Thomas Richard Evans’s early life was spent in Bryniau, Ochr y Marian, in the small hamlet of Cwm near Dyserth. He was the second child of John Thomas Evans and Caroline Lewis. Like their father before them the first three children were born in Cwm: Robert in 1895, Thomas in 1898 and Mary Jemima ( Minnie) in 1901. Their mother had been born in Dyserth. The family was Welsh speaking and Thomas senior worked as a carter transporting stone from the quarry to places where it was required for building walls. He employed other men to assist him with this work.
By 1911 the family had moved to a small farm in Dyserth. Pen y Bryn was situated just off the top of the High Street. Thomas and Caroline had by now been married for 17 years and there were five children. Two more had been born after they moved to Dyserth – Peter William Edward Evans (Bill) in 1902 and Joseph Hubert Evans in 1905. They had a live-in servant in Pen y Bryn; 17 year old Annie Roberts. The older boys helped their father – carrying stone and working on the farm.
Later two more sons were born; Noel and Albert. Albert’s daughters, Carolyn and Mary, have contributed to this story about their family. Both Thomas and his brother Robert John served in the Great War. Robert John’s story can be read elsewhere on the Dyserth Memorial site.
Thomas joined the Army Reserve on the 11th of December 1915. Some of his army papers have survived and show that he was 18 years and 5 months old and 5 foot 10 inches tall at the time.
In May 1916 he was mobilized and served with the 2nd Battalion Coldstream Guards. He was based within the UK in Caterham until the 8th of July 1917 after which he saw active service overseas with the British Expeditionary Force.
According to his Roll of Honour index card in the county archive he was gassed in the Battle of Cambrai. This battle took place between the 20th of November and the 7th of December 1917. The French, Germans and British all used gas warfare in World War 1. A number of different gases were used, among them chlorine, phosgene and mustard gas. They each had different effects on the body – some more profound than others. Respiratory difficulties, blistering of the skin and nausea were just three of them. Comparatively few men died on the battlefield as a result of being gassed but huge numbers suffered lifelong health issues as a result. Thomas Evans was one of them.
He came home on the 17th of November 1918. There is evidence to suggest he was then transferred to the Agricultural Labour Corps – probably because he was not fully fit. The Labour Corps was formed in January 1917 and grew to about 389,900 men by the Armistice. Around 175,000 were working in the United Kingdom and the rest in theatres of war overseas. The Corps was manned by officers and other ranks who had been medically rated below the A1 condition needed for front line service. Many had been wounded in the war.
On demobilisation on the 18th of October 1919 Thomas was transferred to the Army Reserve. He had served for a total of 3 years and 2 months.
So…. What kind of a life did he have after leaving the Army? Mary and Carolyn remember the family saying that he used to hang out of the window to try to get his breath.
Because of his illness he was entitled to a pension. I was puzzled by one of his papers – a cover document stamped: dated 9 November 1932 Royal Hospital Chelsea. At first I thought he must have been treated there until I found out that from 1692 until 1955 all Army pensions were administered and paid from the Royal Hospital Chelsea. This explains why all Army pensioners tended to be known as Chelsea Pensioners. As we know, the residents of the Royal Hospital Chelsea retain this title today.
The legacy of war finally claimed Thomas. He died on the 16th of April, 1932 aged 34 and is interred in the churchyard in Dyserth.
He is buried with Caroline’s parents, Richard and Sarah Lewis, and his sister Minnie.