Beechholme memorial plaque
Beechholme
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OSBORN Horace

Private 2345 13th London Regiment

  

Killed In Action 9th of May 1915

 

AGE 19.

  

Son of Mary Jane Osborn of 28 West Park Avenue, Kew, Surrey and the late James Osborn.

 

 Horace Osborn was born on the 27th of January 1895 and baptised on the 16th of February at St Luke Chelsea. He was the son of James and Mary Jane nee Lloyd. Horace’s father’s employment on his baptismal record was given as greengrocer. Horace was the youngest of eight children born to this couple. All the children survived into adulthood.

 

James Osborn died in 1900 at the age of 39 leaving his widow Mary Jane to bring up the eight children on her own. On the 1901census the family are living at 4, St Georges Street, Battersea. Horace is aged five. His mother is employed as a char lady and one older sister at the age of 14 is employed as an apprentice to a tailor. Two other families are living at the same address.

 

Horace was admitted to Beechholme on the 31st of July 1901 having been passed from Clapham Union. His parents had previously resided in Chelsea for eight years. The Poor Law records state that his mother, a widow, was living in Battersea and gives her as his next of kin. There is no apparent discharge for him from the school within the time frame that these records cover.

 

On the 1911 census Horace aged 15 is employed as a law clerk and is living with his mother at 10 Bramerton Street in Chelsea.

 

Horace enlisted in Kensington, sadly his army service records have not survived, but his date of entry on his medal index card is given as the 11th of February 1915. The 13th County of London Battalion was known as Princess Louise’s Kensington Battalion by army order 408. They moved on mobilisation to Abbots Langley. On the 4th of November 1914 they landed at Le Havre and on the 13th of the same month they came under the command of the 25th brigade in the 8th division.

 

After the sweep of the German advance across Belgium and northern France had been stemmed and the advance halted, the opposing lines of trenches and emplacements stretched from the Belgian coast through France. By 1915 the armies had become locked, opposing each other across the trench lines with combat restricted to raid and defend tactics. These, however brutal and fierce, were mainly punitive actions, grander British stratagems being restricted by a shortage of munitions, governed by restricted supplies and a lack of trained reserves. The stemming of the rapid advance of the German army had severely depleted the British Expeditionary Force – the small but highly trained regular and reserve army had incurred very heavy losses. Replacement battalions from the territorial forces had been hurriedly re-kitted, brought to readiness and shipped over to bolster the fragile front line. Additional reserves were formed by mobilising older retired soldiers and reservists, and home based battalions and part trained recruits were pressed into active service.

 

Such was the position of the British army at the time of the Aubers Ridge attack, before the battalions of the new army volunteers – Kitcheners Army – began to arrive at the front from mid 1915. In contrast the German army was highly trained and well organised.

 

The Battle of Aubers Ridge, supporting a larger French initiated offensive at Vimy, was the second of a linked trilogy of battles in the area following the Battle of Neuve Chapelle, while the Battle of Ypres continued a few miles to the north.

 

The Battle of Aubers Ridge took place on the 9th of May 1915 . The French army was to attack north of Arras and capture Vimy Ridge preparatory to an advance on CambraI and Douai. The British on the left flank was to attack on the same day and widen the gap in the German defences and to prevent the German troops from being moved south of La Bassee canal.Intelligence about the newly strengthened German positions was not available or not given sufficient attention. Trench layout, traffic flows and organisation behind the British front line did not allow for easy movement of reinforcements and casualties. British artillery equipment and ammunition were in poor condition.

 

9th May Northern Pincer

2.30 am. All units report that they are in position having assembled at night.

4.06 am. Sunrise and all very quiet on the front.

5.00 am British bombardment opens with field guns firing shrapnel at the German line and howitzers firing high explosive shells onto the front line. Many reports are received that British seven inch shells are falling short and even on and behind the British front line.

5.30 am British bombardment intensifies, field guns switch to heavy explosives and also fire at breastworks. The lead battalions of the assaulting brigades include the 1st Royal Irish Rifles and the 13th London. The 13th Londons move out on to the narrow No Man’s Land which is only between 100yards and 200 yards across.

5.40 am. Blowing up 2 mines, the lead companies of the Kensingtons rushed to occupy the craters and moved forward to capture Delangre Farm and then form a defensive flank as ordered.

