George Hoar

1849 and 265166 Private George Hoar, Hertfordshire Regiment

Born on 13th January 1892 in Hudnall
Killed in Action 31st July 1917 in Belgium

Family and Home 1, 2, 3

George Hoar was born in Hudnall, the 7th of the 10 children of Edward Hoar and Sophia, née Whitman. His father farmed Hudnall Farm where the family lived throughout George’s life. At the time of George’s birth, his father was a Butcher and Farmer.

His siblings were:

  • Edward Hoar, born 25th Aug. 1879
  • Nellie, born 5th October 1880
  • William George, born 5th July 1882
  • Frank, born 1st May 1884
  • Annie, born 30th December 1886
  • Lily, born 15th December 1889
  • Richard Hoar, born 26th April 1893
  • Edith, born 27th October 1894
  • Mary, born 12th June 1897

Education 4

George started at Little Gaddesden School on 26th April 1897 when he was 5 years old. He then stayed at the school until 10th May 1905 when he left, aged 13, with a Certificate of Attendance. He then went to work on his father’s farm.

Employment 5

In the 1911 Census, 19 year old George is shown as a Farmer’s Son working on the Farm. His brothers Frank, 26, and Richard Hoar, 17, were similarly employed.

Military Service 6

On 11th March 1912, George attested for the Hertfordshire Regiment at Ashridge. 1847 Vernon Batchelor, 1848 Harry Cutler and 1851 Walter Lee also attested for the Hertfordshire Regiment that day and it is very probable that 1854 Horace Ruffett did too.

However, George’s Medal Record indicates that he did not go to France with the Battalion on 5th November 1914. Possibly because he was a farmer’s son working on his father’s farm, he did not serve until later in the War. He was serving in the 1st Battalion at the time of his death.

Death in Belgium 7

On 31st July 1917, the first day of the Third Battle of Ypres, 26 year old Private George Hoar, Hertfordshire Regiment, was killed in action near St Julien (Sint-Juliaan on today’s maps). The actions of the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment on that day are set out on the Memorial which was unveiled exactly 100 years later.

Photo of the Herts Memorial at St Julien
Photo courtesy of Doug Adams

It is located at the exact spot near St Julien which the “Herts Guards” reached on 31st July 1917. The memorial includes a dedication, a map and an explanation of the choice of location. The inscription reads:

This memorial is dedicated to the Officers and Men of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment who fought in The Great War 1914 – 1918.

The explanation states that:

At 10.10 am on the morning of the 31st July 1917 around 620 men of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment attacked German positions on the Pilkem Ridge, the final objective of the opening day of the 3rd Battle of Ypres. After leaving the Steenbeck River the Battalion came under heavy machine gun fire as they advanced towards their objectives. This memorial marks the point of the furthest advance of the Battalion that day. By midday, suffering heavy casualties, the Battalion was forced to withdraw in the face of a fierce enemy counter-attack. Over the next hour the remnants of the Battalion conducted a fighting withdrawal to their starting position, leaving behind every officer and 75% of other ranks, killed, wounded or captured.

George Hoar and his first cousin Arthur Whitman were two of the Herts Guards killed in action that day.

“I’m afraid there isn’t any Hertfordshire Regiment” 8

Much later on 31st July 1917, in “the inferno of shells exploding on the front around St Julien“, the four Company Quartermaster Sergeants of the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment were looking for their battalion. The ground was impassable in places but they had kept on going with their small party because they were bringing the Herts’ supper – rations for 600 men. However, even with mules they couldn’t get beyond the first German line. In Lyn Macdonald’s book “They Called it Passchendaele”, Quartermaster Sergeant G.W. Fisher’s account, given years later, is included:

There were four Company Quartermaster Sergeants, myself and three others, and we decided between us that two of us should go forward to try and find the Battalion, one would stay with the rations, and the other one would try to find Brigade Headquarters to get some indication as to where the battalion might be. We tossed up for different jobs and it fell to my lot to have to find Brigade Headquarters, so I set off. There was a most tremendous bombardment going on all the while.

