Horace John Michelmore was born in Modbury in 1882, 1 of 7 children of John Crocker Michelmore, draper (died 1907 aged 53), and Virtue Michelmore, draper, boot and shoe merchant of Broad Street, Modbury.
Horace attended Modbury Infant School from 1886 to 1889 and initially worked in the family shop. In the 1911 census he was listed as a schoolmaster at Chipping Ongar Grammar School. He married Lily Cruse on 26 Dec 13 at St Denys, Warminster.
Enlisting in the Army at Warminster, where he was a resident, Horace was a private in the 2nd Battalion, Duke of Edinburgh’s (Wilts) Regiment. The 2nd Battalion was mobilized on the 29th July 1914 when the ‘Alarm in Fortress’ was sounded in Gibraltar, sailing for England a month later. They landed at Zeebrugge as part of the 7th Division in October 1914. Their initial deployment to defend Antwerp was abandoned after it was captured by the Germans. They redeployed to a position East of Ypres and very soon were in action at Reutel near Ypres. This first action for many was also their last as the battalion lost 450 men and 18 officers captured, 76 men and 7 officers were killed and 229 wounded after being assaulted by two complete German Regiments. After many other actions they ended 1914 in the line at Fleurbaix.The 2nd Battalion started 1915 in the Fleurbaix area remaining in the waterlogged trenches when they were relieved by the Canadians in March. They were removed from the line to prepare for a major assault at Neuve Chapelle which started on the 9th of March. By the 14th March the battalion had suffered nearly 400 casualties. After a few days rest they returned to the line at Laventie where they resumed trench warfare. In May the battalion took part in the battle of Festubert where they suffered 158 casualties for one mile of ground taken. This was followed by a rest period in the Bethune area where they were reinforced. In June they were one of the leading battalions in the attack at Givenchy where after taking significant casualties the operation was cancelled. This was followed by many months of trench warfare in different sectors leading up to the Battle of Loos in September
He died on 28th July 1915 aged 33 and is buried at St Vasst Post military cemetery. Two of his brothers, William and Sydney also served. Sydney was awarded the Military Medal for his bravery in rescuing an injured soldier under fire.
An obituary published in the Kingsbridge Gazette, ‘A Brave Modbury Man’, described how Horace Mitchelmore had shown great educational promise and won a Devon County scholarship at Kingsbridge Grammar School.
‘After completing his education he gained a 2ndDivision clerkship in the Civil Service and was appointed to Edinburgh where he remained 2 years. From this position he transferred to the Registry Office (Savings Bank Department), London. Unfortunately, after holding this appointment for some time, his health broke down and he resigned his position. After resting for several months he entered the teaching profession and accepted an appointment in Somerset. From there he went to Liege, Belgium as a teacher of English and held the appointment for over 2 years and then returned to England, taking a position at Delton Marsh, Westbury and then going on to Tregarth in Wales, a position he was holding at the outbreak of the war.
It was whilst on holiday in Warminster that he decided to take his place among those who were fighting for the honour of their country. Reading of the willful destruction the Huns had committed in Belgium and in the city he knew so well, caused him to resolve to do his part for the liberty of that country. It was while he was staying in Warminster on 1 Sep, he joined the 3rdWiltshire Regiment. He was sent to Weymouth to undergo his training, and the week before Christmas was drafted with a portion of his regiment to France. Within a few hours of landing Private Michelmore took his place in the fighting ranks, and from that time down until the day of his death he did not leave them. From the time he entered the Army he had not had more than a day’s leave and he was looking forward to returning home in August to see his wife and little son, born after he left England.
Private Michelmore was a courageous soldier, and as the result of his bravery in one action he was recommended for the D.C.M (Distinguished Conduct Medal). Writing on July 15thto his mother he very modestly refers to the affair. He says “Our platoon was out in the line between the trenches, and only 3 of us out of 40 men returned; I was the last to come in. I am getting on alright after being in a warmish corner. In fact I hardly hoped to come out so well. I had the pleasure of helping a wounded comrade to safety and he said he would never forget it. The poor fellow was in great pain after being dressed. I was only able to bind him up temporarily.”
