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OAs in Action: the second in our Centenary series of True Stories from the First World War


Hugh Mowbray Meyler was born near Taunton, where his

father was Town Clerk, in June 1875 and was educated first

at King's College Taunton, being described as a scholar, and

subsequently at Allhallows Grammar School, Honiton. After

graduating from the University of London and enrolling as a

solicitor, he volunteered to serve in the Boer War and spent

nearly two years on active service in the Middlesex Regiment

as a second lieutenant. After the Boer War he married the

daughter of Major-General Emerson of Taunton after she

had sailed to Durban in November 1903 and settled in Natal

where he qualified as an attorney and set up his own law

practice. After being largely responsible for organizing the

campaign in favour of the union of Natal, he was elected as

a member of the first Parliament of South Africa in 1910. A

correspondent who lived in Natal wrote that 'it was a great

thing that he should defeat the strongest politician in Natal

of this time in that strong man's own constituency'. he

strong man was F.R. Moor who had been Premier of Natal.

When the First World War started he was the first member

of any branch of the Empire Parliamentary Association to

join British forces in France when he returned to England

to enroll with his old regiment, the Middlesex, as a

Captain. He was sent to France at the beginning of 1915

and showed bravery in observing enemy positions in the

Kemmel-Vierstraat sector. On 6 February he was able to

report extensively on the latest developments in the enemy

trenches opposite his own sector, even down to the colour

of the bands on their field capes. In June 1915 he was gassed

and was awarded the M.C. He was again mentioned in

dispatches the following month when he also attended a luncheon of the Empire Parliamentary Association in the

House of Commons where he was called on to propose

a toast to Mr Balfour. In October he transferred to the

Border Regiment as a Captain, but then in March 1916 he

joined the Royal Flying Corps where he was appointed as

commander of the No 8 Balloon Company, carrying out

nearly 70 hours of balloon observation. He was wounded

in October 1917 and then injured in a parachute descent

in Belgium in September 1918. His second wife Margaret

said that he subsequently 'suffered from a buzzing in the

ears caused from falling in a parachute from a balloon'. In

November 1917 he was promoted to Lieutenant-Colonel,

having been awarded the Croix de Guerre in August 1917.

He was also mentioned in dispatches in December 1918 and

in January 1919 was awarded the D.S.O.

In December 1919 he returned to the Border Regiment and

was appointed as a Legal Officer in Ireland where, as one of

the officers selected for prosecution of Sinn Feiners, he was

constantly threatened with death. In 1923 he was awarded

the C.B.E.

he following year, having been elected as an M.P., he retired

from the army with a gratuity. He had previously stood for

election at Bethnal Green in 1918 and for Blackpool in 1922,

where he reduced a Conservative majority of 6,000 to 166.

he following year he was elected as Blackpool's first Liberal

M.P. with a majority of over 3,000.

In 1924 he was defeated and he now set up a legal practice

in Westminster and Pimlico where he was said to be 'very

popular' and was known as 'the poor man's lawyer'. In 1927

he re-established his connections with King's College when

he gave a lecture on 'he Zulu - the Gentleman of the

African Veldt' and was subsequently listed as an OA in the


Unfortunately this connection didn't last for long as by

1929 his firm ran into financial difficulties. When the

sheriff's officers came to execute a court order to arrange

for removal of goods, he shot himself. he sheriff's officers

denied that the Colonel had shown any signs of strain but

his secretary claimed that there had been 'raised voices'

and another witness said that he appeared 'very white and

agitated'. One of the sheriff's officers told the inquest that

Meyler 'asked me if I would mind stepping into the next

room as he wanted to have a private telephone call. I did so

and a few minutes later I heard a crash. he sheriff's officer

rushed back and we found that the Colonel's door had been

locked. We had to force it open to get in'. He 'was found

huddled in his office chair bleeding from a wound in the

head'. he surgeon said that the 54 year old Colonel's death

from a bullet wound had been instantaneous.



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