Turley, Thomas

I found the newspaper cutting for Thomas Turley’s death in the Chester Chronicle dated the 20th April 1940 (see below) stating that news from the War Office to his wife that he had died on active service in France.   He was said to be a native of Connah’s Quay, the son of Mr. & Mrs. James Turley, so I was intrigued to why he had not been included on the WW2 Plaque on the War Memorial.

According to his Army Roll of Honour on Ancestry, he had been born in Glasgow but resided in Chester.  Which was my first clue.

I have found that he was born at 12.30pm on the 20th November 1908, at 29, Chapel Terrace, Glasgow to James Turley, Iron Worker & Catherine Turley (Maiden surname Parkinson) who married on the 8th October 1902 in Glasgow.   James registered the birth on the 7th December 1908.

The marriage of James and Catherine was in the district of Calton in the Burgh of Glasgow.(Page 203 No. 406) on the 8th October 1902 at 17, Montieth Row, Glasgow After Publication according to the Forms of the Church of Scotland: –

James Turley Steel Roller, (Bachelor) age 24, 35, King Street, Glasgow, Parents – Charles Edward Turley, Steel Roller & Mary Turley (Maiden surname Watson) & Catherine Parkinson, Confectionary Worker,(Spinster) age 22, 35, King Street, Glasgow, Parents – Richard Parkinson, Tailor and Maria Parkinson (Maiden surname Sharkey (deceased).

Witnesses:- Harry B.W. Hales & Agnes Campbell.   Officiating Minister, Thomas Hislop, Minister of Bridgeton.   All signed.

The family must have moved for work as the John Summers & Sons Steelworks was drawing so many workers from all parts of Britain.    I next find the family living at 34, Spring Street, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire on the 1911 census.   James Turley, 34, was head of the household and an Iron Worker, h had been born in Monkland Scotland, his wife Catherine, 30 had been born in Parkhead, Scotland.    They tell us that they had been married 8 years and 2 children had been born to them.   Agnes Turley, 6 and Thomas Turley, 2 had no place of birth written down.

Thomas went to Golftyn School in 1913 and 1914, I was able to find the School admissions, but otherwise I have no knowledge of his early and teen years.

We see the family on the 1921 census, which was taken on the 19th of June 1921, having moved to 7, Princes Street, Connah’s Quay.   James Turley was the head of the household, he was now 42 years and 9 months old, and he had been born in Coatbridge, Scotland, he was an Ironworker at Messrs Summers and Sons, Hawarden Steel Works, but was ‘Out of work.’   His wife, Catherine Turley was 38 years and 9 months old and had been born in Glasgow, Scotland.   Their children were Agnes Turley, 15 years, and 7 months old, single, born in Glasgow and I think the writing states ‘Boarding School.’   Any information would be appreciated.  Thomas Turley was 12 years and 7 months old and had been born in Glasgow, and James Turley, 9 years, and 9 months old and born in Connah’s Quay.

I do know that he enlisted in 1932, according to Find my Past, but the Royal Artillery Enlistment Register has that date in the Transfers section – Transfer to other Ranks or cause of becoming ineffective, (Including date) — 1st September 1932 Para 370* (x) K.R.) — (Re-enlisted R.Eng. (D.of E.) 4th September 1939 (Day after the outbreak of War), so was he in the Army earlier?

* KING’S Regulations  Para 370-  Transfer to Army Reserve.:-

When a soldier leaves the colours on transfer to the Army Reserve or discharge (except under para. 383 (x), (xi), (xii) when from a detention barrack or (xiii)), he will be given— (i) A soldier’s pass (A.F. B 295). This pass will be given to him as a protection certificate pending the receipt of his certificate of service from the officer i/c records.

A note to the effect that the soldier is entitled ‘to wear civilian clothes will be inserted at the head of the pass, In the case of a soldier discharged without being granted furlough before discharge, the following words will be inserted in the last line of the pass :— ” his home on discharge from the service, pending the receipt of his certificate of service “, and the reference to general mobilization at the head of the Army Form will be deleted.

So it seems he was in the Army at least by 1932 if not earlier, but was discharged and then re-enlisted in 1939 as described above.

Thomas met Annie Vickers and married her in a Civil Marriage or Registrar Attended Marriage in Chester (Cheshire West ROC/85/124) in the June quarter of 1934.

Thomas’s parents were living at 357 High Street, Connah’s Quay, Flintshire.  James Turley (Snr.) had been born on the 17th September 1876 and was a Steel Works Labourer, Catherine Turley had been born on the 22nd September 1881 and she was incapacitated.   Their son James Turley (Junr.) had been born on the 19th September 1911 and was a Porter & Motor Driver, L.M. & S.   He was single.

Annie Turley is on the 1939 National Register, taken on the 29th September 1939. – On the National Register Annie was at home with her parents living at 86 Allington Place, Chester C.B., Cheshire.   This source also gives the dates of birth.  Joseph V. Vickers  had been born on the 5th June 1885 and was a Rat Catcher for  Chester Corporation.   His wife Lily Vickers had been bporn on the 12th April 1891 and as most women on this register who did not have a job was described as doing “Unpaid Domestic Duties.”  Annie Turley had been born on the 15th February 1914 and was a Char Woman at the Assembly To???.   Frank Vickers had been born on the 25th January 1925 and was an Errand Boy for The Cream??.   There is a redacted or closed record and I am wondering if this was Annie & Thomas’s child.

