Tribute to Horace Iles, the boy from Leeds who went to war and never came home

Horace Iles.
Horace Iles.
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He was just 14 when he lied about his age and bravely enlisted with the Leeds Pals battalion in the summer of 1914.

Two years later, blacksmith’s apprentice Horace Iles became the youngest of the Pals to die amid the horror of the first day of the Battle of the Somme.

Horsforth School pupil Josh Wilkinson with Bob Dorr and Trevor Iles at the ceremony.

Horsforth School pupil Josh Wilkinson with Bob Dorr and Trevor Iles at the ceremony.

Now, as the nation prepares to mark tomorrow’s 100th anniversary of the start of the Somme, a tribute has been paid to Horace in his home city.

Transport firm First Leeds unveiled a bus named in his honour in a ceremony at the war memorial in Victoria Gardens that was attended by his nephew, Trevor Iles.

Also present were pupils from Horsforth School, where Horace will be remembered with a production of a play called The Pals next month.

The double-decker will mainly run on route numbers 1 and 6 through Woodhouse, the area that Horace called home.

First Leeds business manager Bob Dorr said: “We’re proud to be able to name one of our buses after Horace Iles, one of many Leeds Pals who made the ultimate sacrifice on that fateful summer day in 1916.”

Horsforth School teacher James Bovington, who wrote the play being performed next month, said: “We’re working hard to honour the memory of Horace and the Pals, so we’re delighted to join First Leeds and Trevor Iles in unveiling the bus, which is a fitting tribute to Horace’s remarkable story.”

Horace claimed he was 18 when he signed up. It is thought he may have wanted to emulate his father, William, who served in the second Afghan War.

On July 9, 1916, Horace’s sister Florrie, as yet unaware of his death, wrote and urged him to come clean about his age in the hope he would be sent home.

His family learned he had died when Florrie’s unopened envelope was returned with the words “killed in action” scrawled above the address.

In the letter she had written: “You have seen quite enough now just chuck it up and try to get back. You won’t fare no worse for it.

“If you don’t do it now you will come back in bits and we want the whole of you.”

Bugles will sound across Leeds at 7.30am tomorrow, the time when troops first went into battle at the Somme on July 1, 1916.

Buglers will be stationed at Victoria Gardens, Leeds Civic Hall, Leeds Minster, Dortmund Square, City Square and the top of Briggate.

They will also be in places outside the city centre such as Headingley, Bramley and Morley.

Then, at 10.30am, a paving stone in memory of Victoria Cross winner Corporal George Sanders will be unveiled at Leeds Minster.

The Yorkshire Evening Post will pay tribute to the victims of the Somme with a special commemorative edition tomorrow.

Of the 750 members of the Leeds Pals who fought on the first day of the battle, just 72 were uninjured by nightfall.