HH Prince Maurice of Battenberg was the fortieth and youngest of Queen Victoria’s grandchildren. At Wellington he was in the Benson, a Lance Corporal in the OTC, reputedly one of the finest marksmen at College and a member of the [Shooting] VIII, fitting for a future officer in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps. He was also keen on polo, aviation and fast cars.
He did enjoy fast cars, being fined for speeding at least twice. When caught driving on Hampton Court Road in May 1914 at the heady speed of 34mph, he was reported as remarking: “You fellows are always out trapping on race days” (he was fined £3). On another occasion when caught at 42mph, he was fined £5 – this offence whilst a cadet at Sandhurst.
He was initiated into the Lodge by special dispensation in June 1912 aged just 20 in truly ‘grand’ style, with the Grand Secretary and the GDC acting as WM and JD respectively.
At the outbreak of the Great War he went to the Western Front and was twice Mentioned in Despatches for gallantry in the field at the crossing of the Aisne. He was first over the bridge by which his battalion had to pass, under heavy fire. When Major Armytage led the line forward in a splendid charge Battenberg was in the thick of the fray. Cpl J Jolley remembered that “His name and that of Major Armytage were on every man’s lips in the battalion”.
He died of wounds received in action leading his platoon near Zonnebeke on 27 October 1914, in the Ypres Salient. Knowing he was mortally wounded by a shell blast he had the presence of mind to bid farewell to his men. He was carried back to a field dressing station where he died.
He was buried at Ypres, with the ceremony conducted by a brother mason, the Reverend Captain Edmund Kennedy, Past Provincial Grand Chaplain of Hampshire. Captain W. Dyer recalled “not far away the German big guns were firing on our trenches, and our men were doing their best to put them out of action. The guns were making such a noise that you could not hear the Chaplain’s voice. It was a soldier’s funeral amidst the noise of battle”.
He was one of 18 OWs serving in the Regiment to die on active service and the first member of the Royal Family to die in the Great War.
c.f. Masonic Great War Project and individual report for Battenberg