According to the newspaper cutting Thomas and Annie had two children (I believe that the 2 children born to Thomas and Annie were born in 1934 and 1936.) :-

Chester Chronicle, 20th April 1940 Page 8 Col. 4

Died on Active Service

Native of Connah’s Quay.

News was received from the War Office this week that Private Thomas TURLEY, of 28, Chichester-street, Chester, has died on active service in France.

Private TURLEY had served for some years in the Regular Army and had completed his time, but at the outbreak of war he volunteered for service.   As a member of the B.E.F., he went to France in October.

A native of Connah’s Quay, Private TURLEY was 31.    He was the son of Mr. & Mrs. James TURLEY, 357, High-street, Connah’s Quay.   Seven years ago he married Miss Annie VICKERS, of Handbridge, Chester.    Widespread sympathy is expressed with his widow, who, since the war, with her two children, has been living with her mother in Handbridge, and with his parents, brother, and sister, who live in Connah’s Quay.

Thomas was sent to France very early in the war and I have tried to find out what he was doing there.    It seems that he was initially in the Royal Engineers or Sappers, as they were called, but he was then in the Pioneer Corps and I put the question to the WW2talk website  – and “Osborne 2” answered the question: –

“AMPC (Aux. Mil. Pioneer Corps) had many of its units committed to ‘Lines of Communication’ duties, or the supply network to support the front line. Vey many of them were therefore stung out along the ports used for access by the British. These tended not to be, where you might expect, Dunkirk, Calais and Boulogne, but the western channel and Atlantic ports, Le Havre round to St Nazaire. The reason was that they had learned from WW1 that having major supply lines too close to the battlefield area could be a significant mistake.

So, from these ports (see De Winser’s book on BEF ships for movements showing this) supply lines radiated out and converged on the BEF who were principally on the Belgian border. Along these routes were bakeries, petrol, ammunition, vehicle, food, vehicle dumps and storage, and the units to run them, with an administrative system based on the UK command and control system for the same. Many of these locations had to be constructed from new, maintained and guarded and the AMPC often assisted in this or provided the ‘handballing’ manual labour for loading and unloading road and rail transport, as it did in Britain.” 

Rich Payne also with the above forum helped by adding :-

“Hello Mavis, 

The casualty return is a useful resource and helps avoid a lengthy wait for service records. 

This is the war diary that you need…I’m fairly certain that a death would be mentioned at this stage of the ‘phoney war’. It should also detail what sort of work they were engaged in. Unfortunately, the current crisis has made National Archive access next to impossible…Let’s hope for a rapid improvement in everything. 

62 Company Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC) | The National Archives –

I’ll be interested to hear how you get on. There are a couple of chaps on the forum who will be back in the archives as soon as they are able, if you’re not within striking distance.


Many thanks to the Forum above.

You might find the following interesting:-

Unit History: Pioneer Corps

Pioneer Corps

In September 1939, a number of infantry and cavalry reservists were formed into Works Labour Companies. These, in October 1939 became the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC), and a Labour Directorate was created to control labour matters. On 22 November 1940 the name was changed from the AMPC to the Pioneer Corps.

Pioneers were recruited from throughout Africa, Mauritius and India. They performed a wide variety of tasks in all theatres of war. These tasks ranging from handling all types of stores, laying prefabricated track on the beaches and stretcher-bearing. They also worked under Engineer supervision on the construction of the Mulberry Harbour and laid the Pipe Line Under the Ocean (PLUTO), constructed airfields, roads and erected bridges. Hardly known today is the fact that many thousands of Germans and Austrians joined the Pioneer Corps to assist the Allied war efforts and liberation of their home countries. These were mainly Jews and political opponents of the Nazi Regime who had fled to Britain while it was still possible, including the cinematographer Sir Ken Adam. These men – often dubbed “The King’s Most Loyal Enemy Aliens” – later moved on to serve in fighting units like the Royal Fusiliers, Royal Tank Corps and even with the RAF. Serving as German nationals in the British forces was particularly dangerous, since, in the case of them being taken captive, there was a high probability they would have been executed as traitors by the Germans. Also, the number of German-born Jews joining the British forces was exceptionally high. Until the end of the war, one of seven Jewish refugees from Germany had joined the British forces. Their profound knowledge of the German language and customs proved to be very useful. A lot of them served in the administrative bodies of the British occupation army in Germany after the war

