Heath Old Boys Association


Obituaries


Alan Ostler: 1885– [Heath 1899–1902]

Alan Ostler was a war journalist and soldier with ‘a greed for adventure’ who became another short lived airman.

Head and shoulders of Alan Ostler facing left
Alan Ostler

He was born probably in 1885 to William Henry and Anne Ostler who lived at 5 Heath Avenue. His father was secretary of the Halifax Education Committee and his younger brother was Tom Ostler. He attended Heath from to .

On leaving Heath, he became a journalist, an early appointment being with the Scarborough Daily Post. He was later war correspondent for the Daily Express, reporting on the Agadir Crisis (1911) and the Moroccan crisis (1912), from where he was expelled by Kaid Gillouli.

In 1912 he wrote The Arabs in Tripoli.1 He reported on the Italian-Turkish war in North Africa and was then attached to Turkish forces in the first Balkan war (from to ) and had an interview with the Sultan after the battle of Lule Bourgas ( to ) when the Bulgarian Army inflicted a defeat on the Turks who were forced to retreat.

In 1913 he crossed into Somaliland from Abyssinia and attached himself to the forces of the ‘Mad Mullah.’ He was temporarily imprisoned by the British authorities (for making an unauthorised journey? — there is some dispute over the exact reason but the conviction was quashed by the Colonial Secretary; another account says that he was fined £183 for taking the law into his own hands by expelling some Abyssinians from a Somali town).

In 1914 he reported from the Russian Front at the beginning of the Great War.

Service history: he enlisted in a Yorkshire Yeomanry Regiment (cavalry), later transferring to 17 Brigade, Royal Field Artillery.

He was sent to Gallipoli in where he contracted enteric fever and spent some time in hospital in Eygpt (?). He was sent home and transferred to the Western Front for the battle of the Somme.

In he won the Military Cross at Trones Wood during the later stages of the Battle of the Somme when he was wounded by a high explosive shell which burst within a few yards of him.

On the Halifax Courier reports that Lt Alan Ostler (RFA) is in a London hospital wounded. He became an observer in the Royal Air Force (previously the Royal Flying Corps until ; this suggests he transferred to the RAF after ).

Fate: he died of wounds on (according to his medal index card). The Daily Express published a special article written by his friend after he had gone missing but before confirmation of his death:

Alan Ostler is a medieval man. War and fighting are the supreme interests of his life. Peace and quietness and the security of home life soon bore him. Danger is his atmosphere. He only lives when his life is in danger. He has a greed for adventure.

He is buried in Ontario Cemetery Sains-Les-Marquion.

With thanks to David Millichope

1 Ostler, Alan (1912) The Arabs in Tripoli ... With illustrations specially drawn by H. Seppings Wright London: John Murray