Richard Henry Vaughan Thompson

Richard Henry Vaughan Thompson

11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers

Died 26th September 1916 Age 32

Capt. R.H. Vaughan Thompson – Royal Fus. 

Richard Henry Vaughan Thompson, born 20 October 1883, was the only son of Col.  Edward Vaughan Thompson and Emily Charlotte Vaughan Thompson (née Beachcroft) of East Sheen. Col. Vaughan Thompson was a colonel in the 3rd Volunteer Battalion East Surrey Regiment and for a time, pre-war, young Richard served as a volunteer in his father’s regiment. However, his connection with the parish of Kincardine O’Neil was through his father-in-law Lord Shaw of Dunfermline, Liberal Member of Parliament for Hawick, and eminent lawyer and judge, who became a Lord of Appeal in Ordinary in 1909, purchased the estate of Craigmyle in 1911 and was created a life peer in 1929, taking the title 1st Baron Craigmyle.

He was educated at Somerfields, Oxford and, from 1897-1902, Winchester College, where he was a rower and runner and participated in the Rifle Corps. In 1902 he went up to Oxford and graduated with an Honours degree in Jurisprudence from Trinity College in 1905. He was an only son, but had a sister, Dorothy Mary, who married a Derbyshire Vicar in 1910, when the family home was at Westhay, East Sheen.  He practised as a solicitor in the family firm of Beachcroft, Thomson & Co. in Theobalds Road, London and was elected to Holborn Borough Council. 

In the 1911 census, Richard Vaughan Thompson was with his widowed mother and three domestic servants at Sheen Wood, Christchurch Road, Mortlake. He gave the same address when, on 31 August 1914, he signed up to the Inns of Court Officers’ Training Corps at 10, Stone Buildings, Lincoln’s Inn, and applied for a temporary commission for the duration of the war. In December he was accorded the rank of Captain in the 11th Battalion, Royal Fusiliers. 

The Aberdeen Press & Journal was among many newspapers which in January 1915 reported an engagement to The Hon. Isabel, youngest daughter of Lord and Lady Shaw, providing some family background: “Captain Thompson is the nephew and partner of Sir Richard Melvill Beachcroft, a well-known city solicitor, who was for years the leader of the Moderate party in the London County Council, and the chairman of that body…and grand-nephew of Dean Vaughan*, the eloquent preacher, who was for many years Master of the Temple”.

The young couple married, on 6 February 1915, at what the papers reported as a “quiet” wedding at South Kensington Presbyterian Church. The Scotsman gave a detailed account. The groom was dressed in khaki and his best man was a brother officer Captain Leslie Nash. It was a choral service. A violin concerto was played during the signing of the register. Afterwards there was a reception at 1 Palace Gate, the Shaw family London residence, before the newly-weds departed on a brief honeymoon, “the bride wearing a pale blue dress, with a long coat of natural musquash trimmed with skunk…”.

The Aberdeen Weekly Journal reported regularly on the new Mrs Vaughan Thomson’s doings in the county. In August 1915 she was at Craigmyle for the opening week of the grouse shooting, when the lessee of the Learney shootings received a telegram informing him of the death of his brother at the front, and there was also a report that Private David Milne of the 7th Battalion Gordon Highlanders, gardener at Tillydrine and bandmaster of the district brass band, had been wounded by shrapnel.

In January 1916, Mrs Vaughan Thompson received a telegram to the effect that her husband had been admitted to a Red Cross hospital in Rouen with fractured nasal bones. He was discharged after about two weeks, but on 1 October 1916 much worse news was conveyed in a telegram to 1, Palace Gate:

“Deeply regret to inform you that Capt. R. H. Vaughan Thompson 11 Royal Fusiliers is reported wounded believed killed Sep 26. The Army Council express their sympathy”.

A further telegram the following day confirmed that he had been killed in action. 

On the reported day of his death the 11th were involved in the attack and capture of Thiepval, one of many notoriously costly episodes in the course of the Battle of the Somme. The battalion War Diary records that on the day in question Capt. Vaughan Thompson was in command of “D” Co.  He was killed leading his men in an attack on a strong point in enemy Brawn Trench. 

The telegrams were sent to Palace Gate, but in fact Mrs Vaughan Thomson was at Craigmyle, as appears from an article in the Aberdeen Journal on 7 October 1916 when it reported on the annual meeting of the County of Aberdeen Branch, British Red Cross Society, held in the ballroom of the Music Hall on Union Street, Aberdeen. Lord Shaw sent apologies for his absence, the chairman reading out a letter from him as follows:

The War Office reports by telegram that my dear son-in-law, Captain Vaughan Thomson, is believed to have been killed in action on the 26th September. I accompany my stricken daughter to London. In the circumstances your committee will, I am sure, forgive my absence”.

The Holborn & Finsbury Guardian printed an obituary on 20 October 1916, noting among other things:

“He went to the front in July, 1915, and was in command of his company when he was killed, having previously taken part in several severe actions.

…The major of his battalion writes of him that he was killed ‘while most gallantly leading his company against one of the strongest positions, and I feel I have lost not only, most probably, the finest officer of my battalion, but also a true friend’ “.

Also on 20 October 1916, a memorial service was held at Christ Church East Sheen. 

In July 1917, a memorial was erected in that church, in the form of a carved oak canopy over the bishop’s chair. Tribute was paid in the parish magazine to Capt. Vaughan Thompson’s dedication to local public service as someone who “until the day of his death on the battlefield had the interests and welfare of the parish at heart”.

Capt. Vaughan Thompson was Mentioned in Dispatches, and is commemorated at Authuille Military Cemetery.

Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Census England & Wales 1911
National Archives: Service record – Officers file WO339/19867; War Diary of the 11th Royal Fusiliers WO95/2045/1_1
Derbyshire Advertiser and Journal 18 November 1910
London Gazette 11 September 1914
Aberdeen Press & Journal 12 January 1915 – engagement
Daily Mirror 6 February 1915 – engagement
The Scotsman 8 February 1915, 4 October 1916 and 28 May 1918
The Sketch – 20 January 1915 – nice photo of Isabel
Holborn & Finsbury Guardian 20 October 1916 Obituary
Richmond Herald 21 October 1916 – memorial service
Richmond Herald 30 December 1916 – left estate of £12,988
Richmond Herald 7 July 1917 – re memorial
British Newspaper Archive at – lots of material on Mrs Vaughan Thomson 
Oxford Dictionary of National Biography entry re Lord Shaw, 1st Baron Craigmyle.
Ray Westlake: Tracing British Battalions of the Somme [Pen & Sword Military 2009]
Trinity College Oxford archives – biographical letter from Isabel to the college and oak memorial board at entrance to War Memorial Library.
*Rev. Charles John Vaughan D.D.(1816-97) Dean of Llandaff and Master of the Temple, also Headmaster of Harrow 1844-1859.