How Poverty Drove Young Horace to Fight in War; He's the Soldier Who Died in War after Signing Up to Escape Extreme Poverty and Whose Lonely Grave Remained Unvisited for Nearly 100 Years. Peter Collins Tells the Story of Cardiff Teenager Horace Mayard

South Wales Echo (Cardiff, Wales), August 21, 2014 | Go to article overview

How Poverty Drove Young Horace to Fight in War; He's the Soldier Who Died in War after Signing Up to Escape Extreme Poverty and Whose Lonely Grave Remained Unvisited for Nearly 100 Years. Peter Collins Tells the Story of Cardiff Teenager Horace Mayard


IT was probably poverty rather than patriotism that persuaded Cardiff teenager Horace Maynard to fight in the Great War.

His sad story is one that would be recognised by many poor families who struggled to make a living in communities like Cardiff 's Tiger Bay in the years before the war.

Horace's father, John, came from a Cornish farming family and married Mary Ann Raffell, daughter of a fisherman from Lyme Regis. They came to live in Tiger Bay where they had 11 children, two of who died.

Disaster struck when John, who was working as a merchant seaman on Cardiff Docks, died in an accident in 1908 when a load of coal fell on his head.

The tragedy plunged the family into instant and dire poverty, forcing the children to go out work to escape the Workhouse, and Mary Ann to take in a lodger.

Horace worked as a poorly-paid errand boy until he enlisted at the start of the war, when he was just 18 years old.

His nephew, who is also called John Maynard and lives in Kidderminster, said: "Horace's story is all the more poignant when we learn that he enlisted to escape extreme poverty at home. "It's sad, but I think poverty, rather than patriotism, made him enlist in the 16th Welsh (Cardiff) Battalion in 1914."

He continued: "It is clear that sending money home for his family was very important to him. Indeed, in his last letter home to his mother he expresses the hope that she has received his soldier's allowance."

As many thousands of men were slaughtered, Horace managed to survive and even gained promotion.

John said: "In December, 1915 he went to fight in France. He eventually rose to the rank of Lance Corporal in the 38th Welsh Battalion. His promotion came about probably because thousands of soldiers died and there were fewer experienced men left to promote."

He continued: "He died of wounds after the second battle of the Somme in July, 1918, probably at Mametz Wood.

"In his last two letters home, apart from hoping his mother was getting his soldier's allowance, Horace hopes for the future happiness of his favourite sister, Annie, who was soon to be married."

John went on: "Horace wrote many letters from the front to Annie to whom he was very close.

"Annie died about 10 years ago when she was in her 90s. But she was anti-German all her life as a result of the Great War.

"Unfortunately, she burnt all her letters from Horace, saying they were personal to her and she didn't want anyone else to read them. …

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How Poverty Drove Young Horace to Fight in War; He's the Soldier Who Died in War after Signing Up to Escape Extreme Poverty and Whose Lonely Grave Remained Unvisited for Nearly 100 Years. Peter Collins Tells the Story of Cardiff Teenager Horace Mayard
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