The Ostler

Strong and of a Good Courage1

Born21 on 1st July 189120, Richard Henry was the son of Domestic Servant5, Fanny Thomas20; powerless to care for him, his grandparents, Ann (who had been present at the birth20) and Richard Thomas7 took him into their own care6.

As an agricultural labourer, Grandfather Richard Young’s income would have been meagre9; thus, it fell to young47 Richard Henry to supplement the finances by taking on any jobs he could; bird-scaring, sowing seeds and driving work horses9.

Model of Horse Carrying Artillery on Mud-Drenched Battlefield – Cloth Hall Museum

It seems that Richard, (Harry8) enjoyed working with horses.  After leaving school, (for which his attendance must have been exemplary, due to the school mistress boarding in the family home7), he had moved to Ellesmere8, and taken up employment as an Ostler26 at the Red Lion Inn8.

Situated on the main Shrewsbury to Chester road, with its considerable traffic, the Inn would have been a welcome refuge for many a weary traveller and horse32, which as the main source of power in the early 20th century24, remained a vital asset in keeping trade flowing; in rural areas, horse-pulled carts and delivery wagons still prevailed45.  In his daily contact with travellers43, Richard would have been one of the first to hear all the news, including the build-up to and imminence of war; an ideal position for him to act upon what he heard.

As hostilities commenced, and the War Office requisitioned half a million horses, mainly for logistical support on the front line23, Richard enlisted and was placed with ‘B’ Squadron19, 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars38.  On 15th August 1914, Private RH Evans, 9772, entered the Western European Theatre of War10, where he endured a long and cruel war for nearly four years13.

From the outset, the 11th Hussars, in the 1st Cavalry Brigade51 were engaged in fierce fighting, both mounted and on foot51.  In August 1914, in Mons44, they supported the BEF in the great retreat19 and on 1st September, having made a “cavalry charge with drawn swords”19, despite “heavy artillery and machine gun fire”51, they captured some of the first enemy guns and prisoners51.

But the nature of war, was changing.  In their next major conflict, in Ypres, October 1914, the 11th Hussars had dismounted and taken to the trenches19, engaging as necessary, in bayonet and rifle fighting19.  At the 2nd Battle of Ypres, April – May, 191546, amidst the mud and heavy artillery bombardments, the 11th Hussars experienced one of the first uses of poison gas46, by the Germans, when they were at the Hooge-Menin area19.

After this horrific start to the war, the 11th Hussars spent the remainder of the war engaging with skirmishes, spending time in the trenches, training the horses and new recruits19.  But with the launch of the German Spring Offensive in 191842, they endured very heavy barrages, especially at Hamel51.

Medal Index Card
WW1 Medals, 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal

Private RH Thomas, 9772, died on 18th April 191813.  Posthumously awarded the 1914 Star, The British War Medal and the Victory Medal10, his final resting place is at St. Souplet British Cemetery, France13.

We Will Remember Him.



Private Richard Henry Thomas, 9772, 11th (Prince Albert’s Own) Hussars.

Killed in action in France on 18th April I918.

Buried at St Souplet British Cemetery, France.


Good Bye Old Man Poster

Goodbye, old man; we’ve fought our last together,
You’ve struggled bravely, but you’ve got to die.
Old man, it almost breaks my heart to leave you,
Without one other word, except “Goodbye.”18 


53WW1 A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569, pgs. 138-139
52World War One, Rupert Colley, 2012, William Collins, ISBN: 978 0 00 753911 6
51War Diary: 1914-1919 1st Cavalry Division, 1st Cavalry Brigade, August 1914-February 1919, WO/95/1109/3.1, 3.2, 3.3, 3.4, National Archives

Wages Through History, Agricultural Labourer’s Wages – 1850-1914, 10th February 2011, https://historyofwages.blogspot.com

49Vimy Ridge: Arras, Battleground Europe, by Nigel Cave, 1996, Pen & Sword Books (first printed by Leo Cooper), 1996: ISBN 0 85052 399 0

Victorian History, Income vs Expenditure in Working Class Victorian England, Dr Bruce Rosen, 19th June 2014, http://vichist.blogspot.com/2014/05/income-vs-expenditure-in-working-class.html


Victorian Children in Victorian Times, Baxton Price, 11 December 2012, www.victorianchildren.org/


The Second Battle of Ypres, 1915, Joanna Legg, http://www.greatwar.co.uk/battles/second-ypres-1915/

