Horace Wellesley Muir

Rank Second Lieutenant
Service No Unknown
Date of Death 24/04/1917
Age 33
Regiment/Service Bedfordshire Regiment 4th Battalion
Memorial Arras Memorial. This commemorates over 35,000 casualties of the British, New Zealand and South African Forces who died between Spring 1916 and 7 August 1918, excluding casualties of the Battle of Cambrai in 1917, and who have no known grave.

 

Horace Wellesley Muir was born on 18th June 1883 in Norwood, south London, to George (1855-1908), a stocks and shares dealer, and Flora (1852-1892), nee Squires. In 1891 the family were living in Mitcham and the household included Flora's father, James Squires, and their children: Horace, Flora (b.1880), Nora (b.1882), Dora (b.1886) and Iris (b.1891), as well as a cook and domestic servant. His father and siblings were living in Lambeth in 1901, by which time Horace had completed his education at Aldenham School in Hertfordshire and was employed in the South African constabulary. He served for 5 years from January 1901 to January 1906, being awarded a medal with 5 bars. His sister, Flora, found employment as a governess to the Henderson's of Camberwell.

Horace returned from South Africa in March 1906 and sometime thereafter he moved to Canada, where he worked as a rancher. At the outbreak of war he joined the Elliott's Horse, a body of men raised privately in Victoria, British Columbia, by R.T. Elliott, KC. This was a free-lance cavalry unit, composed of five officers and seventy-eight men, most of whom were seasoned veterans. While not forming part of the Canadian Expeditionary Force, they travelled on the SS Letitia leaving Montreal on 31st October and arriving in Glasgow on 9th November. Horace was appointed to the special reserve of officers in mid-November and served with the Royal Canadian Dragoons from 26th November 1914 until 24th October 1915. He was initially based in Salisbury but in April 1915 he was transferred to Shorncliffe, a staging post, near Folkestone, for troops destined for the Western Front, where he was based at the Canadian Training Division. On 4th May, he left for France. Thereafter Horace was part of the Commonwealth forces in France and Flanders. For the latter part of his time with the Canadians he was in a machine gun section.

On 24th October 1915 Horace was discharged from the Canadian Army and on 19th November 1915 he became a Second Lieutenant (on probation) with the Bedfordshire Regiment.

In early 1917, Horace's battalion was involved in the continuing Operations on the Ancre, specifically at the actions at Miraumont in February. During the Second Battle of the Scarpe (part of the Battle of Arras), Horace's division were ordered to assault German positions around Gavrelle on 23rd April. Due to their sheer tenacity, the operation went down in the annuls of the divisional history. Almost 300 Bedfordshires became casualties during their determined operations, including Horace and two fellow officers, who were killed on 24th April 1917. At first he was listed as missing, believed killed. The War Office asked the Netherlands legation to circulate his details to all hospitals and internment camps in Germany but by early November 1917 no report had been received as to his whereabouts so his name was put forward for presumption of death.

There was a prolonged dispute between the War Office and his sister, Mrs Nora Gray, of 7 Holly Park, Finchley, who considered herself his next of kin, as to whether Horace's membership of 'the Elliott's horse' meant that he was in active military service and thus the will which he had signed while part of the group was valid. The War Office argued 'the Elliott's force' was a private group and so, as they concluded that the will was invalid, they wanted to split his estate between all four of his sisters in accordance with the law of intestacy. Nora's husband John, who worked for the British Linen Bank at 38 Threadneedle Street in the City of London, engaged in extensive correspondence with the War Office, on behalf of his wife, whom he had married in 1906, to resolve the matter in her favour. Probate was finally granted on 18th September 1918 and Horace's estate of £66 14s 3d was given to Nora. It would seem that Horace's connection to Finchley is through Nora, who lived less than half a mile from St Luke's Church in Mountfield Road.

Horace's sister, Dora, married Thomas Downie in November 1917 at St James, Alperton, in the London Borough of Brent, having been widowed earlier that year, and emigrated to Quebec, Canada, in 1927.

Horace was among 160 pupils of Aldenham School who died in the First World War. In 1924 a Memorial Library was opened at the school by Lord Buckmaster (1861-1934), a lawyer and Liberal politician, who had served as Lord Chancellor from 1915 to 1916.