The 1911 census returns for Crediton Hamlets show that Fred Horn was born in 1884, in Okehampton. The 1891 census for Winkleigh showed his birth in Meldon, but this had been corrected to Okehampton. This return showed his mother as Eliza Horn: her son Fred was illegitimate and therefore took the surname of his mother. Eliza's birthplace is given as Sowton (Sourton) which is very close to the hamlet of Meldon, both places being in the Okehampton registration district.
In 1904 Fred was married to Alma, who had been born in Winkleigh, and was the same age as Fred. The 1911 census for Crediton shows Fred and Alma living at Pit Farm in Hollocombe hamlet (near Crediton) with three children, all born in Winkleigh, Eveline aged 6, Frederick James aged 4 and Arthur John aged 2. His wife, née Alma Wonnacott, appears in the 1901 Drewsteignton census aged 18 working as a housemaid in the house of William Ponsford J.P. Going back further, the 1891 Winkleigh census shows a Mary Wollacott, a widow aged 77, born in Coldridge, living on Parochial Relief, with two grand-daughters, Blanch and Alma, aged 10 and 7 respectively, both born in Winkleigh.
Fred enlisted in the Devon Militia in 1901, aged 17. He was working at that time for Mr. Cornall at Exeview Farm, Cowley Bridge, Exeter. For a young man this was an excellent way of finding a more active and interesting life, combined with regular army pay and plenty of sport at the annual camp. On the attestation document Fred's mother is listed as Eliza Horn and his stepfather as Henry Wonnacott. After a period of drill training he attended annual camps up to 1906, and then is recorded as 'Time Expired 1/02/07'. This record is very much in line with the overall history of the Rifle Volunteers in Devon.
No less than 5 battalions of Rifle Volunteers were formed in Devon as a result of the Childers reforms of 1881, which reorganised the infantry regiments of the British army into 2 'lines', i.e. regular army battalions per county, and 2 or more milita battalions. Fred enlisted into the 4th Devon Militia Battalion, based in Exeter. The enlistment was for 6 years. In 1907, coinciding with Fred's termination of his militia service, the whole system of reserves was reorganised again by the Territorial and Reserve Forces Act with the intention of creating a Special Reserve that would act as a reservoir of trained replacement drafts for each of the two regular army battalions in any future war. However, with this in mind, only about 60% of the old Militia transferred to the new Special Reserve, and Fred was not one of them. The problem was not only the thought of possible compulsory service overseas in the event of war, but also the terms of service: 6 months basic training on recruitment and 3-4 weeks training annually - a vastly different prospect from the old Militia which was formed solely for possible home defence duties. From 1907 until 1914 therefore Fred's military career was over.
It was to be resumed again in 1914 when Fred enlisted once again in the Devons, this time in Kitchener's New Army. Attached to this site is a general account of the raising of this new volunteer force. K3 was authorized in September 1914 to raise a further 6 Divisions. Fred joined at this early stage when 'K3' was being formed: he joined the 10th Battalion of the Devons. Officers and senior NCO's were obtained from the Devons' Old Comrades Association and retired NCO's of the Regiment - none of whom, of course, were able to accompany the battalion overseas, but who at least provided the basis for an initial training programme. Unlike the 8th and 9th Battalions of the New Army, the 10th were not graded as 'Army Troops' but were allotted as part of a 'Western Brigade' to the 26th Division. 200 recruits were collected at Exeter and were added to 500 more from Taunton and went into tents at Stockton Camp to the West of Salisbury when the 26th Division was gradually collecting. There was very little indeed in the way of uniforms or equipment in the early days, (a knife and fork each but no spoon!). Driven out of camp in November by rain and mud, the Division was re-housed very comfortably in billets in Bath, when the first uniforms began to arrive, but as yet no rifles. The first transport arrived in March and in April the battalion marched 21 miles to Sutton Verney where the 26th Division was concentrating, the 10th Devons now part of the 79th Brigade. Training could now begin in earnest.
On 20th September 1915 the first detachments of the 10th Devons left Warminster for Southampton, to embark for France. 26 Officers and 834 other ranks embarked on 22nd from Folkstone to Boulogne, and immediately moved by rail and on foot to near Amiens on 25th, the opening day of the battle of Loos. Next day the 79th Brigade moved to Cachy to continue training. Then, suddenly, on October 30th, just as the 10th had moved to be attached for front line training with 1st Devons, orders were received that the battalion was destined for Salonika. On 10th November the battalion entrained for Marseilles, arriving on 13th. Utter confusion reigned on the quay, and finally the battalion embarked on two ships, a transport and an old battleship. The transport and the Lewis gun section were left behind, and only caught up over 3 weeks later, Six British Divisions were eventually sent to Salonika but by late 1915 all chance of assisting Serbia in the war with Bulgaria had long gone. Future intentions were unknown, their position uncertain on Greek soil, and no definite orders were forthcoming. Most of the artillery was still missing, there was no transport for 3 weeks, hardly any ammunition was available and the battalion was hit with a blizzard with temperatures 10 degrees below zero.
