Harold Harry Hostler EM

b. 23/02/1899  Southwark, London. d. 04/01/1971 Paddington, London.

DATE OF EM ACTION: 18/09/1931 Camden Town, London.

Harold was the older of two sons born to Henry and Rebecca Ann Hostler (nee Leek). Harold was baptised in March 1899 at the Wesleyan Methodist Chapel in Southwark. His younger brother Albert Rayner Hostler was born in 1902. Harold and Albert grew up in St Pancras. During WWI, Harold served firstly in the RFC then in the Royal Navy. On 9th August 1924, he married Ethel Maude Elsley at St Giles the Martyr Church, Kentish Town. There would be no children in their marriage. Following the award of the Edward Medal, he and Ethel moved to Hendon, where they were living at the time of the 1939 England and Wales Register. Little else is known of his life. He died in Paddington, London on 4th January 1971 and was cremated four days later.



On the 18th September, 1931, John Gale, an employee at the distillery of Messrs. W. A. Gilbey, Limited, Camden Town, who was cleaning out with a hose pipe the residue in an empty cherry brandy vat, was discovered unconscious in the vat by his mate, Frederick Wormald, having apparently been gassed by the carbon dioxide generated by the fermentation of the residue. Wormald went down the ladder and tried unsuccessfully to get Gale out. He then called Leonard Wright, one of the firm’s analysts, and went down a second time, but was slightly gassed and had to be assisted out by Wright. Wright then went down himself but was overcome by the gas and became unconscious in the bottom of the vat. In the meantime, the Manager had sent for assistance, and Harold Hostler, a vatter, arrived on the scene and immediately entered the vat. He succeeded in dragging Wright to a sitting position near the foot of the ladder, but feeling himself being overcome by the fumes he was forced to come out of the vat. He made a second attempt with a wet cloth round his mouth and at a third attempt with a rope round his body he succeeded in getting Gale to the foot of the ladder and part of the way up, when he was overcome by the gas and Gale slipped from his grasp. Hostler himself was drawn up by the rope.

Albert Meadows (assistant store keeper) then volunteered to go into the vat, and at the second attempt, with a wet cloth round his mouth and a rope round his body, he succeeded in rescuing Wright. Although partially affected, he made a third but unsuccessful attempt to rescue Gale. He then asked for a length of rubber gas piping and placing it in his mouth to breathe through and taking a looped rope with him, he went down a fourth time. He managed to place the rope round Gale and he and Gale were both drawn up from the vat. Wright and Gale recovered consciousness after an hour.

Both Hostler and Meadows displayed great courage and resource in their attempts to rescue the two men. Both were aware of the risks they were incurring, as two of the rescuers had already been overcome by the gas, and both took precautions calculated to render their attempts at rescue successful. They showed great persistence in facing deliberately what was a considerable risk. Hostler entered the vat three times and Meadows four times, and the periods occupied by their attempts at rescue were ten to fifteen minutes, and fifteen to twenty minutes, respectively.