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Edwards, Thomas Handley

Thomas Handley Edwards was born in the Hawarden Registration District in the March quarter of 1919, (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 311), the son of Robert & Elizabeth Handley Edwards, (nee Evans) who  had married in a Civil Ceremony in the same registration District in the June quarter of 1916 (Hawarden Vol. 11b Page 384).

The 1911 census sees Robert Edwards, 24, and single living at Gwalia, Hope, Flintshire, with his mother Mary, a widow, who tells us that she had been married for 27 years, 7 children had been born and sadly 1 had died.  This was crossed out by the Enumerator, as Mary was a widow. She had been born in Hope, Flints. All the family were Bilingual.  Robert was working as a Coal Miner (Hewer) and like the rest of his siblings had been born in Caergwrle, Flintshire.  His siblings were Mary, 20 and single, Harold, 18, single and a Colliery Labourer (Below Ground).  Maggie, 11 was at School.   Also in the household was another sibling Catherine, 26, who was now married to Daniel Griffiths, 27, and they tell us that they had been married a year and 1 child, Benjamin Griffiths, age 1, had been born and was still living.

Elizabeth Handley Evans, on the 1911 census, was also living with parents, at Quarry House, Caergwrle, Denbighshire.     Her father Thomas Evans, 54, a Butcher on his own account and at home, tells us that the whole family had been born in Caergwrle, Flintshire.  Elizabeth’s mother, Jane, 54 and assisting in the business tells us that they had been married 33 years and 11 children had been born to them but sadly 5 had died.    Elizabeth, 22 and single was a Dressmaker on her own account and at home, as was her sister Edith Mary, 31 and single.   There was another young girl in the household Mary Jane Evans, 17, single and Assisting Home, and she is referred to as a daughter of the Head of the household, Thomas, but on the 1901 census she is shown as Mary Ann Parry, a Niece, age 7, born in Tunstall, Staffs.   Also just a note to say that this was the first census where the householder filled the census form in.

Robert & Elizabeth Handley Edwards are seen again on the 1939 National Register, which was taken on the 29th September 1939, where they were living at Rockside, Castle Street,Caergwrle, Flintshire.

This source also gives us the dates of birth of the household members.  Robert Edwards had been born on the 20th June 1886 and was a Colliery Hewer, Elizabeth H. Edwards had been born on the 21st May 1888 and as most women were described on this register, if they didn’t have a job, was doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”   There were two more people in the household, one whose identity was redacted as it was a closed record* and the other one was Robert W. Edwards, born on the 4th August 1921 and was a Junior Clerk.  Thomas would have been too old to have been redacted, so he may have been already in the Army.

*For individual people, records remain closed for a century after their birth (the 100-year rule), unless it can be proven that they passed away before this milestone.

Robert Edwards was a pupil at Hawarden Grammar (County) School, and he is seen on their Admissions Register:- 714 (2494 EDWARDS, Robert Born 4th August 1921 Quarry House, Rockside, Castle Street, Caergwrle, Coal Miner, Date of Entry 18th September 1934, Previous School, Abermorddu Cl.  T. £3 10s 0d.Date of Leaving 23rd July 1938.

I have no information on Thomas Handley Edwards childhood, or teenage years, and as he is not on the National Register with his family, I wonder if he was already in the Army, in the Territorial Army perhaps, who would have been first to be called in an emergency.   Any information would be gratefully received.

He was to find himself in the Royal Artillery, the Enlistment Register is devoid of any information re his enlistment, or any other information, except for recording his death on the 4th June 1940.

When I saw the date of the 4th June 1940, I thought that Thomas Handley was engrossed in the fighting at Dunkirk, so I asked the WW2 talk Forum, who have been very helpful to me, helping me tell the stories of the lads who gave up so much for us all.   I asked originally as I was researching George Thomas Owens who died on the 8th June 1940 and is also remembered on the Dunkirk Memorial as he was in the 239 Bty., 101 Lt. A.A./Anti-Tank Regt. Royal Artillery, please click on the link to read his st

Extract from the website http://ww2talk.com/index.php?threads/239-bty-101-lt-a-a-anti-tank-regt-royal-artillery.82718/

Drew5233 – They weren’t at Dunkirk. They were part of 1st Armoured Division Support Group. If he was with the AT part of the regiment there’s a good possibility he would have been killed around/near Aumale fighting with the 2/6th East Surrey Regiment. They were supporting 51 Division and trying to slow the German advance as 51 Division was withdrawing eventually in to St. Valery.

MarkN – Quite correct. 239 ATk Battery was not at Dunkirk and took no part in the withdrawal to Dunkirk at all.
239 Battery was indeed one of the two ATk batteries in 101 AA/ATk RA. They were equipped with the standard 2-pdr ATk gun.
On 7 June, G and H troops bore the brunt of the attack on Aumale which began mid-afternoon. They claimed several tanks destroyed. However, this attack was carried out by 2.Inf-Div(mot) of Hoth’s XV Pz.Korps which probably had no tanks. Hoth’s two Panzer divisions were attacking elements a little further south.
The XV Pz.Korps KTB shows Aumale overrun and 2.Inf-Div(mot) well past it to the SW by the next day.
On the otherhand, 239 Battery were only ordered to leave at 0300 on 8 June in a NW direction then later in the day SW. No action appears to have taken place on the 8th. Just plenty of moving.

The Regiment was part of the force encircled with 51st Division around St.Valery.

From the whole regiment, 7 officers and 303 men made it back to England; most of the rest became POWs at St.Valery.

