Ambrose Herbert Warne

Private Ambrose Herbert Warne of the 1/4th Hampshire Regiment (T.F.) Battalion, regimental Number 1867, was killed in action, aged 22, on 21st January 1916, in Iraq, and is commemorated on the Basra Memorial.

Early Life

Ambrose was born on the 15th April 1893 in Brighstone, Isle of Wight, Hampshire, to Clement and Martha Elizabeth (née Day) Warne, and was baptized in May of that year.  Ambrose was the youngest of six sons. In 1901 the family was living at 38, Rose Cottage, Brighstone 1. Clement (48) was a baker, described as an employer. He had been born in Shorwell on the Isle of Wight. His wife Martha (47) also hailed from the Isle of Wight having been born in Brighstone.  Three of the six boys were living at home, Sidney (13), Gilbert (9), and Ambrose (7). Also in the family house was a 16 year old domestic servant. Of the three eldest boys, Arthur (20) was living in Newport, I.o.W., with his uncle’s family and working as a joiner. Albert (17), was living in South Mimms, working as a gardener on the estate of the Earl of Stafford, one of a large number of servants and gardeners employed on the 2,500 acre Wrotham Park estate who were included in the census return. Wallace (15) has not yet been found on a census for 1901, nor for 1911, but he did appear on the passenger list of a ship heading for New Brunswick, Canada in 1922, described as an engineer.

St Mary’s Church, Brighstone

By the next census of 1911 Martha was head of the household as Clement had died in 1903. She was now working as a baker with her second son Albert also working in the family business. Ambrose was the only other child living at home and was still at school. Sidney was working as an engineer fitter in Cowes. Arthur was also living in Cowes with his wife and two children, but Gilbert has not yet been found on a 1911 census return. No documentary evidence has yet been found of Ambrose’s schooling but he is commemorated at Newport County Secondary School.

Life at College

Ambrose attended Winchester Training College from 1912 to 1914. Much emphasis was put upon sporting activities for the students. Every summer a sports day was held. Although traditional events were an important part of this, other more light hearted events were also included with bicycles featuring in a steering race and intriguingly a potato spearing bicycle race. Ambrose excelled at a more traditional event, the high jump. The Wintonian Magazine of 1910-1914 tells us that in the summer of 1913 Ambrose won the high jump with a clearance of 4ft 9in, this of course in the days before the Fosbury Flop. The following year he tied in first place for the same event.

Winchester Training College photograph courtesy of Alwyn Ladell

When Ambrose finished his two-year training course at Winchester he secured a job at Burgess Hill Church of England School in Sussex.  It is unclear if he ever took up that position or if he was mobilized immediately on the outbreak of war.

Shortly after his arrival at Winchester, Ambrose will have been given the opportunity to enlist in the Territorial Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment that was allied to the College. At one time this would have been automatic but since it had changed from a Volunteer Force, with stricter adherence to military rules and discipline, a student could choose to enlist instead of being enrolled in their first week. There was an armoury in the main College building and as well as learning to shoot, the students would learn drills and go on camps in the summer vacation.

Photograph from The Wintonian Magazine

From Winchester to Mesopotamia

Ambrose enlisted in the 2/4th Hampshire Regiment in Winchester.  In October 1914 he left for Quetta in India, although now it lies within modern- day Pakistan. Quetta must have been quite a culture shock for the young Ambrose. Captain Goddard of the 2/4th Hants wrote:

I am still charmed with this wild waste country, its mountains, and upland vales and savage passes. Last Sunday I rode on mule-back up a delightful valley at the foot of Chihiltan, through rugged gorges and wide upland meadows, all a-bloom with lupin and asphodel. We rode about nine miles up, had tea beside a rushing torrent under the mountain foot and rode home. Such an Odyssey was that ride home. We were benighted far up the pass! Imagine me on a headlong mule cantering at the mule’s speed down a rocky mountain footpath, with visions of Pathan snipers at every turn! Quite a little adventure!

