Saturday, 21 May 2011

A Staffieri

Augustine Staffieri
Born c 1878 in Italy  Killed in Action 13 September 1918
Pte 54636 2/4th Battallion Hampshire Regiment
Enlisted in Truro

Augustine Staffieri should have a unique place in Newquay's history.  Newquay is the capital of British surfing and it could be argued that Augustine was the father of the sport in Britain.  Sadly, he was never to know the part he played in the history of his adopted town's most popular industry.

Augustine and his wife Teresa moved to Newquay around the turn of the century and set up an ice cream business.  Augustine's father was called Joseph and it is possible that he is the Joseph Staffieri who moved to St Austell and set up another ice cream business there.  Joseph's daughter and son-in-law took over the business and changed the name to Kelly's Ice Cream - the company are today one of Cornwall's most recognisable brands.

I can't find Augustine's service record, so do not know on what date he joined up in Truro.  He was posted to the 2/4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment, which was originally a home service unit.  However, the Battalion, together with 2/4th Duke of Cornwell's Light Infantry, part of 2nd Wessex Division, shipped out to India at the end of 1914, remaining there until 1917 when they landed in Egypt.  In May of the following year the Battalion were sent to France and were attached to 186th Brigade in 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division on 2nd June 1918.

Augustine may well have seen action in the Battle of Tardenois in July, and phases of the Second Battle of the Marne 1918 in August and early September.  On 12 September the Battle of Havrincourt, a phase of the Battles of the Hindenburg Line, began.  The 62nd Division had fought at Havrincourt the previous year during the Battle of Cambrai and for their part in that action they were to join the 2nd Division and the New Zealand Division in attacking the village which was now held by four German divisions.  

The Battle of Havrincourt was a considered a minor offensive, but it was successful despite the German's having superior numbers.  Some commentators consider that this small victory illustrated the marked decline in  German moral; together with an American victory at St Mihiel it also convinced Sir Douglas Haig to bring forward operations against the Germans on the Hindenburg Line.  

Whatever the significance for the war effort, the Battle of Havincourt was of course horribly significant for the Staffieri family.  Back in Newquay Teresa had given birth to a son, Papino, the previous month. Presumably father and son never met but hopefully Augustine knew of his son's birth before he died.  Augustine is buried at the Hermies Hill British Cemetery.

Pip Staffieri continued the family ice cream business, selling ice creams around Newquay from a van.  He is also known for being the first recorded person in Britain to surf.  He made his own board, a 13 foot hollow wooden monster, too heavy to carry when wet.  Nowadays, Newquay is thronged with surfers, but back in the late 1930s the pint-sized Pip and his giant board must have been a novel sight.  Pip died in his 80s in 2005.  

Pip Staffieri and his board - Newquay, late 1930s?  
Photograph from the Roger Mansfield Collection


  1. Thats my cousin unfortunately he died when i was 6 so i barely knew him but i heard that him and two others were a big success in Newquay years ago

  2. Hi John - thanks for taking the time to comment. The Staffieri name was certainly very well known in Newquay. If you haven't already seen it, there's a book of photos of old Newquay and in it there's a photo of a Staffieri ice cream van selling ice cream.

    Kind regards