Private Horner Thwaites (Cox) South Lancashire Regiment. Service number 16955.
Horner Thwaites was born at Keighley in 1893, his parents were George Thwaites and Mary Thwaites née Cook. They registered his birth in the third quarter of the year.
In the 1901 census Horner was seven years old and living in 8, Malt Street at Ingrow, part of Keighley's South Ward. He was in a large family, being one of eight children. Their names were George, Tom, James, Clara, Horner, Arthur, Bertha and Minnie Their father George was a worsted loom painter, probably for one of the machinery manufacturers in the Town.
In 1910, Horner was in trouble with the law for stealing 'growing fruit.' He was convicted at Bingley West Riding Court and sentenced to six months Borstal treatment. His sentence was to last until 12th January 1911, but with remission it expired on 14th December 1910. He was described as 17 years old, 5 feet 1.5 inches tall and had brown hair. He had a class II education and his occupation was Millhand and his religion, Church of England.
We have not found Horner in the 1911 census, but some of his family were living at 15, Britannia Street in Keighley. It's likely he didn't return home after being released, perhaps he was living rough.
At the age of 19 in 1912, he appeared at Keighley Court for his alleged involvement with William Gillard in the theft of a pair of boots (belonging to William's father) which had later been sold to a local boot repair shop on High Street which was owned by James Griffiths of 24, Edensor Road. Horner pleaded not guilty but William Gillard pleaded guilty. Horner's charge was dismissed and Gillard was bound over for six months.
Horner enlisted with the 8th Battalion Duke of Wellington's West Riding Regiment (service number 11085) in Keighley on 21st August 1914 aged 21 years and 83 days (this means he was born on, or very close to 30th May 1893) He was working as a labourer at the time. He was transferred to the 9th Battalion four days later and discharged on 28th November 1914, having served 100 days. His next of kin was his father George Thwaites, living at 9b Browsholme Street in Keighley (which still exists today) Horner was described as 133 lbs weight, 5 feet 3 and 3/4 inches tall, with a 33 inch chest measurement. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair. His religious denomination was Church of England.
The Army explained his discharge by stating he became non-effective by: 'Being an undesirable, on account of conduct & thus unlikely to make an efficient soldier.'
On 22nd February 1915 he enlisted again, at Bradford under the name Horner Cox, this time with the South Lancashire Regiment and the service number 16955. He was 20 years and 268 days old and an iron work labourer.
He lied about his previous service, stating that he was born in Burnley and that he had not previously served in any branch of His Majesty's forces. Horner gave his mother Mary Thwaites' details as his next of kin, living at 7, Browsholme Street off Heber Street in Keighley.
He went to the Warrington depot the next day and was posted to the 7th Battalion on 27th February. On 3rd March 1915 he was awarded 48 hours field punishment number 2 for insolence to an NCO when at recruits drill and using obscene language.
He absented himself on 1st April 1915 and was struck off strength as a deserter on 18th May 1915 under King's Regulations, paragraph b78. On 17th September 1915 whilst with the 10th Battalion, he enlisted with the Royal Naval Division at Leeds and obtained a free kit valued at £4 14s 11d. He was tried by District Court Martial on 7th February 1916 for being absent and for fraudulent enlistment. He was sentenced to 6 months detention and placed on stoppages to repay the sum of £3 9s 4d.
On 4th August 1916 he made an improper reply to an NCO and received 7 days field punishment number 2, then on 12th August he was found guilty of improper conduct on parade and received another 7 days field punishment number two. During this punishment period, for 'irregular conduct' he was given a further three days because
On 21st August he absented himself without leave from tattoo until surrendering himself to the Railway Transport Officer at Euston Station in London at 10.45 am on 26th August. On 29th August he was awarded 14 days field punishment number two. His court martial for these offences took place on 3rd November, for desertion and losing by neglect (most of his uniform.) He was found guilty of all charges and sentenced to 9 months detention. This was later mitigated to 3 months detention, which began on 3rd November 1916. He also forfeited all previous service on conviction and his service now reckoned from 3rd November 1916.
Later, whilst serving with the 3rd Battalion on 25th January 1917, he was awarded 28 days detention for refusing to comply with an order. After this he was sent to the Base Depot with the Expeditionary Force in France as a Private, arriving on 3rd March 1917 and posted to the 2nd Battalion two days later on 5th March.
He received 10 days field punishment number one for using obscene language to an N.C.O.
Horner was killed in action on 7th June 1917, having served for 217 days. His body was lost and he has no known grave. He is remembered on the Menin Gate War Memorial at Ypres. Locally he is named in Keighley Great War Roll of Honour in Keighley Library.
8th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment War diary transcription:
1.6.17 and 2.6.17:
Bn. in camp at RAVELSBURG CAMP.
