1854 Corporal Horace Ruffett, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment; later 265169 Bedfordshire Regiment and Captain 18th Battalion London Regiment
Born on 1st October 1891 in Ashridge Park
Died on 18th January 1959 in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead
Horace Ruffett was born in Ashridge Park, the youngest of the 6 sons of Charles Ruffett and Sarah née Duncombe. He was baptised at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden on 1st January 1892. His father was then a Cowman. The family surname was sometimes written as “Ruffitt”.
His brothers were:
- Willis George, born in 1874
- Fred, born 25th May 1876
- Bertram Jabez, born in 1878 but died aged 19
- Edmund Charles Henry, born 21st April 1885
- Ernest Ruffett, born 6th March 1888
Horace’s family lived in the cottage then known as 41 Ringshall or 41 Ashridge Park. It is now part of Witches Hollow on Ringshall Drive.
On 2nd October 1894, Horace Ruffett of the Park and James Jones of Ringshall started at Little Gaddesden School. Horace was just 3 years old.
Little Gaddesden School had a Diocesan Inspection in January or February each year, during which the children were examined in Religious Knowledge. The names of those children who distinguished themselves in this examination are recorded in the School Log Book. Horace’s name is included in 1901.
The 1901 Census shows the family living at 41 Ringshall, Ashridge Park. Horace, 9, was at school. His father was a Farm Cattle Man, 24 year old Fred a Rural Dustman, Edmund, 15, a Railway Clerk and 13 year old Ernest Ruffett a Domestic Office Boy.
On 3rd March 1902, the Little Gaddesden School Log Book records that “The Rector came in at 10.45 and gave away the following Prizes for attendance during the past year“. 10 children are then named and second in the list was Horace Ruffitt, awarded 2 shillings and 6 pence. William Wells, Walter Bunn and Reginald Purton were similarly rewarded; Sidney Hart and Godfrey Bunn were each awarded 1 shilling and 6 pence.
On 22nd February 1903, Horace Ruffitt, Hubert Halsey and Joseph Hing were among the nine children examined for their Labour Certificate, which they all passed. On 23rd October 1903, Horace Ruffett aged 12 therefore left Standard 6 at Little Gaddesden School with a Certificate of Proficiency.
By 1911, the Ruffetts lived at 20 Little Gaddesden. 19 year old Horace was an Apprentice Carpenter and Joiner and 23 year old Ernest Ruffett a Carpenter and Joiner. Both worked on the Ashridge Estate. Their father was a Farm Cowman and their older brothers had all left home.
Horace’s Medal Records show that he was a Territorial Volunteer serving in the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment. From his Service Number, 1854, it is very likely that he like 1847 Vernon Batchelor R.I.P., 1848 Harry Cutler, 1849 George Hoar R.I.P. and 1851 Walter Lee attested for the Hertfordshire Regiment at Ashridge on 11th March 1912. The date and place are known from Harry Cutler and Walter Lee’s Service Records, which have survived.
Men from the Little Gaddesden and Ashridge area served in F Company of the 1st Battalion, Hertfordshire Regiment.
The Outbreak of War 8
The Battalion was at Annual Camp at Ashridge at the start of August 1914. The week was planned to include parades, drills, skirmishes, night exercises, camp sports, inter-company football and boxing and a tattoo with massed bands – not to mention a visit to the Ashridge Flower Show. However, at 5am on Monday 3rd August, the order was received to strike camp. All thoughts of the tattoo, the boxing finals and the football cup match forgotten, the men of F Company returned home to await further orders. These arrived next day, instructing them to report to Company HQ at The Bury in Hemel Hempstead on 5th August.
Training for France 8
From Hemel Hempstead, F Company moved to Hertford to join the rest of the regiment before moving on to Romford and then Bury St Edmunds, where they trained for two months.
This is a copy of a postcard sent by Corporal Horace Ruffett (seated far right) to his brother Ernest Ruffett, dated 30th August 1914.
It was given to Michael McCaul for the Little Gaddesden Archive by Ernest Ruffett’s son E H Ruffett in 1996/7.