Related Historic Documents

Royal Pioneer Corps

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia 

Extract from :- History

In September 1939, a number of infantry and cavalry reservists were formed into Works Labour Companies, which were soon made the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps (AMPC); a Labour Directorate was created to control all labour force matters. A large number of Pioneers served in France with the British Expeditionary Force. During the Battle of France, an infantry brigade was improvised from several AMPC Companies under the command of Lieutenant-Colonel J. B. H. Diggle. Known as “Digforce”, the brigade became part of Beauman Division and fought in defence of the Andelle and Béthune rivers on 8 June 1940 against the 5th and 7th Panzer Divisions. Digforce brigade and thousands of other BEF Pioneers were evacuated to England in Operation Ariel.[6] An unknown number of AMPC troops were killed when the HMT Lancastria was sunk off St Nazaire on 17 June.[7]

On 22 November 1940, the name AMPC was changed to Pioneer Corps.[8] In March 1941, James Scully became the only member of the Pioneer Corps to be awarded the George Cross. Corps members have won some 13 George Medals and many other lesser awards.[9]

A total of 23 pioneer companies took part in the Normandy landings.[10] The novelist Alexander Baron served in one of these Beach Groups and later included some of his experiences in his novels From the City From the Plough and The Human Kind. He also wrote a radio play about the experience of being stranded on a craft attempting to land supplies on the beaches of Normandy. Nos. 85 and 149 Companies, Pioneer Corps served with the 6th Beach Group assisting the units landing on Sword Beach on D Day, 6 June 1944.[11]

On 28 November 1946, in recognition of their performance during the Second World War, King George VI decreed that the Pioneer Corps should have the distinction “Royal” added to its title.[10]


In the early part of World War II, the Pioneer Corps was apparently the only British military unit in which enemy aliens could serve.[13] Thousands of German and Austrian nationals joined the Pioneer Corps to assist Allied war efforts and the liberation of their home countries. They typically were Jews and political opponents of the Nazi Regime who had fled to Britain, including film production designer Ken Adam, writer George Clare, and publisher Robert Maxwell.

Later, some members of Pioneer Corps—often dubbed “The King’s Most Loyal Enemy Aliens”—transferred to serve in various fighting units. Some were recruited by the Special Operations Executive (SOE) to serve as secret agents and were parachuted behind enemy lines.[14]

Serving as a German or Austrian national in the British forces was especially dangerous because, in case of being taken captive, there was a high probability of being executed as a traitor by the Germans. Still, the number of German-born Jews joining the British forces was exceptionally high; by the end of the war, one in seven Jewish refugees from Germany had joined the British forces. Their knowledge of the German language and customs proved particularly useful; many served in the administration of the British occupation army in Germany and Austria after the war.[15]

It has wrongly been claimed at various times and in various places that British conscientious objectors were sometimes ordered into the Pioneer Corps by Conscientious Objection Tribunals in the Second World War; the error may have arisen from a misunderstanding of a misleadingly drafted question in the House of Lords on 22 July 1941 and a reply by Lord Croft, Joint Under-Secretary of State for War, that was not expressed with the clarity that might have been expected. The War Office was asked about “British conscientious objectors who have been ordered by the Tribunals to undertake service with the Pioneer Corps”, whereas the Tribunals had no power to make such an order; the only power they had relating to conscientious objectors in the armed forces was to order non-combatant military service, meaning call-up in most cases to the Non-Combatant Corps, or occasionally to the Royal Army Medical Corps; the Pioneer Corps, as a combatant unit, was by definition excluded. In his reply, Lord Croft referred to “conscientious objectors ordered for attachment to the Pioneer Corps”, only obliquely correcting the language of the question. To spell it out in full, what Lord Croft meant was “conscientious objectors ordered by the Tribunals to serve in the Non-Combatant Corps and then, as members of the NCC, attached at certain times and for certain purposes to the Pioneer Corps”.[16]

However it seems that Thomas was in Britain in the February of 1940 on leave, he had been in France since October, according to the Newspaper report on his death.   So the accident leading to his death was shortly after returning from home.

The Casualty List 169 states that Thomas had died as the result of an accident but gives his Regimental Number as 2186008, this is corrected on the next Casualty List as 818111.

Sadly I cannot find out how or why Thomas died but he was buried in the Villers-Bocage Communal Cemetery Extension with one other WW2 casualty, who was Flt. Sgt. (Pilot) Cyril Woodall.   They lie side by side, but the R.A.F. Pilot died 3 years after Thomas.

Initially, as well, Thomas’s date of death was wrong on the Commonwealth War Graves Database, it stated that he died on the 3rd March 1940, but the Casualty List stated otherwise, and so I wrote to the CWGC , who wrote to tell me that this was due to a typographical error.

Dear Mrs. Williams,

Thank you for your email.

Having investigated this case, it is clear that the error in our entry for Private Turley occurred as the result of a typographical error in our original register which was later scanned to form our database (31st was written as 3st).

I have therefore corrected the date of death to the 31st March 1940 and this change should replicate on our website within the next 24 hours or so. Please do feel free to check.

The present headstone records the correct date so no amendment is required.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.

Kind Regards

Martin Skelly – Records Administrator Headstones

Thomas needs to be remembered for his sacrifice.   I have many more documents and information for the family if you would like to contact the website.

What do you want to do ?

New mail

What do you want to do ?

New mail

What do you want to do ?

New mail

What do you want to do ?

New mail

What do you want to do ?

New mail

Back to top