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QSAs with the clasp Defence of Ladysmith 2 years 1 month ago #82394

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QSAs with the clasp Defence of Ladysmith 2 years 1 month ago #82395

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QSAs with the clasp Defence of Ladysmith 1 month 1 week ago #95118

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George Horton 1878 – 1954, 6240 2nd Scottish Rifles, and 1345 8th Army Cyclist Corps

George Horton was born 28th March 1878 in Birmingham, to Charles and Clara Horton, née Tarrant. He was baptised in 1882 at Holy Trinity Church, Bordesley, the area recently made famous in the TV series Peaky Blinders. His parents were living nearby at ‘11ct 7h’ (ie No 11 dwelling in courtyard at back of house 7) Warwick Street. These were typical back to back slum houses, always shoddily built and insanitary, now long demolished. Charles’s occupation on the baptism record is ‘Striker’ (metalworker working in heavy ironwork).

In the 1881 census the couple, both aged 29, are living in ‘7 back 89’ Warwick Street, with two children, Charles jr 4 and George 2, and Clara’s widowed father George Tarrant, a Stoker. Charles sr is listed as a Striker.

In 1891, the family were living at 1 Leicester Terrace, Greenway Street (another courtyard, although at least with a name), having just 4 rooms between 10 people. There are 7 children listed: Charles jr, George (aged 13, listed as Scholar), now with 3 sisters and 2 brothers. Charles sr is listed as Blacksmith, a more skilled level of metalworker than Striker.

George’s mother Clara died in 1897 aged around 45, and August of the next year George joined the 2nd Battalion Scottish Rifles (‘The Caledonians’) aged 20, at the recruitment office in Birmingham. He is listed as already belonging to the 3rd Battalion Worcestershire Regiment, a Militia battalion (reserves). It is not known why he joined the Rifles. He signed for 12 years service – 3 years with the Colours, plus 9 reserve, an unusual combination. His attestation papers note him as working in the cycle trade, being ‘dark’ complexioned, with dark brown hair and brown eyes, his physical development ‘fair’. He served at Hamilton in Scotland, Aldershot, then Maryhill Barracks in Glasgow.

In October 1899 he sailed in the in SS City of Cambridge to South Africa to serve in the African (Boer) War. His medal record shows that he saw action at Laing’s Nek, Transvaal, the Relief of Ladysmith, and Tugela Heights. At the Battle of Spion Kop, his regiment’s losses were four officers and 33 men killed or died of their wounds; 6 officers and about 60 men were wounded. In his telegraphic despatch of 27th January 1900 General Sir Redvers Buller said,
"Our men fought with great gallantry, and I would specially mention the conduct of the 2nd Scottish Rifles and 3rd King's Royal Rifles, who supported the attack on the mountain from the steepest side, and in each case fought their way to the top”.
When addressing the troops after the retirement, the general especially mentioned the two rifle regiments. Mr Bennet Burleigh wrote,
"Nothing could have been grander than the scaling of Spion Kop by the Scottish Rifles and 60th of glorious reputation".

During the second phase of the war the headquarters of the Scottish Rifles was for over fourteen months at Greylingstad, and they were chiefly employed guarding the railway and in smaller engagements in the area.

Meanwhile back in England, George’s family had moved to somewhat better circumstances and in 1901 were living at 377 Garrison Lane, still in a poor area in Bordesley, but at least a house facing the street. George’s widowed father (still a blacksmith) and grandfather (who aged 72 was working in an ammunition factory) shared the house with 6 children, the eldest two of whom were working.

In September 1902, George returned from South Africa on the SS Golconda. His medical record was perfect, with no serious wounds or disease during his time abroad. On his arrival back at Hamilton, he transferred to the 1st Class Army Reserve as required by the regulations, with his conduct and character while with the Colours recorded as Good. He was awarded the Queen’s and King’s South Africa medals, with clasps for the four campaigns. He returned initially to 377 Garrison Lane.

