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Richard Garnett Thompson

Sergeant Richard Garnett Thompson, 330335, Royal Gloucestershire Hussars

Richard Garnett Thompson was born in Ossett on the 24th October 1884 and was baptised at the New Wesleyan Chapel, Wesley Street, Ossett on the 17th December 1884. He was the eldest 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.

Richard Garnett Thompson had two brothers, Horace Clifford Thompson, born in Ossett on the 24th January 1886 and Wilfred Vernon Thompson who was born in Leeds in spring 1889. In 1891, the family were living at 173 Cardigan Road, Leeds. In the early months of 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. The absentee from the family, Horace Clifford Thompson, 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, for Richard Garnett Thompson and Horace Clifford Thompson, would lose their lives whilst serving their Country in foreign fields.

Richard Garnett Thompson’s service record has not survived, but it is known that he was a volunteer and enlisted at Malton as a Private soldier joining the Regiment of the Cavalry of the Line 1/1st (Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own) Yorkshire Hussars with service number 2523.  This indicates that he probably enlisted as early as September 1914. His Medal Card reveals that he embarked for France and Flanders landing at Le Havre on 18th April 1915. By this time he was serving with 1/1st Yorkshire Hussars HQ and A Squadron which had joined the 50th (Northumbrian) Division.

At some stage he was transferred to the 1/1st Royal Gloucestershire Yeomanry (Gloucestershire Hussars) with service number 330335 where he was to attain the rank of Sergeant. The date of his transfer is unknown but Richard Garnett Thompson would have seen and been involved in significant action during his 3½ years of service to his Country. The Gloucestershire Hussars initially formed part of the Yeomanry Division but, unlike the other Yeomanry regiments, were not sent to France in 1918 but instead remained in Palestine as part of the 5th Cavalry Division.

Between 05:00 and 05:30 on 20 September 1918, the leading troop of the Gloucester Hussars, after riding more than 80 kilometres (50 mi), acting in the traditional cavalry role, entered Nazareth with swords drawn. At Nazareth, the initial attack by the Gloucester Hussars was strongly opposed during street fighting. The congestion created by prisoners was increased by numerous German lorries parked along the narrow streets.

WW1 Cavalry Charge

As the Gloucester Hussars charged into the town centre, they were fired on by machine guns from the buildings on the high ground to the north-west and from balconies and windows. One troublesome machine gun position was rushed and its crew of nine were taken prisoner. Swords drawn, horses galloping, the Hussars poured into its streets and the garrison was completely taken by surprise. The enemy soldiers, both Germans and Turks, were mostly unarmed and barely awake, with hundreds of them surrendering amidst the noise and shock of the British Yeomanry galloping through the streets.

At 08:00 the Gloucester Hussars were reinforced by two squadrons and three troops of the 18th Lancers followed by a squadron of the 9th Hodson's Horse. They were subsequently counter-attack by German office workers who, despite being almost annihilated by the 13th Cavalry Brigade's machine guns, held off the British cavalry attack.

Although it was ordered to withdraw later that morning, it returned and completed the capture of the town on 21st September 1918.  Sergeant Richard Garnett Thompson was killed in action on this day. They captured many prisoners at the Hotel Germania and a mass of documents were found in houses nearby. Meanwhile, the bulk of Yilderim Army Group's records were being burned at the Monastery of Casa Nuova.

Nevertheless in the early phase of the battle for Nazareth the Royal Gloucester Hussars had showed great initiative and dash and within the first hour had captured over 1,500 prisoners, mostly Germans. These included some staff officers of field rank, plus German telegraphists, mechanics and other technical troops.

The Regimental War Diary of 1/1 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars’ Yeomanry1 reports the recovery of 40 bodies including Sgt. Thompson on the morning of 22nd Sept 1918 being buried 1000 yards on slope west of Nazareth near some trees having died during the successful capture of the town “at the gallop with swords drawn. A true Hussar!”

Thompson was posthumously awarded the British & Victory Medals and the 1914-15 Star in recognition of his service in a theatre of war against the Central European Powers during 1914 and/or 1915. Sadly the records reveal that his medals were returned to the authorities. The reason for this is uncertain but by the time the medals were issued, in the early 1920’s, both of his parents and one of his younger brothers were dead. The only surviving member of his family was his youngest brother, Wilfred Vernon Thompson, who also saw service in WWI. Perhaps he had seen enough of the war or perhaps the authorities couldn’t locate him as the only surviving next of kin? Either way the medals upon return to the authorities would have been scrapped.

On 13th September 1919, Wilfred Vernon Thompson, Engineer, was granted Administration of his brother, Richard Garnett Thompson’s estate valued at £1488 13s 4d. His address was given as Woodlands, Park Lane, Roundhay.

Richard’s youngest 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  the brothers 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.

Sergeant Richard G. Thompson is buried in plot A92 in the Haifa War Cemetery, which lies 3 kilometres from the central railway station on the Tel-Aviv road at Haifa in Israel.2

Haifa was captured by the Mysore and Jodhpur Lancers on 23 September 1918 and the 33rd Combined Clearing Hospital was moved to the town on the 15 October. Haifa War Cemetery, which was originally part of the German cemetery, was used mainly for hospital burials, but some graves were brought in from the battlefields.

Haifa was of great strategic importance during the Second World War because of its deep water harbour and airfield. It was also the terminus of the railway line from Egypt and of the Kirkuk-Haifa oil pipeline. Haifa became one of the main supply bases and arms depots serving the Middle East forces and a large naval depot was established at Haifa Bay. The cemetery was again used during the early part of the war until the new war cemetery at Khayat Beach was opened. Haifa War Cemetery now contains 305 Commonwealth burials of the First World War, 86 of them unidentified. Second World War burials number 36.

With his brother, Horace Clifford Thompson, he 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.3 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, Roundhay4 close to their Leeds home. 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. "War Diary of 1/1 Royal Gloucestershire Hussars Yeomanry"
2. Commonwealth War Graves Commission
3. Leeds WW1 War Memorials - Town Hall Employees
4. Leeds WW1 War Memorials - Roundhay St. Edmonds