Photograph of Thomas in Tameside Local Studies and Archives Centre. Reference: Acc.3550
(L to R) British War Medal; Allied Victory Medal
Thomas was born on the 3rd February 1886 at 61 New Zealand Road in Stockport, which was then in Cheshire. His father was called Patrick and his mother was Eliza Ann. He had an older sister called Edith and a younger sister called Ellen. The family were 'lapsed', or less observant Roman Catholics.
Patrick was a cotton twiner, making twine or strong string. In 1891 the family lived at 8 Newton Court, Stockport. Patrick's widowed mother Margaret lived with them. Patrick died in 1892 at the age of 30 and Eliza married Charles Cartwright in 1894. He was a widower with children of his own.
By 1901 the family lived at 4 Cain's Court, off Lancashire Hill in Stockport. Charles' children Mary Ellen aged 19, Bertha aged 7 and Samuel aged 5 lived with Thomas, Edith and Ellen. Charles was a rope maker and Thomas had found work as a thread doffer in a cotton mill.
Between July and September 1909 Thomas married Mary Ann Hanson. During July 1910 Mary Ann and Thomas were looking forward to the birth of their first child. They had planned to name him Francis, but sadly he was stillborn.
In April 1911 Thomas and Mary Ann lived at 212 Old Road in Heaton Norris. This house had just 2 rooms. Thomas worked as a thread doubler at a cotton thread mill and Mary Ann was a cop winder at a cotton doubling mill.
On the 10th January 1914 Mary Ann gave birth to the couple's only child. He was named Thomas after his father. At around this time they lived at 56 Belmont Street in Heaton Norris, Stockport.
The First World War broke out that August and Thomas joined the Army on the 11th December 1915. He joined under the Derby Scheme, where he enlisted into the Army Reserve, then returned home until he was called up. Conscription would be introduced at the end of the year, so it is possible that Thomas preferred this option to being forced to fight. He enlisted for General Service, meaning he had no preference over which unit he joined. By this time home for Thomas and Mary was 5 Clement Street in Heaton Norris.
Thomas was mobilised on the 2nd June 1916. He was assigned to the 3rd Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment and given the service number 28648. When he was called up he was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 104 pounds.
The 3rd Battalion was a training unit based at Crosby, near Southport in Lancashire. Thomas would join another unit once he arrived in France. He was sent there on the 30th September. After almost 2 weeks at the 6th Infantry Base Depot waiting to be assigned to a unit Thomas joined the 11th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment on the 12th October. He was given a new service number: 41330.
The 11th Battalion were behind the lines in Fransu when Thomas joined them. They were resting and training. Although they were away from the front lines, there were still dangers. At around 12 noon on the 28th October Thomas was being instructed in the use of the Mills Bomb, or hand grenade. He was about to throw his grenade when, in the opinion of the Commanding Officer, Thomas 'hit his arm against his equipment, preparatory to delivering the grenade, causing the grenade to slip out of his hand, hit the bank in front of the thrower and roll down the bank onto the road where it exploded'.
Thomas was wounded in the back of the left thigh by a fragment of the grenade. It was decided that he was 'in no way to blame' for the accident. After treatment at the 34th Field Ambulance and the 47th Casualty Clearing Station he was sent to the 26th General Hospital at Etaples. After 12 days it was decided to send him back to the UK to recover and he left France on the 2nd November.
We don't know what Thomas did during early 1917. We know he spent some of this time in hospital being treated for his leg wound, although we don't know which hospital or how long he spent there. Thomas was re-admitted on the 8th May, still suffering with his wound. He was treated until the 21st August, when he was discharged and sent home on a furlough until the 30th.
Active service doesn't seem to have reawakened Thomas' religion. He had told the Army he was a member of the Church of England, possibly to avoid Catholic Church Parades. At one point whilst he was home on leave his local Priest asked why he never saw Thomas at Mass and Confession.
On the 30th Thomas joined the 3rd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in Cleethorpes, Lincolnshire, for some refresher training. He was absent without leave on the 26th September, and was punished by having his pay stopped for 2 days.
Thomas left the UK on the 21st November. He had been sent to join the British forces at Salonika in Greece. He arrived on the 20th December and joined the 13th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment.
Men stationed in Salonika spent most of their time building defensive positions, and did very little major fighting. The main threat they faced was not the Bulgarians or the Austrians but disease. Malaria was rampant, and other diseases would sometimes sweep through the force.
We don't know what Thomas did in Salonika. In mid 1918 the British withdrew some of their forces from this area in order to reinforce the Army in France after it had taken heavy losses in the German Spring Offensive of March and April 1918. The 13th Battalion was one of these units. They left Greece on the 22nd June and arrived in France in early July. They were assigned to the 66th Division on the 21st, but after just 3 weeks the 13th Battalion was absorbed into the 9th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. It ceased to exist on the 13th August.
The 9th Battalion took part in the final Allied advance. Known as the Hundred Days Offensive, it began on the 8th August and led to the end of the war. Thomas was able to take 14 days leave in the UK during the second half of September. The 9th Battalion was in action soon after he returned. At this point he was a member of B Company.
On the 8th October Thomas took part in the Battle of Cambrai. The 9th Battalion attacked towards the village of Serain. They were successful but Thomas was killed during the fighting. He was 32 years old.
It would appear that Mary Ann was originally told that Thomas had been wounded at Cambrai. She wrote to the War Office on the 1st November asking if they would 'please let me know the hospital that my husband is in'. She was worried because 'I have not had any letters from him this past month and I think there is something wrong more than wounded'.
Thomas' personal items were not returned to Mary Ann until June 1919. She received a handkerchief, a wallet, a silver watch and a watch case, a pocket knife, a packet of letters and photographs and a comb.
Mary Ann remarried between October and December 1924 to Fred Harrison, a railway worker. They continued to live at 5 Clement Street until Fred died in 1959. Mary Ann died between July and September 1962 at the age of 72. Her granddaughter Margaret believes she 'never spoke of her first husband. I think it was to spare the feelings of granddad Harrison who was a lovely man.'
Thomas is buried with 89 other soldiers in Serain Communal Cemetery Extension. His grave reference is A. 13. His medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in May 2003.