The first three months of 1916 saw complete inaction and boredom, the 10th employed on road making. At the end of March the battalion moved up to the front line near Langaza Lake, employed in trench construction. June saw a return to rather more pleasant garrison duty in Salonica, but the summer brought malaria and dysentery and many were invalided. In an attempt to justify the British presence in Salonika, it was decided in July to move the line nearer to Lake Doirran, North and North-East of Salonika along the right bank of the Struma and its tributary the Butkova, to relieve the French troops. The 10th found themselves six miles South of Doirran town. In front of them were lower hills interspersed with nullas, and beyond that were the higher ranges, forming the main Bulgarian position of the formidable Petit Couronne Ridge. The 10th Devons faced the highest point of all, 'P Ridge', with a position known as 'La Morte Homme', linked posts and well defended. An advanced line was dug in preparation for an attack, and occupied by 'A' and 'B' Companies, virtually untouched by Bulgarian shelling. In action at last, on August 22nd a disorganised Bulgarian attack was safely repulsed by the 10th causing many enemy casualties. From September to October 1916 the 10th remained in position, two companies in the line, two in support, but sadly both ravaged by malaria and dysentery. There was skirmishing in no man's land, but the Bulgarian army was disorganised and fighting was desultory, the enemy naturally preferring to remain behind their own defences.
The Bulgarian defences were in fact impregnable. Drafts continued to arrive to make up sickness losses and the occasional casualties, and plans were made to break into the Bulgarian defences between Lake Doirran and the Vardar, thus opening up the possibility of a general advance into Bulgaria. However, the Bulgarian deep trenches and dug outs contained at least two well-sited machine guns and a persistent trench mortar that our artillery failed to dislodge. It was decided to test the defences with a series of raids. The attached map shows the Devons' position opposite the Petit Couronne on the left of the Jumeaux Ravine, the position consisting of two humps, 04 and 05. The whole hill was heavily wired, and covered with a network of trenches, with dug-outs and a trench mortar. The Devons front line trenches led down into the Jumeaux Ravine, some 15 feet wide, a raging torrent in times of rain and fatal if caught in a barrage. To emerge, the Tor Ravine cliff could be climbed only in single file, but at the other end the Green Pan was shallower and large rocks offered cover. Both routes were to be used, capturing both 03 and 04. The raid took place on the night of 11th-12th February: unfortunately, the Bulgarians were expecting it, word having got out in Salonika. 'B' and 'C' Companies managed to get up the Green Pan, stormed 03 and pushed on to 04. 'A' Company, scaling the ravine to 04 could only carry two bombs each and limited ammunition, and these were soon exhausted, making it difficult to resist counter-attacks. In the end, left only with their bayonets, 'B' and 'C' were forced to retire and then 'A' and 'D', taking most but not all of their wounded, and shattered further by a heavy barrage. Some 600 men had taken part in the attack, and about one quarter were casualties, 32 men killed or missing, 96 wounded.
The 10th remained in the line until March 25th, followed by three weeks in reserve. The Allied Headquarters prepared a summer offensive for an attack on the Doiran-Vardar front: despite British objections the French were determined to hurl two British Divisions against the Bulgarian's best troops and well-defended positions, with inadequate artillery and no support. Once again, the Devons' objective was Petit Couronne, attacked this time from Rockley and Sidbury Hills and to be held, not raided. The battalion assembled in the Green Pan for the night attack on 24th April. Climbing the ravine, the barrage descended on them splitting rocks greatly increasing the terrible casualties. One shell alone practically eliminated battalion headquarters, but 04 was stormed by 'A' and 'D'. Sadly, 'B' and 'C' had been almost wiped out and 05 could not be taken. Lower down the ravine the barrage brought further havoc and there were neither reinforcements nor further supplies forthcoming, and all positions were abandoned. It had all been for nothing.
When the survivors gathered, only 200 answered their names from the 650 who had made the attack. Nearly every officer was killed or wounded, 300 men were wounded and some 150 killed or missing. The remnants retired to a line 8 miles East of Lake Doiran, far distant from any Bulgarians. Here they stayed until July, reinforced by drafts from the Buffs and Royal Fusiliers, while stalemate returned to the whole front.
Beyond doubt Fred was seriously wounded at one of the above actions, though no surviving evidence can reveal which one. Pension records show his disability: gun-shot wounds (i.e. shell fragments) in both legs, and an amputation of his right thigh. Fred would have been picked up and taken by horse-drawn ambulance back to the Salonika base camp, via a Casualty Clearing Station, and thence to one of the 18 General and Stationary Hospitals in Salonika. We do not know at which stage the amputation took place. A hospital ship brought Fred back to England or perhaps first to Alexandria. There would have been a lengthy convalescence and ultimately a return to the 10th Battalion Headquarters in Exeter. Here he was transferred to the 8th Devons, the two battalions sharing the same barracks. Fred was finally discharged on 19th August 1918, and the commencement of his pension recorded as 20th.
The pension allowance from 15th January 1920 to 14th March 1922 was 32/- per week for himself and 28/6 for his wife and their four children, a total of £3.0 6d. Astonishingly, this was reduced on 15th March 1922 to a mere 24/- per week for Fred and 21/4d for wife and children. An appeal to the Tribunal was made, because 3 days later there was a slight increase to 28/- for Fred and 24/10d for his wife and 4 children, and this time made permanent with 'formal notification sent'. No further appeals were to be made. Clearly, in the so-called 'land fit for heroes' the post-war government of Lloyd George's coalition was a very mean place for its returning war-wounded heroes.
Fred was awarded the Mons Star medal (given to all who had been in combat before the end of 1915) together with the War Medal and the Victory Medal. He was also awarded the Silver Star war Badge Medal (often referred to as 'the wounds medal'. He returned to live in Thresher Street, Crediton, hopefully continuing light duties at Pitt Farm. His death is recorded as in 1958 in Exeter.
12 January 2019