Royal Field Artillery
26th Brigade, 118th Battery
Place of birth:
Date of death:
Cause of death:
Grave or panel reference:
Name of father:
Name of siblings:
Hugh, Violet, Ellen, Beatrice, Kathrine, Winifred, Rose, Lily
Name(s) of children:
Date of birth:
Place of enlistment:
France and Germany
Age at death:
Cemetery or memorial:
Name of mother:
Ellen Deas (née Higgs)
Name of spouse:
Constance Deas (née Purser)
1 Victor Road, Finsbury Park
Horace William Deas was born on 3 January 1895 in St Pancras, London, the third child of Hugh and Ellen Deas (née Higgs). He had an older brother and sister, Hugh and Violet, plus six younger sisters: Ellen, Beatrice, Catherine, Winifred, Rose and Lily.
His father was employed successively as a printer, an ailments packer and a foreman in a cordial merchants. The first six children were born in St Pancras, the youngest three in Islington, and Horace started school at two and half when he was admitted to St Aloysius Primary in Phoenix Street (now Phoenix Road), just north of Euston, where the family were living at the time. The school is still there.
After spells at two addresses in Kentish Town, the family moved to Fonthill Road, Finsbury Park, by 1908, and again to Palmerston Road (now Playford Road) three years later, both streets to the south of New Court Congregational Chapel. The 1911 Census gives Horace’s occupation as a grocer’s assistant, Violet’s as an embroideress and Ellen’s as a tooth trimmer for a tooth manufacturer.
Horace enlisted as a Gunner in the Royal Field Artillery, joining 118th Battery of 26th Brigade, who were among the first British Expeditionary Force troops to be sent to France only two weeks after war was declared. But he was reported missing on the Casualty List as early as 11 September 1914.
In fact, he had been taken prisoner, having fought in the Battle of Mons on 23 August, when the British suffered heavy casualties. Retreating, there was then a fierce battle at Étreux on 27 August, after which the British were forced to surrender, being hopelessly outnumbered. It is likely that all those involved were either casualties or captured.
Horace was unwounded but spent the rest of the war in three prisoner-of-war camps in northern Germany. He was taken first to the large camp at Senne, then appears to have spent some time at Minden – by all reports one of the worst, with conditions of an inhumane prison – before being transferred, probably in May 1917, to Friedrichsfeld, considered one of the best.
The camp commandant at Friedrichsfeld not only attempted to minimise the PoWs’ suffering but also endeavoured to prepare the inmates for life after the war. Horace was released in December 1918 and returned to England. He would have been awarded the 1914 or ‘Mons’ Star for his early service, in addition to the Victory and British War Medals.
The family address during this time was 1 Victor Road, a road that was later demolished to make way for Docura House on the Andover Estate. Two of his sisters, Violet and Winifred, had died during the war. After his return, Horace trained as a mental nurse at Severalls Hospital, Colchester, qualifying in February 1924. (It is tempting to think this may have been influenced by his wartime experiences.)
Four years later, he married Constance Purser in Petworth, Sussex. There is no record of them having had children but they are listed in 1939, living at Kent Hatch near Sevenoaks, with Horace employed as a travelling male nurse. He died at the age of 92 in Petworth, West Sussex, on 24 January 1982.