The First World War tale of the Halton horse

Lois Sharpe with a horse thought to be Miss Jones.
Lois Sharpe with a horse thought to be Miss Jones.

In this week’s instalment of our A-Z of The Great War we reach the letter ‘H’ and a curious tale of a Halton man’s campaign to retrieve his family’s beloved horse from the battlefields of Europe.

A Halton horse called Miss Jones was pressed into service on the battlefields of the First World War.

She was the mount of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Cadman, a decorated soldier who was killed in action in May 1918.

But as the war still raged, Cadman’s father-in-law Edmund Sharpe of Halton Hall, began his campaign to bring Miss Jones back home to his daughter.

The Army at first told him they would have trouble finding the horse. But despite the obstacles and difficulties, Sharpe was not to be denied and after several months, Miss Jones returned home via Lancaster Railway Station to be reunited with Lois.

Lois Sharpe, who lived until she was about 97, was in her 20s when Miss Jones went off to war.

Her grandson James Unett, ironically a racehorse trainer, said: “The story was that granny had had this horse and it was either requisitioned or donated to the Army, and went to France as the charger of Cadman, who was killed in action.

“My great-grandfather had to buy it back from the War Office.”

James doesn’t know if Lt Col Cadman was riding Miss Jones when he died. Information on the internet talks of him being killed when he was machinegunned by an aircraft. He originally was in the 5th King’s Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) but at the time of his death was commanding the 10th Battalion of the Cheshire Regiment.

“You would think it was a one in a million chance of getting the horse back,” he said.

“But my great-grandfather seemed very resilient and kept plugging away.

“My granny had worked at the remount depot - I have her remount depot badge. I remember her telling me about how traumatised some of the horses were. Her job was unloading them from the carriages at the stations.”

An August 1918 letter to Sharpe from the War Office reads: “I am directed to inform you that the original purchase of the horse ridden by the late Colonel Cadman cannot be traced.

“I am to add that since the application was received it has been decided for veterinary reasons that no horses are to be returned to this country from France, unless first subjected to four months’ quarantine, and in these circumstances it is regretted that the repurchase of the animal cannot be sanctioned.”

But the Army gave way, and after a period of four months’s quarantine in France, Miss Jones arrived at the remount depot at Swaythling, near Southampton, on November 17, 1918.

She was valued at £25 and on receipt of Sharpe’s cheque, plus carriage costs of £3.13s.3d., the mare was sent on her way, arriving at Lancaster railway station on December 10, 1918, where there was no doubt an emotional reunion of the horse with the Sharpe family.

James said: “It’s nice that there was a happy ending to the story.”

Visitors to the King’s Own Royal Regiment Museum in Lancaster can see an album of photographs and documents about Cadman and Lois in its collection.