daily and his indefatigable energy and exceptional organising ability were invaluable to the Division.”
Dr Blackwood was rightly proud of this: in WW1, 9,881 DSOs were awarded but only 768 with an extra bar.
After the war, he returned to Camborne and continued to work as a doctor in the town. He led efforts to start a Camborne branch of the Old Contemptibles.
At the time of writing (January 2015), there are still people in Camborne who remember Dr. Blackwood. He lived at Tregenna House, Pendarves Road, Camborne.
In the 1940s, he was made the County Commissioner of the St John’s Ambulance Brigade. In 1944, he was awarded an MBE. (Cornishman, Thursday 15th June 1944).
He is buried in Camborne Churchyard with his wife, Agnes Marie.
His epitaph reads:
“DSO with bar. MBE
Knight of the Order of St John
Died 31 July 1960.
‘A much-loved figure – his duty done.”
Born in 1879 in Peebles, Scotland, Dr Blackwood and his wife, Agnes Marie Blackwood, were well known public figures in the town (according to the Cornishman, 4th Dec 1941, Agnes was the only female alderman on Cornwall County Council).
Dr Blackwood worked at the West Cornwall Miners’ and Women’s Hospital (Redruth). Additionally, it appears he was involved the manufacture / sale of Pharmaceuticals, as old tincture bottles are stamped with the names ‘Tonking & Blackwood.’ The chemist, Tonking, Blackwood & Robinson was listed as operating from Chapel St, Camborne in 1926. Dr John Herbert Tonking and Dr William Blackwood are both listed, in 1914, as working for the West Cornwall Miners’ and Women’s Hospital.