After a long time I found the Brigade Headquarters. They were in an underground German concrete pillbox just in front of St Julien. I went down the stairs, saluted the Brigadier, told him who I was, explained the position and said, ‘Could you give me any instructions, sir, that would help me to find the battalion?’ He just stood there and looked at me. We were both standing on the steps and the pillbox was rocking like a boat in a rough sea with explosions. After a while he said, ‘I’m sorry Quarters, I’m afraid there isn’t any Hertfordshire Regiment’.

Macdonald, Lyn (1978), “They Called it Passchendaele”

A Red Cross Search 9

George’s body was not found for burial and an International Committee of the Red Cross Prisoners of the First World War record shows that enquiries were made as to whether George Hoar, “Pte. 265166. Herts. Rgt. Disparu depuis 31/7/17” was being held as a Prisoner of War. The reply was to be sent to Mrs R. Pratt at 42 Little Gaddesden, who assisted her husband Robert at the village shop and Post Office. However, the Red Cross record includes a note “Négatif envoyé 10.11.17” In other words, there was no news to send as the result of the enquiry. An addition to the record dated 19/6/18 adds “according to letter is reported killed”. A similar record exists for his cousin Arthur Whitman who was reported wounded and missing after the same battle.

Commemoration in Belgium 7

Private George Hoar has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium, in the South Loggia at Panel 56, Stone E. He is listed at the bottom of the first column of Hertfordshire Regiment Privates simply as:

Hoar G.

Photo of the Menin Gate, (south loggia)
Menin Gate, South Loggia. Photo courtesy of David Heard
Photo of George Hoar's commemoration on the Menin Gate Memorial
Menin Gate, Panel 56. Photo courtesy of David Heard

By the time the CWGC Grave Registration Reports were compiled in the 1920s, George’s parents had given up Hudnall Farm and moved to 5 Hudnall, now part of Hudnall House. His CWGC entry therefore describes him as “Son of Edward and Sophia Hoar, of 5, Hudnall, Berkhamsted, Herts”.

We will remember them 10

George Hoar is commemorated on the War Memorials on the village green and in St Peter & St Paul’s Church Little Gaddesden. He is also named on the Roll of Honour in the church, together with his older brother Edward Hoar (Army Service Corps) and younger brother Richard Hoar (Hertfordshire Regiment), who both survived the war. His uncle Joseph Whitman and six of his first cousins are also named on the Roll of Honour: Donald W Goodman, Samuel Oakins R.I.P., Stephen Oakins, Arthur Whitman R.I.P., Francis J Whitman and James Whitman. His brothers-in-law Sidney Jones and Horace Ruffett are also listed.

George was posthumously awarded the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal. His next of kin would also have received a memorial plaque and scroll; an example of the scroll and covering letter can be seen in William Mayling’s entry.

References

1. https://www.findmypast.co.uk England & Wales births 1837-2006 Transcriptions and pdf copy of Birth Certificate

2. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1939 Register

3. https://www.findmypast.co.uk 1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census Transcription

4. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906

5. https://www.findmypast.co.uk  1911 Census for England & Wales

6. https://www.ancestry.co.uk UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914 – 1919

7. https://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/1614314/hoar,-george/

8. Macdonald, Lyn (1978), “They Called it Passchendaele”, Book Club Associates (by arrangement with Michael Joseph Ltd).

9. https://www.findmypast.co.uk Prisoners Of War 1715-1945

10. https://www.ancestry.co.uk British Army WW1 Medal Rolls Index Cards 1914-1920

Do you have any questions about the information recorded here? Or do you have any further information that you can share with us about those from Little Gaddesden who died or fought for their country? In either case, please contact Jane Dickson at war-remembrance@littlegaddesdenchurch.org.uk.

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Research: Jane Dickson and David Heard. Text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson