SERGEANT HORACE ROBERT CHAMPION was born at St. Heliers, on Jersey, one of the Channel Islands that lay between Britain and France, on October 15, 1891. Baptismal and census records indicate that his proper name was Robert Horace Champion, however, later in life he would enlist in both the Royal Navy and the United States Army as Horace Robert Champion. He was one of nine children born to William Stephen Champion, a coal merchant, and his wife, the former Louisa Jane De la Haye. His siblings who lived to majority were John, Stanley, Lillian, and Clarence Champion. Hilda, Sydney, William, and William Charles Champion died as children All the living children were still at home when the Channel Islands Census was taken in 1901.
After working as a baker for a relatively short time, Horace Champion enlisted in the Royal Navy for a twelve-year commitment. Over the next five years, he served aboard the following shore establishments and ships; HMS Ganges, HMS Victorious, HMS Vengeance, HMS Grafton, HMS Royal Arthur, HMS Glory, HMS Duncan, HMS Victory (the Portsmouth naval barracks), HMS Furious, HMS Blake, and HMS Venus. In November of 1909, whole serving aboard HMS Duncan, Horace R. Champion was promoted to the rank of Able Seaman.
In August of 1912, while still attached to the HMS Venus, Horace R. Champion deserted from the British Navy in 1912, and made his was to America. Horace R. Champion lived in Camden, New Jersey for awhile, then enlisted in the United States Army at Fort Slocum, New York on January 5, 1916. He had a number of postings before going overseas as a sergeant with a training regiment in January of 1918. He had been promoted to First Sergeant with Company M and was assigned to the 161st Infantry Regiment, a replacement and training unit, on August 31, 1918. On September 18, 1918 he was demoted to Sergeant and transferred to Company D, 127th Infantry Regiment, 32nd Infantry Division.
Sergeant Champion was killed in action on October 10, 1918 during the fighting near Verdun, France during the Meuse-Argonne offensive. His mother and family, who were still living on Jersey, were notified of his death.
Evening Post - December 24, 2010
St. Saviour, Jersey, Channel Islands, United Kingdom
|Researching the life of Horace Champion
Barrie Bertram, a member of the Channel Islands Great War Study Group, has written to us seeking information about Horace Robert, or Robert Horace Champion, who was born in Jersey on 15 October, 1891, and who was killed in action in October, 1918.
At American war cemeteries, the end of each day is marked by the playing of ‘Taps’, a bugle call that can be likened in its purpose to the British “Last Post” and “Sunset”.
This occurs at the Meuse-Argonne American Cemetery to the northwest of the French fortress city of Verdun, and although it may seem incongruous if one has not been there, the live bugler has long since been replaced by a recording, with loudspeakers strategically concealed in trees and other vantage points.
Yet, the melancholy notes effectively carry across the white headstones of more than 14,000 American Great War dead, and they are a fitting daily tribute to these men who came to serve in France from every state of the USA.
And from Jersey too! For, in Block D, Row 25, Grave 25, there is one Sergeant Horace Robert Champion who served with the 127th Infantry Regiment that formed part of the 32nd US Division, and who was killed in action on 10 October, 1918, during the fierce fighting being experience by the American Expeditionary Force a month before the Armistice and the cessation of hostilities.
His entry in the American Battlefield Monuments Commission database records that he was from New Jersey. However, thanks to recent research into the early-1919 issues of the Jersey Evening Post, a reference to his fate was rediscovered, including a comment from his grieving family that he had been in the United States for some six years.
Horace Robert, or Robert Horace according to St. Helier’s baptism records, was born on 15 October, 1891 to William Stephen Champion and Louisa Jane Champion (née de la Haye) who lived at 37 Town Mills, his father being a coal merchant. But, there is a small twist in the tale.
Having been employed in civilian life in Jersey as a baker, he joined the Royal Navy as a Boy, 2nd Class on 1 October, 1907, stating his year of birth as 1890, given the service number 239759, and committing to serve until his birthday in 1920.
The act of going ‘on the run’ was in fact desertion, and appears out of character even though Horace had previously ‘enjoyed’ a 14-day stay in the cells while serving on HMS Duncan, a pre-Dreadnought battleship. Given that 5 August was a Monday, he presumably had a few days start, and as HMS Venus was based at Portsmouth, it would not have been difficult to find a US bound ship leaving Southampton for example.
It would be interesting to discover if there are letters of his or photographs that exist today, and it is hoped that if any relatives of his are still in Jersey, they could provide further background material on Horace’s life.
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