Today’s blog post comes courtesy of project volunteer Kathy Nichols who has been making interesting connections between her own past and that of today’s featured sitter, Horace Havelock…
“A time traveller arriving in Acton, West London in 1980 at the site of Friar’s Place (a mansion with extensive grounds in Victorian times) would find suburban houses and a factory building. They might see a young clerk going home after a hard day’s work; they might see her glance down the footpath leading to the Wall’s Ice Cream Factory or see her go into one of the Victorian houses in Messaline Avenue where she had rented accommodation.
Going back another 62 years to 1918 the time traveller might have seen Thomas Wall, the philanthropic Sutton resident and sausage manufacturer surveying the last vacant parcel of land at Friar’s Place, deciding that this was just the place for his new factory.
Still further back in 1901 they might have seen 9 year old Horace Stanley Havelock step out of one of those recently built suburban houses in Messaline Avenue, where his family had rented accommodation.
The clerk from 1980 would eventually find herself living in Sutton being intrigued to hear that the man behind the ice cream factory in Acton was also the man behind her son’s nursery school and other charitable projects. Then one day in 2015 at the Knights-Whittome Project office she picked up a photograph of Horace Stanley Havelock…
Of course we didn’t then know the name of the confident, proud looking Royal Fusilier in the photograph. It was difficult to read his name on the two envelopes containing the glass plate negatives and after a discussion amongst several people in the office we decided that the best guess was H I Hancock.
When it came to researching H I Hancock some weeks later though, there was no sign of such a person. Following another look at the envelopes we decided that the name was more likely to be H S Havelock.
There were only two suitable candidates for H S Havelock and they turned out to be twin brothers Horace Stanley Havelock and Harold Sidney Havelock born in Notting Hill in the April quarter of 1891. They were the last of ten children born to Robert, a warehouse foreman originally from Battersby in Cleveland (near Middlesbrough) and Caroline Havelock who was from Cullompton in Devon. Three of their children died young and a further two would die by the end of the First World War.
By 1911 the family had moved from Messaline Avenue to nearby Hereford Street. Horace was a bank clerk while Harold was a stockbroker’s clerk. Post Office records show that they had both become Post Office Savings Bank boy clerks at the age of 16.
The medal card for Horace’s twin brother Harold Sidney Havelock shows that he enlisted with the Army Pay Corps in Preston on 8th November 1914 and later transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He was sent to Mesopotamia (now Iraq) but became ill with malaria and died in Alexandria on 11 October 1918, just one of 12,678 casualties who died of sickness during the war in Mesopotamia. He left behind a widow Annie (née Peel) and son Frank H Havelock who died aged just 10 in 1927.
There is not much information available about Horace. We don’t yet know which battalion of the Royal Fusiliers he belonged to when he was photographed by David Knights-Whittome on 6 February 1915. He may have been based at the Woodcote Camp near Epsom or perhaps was down from London for some machine gun practice.
His medal card tells us he was in the Royal Fusiliers 26th Bankers Battalion by the time he landed in France in July 1916. The Bankers Battalion was formed in July 1915 when volunteer bankers, clerks and accountants responded to an appeal by the Lord Mayor of London.
The battalion suffered heavy losses on the Somme at the battle of Flers-Courcelette (15th-22nd September 1916), famous as the first modern tank battle. The British deployed the new invention but with only partial success. Liddell Hart quotes German Regimental histories in his History of the First World War:
‘They felt quite powerless against these monsters which crawled along the top of the trench enfilading it with continuous machine-gun fire, and closely followed by parties of infantry who threw hand grenades on the survivors.’
Despite this, there was no decisive breakthrough against the German defences and artillery fire continued to rain down on the infantry. Horace’s older brother Ernest Wilfred was in the same battalion and sadly died of wounds at No 36 Casualty Clearing Station on 18th September 1916. He is commemorated in a stained glass window at St Ann’s Free Church, Trinidad where he had been the minister.
Horace had the burden of being the brother who survived the conflict and seems to have led a quiet life afterwards which was perhaps all he had longed for in the midst of war.
He married Jessie Ferguson Gush in the June quarter of 1917. They had two children: Harold W born in 1919 and Christine I W born in 1924. Jessie died on December 23, 1938 and the probate record shows that Horace was still working as a bank clerk.
He married his second wife Janet Woodland Millar in 1940 and electoral registers and phone directories show that he continued to live in the west London area until the mid-fifties when he appears to have retired to Eastbourne. He died there in 1964 at the age of 73.”
Sources: Commonwealth War Graves Commission, FreeBMD, Ancestry UK: Census Collection: WW1 Records, British Phone Books, London, England Electoral Registers, Google, British History Online, London Gazette, Acton History