Floral tribute to the oldest 
soldier to die on the Somme

Paul Bellinger, Rosemary Stone and Rev Calvert Prentis SUS-140904-172644001
Paul Bellinger, Rosemary Stone and Rev Calvert Prentis SUS-140904-172644001

The oldest man to die in battle at the Somme is to be commemorated by the church at which he once worked as warden.

Lieutenant Henry Webber, of Horley, was 67-years-old when he was killed during World War One, having badgered the powers that be into allowing him to serve his country, despite his age.

Henry, who served with the South Lancashire Regiment, was church warden at St Bartholomew’s from 1881 to 1891 and lived in the parish from 1876 until the day he died.

To commemorate the centenary of the outbreak of the war – and to honour the sacrifices of men like Henry – the church has invited residents to take part in a community exhibition and flower festival.

The festival will be held in July, featuring articles, poetry, artwork and artefacts from members of the community.

Henry’s great-grandson, Paul Bellinger, visited the church last week to share some family documents.

Paul, 68, grew up in a children’s home and only met his family – and found out about his extraordinary great-grandfather – when he turned 60.

Since then, he has learned all he can about his family history.

Regarding Henry, he said: “The story is that he tried three times to get enlisted and, on the last occasion, they were fed up with him and said ‘OK, you can be head of the transport division’.”

With three sons already fighting, Henry joined the war in May 1916, tasked with bringing supplies to the front as the battle raged. He was carrying out those duties on July 21 1916, when he was killed by an enemy shell.

He is buried in Dartmoor Cemetery at Becordel-Becourt.

St Bartholomew’s Rev Calvert Prentis said: “Commemorating World War One is about valuing those who gave their lives for others.

“It is amazing to discover the actions of local people over the last century.

“We hope that many residents of Horley will attend this community exhibition and flower show and catch a glimpse of the community goodwill that existed so long ago.”

The First World War Centenary Exhibition and Flower Festival will be held at St Bartholomew’s Church, Church Road, Horley, from Friday July 4 to Sunday July 6.

Anyone who would like to take part can contact Rosemary Stone on 01293 782171, email rstone39@talktalk.net, or Ann Golding in the parish office on 01293 782218.