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Herbert Charles Lockyer

Gunner 850 Herbert Charles Lockyer, 177th Siege Battery, Royal Garrison Artillery

1943 Bombing

The scene of devastation in February 1943. In the forrground are Raymond's New Court Almshouses, in the background Madeira Place. Dorcas Lockyer raised her children in No 1 (far right). The entire right hand block was demolished following the bombing.

Herbert was born in Newbury in 1885 the son of Humphrey Lockyer and his wife Dorcas née Colebrook. He was the third of their seven children, the full brood being Ben (born 1881), Gertrude Ellen (1883), Herbert Charles (1885), Charlotte Rose (1887), Alfred (1889), Daisy (1891) and Dorothy Naomi (1892). Of these, Alfred and Daisy died in infancy within weeks of their births.

Humphrey was a corn dealer with premises at 50 Cheap Street, originally as manager for Messrs Raynbird & Co of Basingstoke. In late 1885 he purchased the business from his employers and continued it as owner and proprietor. An early setback in June 1886 saw the loss of £250 worth of uninsured stock in a fire, but the business survived helped to some extent by a public collection - the Reading Mercury reported (26 June 1886): The public sympathy for Mr Lockyer, who is a hard-working and respected young man, was so great that a subscription list was soon started and numerous small sums collected, but these will fall far short of his actual loss.   

Humphrey died in Sturminster Marshall, Dorset, on 22 April 1892 aged only 39. His estate was valued at £552 17s 6d – a tidy sum for that time, certainly enough to keep his wife and to ensure his children would not be raised in poverty, but not enough to ensure they would live lives of luxury.

Dorcas and her children moved first to 1 West Villas in West Street and then to 1 Madeira Place off Newtown Road. The children found employment as they reached the appropriate age.  Gertrude became a dressmaker, Charlotte a draper’s cashier and Dorothy a milliner.  Herbert became a bookstall clerk - running the bookstall on Newbury station and later on Llandrindod Wells in Radnorshire (now Powys).

Ryal Artillery badge

The distinctive badge of the Royal Artillery with its motto 'ubique' - Latin for 'everywhere'.

Herbert did not volunteer for service following the declaration of war in August 1914; he was conscripted in 1916 (conscription was introduced in January of that year) and joined the army on 1 June. Two weeks earlier, on 13 May 1916, he married Florence Emily Page from Kintbury; he may have harboured some hope that this would delay his service (in general single men were conscripted before married) - but he would have already received his call-up papers and the marriage would have made no difference.

After a few months training he was posted to the 177th Siege Battery in France. According to local reports he left England on 28 September. However, the Battery had only crossed to France three days earlier on 25 September, and it is perhaps more likely that he went at the same time.

His war was a short one; on 11 October he was killed by enemy shell fire.

The 177th Siege Battery was not attached to any specific army battalion, brigade or division; it was a part of the heavy artillery available to the 2nd Army (General Sir Hubert Plumer) and would be used wherever appropriate in support of any attack by a unit from this Army (the British Expeditionary Force at this date was made up of five Armies). Heavy artillery might be used to destroy enemy defences, but the greater range of its guns meant that it was often best employed in destroying enemy guns and supply lines, well behind the front line.  Naturally the Germans deployed similar weapons and much of the artillery battle was a duel between them.  Herbert’s fate was shared by a great many artillerymen through the war.

The news of his death soon reached Newbury:

Name on Newbury War Memorial

Herbert's name on Newbury War Memorial

(lower right)

Newbury Weekly News, 26 October 1916 – Local War Notes
The announcement of the death of Gunner Herbert Charles Lockyer, RGA, of Madeira-place, has been forwarded by the War Office. Gunner Lockyer was for several years in charge of the bookstall at Newbury Station, and latterly in a similar capacity at Llandrindod Wells. He joined up on June 1st, and on May 13th was married to Miss Florence Page, daughter of Mr J Page of Kintbury. He left England on September 28th, and his death occurred only eleven days afterwards from shell wounds, he being killed instantly.

Herbert was buried in grave V. C. 7 at Bienvillers Military Cemetery.  Back home in Newbury his name was included (misspelt as Lockyear) on Tablet 10 of Newbury Town War Memorial.

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