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Thomas Nelson was the eldest of six surviving children and was born on the 17th October 1895 in Farington near Leyland to Thomas and Emma Nelson (nee Crewdson). Thomas` father was originally from Liverpool and his mother had been born in Preston the daughter of Thomas Crewdson a sailmaker from Freckleton. Prior to his marriage to Emma Crewdson, Thomas Nelson was a serving soldier with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. After a brief spell with the Militia he had enlisted at the age of 19 for a period of 7 years with the Colours and 5 years on the Reserve, serving in the East Indies, Malta and Crete. He married Emma Crewdson at St. Paul`s Church in Farington near Lostock Hall on the 6th May 1895 and the following year on the 7th March 1896 he was transferred to the 1st Class Army Reserve.

Thomas` sister Ruth was born in 1898 in Farington and the following year, Boxing Day 1899 Thomas Nelson Snr. was re-called for service in the Army and was posted to the Depot at Fulwood. In 1901 Thomas` father was still away with the Army and Thomas, Ruth and their mother Emma were living at East View in Cuerden Green, Farington. On the 6th March 1902 Thomas` father was discharged from the Army on completion of his service and at some point the family moved to live in Stewart Street in Preston. By 1911 the family`s home address was 3 Stewart Street and Thomas` father had gone to work on the railways as a platelayer. The family had also increased in size with the addition of four more children; William (1903), Margaret Ellen (1905), James (1907) and Mary Ann (1909). Thomas and his younger sister Ruth also had jobs in a cotton mill, Thomas as a `reacher` and Ruth as a weaver.

After the outbreak of war Thomas who had been working at the Wood Milne Rubber Works in Leyland, left his job and joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 3rd September 1914. He was 19 years old, single and had no previous military experience. In answer to the question as to whether he had ever been rejected for military service previously, Thomas confirmed that he had been rejected once before due to being underweight. At his Medical Inspection it was noted that he had a pale complexion, brown eyes and hair and his physical development was described as `fair`. He was 5`6” tall and had a chest measurement of 33 inches, he only weighed 106lbs and so appears to have been slight in stature although a little taller than the average. He was passed fit for service and issued with the number 14173 and posted to the 10th Battalion LNL.

On the 13th June 1915 at Ludgershall Thomas incurred a punishment of 7 days confined to camp and had to forfeit one days` pay for “Whilst on active service being absent from 12 midnight on 13/6/15 until 8.30pm on the 14/6/15 (20 hours and 30 minutes).

Thomas sailed to France with the 10th Battalion on the 31st July 1915 as part of “A” Company. Two more misdemeanours appeared on his Misconduct Sheet in October 1915 when the Battalion was in trenches around Hannescamps.

  • 10/10/15 – awarded 5 days Field Punishment No.2 – for stealing apples.
  • 16/10/15 awarded 7 days Field Punishment No. 1 and forfeited 1 day`s pay – for not complying with an order and being improperly dressed.

From the middle of September 1915 until the end of June 1916 the 10th Battalion was in more or less the same area around Gommecourt, taking their turn in the trenches in and about Bienvillers, Hannescamps and Humbercamps.

On the 18th June 1916 the Battalion went into support billets at Bienvillers, remaining there for four days before going back into the trenches on the 23rd;

Extract from the 10th Battalion War Diary

23rd June 1916

The 10th Bn Loyal North Lancashire Regiment relieved the 6th Bedford`s in the trenches at 17:30hrs, relief being completed by 19:15hrs.

24th June 1916

This morning we heavily bombarded the enemy line opposite Gommecourt – this bombardment lasted all day. At 16:30hrs the firing ceased and aeroplanes went up to see what damage was done. Trenches in a bad muddy condition.

25th June 1916

Enemy active with minenwerfer and large shells. Heavy bombardment practically all day both on our immediate front and on the following points; Essarts, Pigeon Wood, La Brayelle Fme, the `Z` and Gommecourt.

26th June 1916

Another severe bombardment by our artillery, enemies reply much feebler than preceding day. Trenches still in a very bad condition, rained 2 or 3 times during the day.

27th June 1916

Bombardment in the morning. At 14:00hrs we discharged some gas – the enemy retaliated with great vigour. Casualties up to date: 46 other ranks.

Sadly, Thomas Nelson`s death occurred on the 27th June 1916 and later information states that his death was as a result of the effects of gas. Interestingly, another soldier, 13814 Private Joseph Billington, 10th Battalion and also of “A” Coy died on the same day, his death occurring after a bomb exploded on one of the gas tanks resulting in him being suffocated by the liberated gas. It is possible, therefore, Thomas had suffered the same fate.

After news of his death reached his parents, the following announcement was made in the Preston Guardian;14173 Private Thomas Nelson 1

Thomas` father later took receipt of quite a large number of his sons` personal effects, these included; 1 ID Disc, 1 pen knife, 1 jack knife, 3 pencils, 1 pipe, 1 small pocket wallet, letters, postcards and photographs, 1 Gospel, 1 prayer book, 1 metal mirror, 1 comb, 1 purse, 1 ring and his cap badge.

Private Thomas Nelson was laid to rest in Bienvillers Military Cemetery, not too far from where he perished.

After the war his father took receipt of his sons` 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals. The family would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for his country.

His name is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston.

Thomas` parents had the following words inscribed at the foot of his headstone;

“ABIDE WITH ME”

Photo taken July 2016

Photo taken July 2016

Rank: Private
Service No: 14173
Date of Death: 27/06/1916
Age: 20
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, “A” Coy. 10th Bn.
Cemetery: BIENVILLERS MILITARY CEMETERY

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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