Bn. moved into bivouacs at 'Pioneer Camp. T.I.C.
4.6.17 9.30 p.m.:
Bn. moved in Assembly trenches. 'CRESCENT TRENCH.'
7.6.17 AND 8.6.17:
Attack MESSINES RIDGE between "MESSINES and WYTSHCAETE."
Officers. Killed, 1. Wounded, 6. Missing, 0.
Casualties during operations.
Other ranks. Killed, 25. Wounded, 118. Missing, 16.
REPORT ON OPERATIONS 6th/10th JUNE 1917.
In accordance with operation orders, the Battalion under the command of Major E.R.S. Prior M.C. moved off from the forward area camp at T.1.d. at 9.30 p.m. to take up its position in the Assembly Formation at CRESCENT TRENCH.
On arriving in the vicinity of the Assembly Trench, the Battalion came under the enemy artillery fire and lost one Lewis Gun and several men filing into the trench.
Whilst in the Assembly Trench, the Battalion was subject to lachrymatory shells, and for most of the time every one had to wear his box-respirator, but there were no casualties.
At Zero hour plus 45 minutes, the Battalion commenced its advance passing through 7th and 74th Brigades at its appointed hours. 'A', 'B', & 'D' Companies then captured their objective on the BLACK LINE pushing out patrols which enabled them to capture 4 machine guns and numerous prisoners.
Two hours later 'C' Company anvancing in conjunction with 36th Division, captured the remaining portion of the BLACK LINE. This Company was held up by machine gun fore from LUMM FARM, which was eventually assaulted and captured, taking two machine guns, one minenwerfer and more prisoners. Lewis Guns were pushed out well in front of the position which was then consolidated and wired. The Battalion was subject to very heavy shell fire on several occasions.
During the operation the Battalion suffered the following casualties:-
Officers. Killed, 1. Wounded, 6.
Other ranks. Killed, 21. Wounded, 108. Missing, 19.
In the early hours the Battalion was relieved by the 3rd Worcesters, and returned to rest in the neighbourhood of NEUVE EGLISE.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission database has details of 33 men from the 8th Battalion South Lancashire Regiment who died on 7th June 1917 and a further 5 men died on the 8th June 1917. Total for that attack was 38 so some of these men would be likely to be from the list of missing soldiers. Wounded soldiers who died of wounds on that day would be likely to be buried near to a field ambulance unit or a hospital.
Of the total 38 men killed 29 are named on the Menin Gate, so these are likely to be the ones who went missing on the 7th, including Private Horner Cox.
We have reproduced a list of his offences, not to highlight them but because there are so many it is confusing and hard to follow.
Date - Age - Offence - Sentence
13 Jul 1910 - 17 - stealing fruit - 3 months borstal
17 May 1913 - 19 stealing boots - acquitted
28 Nov 1914 - 21 - Undesirable - Discharged from Army
22 Feb 1915 - 20 - Lied about age and previous enlistment
3 Mar 1915 - 21 - Insolence and obscene language - 48 Hours FP no. 2
1 Apr 1915 - 22 - Absent without leave
18 May 1915 - 22 - Declared a deserter
17 Sep 1915 - 22 - Enlisted with Royal Naval Division - District Court Martial
7 Feb 1916 - 23 - ^ For the above offences - 6 months detention
4 Aug 1916 - 23 - Improper reply to an NCO - 7 days FP no. 2
12 Aug 1916 - 23 - Improper conduct on parade 7 days FP no. 2
21 Aug 1916 - 23 - Absent without leave - (Surrendered to Railway Transport Officer) - 3 days extra FP no. 2
3 Nov 1916 - 23 - Desertion and losing his uniform by neglect - District Court Martial
^ For the above offences ^ - 3 months detention and forfeited previous service entitlement
25 Jan 1917 - 23 - Refusing to comply with an order - 28 days detention
5 Mar 1917 - 24 - Using obscene language to an NCO - 10 days FP no. 1
After the war:
His mother was issued with a memorial plaque in August 1920 in the name of Horner Cox and would also have received any personal effects and his medals, which were the British War Medal and Victory Medal. She later received a war gratuity of £3. and a pension of 5 shillings a week was paid to Horner's father.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915
1901 England Census
West Yorkshire, England, Prison Records, 1801-1914
UK, British Army World War I Pension Records 1914-1920
UK, British Army World War I Service Records, 1914-1920
Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
UK, Army Registers of Soldiers' Effects, 1901-1929
UK, World War I Pension Ledgers and Index Cards, 1914-1923
UK, British Army World War I Medal Rolls Index Cards, 1914-1920
UK, World War I Service Medal and Award Rolls, 1914-1920
Keighley News archives, at Keighley Library
Keighley's Great War roll of honour book, at Keighley Library