Thomas (Tommy) Bate was born 1st July, 1889 at Kelsterton, near Flint, and baptised 4th August, 1889 at St Mark’s Parish Church, Connah’s Quay. He was the sixth of seven children to Thomas Bate and Perenna (Owen) and resided at Kelsterton Hall.
Thomas Bate senior was Landed Proprietor of the Kelsterton Estate, High Sheriff of Flintshire, Captain of ‘K’ Troop of the Flintshire and Denbigh Hussars, proprietor of the Kelsterton Brewery Company, a Justice of the Peace and President of the Flint Conservative Club.
His wife, Perenna, was born in Blessington, County Wicklow, Ireland and a daughter of William Owen, whose family were famous for breeding superb hunter horses.
Tommy was educated at Fonthill Public School in East Grinstead, East Sussex and Shrewsbury Public School, where he was a sergeant in the Cadet Corps.
In November, 1908 he was abroad travelling in Australia and British Columbia, and while he was away, on 13th December, 1910, his father passed away. In his will Mr Bate had left “my Kelsterton Hall Estate” to “my son, the said Thomas Bate”. Tommy returned home on 23rd November, 1912, but it wasn’t until July 1914 he officially took over as landlord of the Estate, which until then had been in the care of a trustee, namely his maternal uncle Thomas Owen, Esquire. An ‘at home’ party took place at the Hall on 17th July, when he was the recipient of a handsome present from the tenantry of the Estate to commemorate his practical work as landlord. It was a large silver salver bought from Lowes, goldsmiths of Chester, engraved with the words “Presented to Thomas Bate by his tenants on his succession to the Kelsterton Estate, July 1st, 1914”. About 60 guests and the house party (the Bate family and trustees) assembled in two marquees erected in the grounds, where an excellent meat tea was enjoyed by all. After the meal there was an informal walkabout, affording the opportunities for private communications between Mr Bate and his tenants.
Alderman Joseph Wood Massey Evans, of Flint, whose son Private Arthur Leslie Evans also died in the war, proposed the health of their landlord Mr Bate, in the most felicitous terms. He was very pleased to hear the extremely kind and generous remarks made by Mr Bate in reference to the good feeling, for he was of the opinion that all the tenants were a thoroughly loyal class and honoured their landlord. Mr Evans said that no doubt all present had recently read the report of the presentation, which had appeared in the County Herald. That presentation would show to the public what excellent feeling existed between the members of the Kelsterton Hall family and the tenants. There was a capital esprit de corps, and the landlord was thoughtful of the interest of the tenant; and that was proved by the kindly manner in which he associated himself with them. He expressed the hope that long might those good relations be experienced and long might Mr Bate live to enjoy the privileges of landlord.
Finally, amusing entertainment was provided by two artists, Mr Rogers and Mr Gilbert, from Chester. The memorable proceedings finished at 8pm; all having spent a very delightful afternoon and evening. It was idyllic; Kelsterton’s future was once again secure and bright.
Mr Bate was hailed with much satisfaction by the members of the agricultural tenantry and was extremely respected by all who had pleasure of his acquaintance, and he was well known amongst the oarsmen of the River Dee at Chester.
He was commissioned as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Welsh Fusiliers (Territorial Force) on 8th September, 1913. The war began on 4th August, 1914 and he enlisted the very same day with the 1/5th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and with them trained in England until 14th July, 1915 when they embarked at Devonport on His Majesty’s Transport ship Caledonia, disembarking at Gallipoli on the 9th August.
While at Suvla Bay, on or about 12th September, 1915, Lieutenant Bate developed symptoms of dysentery and was subsequently admitted to the Cottonera Hospital in Malta. In October he was transferred to the Villa Medici in Florence, Italy for convalescence. In late December of that year he re-joined his battalion for duty and in the same month they evacuated from Gallipoli and moved to Egypt. He was soon promoted to Temporary Captain (mentioned in the London Gazette), which was relinquished the same month on ceasing to command a Company. The regiment moved to Palestine and it was in the First Battle of Gaza, on 26th March, 1917, where Lieutenant Bate was killed in action.
His Colonel wrote: “He died in a noble manner, leading and encouraging his men in the attack on the Turkish Position on 26 March. All who were near him during the attack bear witness as to his gallant conduct throughout this day up to the time of his death. He was always to the fore, and showed an utter disregard to his own personal safety. He was a fine fighting soldier and a favourite with all ranks. I have put his name forward for recommendation, and I hope it will go through. You have every reason to feel intensely proud of him”. His servant said: “He died a hero, if ever there was one. He was one of our best officers; his old platoon loved him. I lost my best friend when I lost Capt. BATE; I shall never forget him as long as I live. His first thought was about his men, and himself after. I never had a better master.”
He has no known grave but is commemorated on the Jerusalem memorial on Panels 20 to 22. He is also remembered on the following war memorials: Connah’s Quay Town, St Mark’s Parish Church, Connah’s Quay, and the Cottage Hospital, Flint.
He was awarded the 1914–15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal, and was mentioned in Despatches (London Gazette, 12th January, 1918).
Mrs J W Charlton, of Plas Bellin, near Northop, sister of Lieutenant Bate, received a telegram from the Records Office Authorities at Shrewsbury intimating that he had been killed in action recently, and the sad intelligence was received with feelings of surprise by many of the residents of the Borough of Flint.
