Sunday, November 01, 2015

164345 Gunner Arthur Horscraft, RGA

Gunner Arthur Horscraft, RGA, is first mentioned in Chailey Parish Magazine in December 1917.  The following month he is noted as serving with A[nti] A[ircraft] A[rtillery].  His final entry, still serving with AAA is in December 1918. 

Arthur Horscraft was born in Fletching on 21st September 1888.  By the time the 1901 census was taken he was living at Mill Field, Newick with his family.  The household comprised Thomas Horscraft (a 47 year old baker working from home), his wife Caroline (nee Johnson, aged 38) and three children: Percy Basil Horscaft (aged 14), Arthur Horscraft (aged 12) and Lily Dorothy Horscraft (aged 10).  Both the boys worked for their father. 

Arthur had six older sisters who are not noted at the Newick address on the 1901 census return.  In age order they were: Florence Fanny Horscraft (born 1877 in Newick), Charlotte Constance Horscraft (born 1878 in Newick), Alice Caroline Horscraft (born 1880 in Newick), Rose Horscraft (born 1881 in Burgess Hill, Sussex), Mabel Horscraft (born 1882 in Burgess Hill) and Ida Horscraft (born 1885 in Farnham, Surrey). 

On 6th November 1915, Arthur married Edith Winifred Packham (born 23rd October 1894) and in May 1917, their first child was born at their home in Meeching Road, Denton, Newhaven, East Sussex 

According to notes kept by Arthur’s old headmaster, John Oldaker of Newick school, Arthur enlisted in the Royal Garrison Artillery on 2nd June 1917.  His brother Percy had enlisted in the Royal Navy on 21st June 1916 and was serving aboard HMS Torrent.  

Later, Arthur sent John Oldaker a photograph of himself which had been taken on 26th July 1917 (above). On the back of it he wrote: 

Taken at Shoeburyness, Essex
No 164345 Gunr A Horscraft
Stoke Battery
Nr Plymouth

Dear Mr Oldaker 

I thought I would take this opportunity of sending you one of my photos and I was in London a few Sundays ago and met Percy there.  He told me had given you one of himself and also told me you were collecting all of the old school boys.  I’m glad to say I’m getting on alright and having good health, I hope all of your family are quite well, also Mrs Oldaker and yourself. We are now at Devonport but we shall not be here for long.  Have been at Derby also and Shoeburyness and Abbey Wood, Kent and now at Devonport.  Kind regards to all of your family, I remain 

Yours sincerely, A Horscraft 

Surviving postcards of Arthur in military uniform (his RGA shoulder title clearly visible in one photo), reveal that he was certainly wearing khaki by 26th July 1917.  On 16th November 1917 he was stationed at Invergordon, Rosshire but by 12th January 1918 he was back with his family.  Chailey Parish Magazine, usually so prompt with its announcements of local men who joined the colours, does not appear to have picked up on the fact that Arthur had joined up for at least five months.  By this stage though, he was not a local man anymore.  Living in Newhaven, the news must have filtered back late. 

The National Archives does not hold any medal cards for a Royal Garrison Artilleryman named Arthur Horscraft but there is a card for an Arthur Horscroft which gives the service number Arthur notes above. 

Arthur survived the war and returned home to Denton, Newhaven where he and Edith had six more children including triplets born in 1929.  He died in Denton on 8th March 1971.  Edith died eight years later in 1979. 
My thanks to Simon Stevens for the information from John Oldaker's album; also to Sue Hankins and Pauline Wicks for assisting me with information about their great uncle Arthur.  The photograph above was taken at Invergordon in November 1917 and is reproduced with Pauline Wicks’ permission

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