A Wonderful Discovery

Recently, Val Ferguson of FoSOC was asked, by a researcher, to locate the grave of Miss Hilda Moore who died, in Southampton, in 1932. Hilda has a very special place in the local history of our city. In 1919, after the end of the Great War, military horses were to be sold by auction. Helped by the Borough’s Veterinary Surgeon, Hilda purchased a magnificent white gelding and presented him to the Southampton Borough Police. Named Warrior, the horse served with the police from 1919 to his death in 1935. Thanks to Sir Sidney Kimber, Warrior was buried close to the Club House at the Municipal Golf Course, where his memorial can be seen to this day.

The researcher is undertaking detailed investigations so as to put together as much as possible of the stories of Warrior and of Hilda Moore. Comparatively little is known of the horse’s military service beyond what is on the headstone. There, it is recorded that Warrior took part in the Retreat from Mons, was wounded in the advance on the Aisne, returned to duty after shrapnel had been extracted and served, in several further actions, until the Armistice.

If anyone has any information about Warrior and/or Hilda – other than contained in newspapers and articles locally – the researcher would be very interested and most grateful to know. The research is being extended to include anyone who rode Warrior in Southampton, or in the war, so it will be of particular interest to hear from the descendants of those people. The aim is to write up all the research, with as many copies of photos as possible, and place the resulting archive in the local studies library for the benefit of anyone who wishes to read it. It is not a commercial project. Contact can be made, please, by way of FoSOC’s e-mail address: fosoc1846@googlemail.com.

Initially, it seemed there might be no grave marker. We have access to the records of all burials in the Old Cemetery, so locating the grave site was relatively straightforward. The problem was two-fold: the location was covered in thick bramble and undergrowth and when, in the 1980s, Hampshire Genealogical Society completed their truly monumental work of recording all legible inscriptions in the cemetery, none were shown for Hilda, or her parents, though it was known they were buried there. Thanks to a ‘hunch’, and the dedicated work of FoSOC’s Bruce Larner, there was success. Having removed the bramble and strimmed down the undergrowth, Bruce was rewarded with the sight of some kerbing. Eventually, he managed to clear everything away and saw the complete memorial with the names of Hilda, her parents and the name of a sister who had died abroad. As HGS did not record any such inscriptions, it appears that no one had seen this grave for many years.

The photographs – all taken by, and copyright to, Bruce – show the stages of the discovery: Then, During and After, illustrating the scale of the task. Many thanks to Bruce for all his hard work and to Val for locating the grave site. FoSOC wishes the researcher every success with this project that will tell the story of Warrior, a horse much loved by the police and public, and Hilda Moore whose generosity enabled him to have a fine life after his wartime experiences.     

Geoff Watts – FoSOC Cemetery Guide

Photos taken by Bruce Larner