Private Horace Arnold Willcocks
13429 2nd Bn., Leicestershire Regiment who died on 14 May 1918
Horace Arnold Willcocks, born in Oadby in 1888, was the son of George Willcocks, a shoe riveter and his wife Annie (nee Norman), a hosiery machinist. He had an older sister, Mary Ann born in 1887, who in 1901 was working as a circular-machine hand and a younger brother, George born in 1891.
In 1910 Horace married Sarah Clarke of Huncote, Leicestershire. On 2 April 1911 census the couple was living at 107 Bolton Road, Leicester with Horace working as a boot and shoe clicker. Their first child Emily May was not listed but was born 11 days later on 13 April. Horace and Sarah’s second daughter, Edith Annie Laurie was born on 27 October 1915.
Horace enlisted in the 2nd Battalion Leicestershire Regiment on 26 July 1915 and after six months of basic training he departed for Mesopotamia as part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force on 17 February 1916. His service in Mesopotamia was short however, and he was posted back to the UK as unfit for active service on 7 April. The reason given in his medical record is Tuberculosis, which he is thought to have contracted during his time in the region. Horace’s service record gives no detail of his time in Mesopotamia but it is likely that he was evacuated by hospital ship along the River Tigris to Basra. Conditions for the sick and injured in the Spring of 1916 were truly horrendous. There were no hospitals beyond Basra, medical supply lines failed and men were plagued by flies, blistering heat, dirty water and dysentery.
River steamer used to evacuate the sick and wounded along the River Tigris
British troops unload supplies in Mesopotamia 1916
On leaving Mesopotamia Horace service record appears to suggest that he was in India between 8 April and 18 May. However this could just indicate that he was listed as a member of the India Corps. The 2nd Leicesters along with the 51st and 53rd Sikh Regiments and the 56th Punjabi Rifles were part of the India Corps which had transferred to Mesopotamia in December 1915. It is possible that the boat which transferred Horace to England stopped off in India to return Indian troops but as his service record does not name a hospital ship this is difficult to confirm.
Horace landed on home soil 18 May 1916. A medical examination found that Horace’s ‘Sputum shows many Tubercular Bacilli. Has afternoon fever, night sweats. Partial consolidation middle lobe right lung. ?? over most of right side crackling, impaired resonance over whole right lung’
He was first posted to the 13th Leicester (Reserve) Battalion and then to the Labour Corps, 494th Coy (Leicester). But in his weakened state any work proved too strenuous and he was discharged as no longer physically fit for war service on the 23 July 1917. His age was given as 29 years and his home address as 34 Dunster Street, Leicester. His military character was described as good and it was stated that his disability was due to active service which meant that he was eligible for a war pension.
Extract of Horace’s medical report listing his symptoms and reason for release from active service
Silver War Badge
Horace was awarded the Silver War Badge, issued to honourably discharged soldiers whose wounds or disability rendered them incapable of further war service.
Horace Willcocks lost his fight with Tuberculosis on 14 May 1918, two years after contracting the disease.
No record has yet been found of Horace’s final resting place but he is Remembered with Honour on the memorial tablet in the Church of the Martyrs, Leicester, on the Oadby Council Senior School Memorial and on the Oadby War Memorial.
War Memorial in the Church of the Martyrs, Leicester
Oadby Council Senior School Memorial
Other Family Members
The Great War took a heavy toll from the Willcocks family. George Jnr, Horace’s younger brother was a Regular soldier in the 1st Battalion Leicestershire Regiment. He was part of the first wave of men to leave with the British Expeditionary Force in August 1914 and was the second man from Oadby to be killed in action on 23 October 1914. Mary Ann’s husband Arthur Illston, also a Regular in the 1st Leicesters was killed in September 1915 and sadly their son George died at sea during the Second World War.
Horace’s widow, Sarah, was awarded Horace’s war gratuity of £9 and a widow’s pension. She never remarried and remained at 34 Dunster Street, Leicester. In 1939 she was sharing the house with her 87 year old mother Emma Clarke and was working as a domestic servant. She died in Leicester in 1972.
In 1939 Emily May Willcocks was working as a hosiery machinist when she married Donald AC Reeves a grocery assistant. The couple moved to Plot 59, Birchtree Avenue, Barrow-upon-Soar.
The same year Edith Ann Laurie Wilcocks married 27 year old James E Wheatley, a heavy goods transport contractor. At the time James was also a volunteer ARP driver.