In 1905 he married Fanny Elizabeth Kirk at St Oswald’s Church (C of E), Bordesley, and in 1907 and 1908 they welcomed two daughters, Edith May and Gladys Penelope. On the 1911 census the family are noted as living at 16 Camp Street, round the corner from Garrison Lane. They have 5 rooms, George listed as back in the cycle trade. He is still in the Scottish Rifles Reserves, having voluntarily extended after he could have been discharged in 1910. He would have had to go to Hamilton to train around twice a year and would be paid a retainer. He would not know that this would mean he would be involved in another war so soon.

When the Great War broke out in July 1914, George was 36 years old and still in the Reserves. He was therefore quickly mobilised to HQ in Hamilton in August, sent to Hursley Park Camp, promoted to Lance Corporal in September, and sailed to Le Havre as part of the British Expeditionary Force on 4th November. Billeted near Armentières at Estaires and then Neuve Eglise, they were put in the front line trenches SW of Messines from 14th to 17th November, suffering 1 killed and 5 wounded. Throughout late November and December they were billeted and in and out of trenches around La Flinque, Estaires, Chapigny, Pont Rirchon, Laventie, taking turns of 2-3 days in the trenches with other regiments and moving around frequently between billets in a repetitive round, suffering several losses and wounded most days but generally fighting in a static position. George was promoted to Corporal on 15th December. They spent Christmas in billets in La Flinque. On 1st January it is recorded in the war diary ‘Battalion had a bath’. Drafts of men regularly appeared from base to make up the wounded.

George had been recommended for transfer to the 8th Divisional Cyclist Company of the Army Cyclist Corps in December, which was effective on 8th January. The 8th Division were serving in the nearby area around Laventie. It is not known whether only George was transferred, or a group of men. In January and February the Cyclists were engaged in digging and repairing trenches and redoubts at Rouge Croix, La Croix Barbet, Rue du Bacquerot, being billeted around Fosse. They cycled to and from the lines, and usually worked in the dark. Snow and flooding impeded their work, but men were very rarely wounded. In February they moved to billets in Lestrem.

On 1st March they were deployed to front line trench fighting at Moulin de Piètre, Rue du Bacquerot, alongside the Grenadier Guards, Wiltshire Regiment, Northants Yeomany, George’s former regiment the Scots Rifles, Royal Warwickshire Regiment, among others.

They heard the sounds of the artillery at the Battle of Neuve Chapelle close by on the 10-11 March, in which George’s old regiment were caught up in a disaster where the wire had not been sufficiently cut by artillery before their advance and they were mown down:
They “came up against unbroken wire, and a storm of shot from rifles and machine guns.. they tore at the wire with naked hands, but were compelled to fall back and lie in the fire-swept open” *. 125 were killed, 323 wounded, 21 missing. These men were George’s old comrades, but he had avoided their fate when he transferred to the Cyclists.

The 8th Cyclists were themselves engaged in heavy trench fighting and advances under bombardment around 11th-12th nearby, together with other regiments they captured German trenches and took prisoners, suffering casualties and dead. Under fire, many soldiers of the other regiments crowded into the Cyclists’ trenches, until there was no room, including Scottish Rifles, Grenadier Guards and Warwicks.
“..the Grenadiers lay down in the open behind our fire trench and bivouacked there”**

On 13th they were relieved by the Royal Welsh Fusiliers and returned to Lestrem. On 18th they were ordered back to the lines N.E. of Neuve-Chapelle to bury dead and repair trenches. On 20th they returned to Lestrem, moving to billets at La Gorgue on 24th and then to Laventie.

In April they resumed digging and redoubt construction in the area of Rue du Petillon and Rue du Tilleloy, near the ‘Moated Grange’. This time this work was more dangerous and men were regularly wounded. Their constructions become more sophisticated, and included dugouts with water butts and latrines. They moved billets to Le Doulieu. In May they mainly carried out tactical exercises with many other regiments. In June a group of them were briefly on the front lines, while most remained on trench making duties as before. They were also visited by Major AO Vaughan of the Northumberland Fusiliers for 2 days, to observe their methods. In July, they dug trenches near La Boutillerie and Croix Blanche (Fleurbaix) and carried out tactical exercises.

Trench maps at National Library of Scotland showing the area:
maps.nls.uk/view/101723830
maps.nls.uk/view/101464975
maps.nls.uk/view/101464978

In early August they continued trench digging works. On 14th August, they held a horse show on the banks of the River Lys, including an event for the Best Turned Out Cyclist. George did not win, but is mentioned by name in the War Diary as leaving that day for the Cyclist Corps base at Rouen for discharge, travelling with 477 Private Zebedee Thompson (who also survived the war).

