Thomas was a Lancashire lad through and
through but he wasn’t from Blackburn. He was born, raised and lived most of his
life in Lancaster. He was born on the 30 January 1882 and baptised
in St Mary’s Church on the 9 April. He was named after his maternal
grandfather Thomas Gardner who was also a property owning gentleman from
Up until his thirties he lived in the
family home ‘Wheatfield’, a substantial house, which still stands on Dallas
Road in Lancaster.
The family were well off and he shared the house with his mother and
father Mary and Thomas. He had an elder brother Reginald who went on to be a
solicitor and two sisters Mary and Gertrude. They also had a live in cook, servant
and even a governess for a while.
His father, who died in 1907, was a wine and
spirit merchant who also owned the Bear and Staff Hotel in Lancaster which they
sold in 1899 to F W Woolworth.
educated at Lancaster Royal Grammar School and went on to be a stained glass
artist. Lancaster at the time was a centre for stained glass with three well
known Also in the town were a noted firm of architects, Paley and Austin, who built lots of the churches in the North West
including St Silas in Blackburn the tower of which was completed in 1914.
Some time in 1912/13 Thomas moved to Pleasington and lived in
Feniscowles Old Hall, not the ruined New Hall, on what is now Links Lane. Why
he moved to Pleasington we are not sure but Harold Cooper who had lived in the
Hall in 1911 was an architect so perhaps he was working for him and Harold also
had three sisters so perhaps this was the connection.
war was declared Thomas joined the East Lancs. Regt at Canterbury Street in
1914 when he was thirty two years old.
The 1st Battalion although recruiting
mainly from Blackburn was stationed at Colchester as part of the 11th Brigade
and then moved to Harrow. When in August the battalion mobilised for war and
landed at Le Havre to engage in various actions on the Western Front Thomas
remained in England. It wasn’t until June 1916 that he joined the battalion in
France just before the Battle of the Somme.
0730 hours on 1st July 1916 the artillery barrage lifted and the British
infantry, including the 1st and 11th East Lancashires, advanced in extended
lines towards the German trenches.For a few
moments there was silence, and then suddenly machine guns opened up from behind
largely unbroken wire and cut down the attackers in swathes.
The casualties, some 57,470 men, were the worst ever suffered by the
British Army on a single day.
Within a few hours The East Lancashire Regiment suffered more
casualties than on any other day in its long history. Out of 700 officers and
men of the 1st Battalion who went into action, only 237 were present to answer
their names when the roll was called, while the Accrington Pals lost 594
killed, wounded and missing out of the 720 in the attack.
Those of the regiment who were left were pulled back from the
front to give them time to rest and recuperate.
After weeks of heavy rain no mans land was a vast lake of mud
pitted with shell holes and the local command request that the assault was
delayed. But the decision was taken to go ahead and on the 18 they
advanced over the sea of mud. A and C companies were in front with B company
following behind while D company was held in reserve. Heavy rain continued to
fall and the night was pitch black, the sky was lit up by an artillery barrage
and at zero hour the men floundered into the mud. Wearing full equipment and
carrying extra bombs they were met by heavy machine gun fire and made slow
progress, soon they were utterly exhausted and scarcely moving most were shot
down or drowned in shell holes. Those who survived were rounded up at day break
and taken prisoner. B and D companies fell back to their original lines and no one
from A or C returned, they lost all the officers, NCOs and 362 other ranks.
He was buried in a temporary grave and after
the war he was re-interned and lies in the Villers-Plouich Communal Cemetery in