William Charles Sidney Horspool (1892‒1918) Sergeant (481035) in the 41st General Hospital Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC), who died of accidental injuries (burns) on 29 September 1918 aged 26. He is buried in Mikra British Cemetery, Greece and is commemorated also on this family grave.
[The following is transcribed from CWGC: Soldiers died in the Great War; Service Records at TNA via www.ancestry.co.uk, research by John P H Frearson:]
“William Charles Sidney Horspool was the son of William and Sarah Horspool [both buried in this grave] of 6 Parker Street, Cambridge. His father William was a bookbinder. In 1914, William Charles gave up his job as an assistant/clerk at a Cambridge grocer’s shop and joined the local territorial unit of the Royal Army Medical Corps (RAMC) at the age of 22.
On leave during 1916, he visited Hunstanton and stayed at the same guest house as 18-year-old Connie Ashton from Lubenham in Leicestershire. Those four days made an impression, and after parting with a single kiss, he wrote to Connie every week (generally on a Tuesday) for the next two years.
He wrote initially from 1st Eastern General Hospital, Burrell’s Walk, Cambridge, and then from ‛A’ Company, Sergeant’s Mess, RAMC Dept, Aldershot, before being posted overseas, only a few weeks after meeting Connie, to Salonika. On 3 August 1916, he embarked at Southampton and arriving on the 18th he entered the war in Salonika, being attached to the No. 41 General Hospital.
Tragically, on 29 September 1918, only a few weeks before the end of the war, William died of burns after an accident in the operating theatre. He was aged 26.
According to a statement and investigation, on 28 September 1918, a primus stove was being lit in the sterilizing room by William when there was an explosion. The investigation suggested that a container marked ‛Petroleum’ exploded when William lit the stove with methylated spirit. The contents of the stove, however, when drained after the fire, were reported to have been paraffin; also that only paraffin and methylated spirits were found in the sterilizing room. William received 2nd-degree burns involving his chest, covering both legs, hands and arms up to the elbows, and his face slightly affected. He went into extreme shock. He died from his injuries in No. 41 General Hospital the next day and was buried on the 30th. The officiating Chaplain was R J Dickson.
Whilst some of his letters were sunk en-route to England, at least 60 survived. All were kept carefully by Connie, although from their contents, she may not have been very regular in replying! After her death, Connie’s papers were kept by her daughter, and that family’s papers now comprise the Ashton Archive ‒ an important social history resource. The letters have been copied and are available on CD together with photographs of William and Connie from her album and a research summary about William Horspool.”
Lat Lon : 52.202700, 0.13677657 – click here for location
Parish : St Andrew the Great
War Graves Photographic Project
Census returns for England: 1841, 1851, 1861, 1871, 1881, 1891, 1901, 1911
England & Wales, FreeBMD Birth Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Marriage Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, FreeBMD Death Index, 1837 – 1915
England & Wales, Death Index, 1916 – 2007
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914 – 1919
Web: International, Find a Grave Index
The text quoted above is part of the Ashton Archive
The images of Sergeant Horspool and his CWGC headstone are from the Ashton Archive and John P H Frearson.
By Emma Easterbrook and Ian Bent