MarkN – Off the top of my head – By organisation, the 239th Battery was part of the 101st Light AA and ATk Regiment which, in turn, was part of 1st Armoured Division Support Group. It will not be much of a surprise to learn the 1st Armoured Division Support Group was part of the 1st Armoured Division.

However, for the beginning of June 1940, the 1st Armoured Division Support Group (less its infantry and field artillery) was under command 51st (Highland) Division not 1st Armoured Division.

On 4 June 1940, the 51st (Highland) Division was part of a major attack on the German held Abbeville bridgehead south of the Somme river. Indeed, the attack had been planned by General Fortune and his staff although the bulk of the attack was carried out by French forces (31e DI and 2e DCR).

That having been said, 239 Battery had no involvement in this attack whatsoever. They were several miles away where no (ground) fighting was taking place at all. Their problems began on 7 June as mentioned previously.

The missing list you have just posted refers to missing men from the whole campaign. It is not a list of missing men from 4 June 1940.

The Anti-tank batteries had been converted from Royal Welch Fusiliers TA from Flintshire before the war (60th RWF AT Regt RA, IIRC), before becoming a composite anti-tank and anti-aircraft regiment to support the newly formed 1st Armoured Division.

Those Welsh gunners killed in Upper Normandy or captured at St Valery do not get the credit they deserve.

Many thanks to the Forum Members of WW2talk.

https://www.wikiwand.com/en/1st_Flintshire_Rifle_Volunteers

World War II – 60th (RWF) Anti-Tank Regiment, RA*

When war broke out on 3 September 1939 60th (RWF) Regiment was the anti-tank component of 53rd (Welsh) Division,[76] but on 22 December it was assigned to 1st Support Group (1st Sp Gp) in 1st Armoured Division, which was preparing to join the British Expeditionary Force in France.[77]

*101st Light Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment, RA – Not to be confused with 101st Light Anti-Aircraft Regiment, Royal Artillery 1941–44.

On 14 February 1940, Regimental HQ (RHQ) of 60th (RWF) A/T Rgt was converted into 101st Light Anti-Aircraft/Anti-Tank Regiment, consisting of 237 and 239 A/T Btys and two light anti-aircraft (LAA) batteries, 43 from 11th (City of London Yeomanry) LAA Rgt and 44 from 12th (Finsbury Rifles) LAA Rgt. This composite unit, the first of its kind, provided the bulk of 1st Sp Gp, the other artillery units having already gone to France.[73][77][78][79][80]

Battle of France

1st Armoured Division was ordered to France on 11 May after the German invasion of the Low Countries ended the Phoney War. It began landing at Cherbourg and Le Havre on 15 May and was immediately ordered to advance and hold the crossings over the River Somme. 101st LAA/AT Regiment, with 20 x 2-pounder A/T guns and 96 Lewis guns as AA light machine guns (the LAA batteries’ Bofors 40 mm guns not having arrived) was ordered to seize the crossings over the Seine and hold them until the armour arrived to push on to the Somme (the infantry of 1st Sp Gp had been diverted to the defence of Calais and were not available). Brigadier Archibald Beauman, who had been put in charge of the scattered mobile forces south of the Somme (‘Beauforce’), recovered 10 Bofors guns from various abandoned airfields, and these were given to 44 LAA Bty.[77][75][81][82][83][84]

The division’s 2nd Armoured Brigade and Beauforce got within four miles of the Somme by 01.00 on 24 May, but then began to meet opposition and mines. Attempts by 1st Armoured and 51st (Highland) Division under French command to break through to the encircled BEF at Dunkirk led to fighting round Abbeville on 27–28 May and were unsuccessful. By early June the BEF had been evacuated, but fighting continued. On 4 June 1 Sp Gp provided flank protection for another attempt by 51st (H) Division to destroy the German bridgeheads at Abbeville, but the Germans had had two weeks to dig in, and the attack failed.[84][85] Next day the Germans renewed their offensive, surrounding and capturing 51st (H) Division at St Valery-en-Caux, while 1st Sp Gp was ‘out on a limb’ facing German Panzer divisions and was driven back across the Seine. An operation to evacuate the considerable numbers of British forces left in France from the western ports (Operation Aerial) began. The survivors of 1st Sp Gp were shipped out of Cherbourg on 16 June.[77][84][86][87]

Thomas Handley Edwards’s Casualty Card tells us that he died on or shortly after the 4th June 1940 and he was “Presumed killed in Action.”    This source also tells us that he was born in Hope and his residence was Caergwrle.   He was 21 years old.

I have added his Casualty Lists below – Casualty List 269 (Page 5) which shows rows of names of the young lives who were lost in the actions during this time.   Casualty List 1915 (Secret) is an amended list giving more details on some of the men, including Thomas’s amended fate, where he is described as “Previously Reported Missing, now Presumed Killed in Action” on or shortly after 4th June 1940.

Although George Owen and Thomas Handley Edwards died 4 days apart they were probably in the same battles and two local lads paid the supreme sacrifice for us all.  Neither of their bodies were found so they are remembered on the Memorial at Dunkirk.  They are also remembered on the Hawarden & Hope WW2 War Memorials, please click on the links.

Thomas’s name was added to the Hope WW2 War Memorial by his family, so that his name and sacrifice would be remembered in perpetuity, he was very much loved and missed.

 

PS remember to add the source of the photograph of Anti-Tank Guns in Folder – https://www.wikiwand.com/en/1st_Flintshire_Rifle_Volunteers


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