b. 24/10/1885 Alton, Hampshire. d. 30/12/1917 Alexandria, Egypt.
Ernest George Horlock (1885-1917) was born at Beech Farm, Alton, Hampshire on 24th October 1885. His father was John Horlock, a farm carter who worked on the Talbot-Ponsonby Estate. His mother was Emily nee Hasted, a laundress. His parents had married in 1880. Ernest had four brothers and two sisters. The family lived at various times at Hartley Cottage in Hartley Maunditt and Laundry Cottage in Langrish, Hampshire, and also at 5 Fitzalan Road, Littlehampton, Sussex. He was educated at Hartley School near Alton and Langrish Church School before becoming a farm labourer.
Ernest enlisted with the Hampshire Regiment at Alton on 22nd February 1904 under the name Harlock, but transferred to the Royal Field Artillery soon afterwards and was posted to 113 Battery. He served at Fethard, Kildare, Dundalk and Athlone in Ireland and gained the 3rd Class Certificate of Education on 24th May 1907. When he returned to England he served at Sheffield, Colchester and Ewshot near Aldershot, from where his Battery was mobilised. He had been promoted to Bombardier by 1914 and arrived in France on 16th August.
For conspicuous gallantry on 15th September 1914, near Vendresse, France, when his Battery was in action under a heavy shell fire, in that, although twice wounded, once in the thigh and once in the back, he persisted on each occasion in returning to lay his gun after his wound had been dressed. He was wounded a third time in the arm on the way to the dressing station. His VC was gazetted on 25th November 1914, and he received his VC from King George V at the GHQ, St Omer on 3rd December 1914, and he was appointed Acting Sergeant immediately afterwards.
When he returned to England in August 1915 he received a purse of gold and a signet ring from Lord Peel at East Meon, Hampshire. Appointed Sergeant Major in February 1916, he transferred to D/119 Battery. He moved to A/119 Battery later that year. On 18th December 1916 he joined CCCI Ammunition Column supporting 179th Brigade in 60th Division, which had moved to Salonika from France the previous month. He moved to the Base Depot in Egypt in July 1917 and returned to England in October.
He married his cousin, Ethel May nee Hasted, a domestic housemaid, on 13th October 1917. They had no children. Ernest was drafted back to Egypt on 28th November 1917 via Marseilles. His ship, HMT Aragon entered Alexandria Harbour on 30th December 1917, but there were no berths and she was ordered to wait permission to enter the harbour. While waiting, she was torpedoed by UC-34, ten miles off the coast. The destroyer, HMS Attack moved alongside to try a rescue mission, but the Aragon went down before everyone got away. Many went into the water, including Ernest, where he helped rescue others, until he was picked up by the Attack. However, the Attack was also torpedoed and he was killed instantly. Ernest’s body was recovered the following day, and he was buried in Alexandria (Hadra) War Cemetery. His gravestone bore the name Harlock until the Commonwealth War Graves Commission corrected the mistake in 1982.
In addition to his VC, he received the 1914 Star with Mons clasp, British War Medal 1914-20 and Victory Medal 1914-19 with Mentioned in Despatches oak leaf. His VC and a collection of artefacts were bequeathed to 10 (Assaye) Battery, 47th Regiment Royal Artillery on 14th November 1974 by Horlock’s widow. His medals are currently in storage following the closure of the Royal Artillery Museum at Woolwich.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL ARTILLERY MUSEUM, WOOLWICH, LONDON.
(NOW CLOSED - MEDALS IN STORAGE).
BURIAL PLACE: ALEXANDRIA WAR MEMORIAL CEMETERY, EGYPT.
Ernest Horlock's VC memorial paving stone outside Alton Town Hall, Alton, Hampshire.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ROW F, GRAVE 171
St John the Evangelist Church, Langrish, Hampshire
His wife Ethel holding his medals
RA Chapel, Woolwich
Alton, Hampshire (John Sharrock)