Horace John Daborn (10 February 1887 – 18 September 1914)

Horace John, the son of William Daborn (1844 – 1920) a ‘general agricultural worker’ (Census 1891, 1901) and Fanny (nee Cowdrey, 1845 – 1901) was born on Wednesday 10 February, 1887. He was baptised at St John the Baptist, Woking on Sunday 3 April the same year. William is shown on the baptismal record as being a labourer, and the family was residing at Poole Road, Woking.

The 1891 and 1901 Census documents show Horace John living with his mother and father and siblings; Minnie (1879 – 1918), Florence (1881 – ), Ernest Arthur (1883 – 1949) and Frank George (1885 – 1941). In 1891 they were residing at 3 Sherry Terrace, Woking and in 1901 at Westfield Square, Woking.

On Tuesday, 9 December, 1902 Horace enlisted in the Militia, in the 3rd Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, in Guildford. He gave his age as 17years 9months, adding two years to his age. He was resident at 25 Rosebank Cottages, Woking and he was working for a Mr Whitfield, a Woking Coal Merchant as a Labourer. He signed his name ‘Horice John Daborn’ in a very shaky hand. He was given the Regimental Number 2831.

His description in the Militia Attestation forms show he was 5′ 4″ tall, weighing 105lbs, of a dark complexion, with brown eyes and brown hair with ‘no marks’. His religion is shown as Church of England.

On Friday, November 6, 1903, Horace enlisted in the Regular Army, his age shown as 18years 8months. He had performed a total of 90days drill whilst in the militia; 49 days drill on enlistment, 14 days preliminary drill and 27days in 1903 (probably at the annual training camp). His enlistment in the Regular Army was approved by the Adjutant of the 3rd Queen’s on Saturday 7 November.

Horace was given the Regimental Number 7933 and the rank of Private. His medical assessment form shows he had grown 21/2inches since his medical for the militia the year before. He had also had tattoos done on his left hand – a dot on the back of his hand, and a ring on his ring finger. Strangely his eyes are listed as grey and his hair black. He was considered fit for the Army and subsequently on April 8, 1904, posted to the Depot of the Queen’s, which was at Shorncliffe Camp, Kent, for basic training.

On June 7, 1904, he was posted to the 2nd Battalion of The Queen’s. The following year on February 5, Horace went ‘absent from tattoo until 6.40pm, 6 February, off furlough (20hrs 40mins)’ he was reported by Sergeant Pascoe and the next day received 8 days confinement to barracks from Lt. Col. Robson, which started immediately, expiring on 14 February.

Four days later, Horace was aboard His Majesty’s Transport ‘Sicilia’ bound for India, where he arrived on 23 March, and was posted with the 1st Battalion Queen’s Royal Regiment at Sialkot. According to the Regimental History, it was:

(a)t this station in April, it was successful in the competition for the trophy, a silver statue of himself, presented by Lord Kitchener, the Commander-in-Chief, to be awarded, after due test, to the Battalion in India found to be most efficient in every sense.(1)

On May 2, Horace’s service records show he was posted to Thobba, arriving on May 8. This would have been due to the hot weather, the posting was with:

Headquarters and five companies – “A,” “B,” “C,” “D,” and “E,” strength 14 officers and 546 warrant and non-commissioned officers and men – were accommodated at Thobba in the Murree Hills, returning early in November to Sialkot.(2)

Horace’s service records suggest this was on November 4. Wylly notes:

the Battalion, 907 all ranks, proceeded by rail on the 29th to Rawal Pindi, moving out from there to a concentration camp prior to taking part in manœuvres before His Royal Highness the Prince of Wales. On December 4th a guard of honour, composed of 4 officers and 136 other ranks, was found by the Battalion for duty at the camp of the Commander-in-Chief during the stay there of Their Royal Highnesses the Prince and Princess of Wales. (3)

Manoeuvre at Rawal Pindi 1905
Manoeuvre at Rawal Pindi 1905

Following the conclusion of the manœuvres and the review which followed, the Battalion returned to Sialkot by train arriving on December 11th.

The summer of 1906 was spent at Barian. During this period Horace contracted a ‘severe’ case of enteric fever. He was hospitalised at Amritsar on May 29 and discharged on July 15. He was back in hospital on 19 July, this time in Murree, and on August 4 was transferred to Barian, from where he was discharged on August 14 to the Commandant, Enteric Camp, ‘The Queen’s’, Barian.

