Joseph Tomlinson was born in 1892, the son of Thomas and Catherine Tomlinson.
The census of 1891 records the family living at 17 Long Row, Buckley. Head of the household was Thomas, a Coal miner who was 40. His wife Catherine was 38. Their listed children were Edward 16, William 10, Thomas 9, Randle 7, Elizabeth 5 and Prudence 6 months.
The census of 1901 finds the family still at the same address but in different circumstances. Catherine was then a widow and was the head of the household. The children listed were William 20, Thomas 19, Randle 17, Prudence 10 and Joseph was 8. The three older boys were all coal miners.
The 1911 census places the family at 8 Burntwood, Buckley. The census form tells us that Catherine had given birth to 12 children of whom only 6 were still living. Listed at home for the census were William 33, Thomas 30, Randle 27 and Joseph 18. The three of them were Colliers. Catherine Tomlinson was to lose more children yet. We understand that Thomas died before WW1
Joseph’s Army Records have survived and are accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk. They tell us that he enlisted and signed his Attestation Form in Mold on the 15th November 1915. He gave his address as Long Row Buckley. He was 23 years and one month old and his trade was ‘Collier’. He was 5 feet 7 inches tall, weighed 144 ilbs and had a chest measurement of 37 inches (with an expansion range of 3 inches). His physical development was deemed to be ‘Good’. He was assigned to the 20th Battalion of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers as private 36966.
He was posted to France and sailed from Southampton on the 4th July 1916 and disembarked at Rouen the next day and joined No 5 Infantry Base. He was for some reason attached to the 15th Cheshires ‘in the field’. The records show that he got into trouble and came up against some army discipline when he was put on a charge for sleeping at his post. The entry is confusing and the dates don’t make a lot of sense. It looks as if he was found guilty at some kind of Field Court Martial and sentenced to be imprisoned with hard labour for 6 months. The records then say he was under arrest awaiting trial from the 12th August 1916 to the 14th August 1916. Then it says his sentence was suspended on the order of a GOC (General Officer Commanding).
Thought. It’s easy to judge a century later but this reads like an episode of bullying and intimidation. Were they out to frighten him to death? – Viv Williams Editor FWM
The poor lad was killed in action ‘in the field’ in France less than a week after this event. The records say he was buried at Johnson’s Post Thiepval Wood and it gives a reference Q.30.d.1.2
Joseph’s death was announced in newspaper accounts:
North Wales Coast Pioneer, September 14th 1916
PRIVATE J. TOMLINSON, BUCKLEY KILLED
Mrs. J. Tomlinson, of Burntwood, Buckley, has received official information that her son, Private Joseph Tomlinson, was killed in action on August 20th. Writing to Mr. Randle Tomlinson, brother of the deceased, Sergeant Dodd of the deceased’s company says: “He passed away on the morn of August 20th when on sentry duty in the trenches. He was hit with shrapnel, and died a few minutes later without regaining consciousness. I must say that it is heart-breaking to lose men like your brother. Although he had not been in my platoon any length of time he was devoted to his duty, and I know him to be a God-fearing man, who faced all the dangers which have to be faced with a contented heart. The boys want me to say they offer you the deepest and sincerest sympathy in the loss of such a fine man as Joseph was. Previous to going in the trenches we had a glee party in my company, and your brother was amongst us with his fine bass voice, and we won a competition through his efforts in keeping up his part. He had a chum named Brookes, who also was slightly wounded.” Private Tomlinson, who was 23 years of age, went out to France with the R.W.F., but was transferred to another regiment. He was a Sunday School worker, a devoted member of the Drury-lane Primitive Methodist Church, and a member of the choir.
County Herald, September 12, 1916
It is our painful duty this week to record the deaths of two more Buckley soldiers. Mrs. Tomlinson, of Burntwood, has received official information that her son, Private J. Tomlinson (23), Cheshire Regiment was killed in action on the 20th of last month. The War Office information was accompanied by the following message: The King commands me to assure you of the true sympathy of His Majesty and the Queen in your sorrow” -David Lloyd George. Private Tomlinson enlisted in in July 1915 and was sent to the RWF. When abroad, he was transferred to the Cheshires. Before enlisting he was employed at the Mountain Colliery. He was a member of the Primitive Methodist Church, Drury Lane and a devoted worker in the Sunday school.
Joseph Tomlinson may have been a second cousin of William Tomlinson of Drury who was killed in Egypt in 1917.