Private 826 Horace Thomas Gittins

 Gittins Horace 96 340x580Gittins Horace Lochnagar 96-580
Pictured on the right is Horace's commemoration plaque on Lochnagar Crater pathway (Plank Reference J.42). Courtesy of Friends of Lochnagar Crater.

Killed in Action on Saturday, 1st July 1916, age 23.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 1 C of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

10th Bn., Lincolnshire Regiment. 101st Brigade of 34th Division.
Formerly 14435 South Staffordshire Regiment.

of Toll End Road, Ocker Hill, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Brierley Hill, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 9th January 1916.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Tipton Library, and St. Mark's memorials.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/748613/

Genealogical Data

Horace Gittins was born in Tipton in July 1892 to Mr Edward Gittins, a mine drainage inspector, and Mrs Emma Gittins, a newsagent, of 111 Toll End Road, Tipton.

1891 Census
111 Toll End Road, Tipton. This is next door to Callear family at 112.
Edward Gittins (32, Mine Drainage Inspector, born West Bromwich), his wife Emma (37, Newsagent, born Ocker Hill), and their 2 children: Harriet (7, born Ocker Hill) and Ethel (2, born Ocker Hill).

1901 Census
112 Toll End Road, Tipton. (Callear's old house)
Edward Gittins (42, Mine Drainage Inspector, born West Bromwich), his wife Emma (46, no occupation given, born Tipton), and their 3 children: Harriet (17, born Tipton) Ethel (12, born Tipton) Horace (8, born Tipton). I think Emma died 1908 (or 1911?).

1911 Census
72 Toll End Road, Tipton.
Edward Thomas Gittins (52, Widower, Mine Drainage Inspector, born West Bromwich), and 2 of his 3 children: Ethel Maud (22, born Tipton) and Horace (18, Reporter, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Horace Gittins enlisted with the 10th South Staffs on 21st September 1914 at Brierley Hill. His next of kin was given as his father, Edward Gittins, of 71 Toll End Road, Ocker Hill, and his sister, Hattie Allbutt, of Crown Villas, Ocker Hill. He was 22 years and 56 days of age, was quite tall at 5 feet 11½ inches tall with a 35½-inch chest, and weighed 142 pounds. He had a sallow complexion, grey eyes, light brown hair, and his physical development was described as 'fair'. His occupation was given as journalist, and religion as Church of England.

Horace was employed as a journalist for the Express & Star in Brierley Hill. He joined the 10th Bn. South Staffs in Brierley Hill with a number of friends including lifelong pal Harry Callear, a teacher at Great Bridge Council School. The battalion was fully subscribed and about 120 men were transferred on 9th October 1914 to 'D' company of the 10th Bn. Lincolns, known as the Grimsby Chums. Notable amongst the 120 was Harold Bache, a West Bromwich Albion and England footballer. He was appointed Lance Corporal in March 1915, losing his stripe in November 1915 due to his Absence without Leave for 56 hours at Sutton Veny.

Horace is commemorated on the Tipton Library Memorial, where his surname is incorrectly spelt as Gittens.

Action resulting in his death

The 10th Lincolns were part of the 101st Brigade of the 34th Division that included the Tyneside Scottish and Irish (102nd & 103rd) Brigades. The 34th Division was to attack at La Boisselle at 7.30am immediately after the explosion of the mine that created Lochnagar crater.

'A', 'B' and 'C' Companies advanced at 7.30am, 'A' to the left with the furthest to go across no mans land, 'B' in the centre and 'C' with the benefit of a slight bit of cover from the newly created crater lip of the Lochnagar mine crater. Little progress was made and losses were huge. At 9.00am 'D' Company was sent to support the attack. By then any element of surprise that had existed had gone, and the German machine gunners had control of No-Mans Land.

Gittins and Callear were both killed almost instantly. Horace Gittins is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial, and Harry Callear's remains were not found until 1925 and buried at Cerisy-Gailly.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 26 September 1914
Mr Horace Thomas Gittins, whose home is at Ocker Hill, Tipton, and who has represented the Wolverhampton "Express and Star" in the Brierley Hill district for the past three years, on Monday, in company with his friend Mr Harry Osmond Callear, son of Councillor Callear of Tipton, enlisted in the 10th South Staffordshire Non-manual battalion. They were sworn in by Mr W.F. Taylor and Mr David Clark at Brierley Hill Police Court, and were afforded a very warm send-off. Mr Taylor stated that they were setting a good example, and hoped they would both be successful, and would return home safe and sound. Mr Gittins afterwards shook hands with Mr Wickham King (magistrate's clerk), Mr Sharp (assistant clerk), Supt. Johnson and his press confreres, who all wished him the best possible luck.
Sergeant-Major Booth informs us that Mr Horace Gittins, the Brierley Hill representative of the Wolverhampton "Star", and My Harry Callear, son of Councillor Callear, of Tipton, who enlisted in the new 10th battalion (South Staffords) for non-manual on Monday, were the first new recruits for that battalion to arrive at Lichfield. The Sergeant-Major received a very encouraging letter from them on Thursday. In it they write: "We are very pleased to inform you that matters are going very well here, Major Pearson, as expected, despatched us to Lichfield, but on arrival no one seemed to know anything about the non-manuals. The Sergeant-Major kept us for the night, and the Colour-Sergeant, and another officer turned out of their beds for us. We received unexpected courtesy. They were sending us back on Tuesday for a few days, but nine Walsall non-manuals put in an appearance, and of course we stayed. We are doing six hours drill, and I can assure you we feel the benefit already. Of course we have got to keep our eyes open, but I think we can be trusted to take our corner with the other recruits. We are very pleased we came. You can tell the boys it will be the making of them, and we would not come back at any price. You can make this known any way you feel disposed."