The reason for being ‘discharged to the Commandant’, that on July 12, Horace was disobedient “of hospital rules in being out of bed at 12midnight”. For this he was awarded on August 15, 8days confined to barracks by Colonel Pink. Horace finished this punishment on August 22.

The last entry in the Defaulters register shows that Horace was cited by Sgt. Collins for ‘slackness when a sentry’ on November 20, 1906. Once again he was brought before Colonel Pink, and was given an extra guard.

From here there is a hole in Horace’s records, he is shown as being posted home on January 11, 1907, but nothing is shown of his posting to a transport for the month voyage home. He did arrive home, and was transferred to the Army Reserve on January 14, 1907 in Gosport, Hampshire. He had served a total of three years and seventy days towards his limited engagement. The reason for his transfer to the Reserve was given as ‘on expiration of his period of Army Service’. Colonel Pink had signed his discharge papers on December 15, 1906, so it could be assumed that this is possibly the date of Horace’s departure from India.

On his return from India, and his transfer to the Reserve, Horace intended to live at 25 Rosebank Cottages, Woking, his home address at the time of his enlistment, and his occupation Gardener.

Horace married Kate Baker (1890 – 1975) on December, 26, 1908 at the Guildford Registry Office, the two witnesses listed in his service records (copied from his marriage licence) were Rosina Dyer (his sister) and F. Daborn (probably his mother). By April 2, 1911, in the 1911 Census, Horace and Kate are shown to be living at Bungalow Cottage, Prey Heath, Worplesdon. Horace is still working as a gardener, the enumerator classifying him as a nurseryman.

On August 4, 1914, a Royal Proclamation(4) was issued in London calling out the Army Reserve and announcing the embodiment of the Territorial Force, the same day the British Government demanded an unequivocal assurance of Belgian neutrality, expecting a satisfactory reply to be returned by midnight. By the early morning of Wednesday, August 5, all men knew that Germany had refused to give such an assurance and the two countries were at war, subsequently Horace was mobilised. On August 6, Horace was posted to the 1st Battalion The Queen’s, which at the time was at Bordon(5). Horace’s records are silent regarding his posting on mobilisation, possibly due to water damage(6), as there are illegible notations, but it can be assumed he did join the Battalion at Bordon.

According to the Regimental History, by the “7th mobilisation was completed, and a report made to Brigade Headquarters, the Battalion being the first in the Brigade to be ready.” On August 8th, the Battalion went to the rifle range where “all members fired a modified course, and next day marching out to Oxney to practise an attack”. The next two days were passed in a similar manner (7).

On August 12th, the Battalion paraded in two parties and travelled by train from Bordon Station to Southampton, where they embarked on board the ss Braemer Castle. Horace may have travelled with the Battalion, but did not embark for travel to France until August 21st when he boarded the Mombasa. He possibly sailed with the 2nd Battalion Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (8), setting sail for France on the night August 21st/22nd, arriving in Le Havre on the 23rd.(9)

Until we get to September 5th, it is conjecture what Horace was doing, and even then it is an assumption he was part of the first reinforcement which reached the Battalion on this date, following the Battle of the Mons and the Retreat from Mons. (10) This reinforcement was of 90 non-commissioned officers and men under the command of Lieutenant W.A. Phillips, and met the Battalion at Rozoy.(11)

The withdrawal of von Kluck's Right.
The Marne, Spetember 6th

On September 6th, the Battalion marched off at 7.00a.m. as the advanced guard of the 3rd Brigade. “D” Company forming the point under Captain C.E. Watson. The march had only been in progress for about an hour when Les Hautes Crés Farm was reached. The Battalion halted here, and placed it in a ‘state of defence’, because the advancing cavalry had encountered a body of German infantry with guns which had been checked two miles east of Rozoy.

Sir John French, the British Commander-in-Chief, at 3.30p.m., ordered I Corps, of which 3rd Brigade was a part, to advance to a line just short of the Grand Morin, from Mariolles to Les Parichets, and then at 4.30p.m. the 3rd Brigade was directed to move forward again and take the village of Vaudoy, which was captured without opposition before dusk, the Queen’s taking up an outpost position on the north of it.

The Marne, 7th September
The Marne, 7th September

Between September 7th and the 14th, the Battalion marched from Vaudoy to Bourg without notable opposition. When the River Aisne was reached, the Battalion, and the rest of 1st Division, crossed via a partially destroyed aqueduct which carried the Aisne Canal.

