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201350-sjt-joseph-thompson-4th#Joseph Thompson was born in Standish in 1889 the eldest of six children born to his parents James and Mary Ellen Thompson (nee Ralphs). James and Mary Ellen married in the district of Standish in 1888 and they had another three sons and two daughters; James (1890), Reginald (1892-1892), Annie (1893), Elizabeth (1896-1896) and John (1897).

Joseph`s father was originally from Seacombe in Cheshire and after his marriage to Mary Ellen the pair set up home in Cross Street in Standish. The 1891 Census shows Joseph, his parents and his six month old brother John still living in Cross Street where his father worked as a brewer’s drayman. At some point after Joseph`s sister Annie was born in 1893 the Thompson family moved to Chorley. Sadly, Joseph`s father died at the age of 39 in 1900 in Chorley and the following year Joseph, James, Annie and John lived with their mother Mary Ellen at 4 Dole Lane in Chorley. Joseph`s mother was a sweet shop keeper and Joseph had gone to work as a warehouse boy in a cotton mill.

On the 18th December 1909 Joseph married Ada Beardsworth at St. John the Baptist Church in Atherton and his marriage details note that Joseph`s occupation was a `malster`. After their marriage Joseph and Ada remained in the Atherton area and in the December quarter of 1910 a daughter Mary Ellen was born. Sadly, Mary Ellen died in the first quarter of 1911 and after her death Joseph and Ada moved to Chorley.

In the Census of 1911, Joseph, Ada and Joseph`s two brothers were living at 18 Charnock Street with their mother Mary Ellen Thompson. Joseph also had a new job working at a colliery as a haulage hand (below ground) while Ada was employed as a cotton weaver. Joseph`s two brothers also had jobs, James was a brewer`s drayman and John a newsboy at a Stationer`s. In 1912 Joseph and Ada had another daughter and named her Annie, she was followed by a third daughter Mary in 1914. The family was part of the congregation at St Mary’s Church, Chorley.

On the 21st May 1915 Joseph enlisted into the 4th Battalion Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Preston. He was issued with the service number 3818 which would later become 201350. He was 25 years old and 5`9” tall and had a chest measurement of 40”. Joseph gave his address as 24 Gilbert Street in Chorley and his occupation was noted as a driver, he was working at Greatorex Livery Stables. He also confirmed that he had no previous military experience. Joseph signed his agreement to serve abroad on the same day.

As someone with no previous military experience Joseph made quite a speedy progression through the ranks;

  • 22/6/15 – Appointed Lance Corporal
  • 6/11/15 – Promoted to Corporal
  • 2/2/16 –  Promoted to Sergeant

Joseph embarked at Folkestone on the 9th February 1917 bound for France prior to which he had been a machine gun instructor for 18 months at Oswestry. He arrived at the Base Depot in Etaples the following day by which time he had reverted back to the rank of Corporal. When Joseph sailed for France his wife Ada was expecting the couples` fourth child.

After spending some time at the Base Depot Joseph was posted to the 1/5th Battalion LNL, joining them in the field on the 3rd March 1917. On the 4th April 1917 whilst with the 1/5th Battalion he was promoted back to Sergeant once again. Then his service papers note that he “desired to be transferred to the 1/4th Battalion”, his request was granted and he joined the 1/4th Battalion in the field on the 20th April 1917.

The Battalion War History records that, as a unit the 55th Division (which included the 1/4th Battalion LNL) was not actively engaged in the June 1917 operations which resulted in the capture of Messines Ridge by the Second Army, however, the Division did all it could to help the good work which others were carrying out.

Extract from the Battalion War History

On the night of the 20th May we were relieved by the 1/4th The King`s Own, and on relief we marched to A Camp just behind VLAMERTINGHE, leaving Captain Harris and 200 other men of B and D Companies in YPRES as a working party.

On the night of the 26th May we relieved the 1/4th King`s Own in the POTIJZE SECTOR, C and A Companies in front, B in support and D in reserve, and began at once a series of works designed to mislead the enemy and make him think an attack was intended on our front. How much he was deceived appeared from the amount of attention we received from this time onward until the Battle of Messines.

The opposing sides gained much of their knowledge from aeroplane photographs, which show up with great clearness, any newly dug earth. It was then our task to open up all disused trenches on our sector, placing along the top a row of new sandbags, and to dig saps out into NO MAN`S LAND, at the same time annoying the Huns by every means in our power. Two men were killed and three wounded during the next four days, during which we kept throwing things at the Hun – trench mortars, grenades, bullets etc.- and we really did stir him up. Then came the news that we were not to be relieved so the Companies changed over.

On the 1st June the gas strafe started; our people started it with the release of 500 gas drums on enemy reserves. The enemy retaliated on us, killing one man and wounding three, using everything he had, including gas shells, chiefly at night on lines of communication.

On the 2nd June we sent over more gas drums and again the Hun retaliated, damaging trenches and killing two men and wounding five others.

On the 3rd June we treated him to a combined smoke, artillery and machine-gun barrage, and he replied, more feebly, killing one man and wounding two; but during the night from 10pm to 4pm he drenched YPRES with gas shells, our transport suffering slightly.

On the following day, 4th June, he put 67 `minnies` onto B Company, killing one man and wounding Second Lieutenants Hall and Johnson and wounding 11 others.

Sadly, Sergeant Joseph Thompson was the man who died on the 3rd June after being hit by shrapnel.

Unusually, Sergeant Thompson is referred to during the history of his particular period, the writer stating that; “a good many `shorts` fell on our trenches due to defective ammunition, which was just as dangerous to the gunners as us, as muzzle bursts were not infrequent. A Gunner Officer going round the lines was at a loss for words when he saw a shell case, which had fallen short, stuck up over a dug-out with the following inscription, “A present from the R.F.A.!” Sergeant Thompson was killed by a nose cap from one of these `shorts`”.

Joseph was buried in Vlamertinghe Military Cemetery the following day, his brother James being present at his funeral.

The following article and information was later published by the Preston Guardian;

201350 Sergeant Joseph Thompson

The only personal item returned to Ada Thompson was her husband`s identity disc.

In the September quarter of 1917 Ada Thompson gave birth to another daughter and named her Wilfreda.

After the war Ada took receipt of Joseph`s British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled, she would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice for his country.

NB – Joseph`s Medal Index Card shows a qualifying date of 25/12/15 and also indicates that he was originally awarded the 1914/15 Star. However a note appears on the reverse of the card making clear that he did not serve overseas until 19/3/17 and as a result was not entitled to the 1914/15 Star.

Joseph`s widow Ada remarried to John Edward Mather at St. George`s Church in Chorley in 1920 and they went on to have a family of their own.

Rank: Serjeant
Service No: 201350
Date of Death: 03/06/1917
Age: 29
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st/4th Bn.

Additional information was provided by Adam Cree from the Susannah Knight Chorley Memorial Books held at Astley Hall.

Janet Davis
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One Response to 201350 SJT. J. THOMPSON. L.N.LAN.R.

  1. Rita Berry says:

    Sgt joseph Thompson was my grandad his wife Ada was carrying his 4th child (my mother) when he died.I found this article so very interesting as apart from the photo from the preston guardian we knew nothing about him ,as his wife remarried nothing has been passed down .Thank you for this article feel a bit closer to him now

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