The Honourable Felix Charles Hubert Hanbury Tracy (1882-1914)

This post was first published in January 2013, and amended slightly in June 2015.

The death of Lieutenant the Honourable Felix Charles Hubert Hanbury-Tracy, 2/Scots Guard was Petersham’s first war death.  He is one of three ‘outsiders’ commemorated on the Petersham War Memorial, who are there because, in a sense, they were also ‘insiders’.  These three men, distant cousins, sharing a common descent from Lord Huntingtower, had a status which seems to have enabled a point to be stretched; they were neither born in Petersham, nor did any of their immediate family members live in Petersham, at least not during the lifetimes of these men.  As I have found seven men who were born in Petersham, but who are not listed on the memorial, this doesn’t always seem quite fair. Arthur and John Tollemache lived in Westgate on Sea and Eastbourne respectively, while Felix Hanbury Tracy lived in London, although his parents were at Ormeley Lodge before the war and at Reston Lodge from 1922.   His mother, at least, would have had the comfort in the last years of her life, of being close to the Churchyard in which her son was commemorated and where she, herself, chose to be buried.

Felix Hanbury Tracy was born on 27 July 1882, the son of Charles Douglas Richard Hanbury Tracy (the 4th Baron Sudeley) and his wife Ada Maria Katherine Tollemache.  In 1908, he married Madeleine Llewellen Palmer, whose family home, at the time, was Lackham House near Chippenham. The Llewellen Palmers had strong connections with the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry, her father reaching the rank of Brigadier General according to some sources though he appears in a list of Officers as a Colonel.  One of her brothers, Major Allan Llewellen Palmer RWY, was killed in action in 1916.  Women from military families knew what to expect and often had the steel to survive their widowhood and even the loss of their sons in action.

Felix served in the Second Battalion of the Scots’ Guards and died, aged 30, on 19 December 1914 in Belgium.  He is commemorated on the Ploegsteert Memorial, Panel 1 and elsewhere, including a somewhat eccentric appearance on the War Memorial in neighbouring Ham.

A professional soldier, Felix had been on the Reserve of Officers since his retirement, after four years service, in 1907, but had re-enlisted immediately on the outbreak of war.   He was seriously wounded during an attack on the German trenches at Fromelles, in December 1914, but stoically refused to be carried back from the firing line, on account of the great risk to the stretcher-bearers.  News of his fate was confirmed during the Christmas Truce, in the so-called “information interviews,” when German officers told their British counterparts that he had subsequently been brought into the German trenches seriously wounded. He had died two days later and been buried in the German Cemetery at Fromelles.

This description of the circumstances surrounding the death of Lieut. Hanbury-Tracy, appears in a thread on the Great War Forum, which is taken from a regimental history, The Scots Guards in the Great War.

Felix Hanbury Tracy Photo kindly supplied by 'wrig'

Felix Hanbury Tracy
Photo kindly supplied by ‘wrig’

More information about Felix’s military service and a photo of him is provided in a modest biography, whose provenance I ought to explain. I located a photo of him on the Internet and, on sending an enquiry to the poster, I received, unusually, and within a matter of minutes, the image of a short piece about Lieut. Hanbury-Tracy,  which was accompanied by the photo I had found.   I hope eventually to come across the original, and to supply a more robust source citation.  As the following extract makes clear, Felix had enlisted promptly on the outbreak of war, and, though dreadfully wounded, valued the lives of the stretcher bearers above his own.

“In 1903, Lieutenant Hanbury-Tracy was gazetted to the 3rd Battalion, The Scots Guards, retiring from the active list and voluntarily joining the Reserve of Officers in 1907.  On the outbreak of the war, he joined the 2nd Battalion, with which he proceeded to the Front.

On the 18th December 1914, he was wounded during an attack on German trenches at Fromelles.  He refused to be carried back out of the firing line on account of the great risk to the bearers, and unhappily died from his wounds within two days.”

Felix Hanbury Tracy is commemorated on the Petersham Memorial as “HON. FELIX HANBURY TRACY’  with, on the line below, offset to the right, ‘LIEUT SCOTS GUARDS’.

Felix Hanbury Tracy on the War Memorial at St Andrew's, Ham

Felix Hanbury Tracy on the War Memorial at St Andrew’s, Ham

He appears, however, on the Ham Parish War Memorial twice.  Puzzled by his inclusion on the Petersham Memorial, I went to view this memorial in the churchyard of St Andrew’s, a stone’s throw from his parents’ home, Ormeley Lodge.  His name appears there, in its rightful place, in alphabetical order, in the middle column of three on the south-facing panel, as “F. H. TRACEY”.  I immediately suspected I would not find an F.H. TRACEY on the CWGC Roll of Honour, which a subsequent check confirmed.  Continuing to look at other names on the memorial, I soon  came across, in that same column, six places down, and right at the bottom, the engraving “F. HANBURY TRACY”. I have posted about what I recently discovered about changes to Ham War Memorial after the Second World War which partially explain that spelling mistake and its subsequent correction.

Two Tollemaches are commemorated on the Ham Memorial.  One, Arthur William Henry Tollemache is another of the ‘outsiders’ mentioned earlier who is commemorated at St Peter’s and has his own post on this blog.  The other is Leo Tollemache, about whom I have since posted on Ham Remembers.  Any readers with a particular interest in this family or in Ham House might also like to read about Charles Edward Hack on the Ham blog.

Felix was survived by his wife, and two sons, aged five and four, the elder of whom was himself to die on Active Service in 1940, leaving behind a 14 month old son, Merlin, who is the current (7th) Baron Sudeley.  Charles is amongst his string of Christian names, as it was with his father and grandfather and a clear nod to his great-grandfather before them.

Petre, L.F., Ewart, W. and Lowther, C., The Scots Guards in The Great War (1914–1918), 1925, reprint 2002, Naval & Military Press.

The burial place of Felix Hanbury Tracy
The cemetery concerned is not the military cemetery near Fromelles, known today as ‘Pheasant Wood’, but formerly, and more accurately, as Pheasant Copse.  While he is reported to have been buried at Fromelles, it would seem that the Battle of Fromelles in 1916, may have obliterated the 1914 burial. Wikipedia’s account of the Battle of Fromelles (1916) describes the relatively recent discovery of mass graves near Fromelles but also gives an overview of the cemetery issues under the heading Mass graves and new cemetery.   The usual caveats apply re checking out the sources providing information on Wiki and the sources of that information.

About Margaret Frood

Margaret Frood is a Family and Local Historian with an insatiable curiosity about the partially told stories of a family's past. Her six war memorial blogs have been created in the hope that they will help to rescue from oblivion the stories of those listed on the war memorials of Petersham, Ham and Tur Langton, on War Graves that ‘catch her eye’—this in a new blog, PassersbyRemember—and one which focuses on Southern Africans who are commemorated in the UK and in Western Europe.
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