In the 1901 Census for Wales, available on Ancestry, the Roberts family were living at 1 Cement Row, Prestatyn. Edward Roberts was 45, a leadminer, who was born at Newmarket, Flintshire. His wife Mary was 49, and was born at Prestatyn. Their daughter Mary J was 10, and all spoke both Welsh and English.
IN 1901, still at Cement Row, Mary Roberts is now head of the family. She was 58, a widow, and spoke both languages. Thomas E Roberts, age 8 and born in Prestatyn, is described as a “relation”. It is possible in view of this description, and her age, that she may not have been his actual birth mother. In any case, she was always described as his mother afterwards. They were the only ones at home.
By 1911, still in Cement Road, now at 2 Albert Terrace, Mary Roberts, 68, a widow, had given birth to two children both living. She was the caretaker of a school, working for the County Council. Her son, Thomas Edward was 18, and a builder’s clerk. They were both born in Prestatyn and spoke both languages.
Thomas’ service records have survived on Ancestry. It is stated that he took the oath and the attestation at Prestatyn on December 1st, 1915. He was then in the Reserve until his documents were signed by the approving officer at Fort Brockhurst, Gosport, on 29th June 1916. On enlistment, his “apparent age” was given as 24 years and 2 months. His height was 5 feet 8 inches, and his chest girth as 35 inches, an extra 2 inches on expansion. His weight was 137 pounds.
He named his next of kin as his mother, Mary Roberts, and it was noted that the recruit had given the information that his mother was “solely dependent on me”.
His trade was rate collector to the Urban District Council of Prestatyn.
His service records also tell us that after being mobilised on 14th June 1916, he was posted on 16th June. His rank in the Royal Garrison Artillery was a gunner, and on 16th October the same year he was promoted to corporal. The records show various postings, both at home and with the British Expeditionary Force. His military history sheet notes that he passed classes of instruction and gained qualifications in” Plotting and Observation of Fire “, at Shoreham on Sea, and it was stated that he was “very good”.
Thomas’ Army casualty form shows that he was admitted to Le Treport Hospital from the field on 16th March 1917. The diagnosis was severe PUO, which is a fever and weakness of unknown origin. It was serious enough for his next of kin to be informed. He was invalided to England on the HMS Warilda on March 23rd, and admitted to Perth War Hospital, Glasgow Rd Perth from April 4th to April 23rd, when he was released on furlough. The diagnosis was rheumatic fever.
His last recorded posting was on 17th July 1917, when he embarked at Southampton, and disembarked the next day at Le Havre, then joined with the left section on “9th July. He had leave to the U.K. from 12th March to 26th March 1918, which was granted with a ration allowance of sixpence a day (this document is difficult to read.) It is to be hoped that he saw his mother in Prestatyn at this time, which was just about two weeks before his death.
On 9th April he was killed in action in the field.
The UK Army Registers of Soldier’s Effects describes Mrs Mary Roberts as the sole legatee. She received £3 4s 11d on September 9th 1918, and on October 19th a further 16s 6d, noted as “recharge.” On December 12th 1919 she received a war gratuity of £9.00.
Details of correspondence have survived between Mrs Roberts and the authorities regarding the receipt of Thomas’ medals, and also his memorial plaque and scroll. Mrs Roberts writes to them apologising for mislaying a form which they required. It was not until 19th October 1921, after returning a form signed by a Justice of the Peace that Mrs Roberts signed for the receipt of these items.
On Army form 5080, which requested the names of all living relatives of deceased soldiers, Mrs Mary Roberts is the only name on the form. She had indeed been solely dependent on Thomas.
There is a note on Thomas’ service records stating that his body was exhumed and re-buried at the Royal Irish Rifles Graveyard, Laventie, Rue du Bacquerat, Pas de Calais, and that this cemetery is five and a half miles south of Armentieres.
The CWGC website shows that seven colleagues from his unit, killed on that day, are buried alongside him.