On Sunday morning, 6th May, Canon Nicholas, the Rector of Flint, preaching in the Parish Church, alluded to the numerous letters he was receiving from soldiers serving with the Forces at the Front, and was especially pleased to read a portion of one from the son of Mr John Bowen, of Feathers Street, Flint, and who had been promoted from Corporal to Sergeant on the field of battle. Sergeant Bowen wrote as follows with regard to the death of Captain Tom Bate, of Kelsterton: “Mr Bate fell a fine soldier, game to the end. After being shot he was urging men on, giving them advice until he died, which was not long after he received the wound.”
Private William Edward Metcalfe of Carmel, near Whitford, also serving with the 1/5th Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, was wounded and taken prisoner at the Battle of Gaza. In a letter home to his mother he stated that he was “next to Lieutenant Bate, of Kelsterton, Flint when he was killed,” and added: “I was buried four times but managed to get out of it. You see I am one of the lucky ones.”
In his will Lieutenant Bate left £115 14 s 11 d (£6,800 in 2014) to his mother, and his inventory kit (listed below) from the army – which was received on 13th April, 1917 – was left to his sister, Mrs J W Charlton, of Plas Bellin Hall, Northop.
1 valise containing: 1 blanket; 1 Sam Brown belt with 1 brace; 1 pyjama suit; 1 undervest; 5 pairs of socks; 1 burberry; 1 pair of shorts; 1 flask; 1 cleaning kit bag; 1 flash lamp; 3 books; correspondence; 1 trench mirror; 2 packs of playing cards; 1 whistle & lanyard; 1 revolver cleaning rod; 1 balaclava cap; 1 canvas bag; 1 sleeping bag; 1 waterproof sheet; 2 shirts; 1 pair of underpants; 6 collars; 1 khaki drill jacket; 1 camera in case; 1 canvas bucket; 1 pair of braces; 1 tube of tooth paste; 1 writing pad; 2 pipes; 1 strop; 2 handkerchiefs; 2 toothbrushes; 1 housewife; 1 tin of tobacco.
1 kit bag containing: 1 pair of gum boots; 1 canvas basin; 2 shirts; 1 pair of underpants; 1 pair of socks; 1 cardigan; 1 burberry with 4 metal stars; 1 service dress jacket; 2 body belts; 1 undervest; 1 collar; 1 canvas bag.
1 portmanteau containing: 2 pairs of socks; 1 pair of service dress trousers; 1 tie; 1 pair of khaki drill trousers; 1 pair of breeches; 1 cheque book; 2 books; 1 revolver cleaning rod; 1 comb & glass in case; 1 pair of boots; 1 towel; 1 canvas bath; 1 collar; 1 writing pad; 1 handkerchief.
1 tin box containing: 1 bag containing 1 flash, buttons, badges, stars; 1 compass in case; 1 lance;
1 bottle of shaving soap; 3 photo albums; picture postcards; 1 tin of powder; 1 trench dagger; 2 pairs of leather gloves; 1 wallet containing photos; 1 tobacco pouch; 1 cheque book; 1 pair of brown shoes; 1 pair of breeches; 1 khaki drill jacket with 4 stars and 1 collar badge, 1 flash; 1 frog sword; 13 collars; 1 ash tray; 1 packet of anti-vermin sachets; 1 bottle of castor oil; 1 fleece lining; 1 cardigan; 11 coins; negatives; 1 match box; 1 metal box; 2 cigarette holders in cases; 3 pipes; 12 books; 1 pack of playing cards; 1 wire cutter; 1 box containing shells; 1 belt; 1 lanyard; 1 diary; 1 photo mounter; 3 shirts; 1 pair of khaki drill trousers; 1 fly whisk; 1 clothes brush; 3 handkerchiefs; 1 tie; 3 towels; 1 coat carrier; 1 pair of pyjama trousers; 1 leather waistcoat.
By 1918, Tommy’s mother Perenna’s application to the Episcopal Consistory Court (supported by the vicar and churchwardens) for a memorial tablet to be placed on the interior wall of St Mark’s Church had been granted.
Tommy’s elder brother, Lieutenant Roger Whitley Bate, fought in the Boer War with the 3rd Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and was killed in action by a stray bullet in a skirmish at Rostpan, near Boshof, on 5th December, 1901. He was born in October 1882 and educated at Eton, and also at Bayonne and Altenhage, Hanover. He excelled in swimming and fencing, and was a fine horseman. When war broke out, although only 17 years old, Lieutenant Bate joined the Royal Welsh Fusiliers, and early in 1901, left for South Africa with the 22nd Company Mounted Infantry. He saw considerable service and was awarded the medal with three clasps.
When killed, he was in command of a section of the rearguard protecting a convoy, and was shot dead while endeavouring to prevent some Boers pressing forward, which he succeeded in doing by his skilful handling of his men. Lieutenant Bate is buried at Boshof. Had he lived it is stated that he would have been granted a commission in the regular army. He is remembered on the South African obelisk in Flint.
Their mother, Perenna, died in London 11th February, 1920, aged 62, and was buried with her husband in the family vault in St Mark’s Churchyard, Connah’s Quay.
Since Tommy was a bachelor, the male line of the Bate family had ended. Following his mother’s death his eldest sister Gwendoline and her husband stayed at the Hall for a short time but, by 1923, the birds had flown the nest and Kelsterton was alone and empty.
The great wish of Tommy’s grandfather Edward Bate, expressed at the Quay House dinner of St David’s Day 1871, had been for Connah’s Quay to have its own volunteer corps, and that, in his words, “a worthy heir of the House of Kelsterton would take command.” It was, therefore, the saddest and bitterest of all ironies that two worthy heirs should fulfil their grandfather’s dream but in doing so should also bring that very House of Kelsterton to a premature end.