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Thomas Cross was born at Cemetery Road in Adlington near Chorley on the 5th February 1894 to Richard and Margaret Cross (nee Harrison). Margaret Harrison already had a two year old daughter Sarah Jane (1882) prior to her marriage to Richard Cross at St. Paul`s Church in Adlington on the 12th April 1884. They went on to have at least another eleven children together, six of whom survived; Mary Ann (1884), Charles (1886), George (1889), Richard (1892), Thomas (1894)* and Albert (1903).

In 1901 the Cross family home was at 4 Heaton`s Houses in Adlington where Thomas` father worked below ground as a coal hewer in a local mine. The eldest girl Sarah Jane was still being listed under her mother`s maiden name of Harrison in this Census and Sarah was working in a local cotton mill as a weaver. Around 1902/03 just prior to Albert being born the Cross family left Adlington and moved to Chorley and in 1911 they were living at 29 Bolton Road, Chorley. Richard Cross was still a collier, Sarah Jane and Mary Ann were cotton weavers. Seventeen year old Thomas and his three older brothers had also gone to work in a coal mine, Charles as a fireman, George as an underground labourer and Richard and Thomas as colliers like their father.

On the 1st September 1914 Thomas enlisted at Chorley into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, giving his age very precisely as 20 years and 208 days old. He was allocated the service number 12774. His medical inspection revealed that he was five feet seven and three quarter inches tall, weighed 146lbs and had a chest measurement of 39 inches and was said to be in good physical condition. He had brown eyes, dark brown hair and a fresh complexion. The day after his enlistment Thomas was posted to the 10th Battalion.

Thomas was obviously well thought of and a capable young man and was appointed Acting Lance Corporal and then promoted to Corporal on the 12th October 1914. By the 1st December 1914 he had been appointed Lance Sergeant. After several months of training in England Thomas sailed to France on the 31st July 1915 with the 10th Battalion and was a member of “A” Company, the 10th Battalion coming under the Command of the 112th Brigade of the 37th Division.

Around the middle of August the Division was transferred to the recently formed Third Army under the Command of General C. Munro. Then on the 26th of the month the Battalion left by train for the neighbourhood of Doullens where the Division came into the area of the VII Corps, commanded by Lieut-General Sir T. Snow. The day after their arrival the Battalion was sent to billets in Engelbelmer and then attached to the 11th Infantry Brigade for instruction in trench duties. This period of instruction lasted until the 5th September after which the Battalion marched to St. Amand where it re-joined the Brigade. On the 15th September after relieving the 13th King`s Royal Rifles the Battalion took over the trenches with all four companies in the firing line. This portion of the line appeared to be a fairly quiet one with the enemy trenches being some 1000yds distant and only lightly held. However, patrols from the Battalion found that the enemy was on the alert and some casualties were incurred on the 20th and 21st of September. 2nd Lieutenant C.A.S. Bidwell and two men died of wounds and Lieutenant H.P. Williams, the machine-gun Officer and two other men were wounded.

For the next couple of months the Battalion alternated between billets and the trenches around Hannescamps. By November 1915 and after a period of heavy rain the trenches in this area had filled with water, parts of which were two feet deep in places and because the sector was in a low-lying area it made it very difficult to adequately drain the trenches, some parapets had collapsed and the dug-outs had fallen in. The men spent a lot of time doing repair work on the trenches whilst at the same time dodging the snipers and also the occasional shrapnel being sent over by the enemy.

According to his service papers Thomas was promoted to Sergeant on the 15th November but sadly, during the morning of the following day he was fatally wounded by shrapnel. He was buried in the afternoon of the same day, the service being conducted by an Army Chaplain with some of his comrades from “A” Company in attendance. An Officer later wrote to Thomas` parents and the following information was published in the Preston Guardian;12774 Sergeant Thomas Cross

A few of Thomas` personal possessions were returned to his family which his mother signed for, these included; 1 ID Disc, 1 pipe, a watch and a broken key.

After the war Richard Cross took receipt of his sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medal and he would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

Thomas was buried in Bienvillers Military Cemetery along with thirty two other men from the 10th Battalion who died between September 1915 and the end of June 1916. The graves of the men from the 10th Battalion are all in close proximity and Thomas lies next to another Chorley lad, 13284 Private Henry Nightingale.

12774 Sergeant Thomas Cross cwgc

CWGC photograph taken in July 2016

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 12774
Date of Death: 16/11/1915
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, A Coy 10th Bn.

Janet Davis
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