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One of the last letters sent home to the wife of a Royal Parks gardener packed off to war 100 years ago has emerged for the first time.

Hori Tribe was enlisted in 1916 at the age of 39 and fought throughout Egypt and Palestine, then held by Turkish forces, but died within a year.

Before he was killed on December 8, 1917 during a battle to control Jerusalem, he wrote one of his final letters. It was huge comfort to Bessie and their six children Hori, Arthur, Cyril, Muriel, Ruby and John.

Rosemary from the battlefield

His dispatch, written on November 28,1917, contained a sprig of rosemary picked from the battlefield. It proved to be particularly poignant as the herb is traditionally a symbol of remembrance.

It said: “My Darling Bess. I was very pleased to get your letter today, also papers. You ask me if I have received 5 parcels. I have received 3 altogether each for 2/6.

“The task I mentioned in my last letter is over and since this stunt I have walked over 200 miles in a fortnight and am about done up. Am up in the thick of it again now and having a pretty rough time.

“The pieces of fern enclosed I got from a well when we got our water, close to Samuel’s Tomb, which by the way is knocked to blazes now. I saw the tower go over yesterday. Johnny did it. The few crocuses I picked up on the hills here, there are lots of them about.

“The altitude I am at now is about 3,000 feet above sea level and on a level with Jerusalem which places us about six miles away and can be plainly seen from here. We can also hear the church bells when it is quiet enough which is very rare as there is always a strafe on, shells falling everywhere.

“Don’t forget dear to thank Mr. Linford for his parcel. I have had no opportunity of writing him yet and don’t suppose I shall for some time. I don’t know if I shall manage to get this short letter away or not.

“Now Dear I will say goodbye. Love to you all from your ever loving Hubby Hori.”

One hundred years on

Hori, born in East Meon, Hampshire, in 1877, lived with his family in Lee, south east London, close to Greenwich Park where he worked. He served with the 2nd/18th Battalion London Regiment (London Irish Rifles).

He is buried in the Jerusalem War Cemetery, Israel, and his name is remembered on the war memorial at Christ Church, Lee.

His great granddaughter Sarah Gooch, 55, from Canterbury, Kent, said: “When the war broke out he was called up by the army and sent to the Middle East in 1917.

“He put flowers in his letters to his wife Bessie, sent from the battlefield. We’ve still got the dried crocuses he picked from a hilltop in Jerusalem.

“One hundred years on, it makes me quite emotional to hold the dried rosemary he sent, knowing that he picked it with his own hands, and that rosemary is symbol of remembrance for the dead.

“His pencil-written letters reveal that he was very religious and spoke of the calmness inside a monastery but the terrifying shelling outside.

“He described hell as a ‘picnic’ compared with the horrors of the fighting. One extract reads ‘nothing but bully biscuits and jam for six weeks, no clean shirt or anything. No wash as we get no water to wash with. One quart per day is our limit’.

“It’s horrendous that these battles are still happening today. I think my great grandfather would be horrified that the world is not yet at peace.

“It’s our duty to remember Hori and those he fought with, and to learn lessons from those battles they fought. Let those who come after see to it that his name not be forgotten.”

This week The Royal Parks unveiled a memorial at Brompton Cemetery to the 24 gardeners and parks staff who lost their lives in the Great War.

Many thanks to journalist Giles Sheldrick for contributing this article

The Royal Parks and Royal Parks Guild World War 1 project been made possible by National Lottery players through the Heritage Lottery Fund’s First World War Then and Now programme.

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