Remembering the Desborough brothers who died just weeks 
before the end of World War One

Samuel Horsley of Desborough
Samuel Horsley of Desborough

Two Desborough brothers who lost their lives on French battlefields just weeks before the end of the war will be remembered by their family this armistice centenary.

Arthur and Reuben Horsley were killed in battle in the final throes of the Great War within three weeks of each other, 100 years ago.

Arthur Horsley of Desborough

Arthur Horsley of Desborough

Father-of-four Reuben, 35, who was in the Northamptonshire and Lincolnshire regiments as well as the Royal Engineers, lost his life on October 3, 1918, after a bag he was unloading exploded from a hidden shell fuse.

He had signed up in 1914 and was wounded three times during the conflict including being shot in the thigh in 1916.

His younger brother Arthur, who was a private in the Bedfordshire Regiment, was just 21 when he was killed 21 days later on October 24, 1918, after he was hit by a shell while acting as a message runner near Le Cateau in Northern France.

They had gone to war with their three brothers Harry, Oscar and Bernard and their father Samuel but tragically like millions of others they never returned home.

725 men from Desborough went to war and 145 lost their lives.

Arthur was the last of the Desborough men to be killed.

Bernard Horsley survived active service but died in September 1919.

The Horsley’s great nephew John Ward, of Roman Way, Desborough, says their mother Lydia, who lived in Havelock Street, never got over their deaths.

He said: “According to the story that has been passed down through the family their deaths broke her heart.

“Her husband Samuel, had also gone out to war at the age of 58, saying that he was going to get his boys back, so at one stage Lydia had her husband and five sons all fighting in France.”

Great, great nephew Darren Ward made a visit to the grave of Reuben at the Thilloy Road cemetery near to Beaulencourt in Northern France this summer to pay his respects in this centenary year.

He said: “Having visited the grave it brought home what a sacrifice my ancestors, alongside millions of others, made.

“I can’t begin to imagine having left Desborough what they went through in those years and will be forever grateful for the sacrifice they made.”

Arthur is buried at the Bousies communal cemetery near Croix alongside nine other British soldiers.

The Horsley brothers are commemorated on the war memorial in Desborough and Reuben is also mentioned on the Rothwell war memorial where he lived with his wife Geneva and children.

An exhibition commemorating the lives of the Desborough men who were killed has been hosted for the past four years in the Desborough Heritage Centre in Station Road.

It will remain for the next couple of weeks.