45The Old Coaching Days in Yorkshire, Tom Bradley, 1889, Yorkshire Conservative Newspaper Co (The Yorkshire Post)
44The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, 1962, Penguin Books, ISBN: 978-0-241-96821-5

The Great British Pub, Ben Johnson, https://www.historic-uk.com/CultureUK/The-Great-British-Pub/


The German Spring Offensive of 1918, CN Trueman, 17th April 2015, The History Learning Site, https://www.historylearningsite.co.uk/world-war-one/battles-of-world-war-one/the-german-spring-offensive-of-1918/

41The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H. Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives

The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, SY12 0JH, www.meresandmeadows.com

39The Cherrypickers: 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’s Own) 1717-1969, Peter Upton, c.1997
38The 11th Hussars (Prince Albert’ Own), Richard Brett-Smith, 1969, Famous Regiments’ Series, London: Leo Cooper
37Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010
36Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3

Shropshire Yeomanry, https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/army/regiments-and-corps/the-british-yeomanry-regiments-of-1914-1918/shropshire-yeomanry/


Shropshire Yeomanry in WW1, https://www.shropshireregimentalmuseum.co.uk/regimental-history/shropshire-yeomanry/the-shropshire-yeomanry-in-world-war-one/

33Shropshire Pack 1, Shropshire Archives

Shropshire History, Shropshire Stage Coaches, http://shropshirehistory.com/comms/stage.htm

31Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017
30Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 – 28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH
29Private John Edmund Rogers, Australian Imperial Force 2698

Prince Albert’s Own, 11th Hussars 1840-1969, Charles Griffin, https://www.britishempire.co.uk/forces/armyunits/britishcavalry/11thhussars.htm


Photograph of the Final Resting Place of Richard Henry Thomas, The War Graves Photographic Project, www.twgpp.org


Obscure Old English Census Occupations, www.worldthroughthelens.com


Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, July 1891, August 1891, September 1891, April 1918, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report


How Long Did it Take to Get Horse-Drawn Carriages Off The Roads in Favour of Carriages, https://www.quora.com/How-long-did-it-take-to-get-horse-drawn-carriages-off-the-roads-in-favour-of-cars


Horses: Our Greatest Ally? The Few That Fed the Many, www.nfuonline.com/worldwarone

22GRO Index England & Wales Deaths 1837-2007, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg 776
21GRO Index England & Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England, Vol 6A, pg 674
20GRO Certified Copy of an Entry of Birth, 1891, Ellesmere, Salop and Flint
19Great War Diaries: 11th Hussars War Diary – France and Flanders 1914-1919 (Print Replica) Kindle Edition, Adjutant (Author), M. Gillott (Editor)
18Goodbye, Old Man, Lucy Lawrence, A Book of Poems for the Blue Cross Fund

Farming Depression in Late Victorian Box, http://www.boxpeopleandplaces.co.uk/victorian-farming.html

16English Farmworkers and Local Patriotism, 1900-1930, Nicholas Mansfield, 1999-2000, Routledge

Discovering Literature: Romantics & Victorians, Child Labour, Emma Griffin, 15th May, 2014, https://www.bl.uk/romantics-and-victorians/articles/child-labour

14Dining Room Tea, Rupert Brooke, 1916, Collected Poems

Commonwealth War Graves Commission, https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead/


Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, www.meresandmeadows.com

11Churchwardens’ Account Book for Cockshutt from 1794 to 1926, Milestones in the History of a North Shropshire Rural Parish, August 1956, Shropshire Magazine, Parish Pack 2, Shropshire Archives
10Campaign Medal Index Cards and Silver War Badge, WO/372/19/212405, National Archives
9A History of the English Agricultural Labourer, 1870-1920, FE Green, 1920, PS King & Son Ltd, Orchard House, Copyright-evidence-date 20070823134915, Openlibrary_edition OL7132216M, Openlibrary_work OL7890258W, Possible Copyright Status: not in copyright
81911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG14PN16178RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED1 SN70
71901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 7, Page 6
61891 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Cockshutt, Ellesmere, RG12, Piece No 2121, Folio 48, Page 16
51881 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Cockshutt, Ellesmere, RG11 Piece Number 2664, Folio 52, Page 6
41871 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Cockshutt, Ellesmere, RG10, Piece No 2788, Folio 59, Page 10
31861 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Petton Lodge, Brown Heath, Cockshutt & Crosemere, Ellesmere, ED 3d, RG09, Piece No 1883, Folio 60, Page 10
2“Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me”, Psalm 23, King James Bible
1“Be strong and of a good courage”, Deuteronomy 31 v. 23, King James Bible
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