In Mesopotamia, now modern- day Iraq, by the end of 1914, the 1/4th Hants were part of the force, under Major-General Townshend, which occupied Basra and began their ill-fated incursion further inland. In Quetta, a number of men, including Ambrose, volunteered for service in Mesopotamia. He was joined by other alumni of Winchester Training College, several of whom were to have their names carved alongside Ambrose’s on the war rail in the chapel.  Ambrose had started College with Harold Rose and Edward Hart.  Christopher Burt, Frederick Penney and Godfrey Wootton were in their senior year when Ambrose started his training and Alfred Tarrant, Arthur Woodfield and Melville Woodrow were in the year below him.  He would probably also have known, or known of, Henry Purkis who had left College the year before Ambrose started. A spirit of camaraderie probably encouraged the group to volunteer together and at the end of October 1915 Ambrose disembarked in Iraq.

Before leaving Quetta they had been given a send- off which was reported by Captain Goddard.

Five Wintonians in Mesopotamia. Standing from the left Oakley, HW Rose, Ambrose Warne, Walter, seated Tarrant

They were paraded in full marching order, and they looked without exaggeration, a fine body of men in the pink of condition and well fit for active service. The General looked at every man individually, and made a few cheerful remarks to several on his round of inspection.

Map showing the area around Kut

It was at this point that Ambrose was attached to the 1/4th Hampshires. Not much more than a month after Ambrose arrived in Mesopotamia the siege of Kut began and plans were laid to begin a relief attempt. On 4th January 1916 the relief force, under the leadership of Lieutenant-General Aylmer, left Ali-al-Gharbi and moved towards Kut.  Three days later they faced the Turks at Shaikh-Saad and a week later at the Wadi. These were both hard battles for both sides but the Turks chose each time to retreat rather than risk facing defeat.  Turkish forces fell back to the Hanna Defile (Umm-el-Hannah) where they reinforced their position. On 21st January the Relief Force attacked them there. A combination of factors at Hanna made it immensely difficult for the attacking force to succeed. The Turkish Army had been able to strengthen their positions, while the Relief Force had to manoeuvre into position through thick mud in order to be ready to mount an assault. The geography of the location, and winter weather conditions, meant that a frontal attack was the only option. Faulty intelligence on Turkish positions and numbers, in addition to a continuing underestimation of Turkish military ability also had a bearing on the final outcome of the battle.

The 1/4th Hampshires were one of the smaller battalions in the brigade but unlike some of the others they had a personal connection to the men besieged at Kut, as A Company was there. Ambrose would have known many of them personally.  Casualties on 21st January were very high. The 1/4th Hants started the battle with 16 officers and 339 other ranks but by the end of the day numbered 3 officers and 64 men. Candler 2 described what happened to some of them on that day.

A small batch of the Hants were seen to advance at walking pace some 1,800 yards without taking cover. At 400 yards from the enemy one officer and two men were left. They walked coolly on and were within 300 yards of the Turkish trenches when the officer, the last of that forlornest of forlorn hopes, fell.

Ambrose was killed in action that day, along with three of his fellow Wintonians and one more was captured by the Turks. Captain Goddard wrote to the Principal of Winchester Training College on February 23rd 1916

My dear principal

I am very sorry to give you ill news of the fate of our two Companies at Sheik Saad 3, near Kut-el-Amara on January 21st. The Hampshires seem to have suffered almost the worst. The Turkish Infantry are much better shots than the German, and we hear from all sides that nothing like it was ever seen in Flanders. The Colonel and Adjutant were killed. All officers and N.C.O.s being down, a remnant of our fellows reached the trenches. At this point Tarrant and Warne were killed and Oakley, R.Smith, Giddins and G Hurst wounded. Purkis and HW Rose are missing, probably losing their way in the darkness…That is all the news which I am sure you will think is quite ill news enough.

