Horace John Champion was born in Rainham, Kent, in 1896. He was baptised at St Margaret of Antioch, Rainham’s parish church, in June of that year.
He was the youngest of three sons born to John and Charlotte Champion. When Horace left school, he became a baker’s apprentice and worked with his brother, Sydney, at their local bakery.
Horace came to Banstead sometime between 1911 and 1914. He worked as a footman at Garratts Hall, the mansion that used to stand between Colcokes Road and Garrard Road and whose grounds stretched from Holly Lane to Shrubland Road. The house was demolished in 1933 but the two lodges, East Lodge (on the corner of Holly Lane and Garratts Lane) and West Lodge (on the corner of Shrubland Road and Garratts Lane), a cottage that stood within the grounds (Little Garratts, once home to the Estate Bailiff), the stable block (now converted into houses in Colcokes Road) and several of the trees that adorned the grounds are still standing today.
Garratts Hall was owned by the Lambert family and was leased to Mrs Mary Davies, who opened a high class school for young ladies there. The school was one of several boarding schools in the Banstead area at the time. There were at least 34 pupils in 1911 and they were taught by 8 live-in governesses and as many as 10 other teachers who lived elsewhere. There were also many servants: at least 7 live-in maids, a cook, a gardener and (probably) a cowman, a butler, at least one footman (Horace), perhaps a groom, a boot boy and a gardener’s boy or two.
Horace attested at Kingston on 9th November 1914, probably after visiting the recruiting office at the Drill Hall in Sutton. He was 18, a year too young to serve overseas, but he lied about his age and claimed to be 19 and 6 months.
Horace joined the 7th Battalion of the East Surrey Regiment and trained at Sandgate, Kent, and at Albuhera Barracks at Aldershot before sailing to France. He disembarked at Boulogne in the early hours of 2nd June 1915.
Although the 7th East Surreys had a relatively gentle introduction to trench life, Horace was wounded within weeks of arriving, probably on a night-time trench digging fatigue. He died at the hospital complex at Le Treport, near Dieppe, on 6th August 1915. He was 19 years old.
Horace was the first of Kitchener’s volunteers with no previous military experience from Banstead to die in the war.
Horace is commemorated on the wooden panels in the Lady Chapel at All Saints’, Banstead, in the All Saints’ Book of Men who Served Overseas and on the war memorial cross in Rainham, Kent.
Horace was commemorated as part of Banstead and Burgh Heath’s WW1 remembrance project. On the 100th anniversary of each man’s death, the churchyard flag at All Saints’, Banstead, is flown at half-mast and a short commemoration service is held, during which a church bell is tolled 100 times at noon. Horace’s identity and death date were confirmed too late to commemorate him in 2015 so his commemoration took place in 2016.