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Thorne, Louis Alfonso (Shown as Thorn on the Boer War Panel)

Private 4579

16th Lancers

Date of Death (if applicable)

Discharge Medically Unfit 30 September 1902 at Netley 

Louis Alfonso Thorne was born on the 3rd of October 1880 and baptized on the 31st of that month at St John's Notting Hill.

He was the son of Thomas Edward Thorne and Louisa Ann nee Pearce. He was the youngest of five boys born to this couple. Thomas was employed as an omnibus driver. The family were living at 233, Portland Road when Louis was baptized.

Portland Road houses were built in the 1850’s on waste land between the downmarket Norland Estate, home to the squalid piggeries and potteries, and the fancy New Ladbroke Estate, which would become Notting Hill. The poverty map created by Charles Booth in 1899 shows most of the residents were living in poverty.

Louis’s father died in 1882 at the age of 33.

From Poor Law records Louis was admitted to Beechholme on the 22nd of July 1884, his mother being in prison. He was discharged into the care of his mother on the 12th of September that year.
Louis was then readmitted on the 17th of October when his mother's whereabouts were unknown. In 1886 she was reported as being in the Middlesex hospital.

When the 1891 census was taken Louis was still resident in Beechholme. Two siblings were living with the mother.

Louis was sent out from Beechholme on the 1st of October 1896 aged fifteen in the employ of Mr. W.M. Sear a baker of Bryan Road, Wealdstone. He was bound to his employer for five years.
The following visits by the school to the employer were recorded :-

21st of October 1896- satisfactory
21st of October 1897-satisfactory
21st of October 1898-boy's character unsatisfactory
14th of January 1899-complaint by Master against conduct of boy. Indenture cancelled.

When Louis enlisted on the 10th of October 1899 with the 16th Lancers he gave his age as nineteen and his occupation as baker. He was five feet seven inches tall of dark complexion, having brown eyes and black hair. His next of kin was given as his mother who lived in Kensal Road, Westbourne Park, London.

The motto of the Lancers was “Aut Cursu Aut Cominus Armis” which translated from the Latin means “ Either in the Charge or by Hand to Hand”.

Louis was posted on the 13th of October 1899.

The 16th (Queens) Lancers arrived in Cape Colony on 21st of January 1900 in time to take part in Lord Roberts' first advance. They were brigaded with the 9th Lancers and the 17th Lancers under Brigadier General Gordon, joining them later as the 3rd Cavalry Brigade.

The first attempt at relief of Kimberley was stopped at the battles of Modder River and Magersfontein. The 124 day siege was finally relieved on the 15th of February 1900 by a Cavalry Division under Lieutenant General John French, part of a larger force under Lord Roberts.

The Royal Lancers Regimental Association recounts that the 16th Lancers took part in the battles of Paardeberg and Diamond Hill along with one of the most satisfactory cavalry actions which occurred at Klipdrift.

In February 1900  General French’s cavalry charge managed to rout the Boers at Klipdrift, Cape Colony.

             Boers Last Stand - Loius Alfonso Thorne

The battle against the Boer General Piet Cronje continued at Paardeberg on the 27th of February 1900 north west of Cape Colony on the border with the Orange Free State. 15,000 British troops were pitted against 7,000 Boers.

General Cronje, his Boer army and an enormous column of ox drawn wagons started the slow march towards Bloemfontein, covering ten miles a day. Cronje and his force marched around the 6th Division and encamped on the Modder River and continued east. General French pursued the cumbersome column with a  force of 1,500 troopers coming up with it at Paardeberg Drift. Cronje chose to halt and entrench on the banks of the river which enabled the infantry division to march up and surround the Boer positions. The artillery then opened fire. This assault was ill conceived and uncoordinated and the British were beaten back with heavy losses. British casualties were 320 killed and 942 wounded, the highest for any day in the war. Boer casualties in the field were negligible but some 4,500 surrendered with Cronje.

The battle of Donkerhoek or Diamond Hill took place on the 11th and 12th of June 1900 and was the largest military engagement in the history of Pretoria. It was part of the British strategy to drive the Boer forces to a safe distance from Pretoria after the capture of the Transvaal capital on the 5th of June 1900, and was part of the Boer strategy to slow down the British advance to the regions east of Pretoria.

General Botha and General de la Rey’s forces took up positions on the hills east of Pretoria to block the road and the railway to the east. A prominent terrain feature was a steep plateau known as Diamond Hill named when diamonds were discovered in its' vicinity in 1819.

Lord Roberts attacked and succeeded in taking the hill. Botha decided to break off the engagement, evacuated his position and retired to the east. The British had succeeded in driving away the Boers from Pretoria and the Boers had achieved their aim to hinder the British advance. As such both sides claimed the victory.

In 1901 the 3rd Cavalry Brigade was broken up. The 16th Lancers were employed in the columns under Colonel White and other leaders operating in the south of the Orange River Colony and in Cape Colony. These columns were involved in constant skirmishing and some very hard work.

In the  last year of the war the 16th Lancers were much employed in the Calvinia and Clanwillian district and often had sharp fighting and some losses.

Louis Thorne was declared medically unfit and discharged on the 30th of September 1902 at Netley. We do not know the reason he was declared medically unfit as no cause is offered in the service records.

He was awarded the South African medal with  Cape Colony and Orange Free State clasps.

On the 24th of December 1905 Louis married Beatrice Maud Windsor at St Columb Church, Kensington. His occupation was given as baker. One of his brothers was a witness at the wedding.

On the 1911 census Louis is living with his wife and three young children at 16, Bevington Road, Kensington. He was still employed in the bakery trade.

The 1939 register records Louis and his wife living at Twister Crescent, Kensington. His occupation was baker's roundsman.

Louis Thorne died in 1957 in the Kensington registration district at the age of 77.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry,  Find My Past, Anglo.Boer, British, Wikepedia, The Royal Lancers Regimental Association,  Picture form “With General French and the Cavalry” by Charles Goldman. “Battle of Paardeberg” by Kenneth Hickman. Military History Expert.

Last updated 18 Aug 2016


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