8th (Kings Royal Irish )Hussars
Ernest Proctor was born around 1875 in Kensington. He was the son of Emily and George Proctor. The couple often used the alias Richards and on the 1881 census Emily and the children were living under this surname at 5, Faraday Road, Chelsea. There was no sign of George at this time. Ernest had at least seven siblings.
Poor Law records of 18th of September 1885 list five of the seven children, all under the surname of Richards, but state that the surname is an alias. These five were all admitted to the branch school on the 8th of August 1885 and transferred to Beechholme on the 30th of October the same year.
Three of these were emigrated to Canada through the Home Children scheme and via the Maria Rye agency. Emily was in the workhouse at this time and would die there. Two further children may have died young.
Ernest was discharged from the school on the 14th of December 1890, aged fifteen, to the 8th Hussars band. His army service records give his occupation as musician. A follow up report on him carried out on the 12th of August 1896 states " Bandmaster reports that his conduct has given every satisfaction ".
Ernest was just under 4 feet 8 inches tall and weighed 84 pounds. He had a fair complexion with brown eyes and hair. He had no distinguishing marks. He served in South Africa from the 13th of February 1900 until the 2nd of June 1900 and then again from the 3rd of March 1901 until the 2nd of June 1903. His next of kin was given as his brother Charles who was serving in the Dragoon Guards, and his sister Florence, now Florence Pope who was manageress of the Railway Hotel in Brentwood Essex.
Ernest’s army service records state that he was severely wounded in the thigh at Holspruit on the 2nd of April 1902. His character on discharge was described as good and his intended residence was with his sister.
He was awarded the Queens South African medal with Cape Colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal clasps. Also the Kings South African medal with 1901 and 1902 clasps. Ernest was paid a war gratuity of £5.
Holspruit was a town situated at the foot of the Klein Drakensberg mountains in the Orange River Colony. An account from a New Zealand newspaper follows of the engagement at Holspruit dated April 5th 1902 .
“ Colonel Lawley’s column returned to Springs today and full details of the fight at Holspruit on Easter Tuesday were obtained. It was decided on Sunday to attempt to surprise the Boer laager and if possible strike a severe blow. Colonel Lawley’s column of 800 men comprising the Queens Bays, the Hussars and a few National Scouts and a convoy left Springs on the 29th of March and camped for three days at Boschmans Kop, 20 miles south east of Springs.
On April 1st having received information of the locality of Albert’s laager, Colonel Fanshawe with about three squadrons of the Bays and a few National Scouts left camp at 2 o’clock in the morning and trekked east to Holspruit.
The night was extremely dark and misty and it was difficult to see a yard ahead . It was felt that the horses were descending a slope towards a drift, but before reaching the banks the leading squadron came suddenly on a number of hobbled horses, betraying the vicinity of the enemy. Close by stood a Kraal and it was thought the enemy were concealed there. The Kraal was surrounded but drawn blank. Meanwhile on the left and front a few prisoners were captured half asleep, showing that the enemy were unaware of our approach although subsequent events proved that they knew our plans. The prisoners volunteered the information that the Boers were on the other side of the drift. Seeing an escaping cart with Commandant Pretorius in it he was sent to the rear with some National Scouts who rode right into a crowd of Boers and who had to abandon their prisoners and ride for their lives. Simultaneously the whole Boer force which had been hidden in the river and the long grass opened fire almost from under the horses hooves and our men galloped to the shelter of the ridge they had just descended.
A series of rearguard actions followed, the enemy continually outflanking our men until the Bays were surrounded. In the darkness it was almost impossible to distinguish friend from foe, the contending forces were often mixed up, frequently at close quarters and the fighting was mostly at close range. Many hand to hand encounters took place, the enemy in front making short rushes. Only a few horseless men unable to get away were captured. By this time dawn was breaking and they were encouraged by the Hussars who came dashing to their assistance. The Boers had to retire before the eager cavalry. Some of the Hussars did charge a body of the enemy scattering them in all directions, but once the retreat had commenced the Boers were soon out of sight behind their strong positions. Dr Richie who stayed behind to attend to the wounded says the Boers treated them well, very few being molested, but some of the captured were stripped.
All accounts agree that their loss was equal to ours. Most of our wounded were severely injured, owing to the closeness of the range, the latest return being 70 wounded and 14 killed. The engagement was all over by half past eight pm. The Boer losses were at least 62 killed and wounded .”
Ernest re-enlisted on the 31st of July 1903 into the 5th Royal Irish Lancers. He was aged 27 years and 8 months and his occupation given as musician. He was by now five feet six inches tall and weighed 149 pounds. He had a bullet wound scar on the inner side of his right thigh.
He was appointed bandsman on the 14th of August 1905 .
He was discharged on the 21st of January 1912 and was awarded the long service and good conduct medals. His character was exemplary.
His next of kin was given as his sister Mrs Florence Pope of the Railway Hotel, Brentwood, Essex.
We cannot conclusively find any further information on Ernest after this time.