Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Horatio Garnet Pierce

Horatio Garnet Pierce : Photograph of Garnet in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre.  Reference: Acc.3318

Photograph of Garnet in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc.3318

Horatio Garnet Pierce : Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1901'

Queen's South Africa Medal with clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Orange Free State', 'South Africa 1901'

Garnet, as he was always known, was born on the 14th February 1874 in Manchester. He was named after Vice Admiral Horatio Nelson, of Trafalgar fame, and Garnet Wolseley, a highly respected Army officer of the mid 19th Century who had achieved great fame as the commander of the Ashanti Expedition in modern Ghana around the time that Garnet was born.

Garnet was baptised on the 25th April at Manchester Cathedral. His father was called Edward and his mother was Elizabeth Varey. He had 3 older siblings: Elizabeth Varey Sutton, Arthur Harry and Maud Amy Edith, and a younger brother called Frank Reginald Leopold. Two other brothers died in infancy.

In 1881 the family lived at 3 Peel Moat Road in Heaton Norris near Stockport, which was then in Cheshire. Edward worked as a warehouseman. He was also a long serving member of the 16th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps (LRVC) (later called the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment), and had been both a soldier and an officer.

In October 1888 Garnet began to work as an apprentice clerk for the Manchester, Sheffield and Lincolnshire Railway. By 1891 he lived with his family at 32 Tatton Road South in Heaton Norris. He was now an apprentice clerk in the estate office of the Earl of Derby. The Derby's owned a large estate, or expanse of land, at Knowsley near Liverpool. Garnet will have helped administer the land and the tenants, such as farmers, who lived on it. By 1900 his family had moved to 'Moelcrest', 2 Ellesmere Road in Heaton Norris.

As well as his civilian career, Garnet had followed his father into the 4th Volunteer Battalion. His service number was 4994. He joined the Mounted Infantry Company and by 1900 held the rank of Sergeant. Mounted Infantry were not cavalry; they trained to fight on foot with rifles. Their horses allowed them to cover ground more quickly and comfortably.

The Boer War broke out in October 1899 between British and Boer settlers in South Africa. The British suffered some serious defeats during the first months of the war, and quickly began to send as many soldiers as they could to South Africa.

Individually, many Volunteers wanted to fight, but the Volunteer Battalions were not organised or trained for service overseas. Instead, the army invited the Volunteers to form Volunteer Service Companies. They were also encouraged to join the Imperial Yeomanry. This was a mounted infantry unit, formed because of the vast distances that soldiers would be required to cover in South Africa.

One officer and 18 soldiers of the 4th Volunteer Battalion's Mounted Infantry Company volunteered for the Imperial Yeomanry, out of a total strength of 45. As a Sergeant, Garnet was the most senior soldier of the 18.

On the 12th January 1900 the men joined the 21st Company of the 2nd Battalion of the Imperial Yeomanry in a ceremony at Manchester Town Hall. When he enlisted Garnet was 5 feet 8 1/2 inches tall and weighed 140 pounds. He had a 'fresh' complexion, grey eyes and black hair. He was given the service number 1808.

At the ceremony the new recruits were given a 'Queen's Shilling' that had been specially obtained from the Bank of England and had never been in circulation. Edward was there to see his son enlist. After the men had enlisted they marched out of the Town Hall and were 'received with another outburst of cheering' from the large crowds who had turned out for the occasion. They marched back to their barracks in a 'drizzling rain'.

Garnet and his comrades left Manchester on Monday the 15th January. Again, a large crowd saw their train off from Exchange Station. They trained near Chester with the rest of the 21st Company until the 29th January, when they set sail for South Africa aboard the transport 'Lake Erie'.

We don't know much about what Garnet did during his time there. The Boers had begun to fight in small groups as guerrillas, rather than standing and fighting larger British units. The Yeomanry made great use of their horses to move quickly across the South African countryside and try and catch them. They saw very little fighting though, and morale began to fall.

Many members of the Imperial Yeomanry transferred to local Police or military forces, or requested to leave the Army altogether in order to try and escape the boredom and disease they were suffering from. Eventually the remaining Yeomen were returned to the UK. Garnet arrived home in mid June 1901 and left the 21st Company on the 17th. His conduct had been 'very good'. The Boer War ended in May 1902.

We don't know whether Garnet stayed in the 4th Volunteer Battalion after he returned from South Africa. He returned to 'Moelcrest' and his civilian job as an estate clerk. Edward died aged 64 on the 20th October 1902.

On the 19th June 1903 Garnet married Cecily Knowles at the Parish Church in Heaton Moor, near Stockport. After their wedding they lived at Berwynholme, Bramhall Lane, Hazel Grove, Cum Bramhall. They had a son called Robert Knowles Pierce, who was born there on the 2nd October 1904 and a daughter, Kathleen Mary Pierce, born on the 11th September 1915.

By 1911 the family lived at 'Hollins Mount' near Unsworth in Bury, Manchester. Garnet was now a cashier, working on the Earl of Derby's estate at Knowsley. The family were well-off enough to be able to employ a cook and a housemaid. The cook was called Mary Ann Paley, and the housemaid was her sister Jane Elizabeth.

In 1915 Garnet and Cecily moved to 'The Starkies' on Manchester Road in Bury. By this time Garnet was an accountant. Cecily died on the 13th October 1925, aged 46. Garnet continued to live at 'The Starkies' for the rest of his life and also served as a Conservative Town Councillor in Bury. He died aged 69 on the 4th July 1943.

The medals of both Edward and Horatio Garnet were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in November 1996.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
c/o Portland Basin Museum
Portland Place
Heritage Wharf
Ashton-under-Lyne
OL7 0QA

Telephone: 0161 343 2878
Email: Portland.Basin@tameside.gov.uk
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council