Williams, Thomas

Thomas was born in Trelawnydd [Newmarket] Flintshire in1899. He was the son of Thomas and Elizabeth Williams.

The 1901 Census [Ancestry] shows the family living at Terfyn Farm, Trelawnydd [about 1 mile south of the church on Hiraddug Road]. Mr Williams Snr’s occupation is recorded as Farmer. In addition to 2 year old Thomas, there is a daughter Gladys aged 10. The household is completed by two farm labourers who live in. The family spoke both Welsh and English.

The 1911 Census, locates the family living at “Bryn Castell” Castle Street, Rhuddlan. A substantial stone built detached house. Thomas Snr’s occupation is recorded as “farmer on own a/c. [presumably working fields away from the house]. Gwladys {Gladys} is still at home and employed as an “assistant in drapery shop, Thomas now aged 12, was still at school.

Thomas was called up for military service on 16th February 1917, he gave his home address as Bryn Castell, Castle Street, Rhuddlan and occupation as “farm labourer”.  As Private 38584 Williams, he was assigned to the 8th Battalion Gloucester Regiment. This was a Reserve Battalion, which had been formed in Bristol in September 1914, under the Command of 57th Brigade in 19th [Western] Division. [The Long, Long Trail]

After appropriate training he deployed to France on 30th August 1917. At this time the Battalion were heavily committed in the 3rd Battle of Ypres [Passchendale]. Whilst engaged on active service, he contracted “Trench Foot.” After hospitalisation in Etaples [northern France] he was eventually evacuated to the UK on 25th October 1917 to continue treatment.

[Some soldiers suffered from a condition called trench foot. This was caused by standing in water and mud for a long time and losing blood circulation. In some cases, soldiers’ socks started to grow on to their feet. In severe cases, soldiers had to have their feet or legs amputated- [BBC Schools WW1].

He was hospitalised initially at the 3rdScottish Hospital, before being transferred to the 1st Scottish Hospital on 5th November 1917.

The 3rd Scottish Hospital [originally Stobhill Hospital, Glasgow], was requisitioned in 1914 and returned to civilian use in 1920. It had beds for 70 officers and 1629 other ranks. The 1st Scottish General Hospital, Aberdeen, was a Territorial Force hospital, with 62 Officer beds and 1297 Other Ranks beds. The hospital was spread across several buildings in Aberdeen, including the music rooms at the High School for Girls, now Harlaw Academy.

Those being treated wore a blue uniform with a red tie, known as “Hospital Blues”, once a solider was deemed fit enough to leave convalescence, he would return to one of the Command Depots for the rehabilitative training after which they would be allocated to a battalion, frequently a different battalion or regiment to that in which he had previously served, as his place would have been taken by another man to maintain numbers. [Wartime Memories Project- The Great War]

Presumably he was discharged from Hospital on 29th December 1917, when he was granted home leave until 7th January 1918, being deemed “fit for Command depot”. Army form W 3016 granting this period of leave, being addressed to Depot 8thGloucesters Warwick. [Ancestry]

It is probable that this was the last time his parents saw their son, his sister Gwladys having died April 30th1916 [Family Headstone]. He returned to the Western Front on 29thMarch, having been transferred to the 2nd Bn South Lancashire Regiment and allocated the new number of 32860.

The Rhyl Journal of 4th May 1918 reports that, “news is anxiously awaited by Mr & Mrs Williams of Bryn Castell about their son Thomas, of whom nothing has been heard for some time. He was wounded in the earlier days of the war and had only recently returned to the front after a period of home service”.

At the time he was reported “missing” on the 13th April 1918, the Battalion was under great pressure trying to hold a defensive line to the east of Ploegsteert, against a major German offensive. [Great War Forum Member BFBSM] His body was never found.

There is an undated Flintshire Record of Service at Hawarden, signed by his Father which records his death as occurring on 13th April 1918.

Having lost both her Children, Thomas’ Mother died on 9th January 1921[Family Headstone], another tragic family, victims of WW1. On the 23rd March 1922, his Father signed a receipt for Thomas’ medals, and subsequently received a War Gratuity of £6.00[Ancestry] Mr Thomas himself lived on until 3rdNovember 1937.

Thomas is commemorated on the Family headstone in St Mary’s Churchyard; “Also their dear son Thomas, who fell in France April 10th1918 aged 19”.

Detail from Family headstone in St Mary’s Churchyard, Rhuddlan.

In addition, he is commemorated on The Rhuddlan War Memorial, St Mary’s Church Roll of Honour & Stained Glass Window, The Royal British Legion’s Roll of Honour [inside the Community Centre] and the North Wales Memorial Arch at Bangor.

I am indebted to Sarah Hodnett of the Rhuddlan Local History Society, for her assistance in compiling this record.

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