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Horace Clifford Thompson

Corporal Horace Clifford Thompson, 028967, Royal Army Ordnance Corps

Horace Clifford Thompson was born in Ossett on the 26th January 1886 and baptised at the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett on the 23rd April 1886. He was the second of three sons born to Richard Wright Thompson and Sarah Hannah Garnett who married at St. Luke’s Church, Holbeck, Leeds on the 31st March 1883. The couple lived in New Wortley and Beeston Hill, Leeds respectively, where Richard Wright Thompson worked as a mill manager. The Thompson family arrived in Ossett from Leeds between March 1883 and October 1884 when latterly they were living on Rycroft Street. The family returned to Leeds sometime between February 1886 and spring 1889.

Horace Clifford Thompson had two brothers, Richard Garnett Thompson, born in Ossett in 1884  and Wilfred Vernon Thompson who was born in Leeds in spring 1889. In 1891 the family were living at 173, Cardigan Road, Leeds. In spring 1897 tragedy struck the family when the boys’ father, Richard Wright Thompson, died leaving a widow aged 36 years and three boys between the ages of 8 and 12 years.

By 1901 the widowed Sarah Hannah Thompson had returned to Ossett and was living at Mallin House, Queen Street, Ossett with two of her three sons. Horace Clifford was away at the recently built in dependant preparatory school, New College Harrogate, which his elder brother, Richard Garnett Thompson had also attended. Sarah was "living on her own means" and the family had a general servant.

By 1911 the family had returned to Leeds and were living at the nine-roomed house, "The Woodlands", Park Lane, Roundhay, Leeds.  Sarah’s three sons were now aged between 22 and 26 years. Richard Garnett Thompson, aged 26 years, was a municipal civil engineer, Horace Clifford, aged 24 years, was an accountant for an insurance company and 22 year old Wilfred Vernon was an electrical engineer at a power station. It is known that in the years before the outbreak of WWI both Richard and Horace worked for the County Borough of Leeds in the City Engineers and City Treasurer’s Departments respectively.

Sarah Hannah Thompson died in spring 1916 aged 55 years. A widow for almost 20 years she had brought up three boys in straitened times. She would live to see her three boys go off to war but her blessing was that she would not see two of them, Richard Garnett Thompson and Horace Clifford Thompson, lose their lives whilst serving their Country in foreign fields.

Later that year, on the 2nd December 1916, Horace, aged 31 years, an accountant of The Woodlands, Park Lane, Roundhay, Leeds and Gertrude Bradley, aged 26 years, a spinster of 7, St. John’s Grove, Wrangthorn were married at Wrangthorn Parish Church near Hyde Park, Leeds.

Corporal Horace Clifford Thompson’s service record has not survived but it is known His Medal Card indicates that he was awarded the British and Victory medals, but not the 1914-15 Star revealing that he did not serve overseas before the 1st January 1916. His occupation at the date of his marriage tells his occupation as accountant and not a soldier, suggesting that he did not enlist until after his marriage. He may therefore have enlisted in late 1916 or early 1917 when he joined the Army Ordnance Corps. (later the Royal Army Ordnance Corps). Unlike his two brothers who were volunteers, it is possible that Horace was conscripted and, before this, it may have been his responsibility to remain at home with his widowed mother whilst his two brothers were serving overseas.

Horace Clifford Thompson died of disease at the height of the Spanish Flu epidemic, on the 24th February 1919 at the 3rd Canadian Stationary Hospital, Boulogne, France.  He was posthumously awarded the British and Victory Medals and sadly the records reveal, as was the case with his brother Richard Garnett Thompson, his medals were returned to the authorities.  The reason for this is uncertain but by the time the medals were issued, in the early 1920s, perhaps the family had seen enough of the war or perhaps the authorities couldn’t locate his widow as the only surviving next of kin. Either way the medals upon return to the authorities would have been scrapped.

On the 7th September 1920, his widow, Gertrude Thompson was granted Administration of her husband’s  estate valued at £2,231 10s. His address was given as "Woodlands", Park Lane, Roundhay. Gertrude’s address is later recorded as 7, St John’s Grove, Moorland Road, Leeds, which was her home address at the happier time of her marriage to Howard in December 1916. The couple appear not to have had children. It is uncertain whether Gertrude remarried, but a Gertrude Thompson married Edward B. Batty in Leeds in spring 1924.

Horace’s younger brother, Wilfred Vernon Thompson also served in the Army. His Service record has not survived but his medal card reveals that he was awarded the British, Victory and the 1914-15 Star. He was the first of the three brothers to serve overseas. Like Richard, Wilfred, service number M2/076156, would have been an early volunteer and they may have enlisted on the same day. Wilfred embarked for France on 14th April 1915 with the Army Service Corps. This was just four days before Richard embarked. Wilfred Vernon Thompson was the only survivor of the three Thompson brothers who went off to war. He was demobilised and placed on "Z" Reserve on 20th June 1919.

Corporal Horace Clifford Thompson is buried at Terlincthun British Cemetery, Wimille, on the northern outskirts of Boulogne, Pas de Calais at plot XV.A.2. His grave is inscribed with the powerful words offered by his widow, Gertrude Thompson "A Beautiful Memory Left Behind".1

The first rest camps for Commonwealth forces were established near Terlincthun in August 1914 and during the whole of the First World War, Boulogne and Wimereux housed numerous hospitals and other medical establishments. The cemetery at Terlincthun was begun in June 1918 when the space available for service burials in the civil cemeteries of Boulogne and Wimereux was exhausted. It was used chiefly for burials from the base hospitals, but Plot IV Row C contains the graves of 46 RAF personnel killed at Marquise in September 1918 in a bombing raid by German aircraft. In July 1920, the cemetery contained more than 3,300 burials, but for many years Terlincthun remained an 'open' cemetery and graves continued to be brought into it from isolated sites and other burials grounds throughout France where maintenance could not be assured.

With his elder brother, Richard Garnett Thompson, Horace is also remembered in Leeds Town Hall on the Roll of Honour in memory of Leeds County Borough employees who fell in The Great War.2 The brothers also attended New College School at Harrogate and they are remembered on the school Roll of Honour.  Their names are also included on the Roll of Honour of the St. Edmund’s Anglican Church, Roundhay close to their Leeds home.3 Until now they have not been remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour.

We are indebted for additional research by Andrea Hartley, Ossett Through The Ages (OTTA), who first brought this brave Ossett soldier to our attention.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2. Leeds WW1 War Memorials - Town Hall Employees
3. Leeds WW1 War Memorials - Roundhay St. Edmonds