In a letter to his wife, he says: ” We have another officer in our platoon now; the other was wounded in the last attack. He was very cool and made us line up in a straight line when we were part way from our trench to the German trench. It was rather risky when you come to think of it, though if an attack is to succeed there must be good discipline and orderliness amongst the men taking part. Our platoon was in the first line and only three men out of 40 were left. I was one of the three, in fact the last one to come in. I stopped with a wounded soldier. I shall never forget how grateful he was when I got him safe in the trench. He had two wounds; one of them a shrapnel wound in the shoulder; which was rather bad, as the bone was well exposed, and the piece remained behind the bone and below the shoulder. There are some very brave fellows out here now, who risk their lives and think nothing of it. Unfortunately bravery is not everything in a war like this, when gas machines, big shells and such like are used mercilessly. all the troops are beginning to get almost savage on account of the treachery and devilish schemes and plans of the Germans, who don’t seem to care who are killed, men, women, or children, or how they are killed, wounded or suffocated. It makes all of us feel full of rage, and if only we get close quarters with some of them it will go hard with them.”
A story of a brave deed modestly told. Fortunately it was witnessed by a superior officer, who recommended Private Michelmore for the DCM, and it is hoped that the award will be made and handed to his five months’ old son, who tragically enough has never seen his father.
On July 25th, two days before his death, Private Michelmore wrote to his mother : “I am writing this form the trenches where we have been for a couple of days and leave to-morrow, if all’s well, as far as I can get to know. It is a fine Sunday, and I always try to remember when it is Sunday. Of course it does not make much difference if any to us, but I like to think it is Sunday all the same. Force of habit I suppose and it does one good to remember what we have lost in the way of civilized customs etc, through this most wicked war.
I had a shave before dinner, so you will see we are quite fitted up and ready for inspection any time even in the trenches. We never know when Fritz will pay us a visit and I suppose he would rather have us looking clean. We should feel more prepared for the honour of his visit and I hope we should make as clean a job of him as we do our faces. The trenches are really wonderful places now, and in the daytime it is a treat and novelty to be in them, especially as they are kept so clean that, as the Captain told us, you could eat your dinner anywhere in the trenches. The sun is shining beautifully now and it is not to hot. Now it is alright, but at night it is not quite so agreeable, and we must be on the look out all the time, so it is not always honey.
I am hoping to leave soon, in August very likely. So many are going every day. I feel very happy to-day. I’m thinking of you all at home, and I expect you are thinking of me. That must be the reason I am so light-hearted and not worrying.
I read a story this morning which really impressed me because of the answer that was given the other day by someone. The question was ‘what is the best soldier’s prayer?’ The answer was ‘ Lord, I am going to be very busy to-day, I may forget Thee, but do not Thou forget me’. A very old one, used in the Civil War.
I do not think this terrible business will last much longer but it is not for us to know how long it will take. I should think the expense will soon make Germany bankrupt. My health keeps up wonderfully. Nature has endowed me with a tough constitution. I had a bad headache but I smoked it away.”
Four days later the officer in command of the Company had to convey sad ‘intelligence’. On July 29th, 2ndLieut. J. M. Martin wrote Mrs Michelmore, the widow, as follows: “I am very sorry to have to tell you that your husband was killed on the evening of the 27th. I was within two yards of him at the time and can assure you that he died instantly, and must have suffered no pain. I am sure that it will be some consolation to you to know that he died doing his duty bravely, and his platoon all feel his loss very much. Please accept my deepest sympathy in your great loss.”
Lieut Martin writing to Mrs Michelmore on 7 August says: “Your husband was in the trenches at the time with the regiment we had been in about four days. I was out with your husband on a working party in front of our trenches and we were crawling along.
He was just behind me when he was hit. I am sure he felt no pain as he just lay down and never moved. He was shot through the brain. I saw his body brought back and he was taken to a little graveyard st Richebourg St Vaast and properly buried. I sympathise very deeply with you, but nevertheless we are always proud of a man who does his duty and I am sure you will try and feel proud of him too.”
Private Michelmore leaves a widow and a son five months old. The greatest of sympathy has been extended to the widow, the widowed mother and his brothers and sisters, but they have a pardonable pride in the heroism of one who, seeing the path of duty, marched unflinchingly forward.’
|Born:||21 November 1882|
|Address:||Resident of Warminster|
|Next of Kin:||One of seven children of John and Virtue Michelmore, draper, boot and shoe merchant Modbury.|
|Remarks:||Aged 9 in 1891 census|
|Enlisted:||Enlisted at Warminster|
|Unit||2nd Bn, Duke of Edinburgh's (Wilts) Regt|
|Died On:||25th July 1915|
|Where Buried:||St Vasst Post Military Cemetery|
|Remarks||Modbury Infant School
Jan 1886-Apr 1889