2nd Lt William Hornby was born on the 18th August 1893. He was the third son of the four sons and two daughters of The Venerable Phipps John Hornby, Archdeacon of Lancaster and Vicar of St Michael’s-on-Wyre, Garstang, Lancashire and Agnes Eleanor his wife. He attended Rugby School from 1907 to 1912 and afterwards Balliol College. Oxford. After which he entered the offices of Messrs Wilson, Hiles And Co, Cotton Brokers in Liverpool.
At the outbreak of the war he enlisted as a private in the 17th Kings Liverpool Regiment (1st Pals Battlalion) and trained at Prescot, Grantham and Salisbury Plain. He had more than one chance of a commission but declined as “he thought he as more useful where he was.” He went to France in November 1915 and spent all the winter and the following summer in or near the trenches. On the first day of the battle of the Somme, 1st July 1916, he was wounded in the head, but re joined before the end of the month. He received a commission in September and was killed while leading his Platoon in an attack on the German lines a mile north-west of Flers on the 12th October 1916 aged 23.
All four Hornby brothers served overseas in World War One, William’s older brother Geoffrey, a Lieutenant in the Suffolk Regiment, was killed at Frezenberg Ridge, Ypres, Belgium on the 8th May 1915. 2nd Lt William Hornby is buried in Warlencourt British Cemetery, Pas de Calais, France.
Pte Gerald Warren was born in Sandy, Bedfordshire on the 30th June 1898. The eldest of four children the family moved to Thornton Heath in Surrey where Gerald worked as a stencil cutter. Gerald enlisted in the 2/4th Queen’s Royal West Surrey Regiment on the 17th May 1915 when he was only sixteen years old. In January 1917 the battalion moved to Arish for operations in Palestine. On the 25th March at 3.30 am they took part in the 1st Battle of Gaza when the 160th Brigade started to cross Wadi Ghuzzee. Shortly afterwards, fog began to roll in from the sea, slowing the advance, but the attack began shortly after 11.45. By 13.30 the brigade had captured ‘The Labyrinth’, a maze of entrenched gardens, and by 18.30 the whole position had been secured. But events had not gone so well elsewhere, and the 53rd Division was ordered to pull back. By the 27th March it was back on its starting position behind Wadi Ghuzzee.
There followed a pause of several months while the EEF was reorganised. The 3rd Battle of Gaza involved outflanking the Gaza–Beersheba line, after which 53rd Division was sent on the 3rd November to take the heights of Tell Khuweilfe. 160th Brigade moved up a slight valley on the right, but found the enemy in strength, and holding the water supplies. The attack was renewed unsuccessfully the following day. The division kept up the pressure on the 6th November, and eventually the Turks were forced to evacuate the position after being outflanked elsewhere. By early December the EEF was working round Jerusalem. 2/4th Queen’s, ordered to capture the hills at Beit Jala on 8 December, advanced under accurate shellfire, but found the position unoccupied. The city fell the following day.
On the 21st December 1917, the 160th Brigade carried out a minor operation near Jericho. At 05.00 three companies of 2/4th Queens captured a Turkish post, and the Turks fell back to ‘White Hill’. A company of 2/4th Queen’s, together with one of 2/10th Middlesex Regiment, took this position after fierce close fighting with bombs, bayonets, and clubbed rifles. Gerald was killed in this action aged 19 years old. He is buried in Jerusalem War Cemetery. His parents chose the inscription on his grave that said “He Died That We May Live In Peace.”
Pte Cecil James Cottis was born on 17th Aug 1895 in Great Stambridge, Essex the second youngest child of nine surviving children of William Jospeh and Kesiah Cottis. Like his brothers and sister Cecil worked in the family bakery business, in the High Street in Billericey, Essex. On the 21st July 1915 Cecil was with the 4th battalion as they sailed from Devonport for Gallipoli via Lemmos. The battalion landed at ‘C’ Beach in Suvla Bay during the evening of 12 August 1915, by the end of the month they had suffered losses of 157 killed or wounded, with another 217 sick. On the 4th December 1915 the 4th Essex Regiment were evacuated from Gallipoli and moved to Mudros, going on to Alexandria on the 17th December 1915. Cecil was transferred to the 11th Essex Regiment where he saw service in France. He was killed in action on the 17th September 1918 aged 23. Pte Cecil Cottis has no known grave and is remembered on The Memorial in Vis-en-Artois which commemorates the 9,847 Allied officers and men who were killed in the period from 8th August 1918 to 11th November 1918 which was known as The Advance To Victory.
Tragically Cecil’s elder brother Edwin was also killed on 28th March 1918, aged 39 while serving with the 2nd London Regiment. The brothers heartbroken parents erected a plaque in their memory inside St Mary Magdalene Church. High Street, Billericay. Two small plaques on the family grave also remember the brothers although with a discrepancy in the date of death. Edwin William March 28th 1918, aged 39 Cecil James Sept. 18th 1918 aged 23. Both killed in action in France in the Great War. “Until the day break and the darkness flee away”
Sergt Fred William Ashton was born in Louth, in Lincolnshire on the 3rd March 1892. He as educated at a grammar school and worked as a clerk in the London City and Midland Bank in Grimsby. On the outbreak of war he enlisted in the 10th Lincolnshire Regiment, a locally raised pals battalion and the only “Pals” battalion to be called “Chums.” The battalion joined the 101st Brigade of the 34th Division, moving to France in January 1916. They first saw action in the battle of the Somme. On 1st July 1916, the First Day on the Somme, the Grimsby Chums were in the first wave attacking the fortified village of La Boisselle, just south of the Albert-Bapaume road.
Fred had a reputation for being very cool headed, his officer remembering him sitting reading The Daily Telegraph while they were under a particularly heavy bombardment. Fred’s friend Sergt Alfred Noake wrote to Fred’s family about the day. “We attacked soon after dawn, and the men of the battalion gave a cheer as received the order to advance. I went over not far away from Fred but after a time I lost sight of him. We advanced in the face of terrible machine gun, rifle and shell fire and it is a great wonder I am living to tell the tale. I can assure you it as terrible to see the poor old boys falling right and left. We had to get on as no one as allowed to stop with wounded. In a very short time we had lost nearly all our officers and NCOs and we that were left had to carry on with the work. when we got into the German second line there was about 30 of our company left, including one officer and myself. After a while word was sent to us that we had to go over again and bomb out some Germans who were enfilading us with machine gun fire on our left. We went over again, but only a corporal, four men and myself got there. I left the officer lying in a shell hole with a bullet in his stomach and he told me to carry on. When we got into the next line I immediately gave the order for the men to dig themselves in. We consolidated the position and held it for three days for which I was awarded the Military Medal. A few days later I found out from the burying party that Fred had been shot in the head and died instantly. “
Despite Fred’s body being found by the burying party, after the war his body was not found and Sergt Frederick William Ashton is remembered on The Thiepval Memorial Somme France.