Percy Horsefield was born at Accrington on 22nd October 1889, the son of Hartley and Hannah Horsefield. When the 24-year old volunteered to join the ranks of the Accrington 'Pals' Battalion on 22nd September 1914, he had been apprenticed as a stone mason for 7 years. He was described as being 5ft 5in tall, 155lbs in weight, with a fair complexion, blue eyes and fair hair.
Percy trained with the Accrington Pals at Caernarvon, Penkridge Bank Camp, Ripon and Hurdcott Camp, before being hospitalized at Fovant with a suspected case of epilepsy. After his discharge from hospital, he was posted to the 12th Battalion at Chadderton Camp near Oldham, and only returned to the 11th Battalion at Warnimont Wood in France on 13th May 1916.
It is not known if Percy took part in the attack on Serre 7 weeks later, but he emerged unscathed from the Battle of the Somme only to fall victim to sickness early in the new year of 1917. The battalion was at rest and in training near Doullens at the time, though the cold was so intense that the musketry part of the training had to be abandoned. Percy was treated at 94th Field Ambulance, 29th Casualty Clearing Station and 7th Canadian General Hospital at Etaples before being returned to England on 12th February 1917. Diagnosed as suffering from chronic bronchitis, he was admitted to Napsbury Hospital near St. Albans.
Above: Patients and staff at Napsbury Hospital near St. Albans. 15808 Pte. Percy Horsefield is second from left in the middle row. Photograph courtesy of Mike Wells.
After his discharge from Napsbury on 12th April, Percy would have enjoyed 10-days leave at home in Accrington before joining the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion at Plymouth to await a fresh posting overseas. As early as 30th May, he returned to France and was posted to the 7th Battalion. Eight days later the battalion played its part in the dramatic capture of the Messines-Wytschaete ridge south of Ypres. It is not clear that Percy ever reached his new battalion. On 6th August, he was admitted to hospital at Etaples suffering from kidney disease, a re-occurrence of a condition for which he had first been diagnosed in 1908. His illness was severe enough to have him returned to England where, on the 18th, he was admitted to 1st Western General Hospital at Fazakerley.
After a long period of hospitalization, Percy was discharged on 29th April 1918 as being no longer physically fit for War Service.
© Andrew C Jackson 2004
Compiled from "The History of the East Lancashire Regiment in the Great War" edited by Major General Sir N. Nicholson, the 1901 Census for England and Wales, and with the kind help of Mike Wells.