Tipton Herald 24 April 1915
"Git", otherwise Lance-Corporal Horace T. Gittins, was home on leave last weekend. He visited Brierley Hill on Saturday and received a hearty welcome from his many friends.

Tipton Herald 1 May 1915
I have this week had another very interesting letter from Lance-Corporal H. T. Gittens, more popularly known by his many friends as "Git". He is still at Brocklesby Camp, Lincolnshire, and he writes: "Matters here are as tame as ever, only perhaps worse. At present we are confined to camp with an outbreak of fever, measles, and three other contagious diseases. We sit in the huts and stare at each other until we go pink-eyed. A rumour gained currency that we were leaving this salubrious quarter. Naturally enough, we ascended in an aeroplane of hope, only to be dropped into a valley of despondency. The epidemics are largely responsible for our detention. We have paused here quite long enough, and in order that time may appear to aviate a little faster, we devote our leisure time to such exhilarating pastimes as tip-cat, marbles, etc. Really it's swift here. So New York like, you know."

Tipton Herald 29 January 1916
My Brierley Hill readers will be interested to learn that Corporal H.T. Gittins, of the 10th Lincolns, is now in France. Corporal Gittins was amongst the first to answer his country's call. In a letter to a Brierley Hill friend he writes: "Much optimism prevails here, and now we are out I suppose the war will be of very short duration."

Tipton Herald 29 July 1916
News has reached the father and sister at Ocker Hill that Lance-Corporal H. Gittins has made the supreme sacrifice for his country. The deceased was engaged as a journalist at Brierley Hill at the outbreak of war. He was one of the first to answer his country's call. He desired to join one of the Birmingham City Battalions with a few Brierley Hill friends, but the arrangements held on too long that he felt precious time was being wasted, and he at last made up his mind to join the Wolverhampton Pals company with a Tipton friend. He enlisted at Brierley Hill, and when he attested at the local Police Court the Chairman of the Bench (Mr W.F. Taylor) complimented him on his patriotism, and expressed the hope that he would be spared to return home. He also received the good wishes of Mr W. Wickham (being the magistrate's clerk), Mr Superintendent Johnson, and his fellow journalists. After some months training, Lance-Corporal Gittins transferred into the Lincolns, and he went to the front about ten months ago. The deceased young soldier had been appointed quartermaster of a trench mortar battery. He was medically rejected on two occasions before being accepted in September 1914. On the day the father received the sad news, the deceased, had he lived, would have celebrated his 24th birthday. As a boy he joined the Wesleyan Sunday School, Ocker Hill, at the age of five years, and went right through the school.
On the 25th inst. the father received the following letter from Lieutenant H.L. Dene, dated 19th July:- "Dear Mr Gittins, I regret very much indeed to have to write to tell you that Horace was killed on July 1st, when this battalion went over. Since that date he has been missing, and we could not trace him until last night, when I found out from the Salvage Corps that he had been found and buried. All his belongings will be sent to you as soon as possible, but this will necessarily take a long time. He died bravely and fearlessly while advancing steadily and calmly as if on parade, under most intense machine gun fire. I cannot say how deeply I sympathise with you in your great sorrow and irreparable loss."

Tipton Herald 4 November 1916
A suggestion has been made by two or three friends of the late Sergeant Horace Gittins, of Toll End Road, that a memorial should be erected to his memory in the school he attended. He was a personal friend of the late Sergeant Harry Callear. Our readers will agree that it is impossible to bestow too much honour to the memories of our brave young heroes who have given their lives willingly in defence of their native land. Every school should have at least its roll of honour in a substantial form that will show the names of those old boys of the school who made the great sacrifice, so that in years to come the scholars of a brighter and happier era may be able to sit and wonder what manner of boys they were whose names they only scan on the marble tablet.

Tipton Herald 27 January 1917
At Ocker Hill Wesleyan Sunday School, the Rev. F.G. Grey said he was pleased to receive and accept the photographs on behalf of the Sunday School. At the same time he dedicated a roll of heroes who had also fallen, and read their names.
Mr. and Mrs Jones, who had presented the photographs, unveiled the photographs simultaneously, Mr. Jones remarking that when he heard of the two lads falling, and being connected with the Sunday School as boys together, he would like to perpetuate their memory by having their photographs hung in the school.
Councillor J. Callear, who spoke under great emotion, expressed his thanks for Mr. Jones' kindness.

Tipton Herald 29 December 1917
Private H.T. Lycett, son of Mr. and Mrs Herbert Lycett, of Crown Villa, Ocker Hill, who has recently been paying a visit to his parents, joined the 10th Lincolns at the inception of the war, and is the only survivor of five of his chums who went from Tipton. They include Lieutenant Harold Morris, of Westbourne, Castle Road, Tipton, Sergeant H.O. Callear, and Quartermaster-Sergeant Horace Gittins. Although Private Lycett has taken part in many engagements, up to the present he has escaped any serious injuries and is quite optimistic in respecting the future. To use his own words, he says he fancies he has a sporting chance now. His visit has been much enjoyed by his parents and many friends, as he is highly respected. He is geniality personified.