The postcard reads:
F Com. 1st Herts
Dear E I thought you would like one of these. It is a good one. You will know them nearly all. It is very hot here today. Yours H
Arthur Whitman is seated fifth from right and Joe Hing (uncle of the yet-to-be-born Leonard Hing, who was to perish in the Second World War) far left. Others who may also be shown are Vernon Batchelor, Harry Cutler, William Fenn, Richard Hoar and Herbert Impey.
On 5th November 1914, the 1st Hertfordshire Regiment left Bury St Edmunds by train, embarking aboard the “City of Chester” at Southampton, sailing for Le Havre at midnight and arriving in France 6th November 1914. Horace’s Medal Roll Index Card entries confirm that as his date of arrival in France. Over the next 5 days, they proceeded via St Omer to Ypres, where the regiment saw its first action during the First Battle of Ypres. According to Vernon Batchelor from Hudnall, the Battalion spent Christmas 1914
up to our knees in mud and water… They (the Germans) were busy singing at midnight and playing some sort of whistle; of course our side was singing as well. We were only 15 yards away from the Germans in one place, and between two and three hundred yards away in others, so you see we are not very far from the enemy.
Thank you for the Christmas Parcel 8
On 30th January 1915, the Hemel Hempstead Gazette published a letter from 76 men of F Company, Hertfordshire Regiment, to thank the people of Hemel Hempstead and district for the Christmas parcel containing many good things. Among the signatories was Corporal H Ruffitt. The spelling “Ruffitt” fits with one of his Medal Roll Index Cards. Others included Private V Batchelor, Private H Cutler, Lance Corporal W Finn (sic), Private J Hing, Private R Hoar, Private H Impey and Private A Whitman.
In between his service with the 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment and his commissioned service with the 18th Battalion London Regiment, Horace’s Medal Roll Index Cards show that he served in the Bedfordshire Regiment, Service Number 265169. The dates of this service are not known, but if, as his National Roll of the Great War entry suggests, he fought at Arras, then it is most probable that he was in the Bedfordshire Regiment in April and May 1917. Horace has two, cross-referenced, Medal Roll Index Cards, with surnames Ruffitt and Ruffett. The former, which is likely to be earlier, gives his rank in the Hertfordshire Regiments as Corporal. However the latter, almost certainly a later document, lists his rank in both the Herts Regiment and the Bedfordshire Regiment as Warrant Officer 2nd Class.
The Supplement to the London Gazette of 20th March 1918 records Horace’s appointment to serve as Second Lieutenant in the 18th Battalion, London Regiment (The London Irish Rifles). The Supplement of 17th October 1918 then records his appointment as Acting Captain, with effect from 2nd August 1918.
From the Little Gaddesden Parish Diary 11
Before the War, Horace was one of four young men who helped in the Little Gaddesden Sunday School. In Autumn 1918, the Rector of Little Gaddesden, the Revd. Edward Clark, noted this and Horace’s commission in the Parish Diary:
Before the war, beside Mr Green (the Schoolmaster), who always took a class of older boys, there were four young men teaching in the Sunday School and all four joined up at an early date. Two of these – William Fenn already mentioned in these pages, who died in hospital in France in March 1916 and William Cook, who died of wounds later in the same year, are no more. Walter Tearle is a prisoner of war since March 1918. Horace Ruffett, who proved himself a fine soldier has been given a commission. The families of the two last have left Little Gaddesden so that the Sunday School, with so much reason to be proud of them all, will not have the pleasure of welcoming any of them back.
Horace’s War Service is summarised in his entry in “The National Roll of the Great War”, in which he is recorded as: Ruffett, H., Captain 18th London Regiment (London Irish Rifles) The entry reads:
He volunteered at the outbreak of war, and was almost immediately drafted to France. He fought in the Retreat from Mons and the subsequent battles at Ypres, Arras, the Somme, Cambrai, and in the retreat and advance of 1918, and during his service in this theatre of war he was three times wounded. Holds the Mons Star, and the General Service and Victory Medals, and was demobilised in November 1919. 53 Regent Street, North Watford.
However, Horace first served overseas in France on 6th November 1914, so did not fight in the Retreat from Mons, although he was involved in the latter part of the First Battle of Ypres. His Medal Roll Index Card show that he was awarded the 1914 Star (sometimes called the Mons Star) with Clasp and Roses, the British War Medal (General Service Medal) and the Allied Victory Medal. It also notes that he was eligible for, and applied for, the Territorial Force War Medal.