6.10 am The support battalion sustained high casualties. The front and communication trenches are by now crowded and chaotic. German shelling adds to the confusion. Fire across No Man’s Land was so intense that forward movement was all but impossible. German prisoners making their way to the British lines were mistaken for a counter attack and there was a great deal of confusion.

By the evening the situation was far from promising for the Allies

8.30 am The attack had established 3 small lodgements in the enemy positions, but they were not in contact with each other and were under tremendous pressure. Otherwise the attack had come to a standstill and all movement in and out of the trench system had become impossible.

8.45 am and again at 11.45 am Haig orders the attack to be vigorously pressed home .

1.30 pm A renewed attack did not take place as troops heavily shelled in the assembly area. Many casualties suffered.

5.00 pm. General Haig on hearing of the failure of the southern attack and the held up position of the northern attack orders a bayonet attack at 8pm.

6pm Such chaos in the trenches and fresh units unready for 8pm attack.

7.30 pm Taking advantage of night to reorganise.

 

10th May 9.00 am The army commanders learn that there is insufficient artillery ammunition to continue attacks.

10th May 3.00 pm The last remaining Kensingtons returned from their position. All British troops now out of the German lines.

 

The battle was an unmitigated disaster for the British army. No ground was won and no tactical advantage won.

In one single day of fighting the British army had lost 11,000 men dead, wounded or lost in action.

 

The legatees of Horace's will were his mother and two brothers William and James.

GRAVE REF :- PLOEGSTEERT MEMORIAL PANEL 10.

 

Ploegsteert Memorial stands in Berks cemetery extension and is situated 12.5 kilometers south of Ieper town centre.

It commemorates more than 11,000 men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in this sector during the First World War and who have no known grave.

 

 

Note : Horace's brother survived the war.

        An older sister called her firstborn son Horace.

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES :- Ancestry, Find My Past, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The Long Long Trail, Wikepedia, “Aubers Ridge” by Edward Hancock.

Last updated: 23 Feb 2017

Beechholme WWI memorial

OWEN, Thomas Charles

Sergeant 47215

18th Royal (Queen Mary's Own) Hussars

Died of Wounds 17th April 1918

Aged 27

Thomas Charles Owen was baptised on the 19th of July 1891 at Kilburn St Mary in the parish of Camden. He was the 7th of twelve children born to Henry and Eliza formerly Holmes nee Bedworth. Five of Thomas' siblings died in infancy. Thomas' father was employed as a chimney sweep.

On the 1891 census Thomas is an infant of six months which would appear to mean that he was born around October of 1890. The late baptism seems to be a recurrent theme in this family with two or three siblings being baptised together some while after their births.

The family were resident at 82, Kingsgate Road Hampstead at this time and there are six children in varying ages up to the age of thirteen. This accommodation was shared with three other families.

Henry Owen is a bit of an enigma as by the 1901 census there is no trace of him, and Eliza is calling herself a widow. Thomas himself is now a resident of Beechholme along with his brother James who was one year older, Thomas being  admitted there on the 18th of November 1899.

Poor Law records give his mother Eliza as his next of kin and her address as 25, Loverton Street. There is no mention of his father.
Thomas was discharged from the school on the 5th of August 1905 to the 18th Hussars at Curragh Camp, Ireland. A report sent back to the school in 1909 states " A very useful, attentive boy. Conduct very good. A very good all round musician." .

On the 1911 census Henry Owen is given as head of the household although no age, place of birth or indeed occupation, is listed for him. Eliza is still described as a widow, but as neither her father nor Henry's father had the given name of Henry, this is probably her husband. Eliza is employed as an ironer. Thomas by this time is stationed at Aliwal Barracks, Tidworth in Hampshire and is a Trumpeter in the 18th Hussars a cavalry regiment.

Thomas married Charlotte Powell on the 14th of January 1914 at St Clements, Notting Hill. He is described as being a trumpeter with the 18th Hussars. It is not known whether there were any children from this marriage.

The 18th Hussars' regimental motto was "Pro Rege, Pro Lege, Pro Patria Conamur" which translates as "We Serve for King, For Law and For Country."