He was able to do this as he was not required under his terms to serve until the end of the war, and did not volunteer to. He sailed for home from Le Havre in September, and in December was discharged according to King’s Regulations ‘on termination of his second period of engagement’. He had signed for 3 years with the colours, plus 9 reserve, and had served over 17 years.

In 1918 he was awarded the 1914 (Mons) Star, having served in France between 5th August and 22nd November 1914. According to the war diary of the 2nd Scots Rifles, they certainly appear to have been eligible for the clasp and roses having been under fire during that time, but the clasp and roses are not mentioned on George’s medal records. He did later wear his ribbon bar with a rose. The reason for this anomaly is unknown, although George’s medals are a little chaotically presented. He also received the British War Medal and the Victory Medal, which he wore with the text side (reverse) facing outwards.

In 1921 George and his wife and two daughters were living at 5 Camp Street, off Garrison Lane, Birmingham. George is sadly listed as ‘Out of Work’, Cycle Trade, his last employer having been Calthorpe Motor Works. Nothing now remains of any of the houses he and his family lived in up to this point, due to slum clearances in the 1960s.

A long period follows where we know no information about the family, however he must have done well, as by 1939 George, Fanny, and Edith were living at 32 Daniels Road, Bordesley Green. This was a very major step up from George’s childhood - the area was called the Ideal Village, and comprised of tree lined roads with houses with front and back gardens, which are today a Conservation Area. Their neighbours were no longer labourers and low skilled metal workers, but nurses, shopkeepers, clerks, skilled craftspeople and even a publisher. George was listed as a Filer of service rifle components, so he must have worked at the famous BSA in Small Heath, which was the only maker of rifles in the UK at the time. Edith is listed as a ladies coat finisher, and Fanny as a housewife. Gladys was by now married to Frederick Ireland and they had a son Robert Anthony born this year.

They had neighbours who had lived at 27 Daniels Road since at least 1937, Thomas and Minnie Wauman, who had twin sons, one of whom had died as a teenager. Thomas was a Commercial Traveller (salesman) in the hardware trade, and was a year older than George.

The two families lived in Daniels Road throughout the years of World War II when the area was heavily bombed. George was lucky to survive working at the BSA, as it suffered a direct hit in November 1940. Hundreds of workers had to be dug out of the rubble, 53 employees were killed, and 89 injured, 30 of them seriously.

The families remained in Daniels Road after the war and in December 1948 Thomas Wauman died, Minnie then living on alone at No 27. In 1953 George added his Queen’s Coronation commemorative medal to his 1900 Boer War chocolate tin. He died on 8th May in the following year, aged 76. Minnie Wauman died in 1957.

In 1960, still living at 32 Daniels Road, Fanny Horton passed away, Edith staying on in the house until at least 1965. By then, a new couple were living at 27 Daniels Road, Robert and Rosetta Davis, of whom little is known. Edith Horton remained a spinster all her life. She died in Sheldon, Birmingham in 1987. Her sister Gladys died in 1995, Gladys’s son Robert in 2001. George and Fanny Horton left no great-grandchildren.

Epilogue
In the late 1960s Rose and Edward Bennett (brother and sister) bought 27 Daniels Road. They either didn’t know Edith, or she may have already moved away. Rose was also a lifelong spinster, the generation of men she and Edith might have married having been decimated. During renovations, Rose found George’s medals hidden in the house, still in their chocolate tin. She kept them carefully, and left them to her great niece in 2003.


Information thanks to members of:
angloboerwar.com especially David @SMETHWICK
birminghamhistory.co.uk
greatwarforum.org

References
* History of the Great War, John Buchan 1922, Ch. VI
** 8th Division Cyclist Corps War Diary Nov 1914 to May 1916

Attached images of the medals and tin, which also contained his veteran's association pin badge, Queen Elizabeth II coronation medallion and an italian coin. The tin lining paper appears to have chocolate stains.





The following user(s) said Thank You: RobCT, gavmedals, Clive Stone, Smethwick, Sturgy

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