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Ernest George Horlock VC

This is David Hopkins’ report on Langrish’s second VC, Sergeant Ernest George Horlock, who won his medal in the Battle of the Marne in August 1914, but died at sea in 1917.

 

Ernest George Horlock was awarded the Victoria Cross on 25th November 1914. The citation in the London Gazette reads: “For conspicuous gallantry on September 15th, 1914, near Vendresse, when his battery was in action under heavy shell fire, in that, although twice wounded, he persisted on each occasion in returning to lay his gun after his wound had been dressed.”

Horlock was born on 24 October 1885 at Beech Farm, Alton. He and his parents, John and Emily Horlock, moved to Langrish around 1911 his farther being a carter and mother a laundress on the Talbot-Ponsonby estate. They lived on the estate at Laundry Cottage

In February In 1903, at the age of 18, Horlock joined the regular army. He trained at Woolwich and Larkhill and by the outbreak of World War I had achieved the rank of Bombardier.

He was posted to the 113th Battery Royal Field Artillery and in late August 1914, equipped with 18 pounder artillery pieces, embarked for France. On 15th September 1914, at Vendresse in France, engaged in the Battle of the Marne, the 113th came under heavy shell fire whilst trying to retreat to Mons. He was posted to the 113th Battery Royal Field Artillery and in late August 1914, engaged in the Battle of the Marne, the 113th came under heavy shell fire at Vendresse,   whilst trying to retreat to Mons.

Family memories recount that Horlock was called the soldier who ‘defied the doc’. Twice, Horlock was ordered to the army hospital by doctors for treatment, but he chose to ignore these orders and returned to his gun. He remained with his gun until it was finally blown up, and he was carried away from the scene. Ten of his comrades had been killed in the action. On the third occasion that Ernest George Horlock was injured, it is reported that he again refused to see a doctor because he was ‘scared of getting a rocket’ for having disobeyed doctors’ orders and continued to fight. Sometime later, by December, he had been promoted to Sergeant.

When King George V visited the Front on 3rd December, 1914 he decorated Horlock with the Victoria Cross, a purse of gold and a gold signet ring with his name, number and battery inscribed on it.

His heroism was subsequently so celebrated that he even appeared on contemporary playing and cigarette cards.

His bravery and Victoria Cross did not go unnoticed in the locality. Horlock was taken on a parade in a landau through the streets of Petersfield, pulled by members of the local fire brigade,. Many local dignitaries turned out for this occasion, which culminated in many speeches, which included the Vicar of Langrish and Lord Peel of East Meon. He was also awarded a gold ring (right) by Lord Peel which he subsequently used as his wedding ring.

In November 1916 Horlock was promoted to Battery Sergeant Major. He was subsequently posted to Egypt. Sadly on 30th December 1917, just two months after his marriage to Ethel Halsted he was torpedoed whilst on the troop ship SS Aragon voyaging from Marseille to Alexandria. He survived the sinking, but when he and other soldiers had been rescued by the escorting destroyer HMS Attack, she too was torpedoed, Horlock was one of the 600 who did not survive.

Ernest George Horlock is buried at Hadra War Memorial Cemetery, Alexandria and his name appears on the war memorials in the Royal Artillery Chapel, Woolwich and in St. John’s church in Langrish. On 16th November, 2014 an inscribed paving slab was added to these memorials, and blessed, identical to another recently laid at the War Memorial at Alton, the town of his birth.

It was dedicated by the Reverend Jane Ball, Vicar of East Meon and the service was attended by members of Ernest Horlock’s family, some of the Horlock Troop of the Royal Artillery (recently returned from Afghanistan and based at Larkhill), and parishioners. His achievements were celebrated at a reception given by Nigel Talbot -Ponsonby in his ancestral home at Langrish House, where Horlock and his family were originally employed and lived on the estate of Nigel’s forbears. The memorial has now been erected for posterity in a gable end of “Hanger View” (the home of Mr John Harris) the southern portion of Laundry Cottage where Horlock and his family lived.