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Thomas Smith was born at 44 St. Mark`s Road in Ashton on Ribble in Preston in 1889, his parents, William and Elizabeth Smith (nee Ormerwood) had him baptised at St. Mark`s Church in the town on the 25th August of that year. His father, William of 2 Wellfield Road in Preston and his mother, Elizabeth of 14 Abbey Street had married in same church on the 16th February 1889. Thomas was the eldest of eleven children, eight of whom survived infancy, the others being;

  • Alice and Jane, twins (1892-1892)
  • Richard (1893-1893)
  • George (1894)
  • Jane Alice (1897)
  • Annie (1899)
  • William (1901)
  • Elizabeth (1904)
  • Richard (1906)
  • Roger (1908)

In 1891 Thomas and his parents were still living at the house in St. Mark`s Road where he had been born, his father was working on the Lancashire & Yorkshire Railways as an engine cleaner and his mother was a cotton weaver. By 1901 the family had moved to 31 Mona Street and William Smith had worked his way up from an engine cleaner and was now working as an engine stoker.

On the 16th October 1909 Thomas married Mary Elizabeth Wright, a young lady originally from Barrow in Furness, the marriage taking place at Emmanuel Church in Preston. The couple set up home at 10 Henderson Street and their first child, a boy they named William, was born in 1910. In 1911 Thomas and Mary had another son George but sadly, he did not survive. Thomas, Mary and baby William were still living in Henderson Street in 1911, Thomas was a cotton piercer working in the spinning room of one of the local mills and Mary was also working as a cotton rover. A third child, a daughter Elizabeth arrived in 1913 and she was followed by another son, Thomas in 1915. At some point pre-war Thomas had left his job in the mill and had followed his father onto the railways although not taking quite the same path, Thomas was a pointsman and according to newspaper information he was working at Farington Curve Signal Box.

Thomas` actual enlistment date is unknown because his papers have not survived but we know from his Medal Index Card that he embarked for France on the 30th November 1915. His allocated service number was 20773 and on arrival in France he was posted to the 1st Battalion LNL, coming under the command of 2nd Brigade in the 1st Division. After the Battle of Loos ended (25th September – 15th October 1915), the Battalion was destined not to be engaged in any major operations for many months, they did however remain in the Loos area for the remainder of 1915, holding the trenches in the Loos neighbourhood along with periods of rest and additional training around Lillers. The beginning of 1916 saw the Battalion in very much the same area, and although as previously stated, they were not in engaged in any major operations, the inevitable casualties still occurred on a daily basis during their occupation of the trenches.

Sadly, just two months after joining the Battalion, Thomas was killed in action on the 26th February 1916;

Extract from the Battalion War Diary

26th February 1916 – Relieved the 1st Battalion South Wales Borderers in firing line north of DOUBLE CRASSIER.

“B” Coy, 3 platoons in front line and 1 platoon in support in REGENT STREET – “C” Coy, 4 platoons in front line with left on left edge of LOOS CRASSIER – “A” Coy, 2 platoons in front part of LOOS CRASSIER, 1 platoon in support in LOOS – “D” Coy in support in REGENT STREET. Lieutenant M. Firmin (attached to 1st Bn S.W.B.) killed. Captain D.O.H. Tripp wounded.

27th February 1916 – One mine exploded, no crater formed.

28th February 1916 – Heavily shelled, 11 casualties.

News of Thomas` death was reported on by the Preston Guardian newspaper; 

On the 19th November 1917 Mary Elizabeth Smith remarried to William Huxley who was a butcher by trade, his home address was 39 Spring Gardens, Farington near Lostock Hall.

After the war Thomas` family would have received his 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals to which he was entitled and would also have received his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his sacrifice.

Thomas has no known grave and so his name was later added to the Arras Memorial to the Missing. He is also remembered on the Roll of Honour in the Harris Museum and Library in Preston and his name is also commemorated on the War Memorial Plaque of St. Mark`s Church in Preston. St. Mark`s is now closed but the Plaque was removed for safekeeping and it is now housed in the church of St. Michael and All Angels in Ashton on Ribble, Preston (pictured below);

War Memorial Plaque – St. Mark`s Church, Preston (now in St. Michael and All Angels Church,  Ashton on Ribble).

Janet Davis
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