Remembrance in Cornwall: Soldier who died on a secret mission inspired Cornish pub’s name

A pub in Cornwall will host a special Armistice Day evening today (Friday, November 11) to mark the 80th anniversary of the death of a soldier who inspired its name. The Coldstreamer in Gulval, near Penzance, was renamed in the 1940s to mark the death of Captain Michael Bolitho, the son of its then owner.

Michael died during a secret mission in Oran, Tunisia, on November 8, 1942, aged 25. He was the eldest son of Major John Bolitho, who owned the pub, which was originally named Ye Olde Inn.

Major Bolitho made the decision to transfer ownership of the lease to the pub in April 1947 to the Coldstream Guards to “carry on his (Michael’s) memory and love of the regiment”. From that point onwards, the pub became known as The Old Coldstreamer, now the Coldstreamer Inn.

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A newspaper report at the time of his death reads: “On the outbreak of war he went to France with his regiment and later volunteered for the paratroops. He spent his last leave in London, having been promoted to captain, in order to take up a special War Office appointment. When asked by his mother over the telephone, ‘What are you on?’ he said ‘I cannot tell you but it is beyond my wildest dreams’.”

Coldstreamer pub in Gulval, Cornwall, celebrates soldier who inspired the inn's name
The Coldstreamer pub in Gulval

A Daily Express report in 1947, stated: “Two bars, a lounge and cellar full of beer and cider, known until today as Ye Olde Inn, Gulval, were handed to the Coldstream Guards tonight – rent free.

“At the same time it was renamed The Coldstreamer – and 47-year-old George Treadwell, 22 years a Guardsman, became the licensee. The inn, perched on a hill opposite the Gulval parish church, near Penzance, was owned by Captain Michael Bolitho, a Coldstream Guards officer. He was killed at Oran in 1942 and his family decided to “carry on his memory and love of the regiment” by giving a 99-year-lease of the inn to the Coldstreamers providing it is always run as a free house and the licensee is a ‘worthy ex-Guardsman’.

“During the handing over tonight there came this telegram from the sergeants of the 3rd Battalion in Palestine: ‘Please save us a barrel for our next leave’.”

Now owned by independent pub operator Punch Pubs & Co, the team at the pub plan to mark this historic year in the venue’s legacy by hosting a special charity evening in aid of local service charities tonight.

Publican Matt said: “Reading the pub’s history is incredibly moving and humbling. We could not let this anniversary pass without marking it in some way; to share Michael’s story with the community. To honour Michael’s memory we will also be gifting a free pint of Carlsberg, house ale or glass of red or white wine to every entry into our charity evening.”

Captain Michael Bolitho is remembered at the Medjez-el-Bab Cemetery in Tunisia, which commemorates Commonwealth service personnel who died in North Africa, but who had no known grave.

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