His Soldiers Effects record shows that his money was split between his mother and brothers.

Ambrose is commemorated on the Basra Memorial, Iraq, at St Mary the Virgin Church, Brighstone, and at Carisbrooke Castle County War Memorial and at Newport County Secondary School. (See images below)

 

Researcher and Author: Dee Sayers

Panel on the Basra War Memorial from The Royal Hampshire Regimental Museum

Memorial at St Mary the Virgin Church, Brighstone

Newport Secondary School Memorial

Footnotes
  1. Brighstone was formerly called Brixton. This appears on some of the census records. It is also sometimes written incorrectly as Brightstone.
  2. Candler E. The Long Road to Baghdad quoted in Crowley
  3. The date of death confirms that Ambrose Warne died at the Hanna Defile not at Shaikh Saad as written to the Principal
Sources

Alwyn Ladell photography. (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: https://www.flickr.com/photos/alwyn_ladell/sets/72157665876163520/ [Accessed 2018].

Ancestry (2018). Home page. [online] Available at: www.ancestry.co.uk [Accessed 2018].

Crowley, P. (2016). Kut 1916: the forgotten British disaster in Iraq. Stroud: The History Press.

The William Leach Collection (Various). Records of RSM W.F. Leach including the records of Mrs. E. Bowker [documents, notebooks, photographs and artefacts] The Royal Hampshire Regimental Museum, Winchester.

Memorials and Monuments on the Isle of Wight (2018). Brightstone: War Memorial. [online] Available at: www.isle-of-wight-memorials.org.uk/towns/brighstone.htm [Accessed 2018].

Memorials and Monuments on the Isle of Wight (2018). Newport County Secondary School memorial: biographies. [online] Available at: http://www.isle-of-wight-memorials.org.uk/schools/newportcountysecondarybiog.htm [Accessed 2018].

National Union of Teachers. (1920). War Record 1914–1919. A Short Account of Duty and Work Accomplished During the War. London: NUT.

Vickers, J. University of Winchester Chapel Memorial Rail image.

Wikipedia (2018). Wrotham Park. [online] Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wrotham_Park [Accessed 2018].

Wikipedia (2009). File:Kut-el-Amara-map.jpg [online] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Kut-el-Amara-map.jpg [Accessed 2018].

Wikimedia (2016). File:St Mary the Virgin’s Church, Main Road, Brighstone (May 2016) (10).jpg [online] Available at: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:St_Mary_the_Virgin%27s_Church,_Main_Road,_Brighstone_(May_2016)_(10).JPG [Accessed 2018].

 

University of Winchester Archive – Hampshire Record Office
Reference code Record
47M91W/ P2/4 The Wintonian 1899-1900
47M91W/ P2/5 The Wintonian 1901-1902
47M91W/ P2/6 The Wintonian 1903-1904
47M91W/ P2/7 The Wintonian 1904-1906
47M91W/ P2/8 The Wintonian 1905-1907
47M91W/ P2/10 The Wintonian 1908-1910
47M91W/ P2/11 The Wintonian 1910-1914
47M91W/ P2/12 The Wintonian 1920-1925
47M91W/ D1/2 The Student Register
47M91W/ S5//5/10 Photograph of 5 alumni in Mesopotamia
47M91W/ Q3/6 A Khaki Diary
47M91W/ B1/2 Reports of Training College 1913-1914
47M91W/ Q1/5 Report and Balance Sheets 1904- 1949
47M91W/ R2/5 History of the Volunteers Company 1910
47M91W/ L1/2 College Rules 1920
Hampshire Record Office archive
71M88W/6 List of Prisoners at Kut
55M81W/PJ1 Managers’ Minute Book 1876-1903
All material referenced as 47M91W/ is the copyright of The University of Winchester. Permission to reproduce photographs and other material for this narrative has been agreed by the University and Hampshire Record Office.