Massey, Thomas John

A Thomas John Massey is listed in the book” Soldiers Died in the Great War, Royal Welsh Fusiliers,  Volume 28″. From that we have his regimental details. It tells us he was born in Queensferry, Cheshire (sic) and he enlisted in Shotton. He was private 20143 who was killed in Action in France & Flanders on the 10th July 1916.

Thomas  is also remembered on the Sandycroft War Memorial in St. Francis’s Church Sandycroft and on the the Roll of Honour for the Queensferry Chemical Works*, where his cousin Ernest Massey, (who survived the war), was also listed.  *This is in the Flintshire Record Office at Hawarden.

Thomas J. Massey was listed on the 1891 census, aged 4, living in Queensferry, 5 houses from the Hawarden Castle Hotel. His father, Thomas Massey was head of the household, 25 and a Cooper, born in Queensferry.  His wife Sarah, 25, had been born in Connah’s Quay.  I believe that they may have married in St. Mary’s Church Chester in 1885 (Cheshire West CE14/9/365). If this is the marriage, Sarah’s maiden name was Hewitt.   A little sister Pricilla (sic) was also in the household, age 2.

On the 19th December in 1896, the Head of the household, Thomas J Massey Snr was involved in a serious incident at work. It resulted in him being declared a hero. It was reported in the local newspaper on the 11th February 1897. The cutting appears below (scroll down beyond the Google map)  but it’s difficult to read, so here is a transcript.


On Tuesday, Messers Massey, Hughes and Nicholls, the three men who were instrumental in saving a comrade’s life at Messers Joseph Turner and Co’s Chemical works at Queensferry, were presented with medals and certificates in recognition of their heroism. The accident occurred on Saturday the 19th December last at 7.00am. First of all a Boiler maker went into a tar still to continue some repairs which he had been engaged upon for ten days. In some unaccountable way, foul gas had got into the still and Shaw immediately fell down insensible. His mate who was outside called for help and Peter Hughes went into the still to Shaw’s assistance and also fell down insensible. It was at this juncture that Thomas Massey volunteered to go into the still with a rope round his waist and a respirator on and he succeeded in handing the men out. – an extraordinary feat – as one of the men weighed over 13 stone and the height of the floor of the still to the man hole is about 8 feet. Hughes remained unconscious for nearly 40 hours but all the men are now well.  The presentation was made by Mr John Thompson J.P. a member of the Directorate. Thomas Massey received a Royal Humane Society’s medal and a certificate and a cheque for £1..1sh from “Today” Pluck Fund and George Nichols and Peter Hughes Humane Society’s certificates. Messers Turner gave £20 which was divided as follows. £8 to massey and £4 each to Hughes, Nicholls and Dr Burlingham of Hawarden who attended the men. 

Thomas Massey senior, died in 1899, three years after the rescue, when he was about 30 years of age. I believe that his death certificate may be (Flintshire (Mold) HAW/27/73).   His certificate would have to be purchased to prove/deny. Inevitably family members since, have considered that the events of that day of the rescue, could possibly have contributed to his premature death.

The next census of 1901,  records that Sarah was a widow.  She was 36, a Laundress (Wash) on her own account at home and was living at 9, Chemistry Cottages, Queensferry, Hawarden, Flintshire with her children. Thomas J. Massey was 14, and a Cooper’s Apprentice.  Walter was 6,  Mary E., 9, Marie, 3 and Lizzie H. 1. (Priscilla, age 12, does not appear with the family on the 1901 census, she, I believe, was a Domestic Servant for John & Hannah Carver and their son Edward at Rectors Farm, Northop).

The 1911 census tell us the family was living at 6, Church View, Pentre, Flintshire. Sarah, 44 was still a widow and a Laundress who had been born in Connah’s Quay. Her listed children were Thomas J., 24, single and a Cooper.  Walter was 16,  and an Iron Worker.  Frank, 6 was a scholar.  Marie, 13 and Lizzie, 11 were also scholars.   There wasa  a nephew recorded in the household. He was Ernest Massey, 26 and an Iron Worker, Labourer.

Thomas John Massey married Edna May Jones in 1915 in a Civil Ceremony at Hawarden in 1915. (HAW/05/26)

UK, Soldiers who Died in the Great War, 1914-1919 accessible on includes an entry for Thomas John Massey. It confirms the military details as above left and  tells us that his birth place was Queensferry, Flintshire.  It tells us that he enlisted in Shotton. His medal card, also on ‘Ancestry’ details his medals and says that his first Theatre of War was France and his entry therein was 2nd December 1915. He was killed in action on 10th July 1916, just over 7 months later.

The UK, Army Registers of Soldiers’ Effects, 1901-1929 in which the army calculated what moneys were owed to deceased soldiers, includes an entry for Thomas John Massey. It tells us that the sole Legatee was his widow Edna May Massey who was paid £3.8s 6d on the 6th December 1916 and his War Gratuity of £7. 0sh .. 0d  on the 22nd October 1919.

Family member Terence Poyner  was able to add that the family story was that before the war,  Thomas John had been a Cooper in the same chemical company where his father had worked.  He was a fireman in their fire brigade. In the army, he had been a sniper who had died on the Somme.

Terence was able to shed more light on some other members of the family. Thomas J’s brother Walter was also in the war, but survived, and he was awarded the Military Medal. Their sister, Priscilla had married a Daniel Barratt at Huyton in 1907 and on the 1911 census she was living at 12 Ashfield Rd Shotton with her husband Daniel and 3 children,  Tom (3) Charlotte (2) and Gladys May (3mths). Terence had found the birth entries for Charlotte and Gladys but not Tom. Sadly Priscilla died in the Dec qtr in 1911 aged just 22.  Terence Poyner, in an e mail to me said

Spare a thought for her mother Sarah. She had been widowed aged about 33 with all those children and then was to lose Priscilla and Thomas at a very early age. “

Two other sister, Marie & Lizzie worked at the Munitions Factory in Queensferry.

(Munitionettes were British women employed in munitions factories during the time of the first World War. – Health issues – Munitionettes worked with hazardous chemicals on a daily basis without adequate protection. Many women worked with trinitrotoluene (TNT), and prolonged exposure to the sulfuric acid that turned the women’s skin a yellow colour. The women whose skin was turned yellow were popularly called canary girls. Prolonged exposure to the chemicals also created serious health risks for the munitionettes. Exposure over a long period of time to chemicals such as TNT can cause severe harm to the immune system. People exposed to TNT can experience liver failure, anemia, and spleen enlargement; TNT can even affect women’s fertility. Some side effects commonly included breast and lower region enlargement.

Many thanks to Terence Poyner for all his help and support in the telling of this story.




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