On 8th January 1919, Horace Ruffett married Lily Hoar at St Peter and St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden. Horace, 28, was an Acting Captain in the 18th London Regiment then resident at Heacham, Norfolk. Lily, 29, lived at Hudnall and was the daughter of Edward Hoar, Farmer of Hudnall Farm. Horace therefore became the brother in law of Edward Hoar and Richard Hoar, whose brother George Hoar R.I.P. had been killed in 1917. He also became brother-in-law of Sidney Jones, who had married Lily’s sister Annie Hoar in October 1916.
Men who have answered their country’s call in defence of a “Scrap of Paper”
Horace Ruffett, 1st Battalion Hertfordshire Regiment, is named on the Roll of Honour, which hangs in St Peter & St Paul’s Church, Little Gaddesden and lists 119 men from Little Gaddesden, Ringshall and Hudnall who served in the 1914 – 1918 War. This was the regiment in which he first served before his transfer to the Bedfordshire Regiment and then the London Regiment. He is similarly shown on the Centenary Revision of the Roll. His brother Ernest Ruffett, Royal Naval Air Service is also named on the Centenary Roll. Edward Hoar, George Hoar R.I.P., Richard Hoar and Sidney Jones are named on both Rolls.
Rolls of Honour photos: Jane Dickson, Michael Carver
Horace and Lily lived at 53 Regent Street, Watford where Horace was shown as an Absent Voter in Spring 1919 and where he returned on demobilisation in November that year. Their son Bertram George Ruffett was born on 12th January 1921.
Like his brother Ernest Ruffett, Horace became a Handicrafts Teacher in Watford. The 1939 Register shows the family still living at 53 Regent Street. Lily had “Unpaid Domestic Duties” and Bertram was a Railway Clerk.
Lily died, aged 62, in the final Quarter of 1951.
In the second Quarter of 1954, Horace Ruffett married Gladys Matilda Whitman; the marriage was registered in Hemel Hempstead.
Recollections of Horace’s Second Wife Gladys 17
Horace’s second wife Gladys contributed to the “Recollections of Friends” section of Doris Fenn’s book, “The Ashridge Estate and Little Gaddesden 1915 – 1955”. Her contribution includes the following information:
In 1954 I became Mrs Ruffett. My husband Horace was born in Little Gaddesden… Horace served an apprenticeship at Ashridge, but was overseas in Army service until 1919. He returned to study and passed the City and Guilds exam, and took up teaching. He married a local girl, Lily Hoar. They lived in Watford and had one son. I knew Horace very well as a child and when he visited Little Gaddesden in later years. Sadly Lily died in 1951, and I married Horace in 1954. We lived with my Stepmother, and you can imagine our conversations recalling Ashridge in earlier days. Horace and his brothers never tired of talking about their life in the village. Horace’s son was a wonderful stepson and his wife’s relations are very good to me.
On 18th January 1959, 67 year old Horace Ruffett died in St Paul’s Hospital, Hemel Hempstead. His address was then 24 Osborne Avenue, Kings Langley, Herts, which had been Gladys’ home since 1939 and to which he had moved after their marriage. Gladys recalled that:
Horace died very suddenly from a heart attack in 1959. He was still teaching and looking forward to retiring when the new school opened in 1966.
Horace’s widow Gladys lived to the age of 90; she died in the final Quarter of 1997.
2. Little Gaddesden Baptism Register 1813 – 1947
5. Little Gaddesden School Log Books 1887 – 1906
7. Reynolds, Bertha & Chris (1995) “The London Gunners Come to Town”, Life and Death in Hemel Hempstead in the Great War, Codil Language Systems Ltd in association with Dacorum Heritage Trust.
10. The Little Gaddesden Parish Diary 1877 – 1918
12. Little Gaddesden Marriage Register 1919
16. Fenn, Doris, 1996, The Ashridge Estate and Little Gaddesden 1915 – 1955, Mike Kearney DeskTop Publishing
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 email@example.com.
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Research, text and (unless otherwise credited) photos: Jane Dickson