Horace Lennan Willats – 52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors

My boys always say, “Why are you researching your history, it’s the past, live for the future?” While I agree on many levels, I also disagree.
My family’s history is extremely important to me, why ?
I don’t really know how to answer that, I don’t have the right words to explain it. All I know is that these people lived and died so we could live the best life’s we can.
They lived a  much harder life’s than we ever have. We really have no clue what hard graft is.
Our ancestors do.
We have it easy, truly easy. I’m not saying life isn’t hard, it is, I’m the first to admit that fact, but we are so very blessed in many ways. Dont you just love dishwashers, washing machines, cars and of course the one thing we can’t all live without, the good old internet.
But Ladies can you imagine being on your hands and knees scrubbing floors until they shine, hand washing clothes until your hands bleed, curing your own meat, maybe even milking a cow for milk or to make cheese, making and baking your own bread (if you were rich another to have the honour of doing so), bringing up anything up to 14+ children in a two up, two down home or even one room in a house that is shared with many other family’s?
Not forgetting you gents. Can you imagine, working the docks, all by hand, no fancy machinery to help, risking your health, your life even, working down the mines, or ploughing the fields by hand, that’s if you were one of the lucky ones who got picked to work that day.
Can you imagine the feeling of failure, when you were turned away from work, through no fault of your own, having to go home to those rooms you called home, jam-packed with your off spring with not a shilling to your name?
Can you imagine gathering all your belongings in the middle of the night to do a midnight flit because the landlord would be hammering on your door in the morning.
Can you imagine the desperation you would feel knowing your only option is the work house. That is one gut wrenching thought.
On top of that NO NHS, your babies grow sick and there isn’t anything you can do to help, just sit and watch them fade away in front of your eyes.

I’m sure some of you remember the once a week bath in front on the fire, all using the same water as all your family, the pain of the scrubbing-brush that ripped at your skin as your mum desperately tried to get you clean. The bucket you used as the toilet so you wouldn’t have to run down the garden in the pitch black to use the privy, if you’re lucky enough to have one.

Add into the mix, WAR. The gents signed up with pride not knowing what faced them or how horrific war really was/is.
Can you imagine laying in those trenches knowing full well, if you get out alive you are one of the lucky ones. I dread to think the sights those poor souls saw, the horrors they lived through on a daily basis. The torment that would have played havoc with their minds. The mothers, wife’s and children’s fear of not knowing if their son, husband or father would walk through the doors again, all the while having to keep a roof over their heads, clothes on their backs and food on the table but mostly staying alive as the bombs fell from the sky’s, destroying homes, businesses, killing loved ones, family and friends.

Over the next two, 52 weeks, 52 ancestors challenge posts, I will be sharing the lives of two brothers with you. Two young gentlemen who humble me, their story’s though extremely traumatic, both give me a huge sense of pride and remind me why our ancestors should be remembered, why their history is a very important part of ours.
Without them, our life’s would be so much different, I dread to think how different life would be.
I take my hat off to not only these two incredibly brave men, but to the thousands of souls who risked and gave their life’s for us, for our futures, for Freedom.

Horace Lennan Willats – 1894 – 1916 – Week 6.

Horace Lennan Willats
My first cousin 4th removed, Horace Lennan Willats was born on the 19th April 1894, in Edmonton at 61 Lordship Lane, Wood Green, Tottenham, Middlesex, England.

Horace was the son of Francis Montague Allen Willats and Margaret Willats nee McLennon. He was baptised on the 22 June 1884 at St Mark the Evangelist – Noel Park, Ashley Crescent/Gladstone Ave, Noel Park, Wood Green, North London.

Horace L Willats baptism

In the 1901 census Horace and his family plus two servants are living at 17 Verulam Road, Hitchin St Saviour, Hertfordshire, England.

Francis M Willetts 43
Margaret Willetts 45
Margaret E Willetts 18
Frances J Willetts 16
Allen M Willetts 14
Alton H Willetts 10
Horace L Willetts 6
Lydia Smith 21
Gertrude Saunders 21


Horace attended Hitchin Grammar School from 1903-1909 which includes two years of attending the preschool. He went on to attend Berkhamsted school and qualified for the Oxford Junior Certificate with french as his special subject.

In the 1911 census, Horace is residing at Berkhamsted school, he is 16 years old and a pupil boarder.


Only a few years later, in 1914 he signed up for the British Army.

On the 4th of April 1915 his Division assembled at Witley and Frensham for final training. They sailed for Gallipoli from Avonmouth via Mudros and on the 14th July 1915 Horace arrived at Mudros  with the 6th Battalion of the East Yorkshire Regiment, landing in Suvia bay, the Aegean coast of Gallipoli Peninsula, on the 7th August 1915. (More information on the Landing of Suvia Bay can be found here.)

Unfortunately he was shot through the head behind the eyes while at Suvia Bay but somehow amazingly recovered and was sent to the front again.

On the 19th and 20th of December 1915 the Division was withdrawn from Gallipoli, moving to Imbros then to Egypt at the end of January 1916. On his return to English soil Horace was promoted to the 7th Battalion of the regiment of the East Yorkshire Regiment, bombing officer at Midland camp in England where a grenade was thrown by a private soldier which exploded prematurely. Both Horace and the private were seriously injured.

Horace succumbed to his injuries and died on the 17th December 1916 at the Military Hospital Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase, Rugeley, Staffordshire, England.

Cause of death – From compression of the brain due to haemorrhage inside the skull caused by accidental wounds to the head from the premature bursting of a grenade whilst engaged in bombing practice on December 17 1916.


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Below is Horace’s Medal Roll Card for his time in the Military.


He as awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal.


Horace was awarded The Rolls of Honours at Hitchin Grammar School, which takes form of a stained glass window in the boys school library, such a lovely tribute to a young man who gave his life for his county.

Horace Lennan Willats is buried in Grave 79.40479 in Highgate Cemetery, St. Pancras, North London, England. I wish I had known he was laid to rest in Highgate cemetery last August when we visited the East cemetery. I have emailed the cemetery this morning in hopes they can give me the exact location of his grave so we can go back this year and lay flowers on our ancestors graves at Highgate, Islington and Ebney Cemetery’s.


He leaves the effects of £218.12s to his father Francis Montague Willats.


Such a sad tale to tell of a brave young man and a tragic waste of a life, who I’m sure left behind heartbreak, tears and a great amount of pride. I for one am extremely proud of Horace Lennan Willats, he owns a piece of my heart and many tears have fallen for our very own fallen Solider. He lives on through his family, who will not forget.

RIP HORACE LENNAN WILLATS 19.04.1894 – 17.12.1916


Watch out for next weeks 52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors post, which will pull on your heart-strings.



9 thoughts on “Horace Lennan Willats – 52 Weeks, 52 Ancestors

  1. Pingback: Horace Lennan Willats – Update. | Intwined

  2. What a tragic life, to survive a wound to his head and then have to return to the front, it’s beyond our comprehension. A very interesting and thought provoking blog.


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