Hunting Men Lost in the Great War


Posted on Sunday, November 6, 2016
In: Articles
Written by: Peter Brook
Hunt: , ,

Since this weekend is Remembrance Sunday we have reproduced some of the records that appeared in the annual editions of BHD during the 1914-18 war.
During the ‘Great War’ Baily’s contained brief details of hunt staff subscribers and supporters that had fallen during the conflict so please spare a few minutes thought for those hunting men and women that gave so much so that we could have the freedom to enjoy our hounds and horses.
Most hunting people will know of the artist and illustrator, Cecil Aldin, however you may not be aware that he lost his son Dudley during the conflict, the record in BHD is brief stating simply that:-
Aldin,2nd Lieut. Dudley Cecil, aged 19, only son of Mr. Cecil Aldin, the well-known artist. To followers of the South Berks Hunt, of which his father is the Master, he was well known as a fine horseman.
However, further research into the story of his short life reveals that as a result of his father’s Mastership of the South Berks he lived at the kennels and enlisted becoming Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers.
Lieutenant Aldin was a member of the 105th Field Company and had spent six months in France when he was killed in action on Vimy Ridge 15th May 1916. His company was attached to the 74th Brigade, 25th Division and was working with detachments of the 11th Lancashire Fusiliers and 9th Loyal North Lancs Regiment. One of their key duties was tunnelling to extend the British trench system towards the enemy lines by linking up bomb craters and consolidating the lips of trenches after bombardments and it was during one of these daring engagements that Dudley Aldin was killed.
The Barclay name is very well regarded in hunting circles but few people will be aware of the bravery of young, Major G. W. Barclay M.C. of the Rifle Brigade. The son of Mr. E. E. Barclay and brother of Major M. E. Barclay, the Joint-Masters of the Puckeridge. Major Barclay had been Master of the Eton pack and also of the Trinity Beagles at Cambridge. He Served through the retreat from Mons and all the earlier battles of the Great War from August 1914 until seriously wounded at Ypres in July, 1915. Having recovered he returned to the Front in March 1916 and after many months of hard fighting was killed in action 28th July 1916.
A keen follower and subscriber to the Atherstone, Lieut.-Col. G. H. Fowler was a member of a Territorial unit called the Sherwood Forester’s which was the first complete Territorial Division to embark for France. Lieut.-Col. Fowler was apparently well known and liked by his men. He allowed his Elephant gun to be used with a sniperscope something that seemed “to cause the enemy considerable annoyance”, and notes recorded at the time reported “we were able on one or two occasions to make good practice with Col. Fowlers Elephant Gun against some of the enemys loophole plates”. In addition “It is also reported that Col. Fowler with characteristic unselfishness, gave his rifle to an Officer who had a bayonet, but no rifle to put it on” Lieut.-Col. Fowler was killed by a sniper during preparations for the the assault on the Hohenzollern Redoubt.
As an aside, research revealed that several senior staff officers visited the units to wish them luck prior to the assault mentioned above and one, Lieutenant Colonel T. F. Waterhouse the commanding officer of the 1/6th South Staffords, recalled in his diary what happened when his battalion received one such visitor:
‘A very senior officer of the Staff concluded his address of farewell to the Battalion with the following words, which have never been forgotten: “… And I shall watch the future career of the 6th South Staffords with the greatest interest and sympathy. Now, where is my car?”
Not all those recorded by Baily’s were officers, or even subscribers to British packs a fact which brings us to Trooper D. B. Gorrie
Donald Buckland Gorrie was a very active member of the Pakuranga (N. Z.) Hunt Club who was training to be an auctioneer until he volunteered to join up shortly after the war broke out. Having enlisted, he embarked for Palestine on the vessel Manuka leaving behind a wife and five year old daughter He was part of the 17th Reinforcements New Zealand Mounted Rifles a role in which he felt his riding skills could be used to the full. Instead, he found himself on the way to Egypt as a member of the Imperial Camel (N.Z.) Corps who were fighting in Palestine where he was killed near Jerusalem
Baily’s does not just record those who enlisted in the forces but there are also brief notes mentioning civilian staff that lost their lives during the conflict. One of these was Hugh F Malcolmson of whom the brief note states “killed with shell while working with French Red Cross ; bred bloodstock in Ireland ; first-class man to hounds with the Meaths and the Wards, and twice won the Ward Union Hunt Cup.”
Research reveals that Hugh Malcolmson was part of a Scottish contingent but served as a driver in an ambulance unit comprised of civilian volunteers from the U.K Thus, this Scottish unit carried an official French designation, ‘Convoi de lEcosse No. 1 Sections Sanitaires Automobiles.No20’. The unit served the French wounded through an on-going arrangement negotiated by the British Committee of the Croix Rouge Francaise placing these sections under French military control in the field.
Finally we know hunting people are brave and hardy individuals but few could match Lieutenant Henry Webber, the oldest known battle death of the First World War who was a member of the Surrey Staghounds and died of wounds received at Mametz Wood on July 21, 1916 aged 68.
Henry Webber was a J.P. for Surrey, a member of the Surrey County Council, honorary treasurer of the local Cottage Hospital, and for many years a churchwarden of the parish church and was a member of the London Stock Exchange for over 40 years. On the outbreak of war he naturally took a prominent part in the recruiting campaign. But this was not enough. He had already offered his services to the War Office as a rough-rider ‘or in any other capacity.’ But because of his age this was rejected by the War Office, he tried very hard with others to form a mounted company of hunting men. Again baffled by the War Office he set to work to get a commission. He was within a few weeks of celebrating his 68th birthday when he was at length gazetted on 1 May 1916 to the South Lancashire Regiment, ‘victorious after a strenuous fight with the WO.’ as he himself expressed it. Thanks to his knowledge of horses he was appointed Transport Officer to the 7th Battalion, when at the end of May, after a short training at Park Royal, he proceeded to France.
With his Battalion he took part in the opening phases of the first Battle of the Somme, including the capture of La Boisselle on 3 July 1916.
Perhaps best way to appreciate the life of this extraordinary man is perhaps to recollect a sentence from his last letter home
“I am so far extraordinarily fit and well, though, when I tell you that for four consecutive days I was either on my feet or in the saddle for twenty one hours, out of twenty four, you will see that there is a bit of work attached to the job”
May they all enjoy eternal peace and perhaps the odd bye day hunting St Peters Hounds

Tags: , ,