Fallen in January 1915:
Harcourt John Snowden



1st Bn. Hertfordshire Regiment

Killed in Action Monday, 11th January 1915

Remembered with Honour,

Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'avoue, France, Grave: I. B. 13.              

Harcourt John Snowden was the second son of the Rev. Harcourt Charles Vaux Snowden of St Peter’s Broadstairs and his wife Augusta. He was born in Ramsgate, on Kent on the 12th December 1887. His older brother Arthur Owen played first class cricket for Oxford University, Kent and the MCC.

Harcourt received his early education at Hildersham House in St Peter’s, Broadstairs which was founded by his father in 1890. The school stood above caves and tunnels excavated during the Napoleonic wars and these were used as an air raid shelter during the Great War and could accommodate 400 people. During Harcourt’s time at Hildersham one of his classmates was Vyvyan Holland, Oscar Wilde’s younger son.

By 1901, Harcourt had moved to Parkfield School in Haywards Heath, Sussex before following his brother to Rugby later the same year. In 1906, he matriculated as an under-graduate at Trinity College, Oxford and was awarded his degree three years later. Like his older brother, Harcourt entered the teaching profession and by 1911 he was working as an Assistant Schoolmaster at Lockers Park School in Hemel Hempstead. He lived at 7 Charles Street, just a short walk from the school.

A report in the Hemel Gazette at the time of his death records Harcourt as ‘popular amongst the boys’. It is also reported that he ‘was a sportsman of much ability’ who played for Hemel Hempstead Cricket club for which he gave many excellent all-round displays.

Harcourt is commemorated today at his former cricket club by an age group tournament and a trophy dedicated to his memory.

At Oxford Harcourt was a member of the OTC and whilst still a schoolmaster at Lockers Park he joined the 1st Bn. Hertfordshire Regiment (Territorial Force) on 2nd June 1913. Territorial Force soldiers met monthly at local drill halls and annually for Divisional Level Army manoeuvres. The Hertfordshire Regiment was still a single battalion, Territorial Army unit when war was declared in August 1914 and fielded no Regular Army units whatsoever. Based in Hertford as a part of the East Midland Brigade of the East Anglian Division, the 1st Battalion renamed the 1st/1st when a second line battalion was formed in September 1914.

Harcourt was promoted 2nd Lieutenant on 26th September 1914 and having volunteered for foreign service, he embarked for France with the Battalion on mobilisation as part of the 4th (Guards) Brigade in the 2nd Division. He departed from Bury St. Edmunds on the 5th November and sailed at around midnight from Southampton aboard SS City of Chester to Le Havre. Once fully disembarked the Battalion moved first to St. Omer before proceeding to the front lines on the 11th November, suffering its first casualties on the way through Ypres to take up positions near Hooge.

By the 10th January 1915 Harcourt was with the Battalion south east of Richebourg-L’avoue in France as the 1/1st Herts took over trenches from the Irish Guards. The regiment’s war diaries record; ‘11-1-15. Lieut. H.J. Snowden was killed (in support)’. Harcourt was shot by a sniper on the morning of 11th January 1915 whilst returning from inspecting sentry posts; ‘After seeing the sentries were at their posts, he crossed the Rus de Bois, and in doing so was shot’. (see extract)

His Major said: “I had such confidence in him that, when I knew he was the officer on duty, I never went round the posts to see that all was well”. Another officer wrote: “He was a fine example to us all of a good and straight living Englishman”.

Harcourt is commemorated on the war memorial at St Peter’s Church, Broadstairs and on a memorial tablet inside the church. He is also commemorated on a memorial tablet in Lockers Park School.

Harcourt is interred at Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'avoue, France, Grave: I. B. 13. The inscription on his grave, requested by his father, reads; “OUT OF THE STRESS OF THE DOING INTO THE PEACE OF THE DONE" 

Harcourt was 27 years old when he was killed. 

He was eligible for the 1914-15 Star, the British War Medal and the Allied Victory Medal.

Memorial Tablet, Lockers Park School, Hemel Hempstead (Public Domain)

Lieutenant Harcourt John Sowden (Courtesy: IWM, Bond of Sacrifice - First World War Portraits Collection)

The Snowden Trophy (Courtesy: Richard Grayson, 3rd October 2014)

Extract from Hertfordshire, Hemel Hempstead Gazette and West Herts Advertiser, 23rd Jan. 1915

Rue-Des-Berceaux Military Cemetery, Richebourg-L'avoue (COURTESY: Richard Grayson, 9th April 2015)