Lester, Horace Sydney Stroud
- Name on Memorial: Lester, H S S
- Memorial Panel: Centre
- Full Name: Lester, Horace Sydney Stroud
- Rank: Second Lieutenant
- Service Details: 145470, 5th, Royal Tank Regiment, R.A.C.
- Age at Death: 25
- Date of Death: 20/11/1941
- Place of Birth: Banbury
- Son Of: Horace S Lester and Annie E Stroud
- Mother's Maiden Name: Stroud
- Parents' Marriage Details: Banbury Mar-15
- Husband Of: Rose M. Lester, of Banbury
- Wife's Maiden Name: Webb
- Marriage Details: unknown
- Cemetery: ALAMEIN MEMORIAL
- Additional Information:
Source: MiddletonCheney.org, reproduced by kind permission.
Second Lieutenant Horace Sydney Stroud Lester was the son of Horace Spencer Lester & his second wife Annie (nee Stroud), his parents lived in a large house called ‘Sunloch’ at number 121, Middleton Road. His father was a Bookmaker and had founded his fortune when he put everything, literally everything he had on a horse running in the 1914 Grand National, a rank outsider (odds 100 / 6), called Sunloch which fortunately won and made him a great deal of money.
Horace was one of six children his brothers and sister being - Ernie, Spencer, John, Geoffrey and Joan. His mother’s family were farmers and butchers in Banbury and they owned Mild May Farm which was located in Grimsbury. Horace and Annie were doting parents with no expense spared in their children’s upbringing. They had elocution lessons, piano lessons and dancing lessons. They were always beautifully dressed for everyday, usually in matching outfits. Horace and his brothers and sisters had a rocking horse, Mecanno sets, beautiful books, everything you can think of. The brothers went to public school in Bloxham where Horace was very keen on music and cricket; he was an accomplished organist and wicket-keeper. He may have joined the Officer’s Training Corps whilst he was there.
When he went into the Army he was commissioned into The Inns of Court Regiment nicknamed "The Devil's Own", This regiment was an officer producing unit at Sandhurst and it is possible that Horace, known as “Hugh” to his army friends, had been employed in the legal profession prior to the war. Alternatively his father may have used his connections as a Mason to gain his son entry into a ‘good’ regiment. He married Rose (nee Webb), whose family lived in Drayton, in Drayton Church and in 1939/40 their first son, Paul was born whilst Horace was abroad serving his country. Rose Lesters’ father had been one of the few people who were killed on the railway in Banbury when a bomb was dropped in World War Two (Thomas Webb, aged 56, Home Guard. Husband of Emma Webb of Manor House, Drayton. Died 3rd October 1940 at the Horton Hospital.).
Although Horace belonged to a well-known Banbury family, he and his wife are listed in the Kelly’s Directory of Banbury 1940, with the address given as Banbury Road, Middleton Cheney. This is the reason for Horace being commemorated on our village war memorial. His father, also named Horace was instrumental in leading the Red Cross fund raising campaign in Banbury, encouraging the local population to contribute thousands of pounds towards this very worthy cause.
Towards the end of 1941 ‘OPERATION CRUSADER’ was launched in Alamein, Egypt and Second Lieutenant Horace Lester was now serving with the 5th Royal Tank Regiment (RTR). Morale was not good amongst the troops, following ‘Operation Battleaxe’ which had taken place in June. There had been nearly 1,000 casualties (122 killed, 588 wounded and 259 missing), and with 91 tanks being lost, nearly 81% of the British tanks were out of action within three days of the offensive starting. The Germans had lost just twelve tanks, by comparison. The Royal Tank Regiment's history described the offensive bitterly as "Battleaxe became a byword for blundering."
Horace “Hugh” Lester was killed in action on Thursday 20th November 1941. His family recall that he died, “…just before Christmas, in his tank”. Horace has no known grave but is commemorated on the Alamein Memorial in Egypt. He was 25 years old and never saw his baby son, Paul. Reproduced by kind permission of MiddletonCheney.org & The Honourable Archivist of Bloxham School.