The Battle of the Aisne. September 14th, 1914
The Battle of the Aisne. September 14th, 1914

September 14 saw the Battalion march off at 7.10a.m. via Moulins to Paissy after being detached from the remainder of the 3rd Brigade, to act as an escort for the divisional Artillery on the right flank. The Battalion was deployed north-east of Paissy and “advanced across the Chemin de Dames and through a small wood about 150yards north of the road. We were held up on the northern edge of the wood, and could see the enemy’s trenches facing us.” (12)

The Battalion War Diary(13) states:

Here our left consisting of B and C Coys encountered serious opposition and came under heavy rifle and M.G. fire. A Coy now reinforced this flank wile D Coy held the front edge of the wood. The Battn. machine guns were at the outset brought up on the right flank, but finding an inadequate field of fire, Lieut PRINGLE moved them across to the left flank to assist A, B & C Companies. To our front the enemy were advancing across towards the right flank where the French were, and a considerable amount of casualties were caused at a range of 1100yards. A wide valley separated our position from the enemy’s main line of trenches, D Company, on the N edge of wood were well concealed from view and had few casualties. At about 3p.m. the Commanding Officer ordered a counter attack to be made against the enemy’s flank as the advanced onto the French.

Captain HUNTER with 2 Platoons of D Company proceeded to this flank, but it was found impossible to carry out this attack, the enemy being at this time in considerable numbers and the French fallen back to the line of the CHEMIN DES DAMES.

On our left a much more serious attack was made against A, B & C Coys. (No officers now remain of these companies and details cannot be given as to the movements on this flank).

At about 4.30p.m. the Commanding Officer directed that a retirement should be carried out to the line of the CHEMIN DES DAMES. D Coy fell back first, in well extended formation, followed by A & B Coys the C Company bringing up the rear.

Captain LONGBOURNS commanded the latter Company and brought several of our wounded officer and men. The Battn. lay about 50yds in front of our own Arty. and under heavy shell fire from the enemy until darkness came on.

Wylly, in the History, goes into more detail;

“D” Company was well concealed from view, and the Germans could not bring much aimed fire to bear on us. We caused quite a considerable number of casualties among them, even at a range of 700-800 yards. Captain Stanley Creek was himself hit on the forehead by a bullet and stunned, but only for a few minutes. At about 3p.m. the Commanding Officer directed that a counter-attack should be made on our extreme right so as to assist the French Zouaves who were there. Captain Hunter, with two platoons of “D” Company, proceeded to this flank, but found it impossible to carry out the attack, the enemy being by this time in considerable numbers and the French having fallen back to the Chemin des Dames. Meanwhile on our left things were more serious, and it was this flank that we suffered our chief casualties. At about 4p.m. the Colonel gave the order to retire to the Chemin des Dames, where we could carry out our role of escort to the artillery equally well. “D” Company fell back first, and was followed by the remaining companies, with Captain Longbourne bringing up the rear and supervising the carrying in of Captains Heath and Mathew-Lannowe, both of whom had been wounded. We lined the Chemin de Dames for four hours under enemy artillery fire; they were searching for our artillery, which was just in rear of us and had the road which we were lining pretty accurately taped. Our guns were only 30yards behind us, and nearly blew our heads off each time they fired. The Zouaves retired early from to-days battle and did not put in an appearance again before dark, so our left was unpleasantly in the air. Eventually we held the road all night with “D” and “C” Companies in the line and “A” and “B” Companies in support. (14)

The situation at Paissy 14 - 18th September, 1914
The situation at Paissy 14 – 18th September, 1914

The Battalion did not advance on September 15th and 16th, and had two companies entrenched all night on the line of the Chemin des Dames Road, with two companies remaining in support in a hollow about 800yards in the rear. The trenches were under intermittent fire from snipers and artillery both days – in fact the long-enduring period of trench warfare seems, from the diary, to have begun on September 16th – with the trenches being “improved by hollowing out under the parapet for protection against shell fire”.

“A” and “B” Companies relieved “C” and “D” Companies at dawn on September 17th, who returned to the hollow 800yards in the rear in support. At 11.30a.m. the French on the right of the Battalion retired, leaving the Artillery exposed, “C” and “D” Companies came up filling the gap, sustaining severe casualties. This was the situation until 7.15p.m. when the French reoccupied the position assisted by the Battalion, which occupied a further 50yards of frontage.

“C” and “D” Companies relieved “A” and “B” Companies before dawn the following morning, and work occurred to further improve the trenches. The trenches were shelled from 6.00a.m. till 3.15p.m. without respite, the casualties were not heavy except for one platoon where the trenches had not been deepened through lack of time. Horace John Daborn was one of these casualties.