Great Britain declared war on Germany on August 4th 1914 and the 18th Hussars were ordered to mobilize on the 5th of August and these orders were completed on the 10th of August. During this time, men were inoculated against enteric and horses were acquired from the surrounding areas. The horses hardly having time to be schooled passed into the ranks almost immediately and the majority turned out well and many survived the campaign. Queen Mary visited Tidworth and bade farewell to her regiment who were paraded before her. The rank and file received a present from her of a pipe and tobacco.

The regiment departed on the 15th of August and left Southampton on the 16th of August. They entrained at Boulogne as part of the original British Expeditionary Force and were part of the 2nd Cavalry Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division.

The regiment took part in most of the large battles of the war receiving many battle honours such as Mons, Le Cateau, Marne, Aisne, Messines,Ypres 1914 and 1915, Somme, Arras etc. Thomas must have risen through the ranks from trumpeter to sergeant almost surviving to the end of the war. Whether he was ever wounded prior to 1918 we do not know but although Soldiers Died in the Great War states that he was killed in action he did in fact die of wounds as stated on his Medal Index Card and this is also confirmed by the above mentioned "Memoirs". Indeed the date given on the Commonwealth War Graves Citation is the 16th of August 1918 whereas the "Memoirs" has him dying of wounds on the following day the 17th.

The German Army launched its Spring Offensive on the Western Front early in 1918 with the intention of bringing the war to an end. The Allies knew an attack was imminent but not exactly when it would take place. On March the 21st, the offensive was launched and the Allies encountered the elite German storm troopers. The Allies, used to static warfare, were faced with a massive German onslaught. The first few days of the attack were such an overwhelming success for the enemy that many in Germany assumed the war was all but over. The Allies ceded to Germany the Somme region where so many British and German soldiers had been killed in 1916. However the Germans experienced one major problem, because their troops deliberately carried few things apart from weapons to assist their mobility. The speed of the attack put their supply lines under huge strain and they could not meet the demands of the troops therefore rendering them very short of supplies.

Counter attacks were ordered with the Hussars receiving orders to support the 39th Division just south of the River Somme. On the 24th of March a party of six Officers and 160 Other ranks were sent to the Carnoy Valley, north of the river, for employment in the trenches near Bernefay Wood. This force was heavily engaged for two days and lost 1 Officer and 9 Other Ranks plus 1 Officer and 26 Other Ranks wounded. This dismounted party was then sent to support the right of the 21st Division and then ordered to fill a gap which had occurred to the left of the 9th Division and the right of the Vth Corps in the direction of Trones Wood. The remainder of the regiment bivouacked at Cerisy for the night. Further support and fighting continued and the line between Sailly-le -Sec to Mericourt and the crossings over the River Ancre were held. Further attacks were carried out throughout the end of March with more losses and injuries.

On the 1st of April 1918 the headquarters of the regiment were in bivouacs at Bussy-les-Daours whilst the dismounted Company were in the trenches south and south east of Tailloux Wood which was just south of Hamel. This comprised 150 men and officers of the 18th Hussars, plus a Lewis gun team of 1 Officer and 25 other ranks and oddments of a further ten men.

"The day and the night passed quietly and the wave of attack on this particular part of the front - perhaps the most vital of all the heavily threatened joints of our armour - had reached its limit".

April the 2nd and the situation remained stationary. The regiment had five men wounded on this day, and one man on the 3rd.

On the night of the 3rd the 1st Cavalry Division was relieved by the 14th Division and the dismounted party rejoined the regiment at Bussy at 4am on the 4th of April.

Messages of thanks were received from Divisional and Army Corps Commanders for the invaluable services the cavalry had rendered, and for the magnificent manner in which it had beaten off all the enemy's attacks.

On the 5th of April the regiment went into billets at Amiens and from there moved to Argoeuvres, though to Buire and Laires where the regiment remained till the 5th of May.

It is impossible to say on what day Thomas was wounded. The fact that he is buried at St Sever, Rouen suggests that he died in the military hospital at Rouen.

GRAVE REF :- ST SEVER CEMETERY EXTENSION, ROUEN. P.IX.P.11A

Research by Rachel and Jim Stapleton

SOURCES:- Ancestry , Find My Past, Commonwealth War Graves Commission, The Long,Long Trail, History Learning Site- The German Spring Offensive 1918,
Memoirs of the 18th Hussars by Brig. Gen. Charles Burnett C.B. C.M.G.

Last updated: 23 Feb 2017

Beechholme WWI memorial