Thomas Edward Davies was born in 1896 and was the son of John & Mary Ellen Davies of Canister Cottage, Turner St, Overton.
In 1901 he was living with his family in 21 Whitchurch Rd, Overton (In the Civil Township of Bangor on Dee). Head of the household was John Davies aged 31, a General Labourer. His wife, Mary E was 28 and their listed children were Thomas E 5, Ann 2 and John 5 months.
The census of 1911 records a Davies family living in Turning Row Overton. Head of the household was John Davies a Farm Labourer aged 43. His wife of 15 years was Mary Davies aged 44. The form says she had given birth to 5 children, 4 of whom were still living. One had sadly died. The children listed in the household for this census were Ann 13, Margaret 5 and John 11. Thomas Edward was missing. (The ages of the parents do not tally with the previous census. It is possible that this is not the correct family although much else makes sense) Where was Thomas Edward? He would have been 15 and possibly working and living away from home. It has not yet been possible to locate him.
Thomas Edward’s Army Service Records have survived and are accessible on www.ancestry.co.uk. He enlisted at Southsea in Wrexham and he signed his attestation papers on the 1st May 1915. The address he gave was Barn Hill Cottage, Adwy, nr Wrexham. He was single, 19 years and was a Collier. He had a medical examination that same day at Brymbo. The report from this says he was 19 years and 1 month old. He was a Miner and he was 5 feet, 5 inches tall. He weighed 8 stones 6 lbs. His chest measured 34 1/2 inches with an expansion range of 2 inches. His physical development was deemed to be good. His application was approved in Wrexham on the 3rd May 1915 and he was then Private 25970 of The Royal Welsh Fusiliers (The Welsh Army) and placed in the 17th Battalion. He joined his regiment the next day – the 4th May 1915 at Llandudno. He had named his father John as his next of Kin.
He got into a spot of bother on 17th September 1915 when he was Confined to Barracks for 3 days for using obscene language to an NCO after Lights Out.
He served his first 217 days ‘at home’ when he would have undergone training to prepare him for war service. He entered his first theatre of war (France) on the 5th December 1915. On the 22nd March 1916 he was permanently attached to the 19th (pioneer) Battalion, Welsh Regiment 115th Brigade Mining company.
Thomas Edward was killed in action on the 25th February 1917. The records state ” Killed in action when the enemy blew a mine. Body not recovered” He had served for 1 year and 301 days.
The records include an internal Army memo stating that any personal effects belonging to Thomas or any medals were to be sent to his Father, john Davies at Overton on Dee.
There is a LIving Relatives form completed by John Davies for the Army on the 29th September 1919. It lists the parents – John and Mary Davies. It lists Thomas’s siblings – john who was then 18 and living at Cannister Overton on Dee. Maggie who was 12 and Ann 20 were listed as living in Leeds.
The Military Story. The tunnelling coy he was attached to guarding was working in the Railway Woods area, near Hooge, not far from Ypres. The Royal Engineers grave site marks the spot where eight Royal Engineers of 177th Tunnelling Coy and four attached infantrymen were killed in action, during the defence of Ypres between November 1915 and August 1917.
The 177th Tunnelling Company was formed in June 1915 at Terdeghem, and moved into a wide area facing Wytschaete. it was relieved there in November 1915, and moved to Railway Wood, where it remained for 2 years. This memorial site overlooks Railway Wood and what was, Hooge Crater, and in the immediate vicinity there remain various craters, two of which are over 30 metres wide and at least 30 ft deep. These are man made craters, caused by the blowing of mines below enemy front line positions. Infantry tactics developed that would enable the rushing and capture of the crater formed by the explosions. The craters were often themselves a dominant ground feature, as the lip of the earth thrown up was usually higher than the ground in the area, giving possible observation over the enemy.
Hooge had been chosen as a site for tunnelling as the front lines were relatively close together and the geology suitable for tunnelling. The mining companies sought ways to not only drive mines for destroying enemy positions,but developed measures of detection of the enemy mine positions. When detected, an enemy mine would be immediately destroyed by the explosion of a camouflet, often at the cost of severe damage to ones own system. There were many underground encounters, as a tunnelling team, breaking into an enemy position, met the enemy underground. Sometimes these encounters included fighting in the tunnels and chambers.