Remembering those who fought in the Great War.

William Thomson (Hussars)

Born Greenock

When news of the outbreak of war arrived in August 1914 the regiment were frustrated that they appeared to be "stuck in this horrid country", and were impatient to be involved, but it was not until 25th Oct (Balaklava Day) that they received the order to mobilize. On 13th Nov they left Meerut by train and embarked at Bombay on the 16th. Twenty officers and 499 other ranks, with 560 horses. The heat was intense and became worse at Suez, described as "absolute hell" by one officer. Several horses fell dead from heat exhaustion. They were disembarked at Marseilles and sent to the War in Northern France and Belguim where the BEF were fighting around Ypres.

Mesopotamia July 1916

Mesopotamia 1917

The 13th had a frustrating time in France, posted to quiet sectors and tasked with trench-digging. They were involved to an extent that 21 men lost their lives in that theatre of the war. They were in the Meerut Brigade with the 18th KGO Lancers and Skinner's Horse. In the summer of 1916 they were returned to India where they were organised into the 7th Cavalry Brigade (Mesopotamia Field Force) along with the 13th (Watson's) Duke of Connaught's Lancers and 14th Murray's Jat Lancers. They sailed from Bombay once more, in July, and arrived at Basra to join Lieutenant-General Maude's force in their advance up the Tigris.

Cavalry Charge at Lajj, 5th Mar 1917

Just outside Baghdad, at Lajj on 5th Mar 1917, following faulty information provided by a captured Turkish officer, they thought they were going to collect prisoners, but the brigade was caught out in the open facing entrenched infantry. A sandstorm started up and the regiment moved forward in line of Troop column extended. They came under heavy rifle fire. They walked for half a mile and then trotted. When they were able to see the enemy the order to draw swords was given, then form line and gallop. A first-hand account of the battle was written by 2nd Lieutenant Guy Pedder who was a Troop leader in Captain W H Eve's D Squadron:

"before we knew where we were, we were into them, some stood up and surrendered, others lay flat on their backs and shot us at 2 and 3 yards range,....the noise was tremendous, bullets from revolvers, rifles and machine guns cracking all around...I lost sight of Eve who was just in front of me at the first nullah, but his orderly who was shot (wounded) close by him tells me he was shot from 2 yards range as he was bending down to charge a group of Turks. At any rate he must have been killed instantaneously. There were a great many empty saddles and dead horses by now so I tried to rally all the men who were near me. It was extremely difficult as we were under very heavy fire at very short range. There was a deafening noise and a loud wind blowing, and if you collected men in bunches the bunches would very soon have a machine gun on them. So what men I got under hand I kept extended and galloped a fair way back."

They handed over their horses and returned to the attack on foot. The Turkish marksmanship was poor which saved many lives and they advanced in short rushes until they reached a nullah. Pedder found his CO and was talking to him when both were wounded by enemy bullets. They collected the wounded after dark. The regiment suffered 50 per cent losses. 50 horses were killed and 36 wounded. The attack was, however, a success, and they carried out 4 more mounted actions over the next 18 months.

  • Died: 6th November, 1917
  • Rank: Private
  • Service No: 3883
  • Regiment: Hussars
  • Unit: 13th Hussars
  • Cemetery: Basra Memorial
William Thomson (Hussars)