The Queen's Panel on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.
The Queen’s Panel on the La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial.

Horace has no known grave, and so is commemorated on the memorial at La Ferte-sous-Jouarre, which is a small town, 66 kilometres to the east of Paris. The La Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial commemorates nearly 4,000 officers and men of the British Expeditionary Force who died in August, September and the early part of October 1914 and who have no known grave. The Memorial is situated in a small park on the south-western edge of the town, on the south bank of the River Marne, just off the main road to Paris. The monument consists of a rectangular block of stone, 62 feet by 30 feet and 24 feet high, with the names of the dead engraved on stone panels on all sides of the monument. The monument is surmounted by a sarcophagus and a trophy carved in stone. At the four corners of the pavement are stone piers with urns, carved with the coats of arms of the four constituent nations of the United Kingdom. The memorial was designed by George H. Goldsmith, a decorated veteran of the Western Front, and unveiled by Sir William Pulteney, who had commanded the III Corps of the BEF in 1914, on 4 November 1928.

  1. History of the Second Queen’s Royal Regiment, Volume 5; Davis, John; Wylly, H.C; Foster, R.C.G. p. 210
  2. History of the Queen’s Royal (West Surrey) Regiment in The Great War; Wylly, H.C., Gale & Polden (N&M Press Reprint), p.1
  3. Wylly, p.1

    WHEREAS by the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, it is amongst Other things enacted that in case of imminent national danger or of great emergency it shall be lawful for Us by Proclamation, the occasion having first been communicated to Parliament, to order that the Army Reserve shall be called out on permanent service; and by any such Proclamation to order a Secretary of State from time to time to give and when given to revoke or vary such directions as may seem necessary or proper for calling out the forces or force mentioned in the Proclamation or all or any of the men belonging thereto :
    And Whereas the present state of public affairs and the extent of the demands on Our Military Forces for the protection of the interests of the Empire do in Our opinion constitute a case of great emergency within the meaning of the said Act, and We have communicated the same to Parliament :
    And Whereas by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act, 1907, it is, amongst other things, enacted that immediately upon and by virtue of the issue of a Proclamation ordering the Army Reserve to be called out on permanent service it shall be lawful for Us to order Our Army Council from time to time to give and when given to revoke or vary such directions as may seem necessary or proper for embodying all or any part of the Territorial Force, and in particular to make such special arrangements as they think proper with regard to units or individuals whose services may be required in other than a Military capacity :
    Now, Therefore, We do in pursuance of the Reserve Forces Act, 1882, hereby order that Our Army Reserve be called out on permanent service, and We do hereby order the Right Honourable HERBERT HENRY ASQUITH, one of Our Principal Secretaries of State, from time to time to give and when given to revoke or vary such directions as may seem necessary or proper for calling out Our Army Reserve or all or any of the men belonging thereto :
    And We do hereby further order Our Army Council from time to time to give and when given to revoke or vary such directions as may seem necessary or proper for embodying all or any part of the Territorial Force, and in particular to make such special arrangements as they think proper with regard to units or individuals whose services may be required in other than a Military capacity.
    Given at Our Court at Buckingham Palace, this Fourth day of August, in the year of our Lord One thousand nine hundred and fourteen, and in the Fifth year of Our Reign. At the Court at Buckingham Palace, the 4th day of August 1914.

  5. Wylly, p.8; http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bordon
  6. Wylly, p.8;
  7. The British Army World War One Service Records are War Office (WO) records also known as the WO363 records and the ‘Burnt Documents.’ In 1940 there was a World War Two bombing raid on the War Office in London where the records were held. During this raid, a large portion (approximately 60 percent) of the 6.5 million records was destroyed by fire. The surviving service records have become known as the ‘Burnt Documents’, many of these records suffered water damage following the bombing raid.
  8. British Battalions in France & Belgium 1914; Westlake, Ray; Leo Cooper, 1977. P. 139.
  9. The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in The World War; Fox, Sir F.; Constable & Co, 1926 (N & M Press Reprint)
  10. Horace could have been a part of the 10% reinforcement which reached the Battalion on August 8th.
  11. Wylly, p.14
  12. Wylly, p.17
  13. 1st Battalion Royal West Surrey Regiment WO/95/1280, National Archives. (http://discovery.nationalarchives.gov.uk/SearchUI/s/res?_col=2&_q=WO%2F95%2F1280&_sd=1914&_ed=1914&_cr1=WO+95&_cr2=&_cr3=)
  14. Wylly, p.17

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