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Pte Thomas Warburton was one of the L.N.L. soldiers killed in action on the 10th January 1917 in a trench raid at Wieltje north east of Ypres, his body was never recovered and he is commemorated on the Menin Gate memorial to the missing on panels 41-43.

He was born on 24th December 1889 to parents James Warburton a minder in a cotton mill and Margaret Ann Warburton (nee Hall) who had married on 28th May 1882 in Beswick, Manchester. His mother had been widowed from a very early age and in the 1901 census returns for the Smithills area of Bolton the family were living at 6 Benson Street.

The mother was 38 years of age with eldest son Josiah aged 18 who had been born in Manchester and baptized 13th May 1883 at St. George’s church Tyldesley, Lancashire. Josiah had been named after his paternal grandfather and had passed away at the early age of 26 in 1909. The other children who were born in Bolton were: Elizabeth 16, William 14, Thomas 12 and Ellen 5yrs old, the older children were all employed within the cotton industry.

By the time of the next census in 1911 still at the same address with their mother, William now 24 was a bobbin carrier, Thomas 22 yrs was a side piecer, Ellen 16 a card tenter, Elizabeth who had married, now Mrs Holt was 26yrs old and also shown as a widow at that young age, she had a 3 months old son Albert.

Thomas worked at the Persian Mills in Bailey Street prior to enlisting into the 5th Bn L.N.L. Regiment on 30th October 1914 as Pte 3128, he was 5’7 3/4” in height and his next of kin is shown as his sister Mrs Elizabeth Holt still resident at 6 Benson St, both he and his brother William would enlist for army service and serve at the front.

Embarking for France at Southampton on 12th February 1915 he arrived on the continent and after only a fortnight between 2nd – 28th March he was admitted to the general hospital with influenza, being treated at both Havre and Bailleul he was discharged on 7th April 1915.

After recovery he was attached to No 4 Entrenching Battalion on 20th July 1915 until he eventually joined his regiment and was posted to serve in ‘D’ company on 6th May 1916.

On the 1st July 1916 at the opening of the battle of the Somme the battalion had not been engaged, they were in the trenches at Bellacourt and had mainly been employed on working parties.

On the 9th August 1916 the battalion was engaged in the action of Guillemont the object was the capture of the enemy front line and the town of Guillemont. The British front line was from Trones Wood – Guillemont Road to the railway. ‘D’ company L.N.L. was detailed to attack with the right flank on Trones-Guillemont Road, their casualty total for the day was four officers killed and two wounded, of the men 26 were killed in action, 86 were wounded 3 having since died from their wounds and 19 missing of which 5 were in hospital. They had also suffered many casualties throughout September from enemy fire whilst being used for salvage work and as burial parties on the edges of Delville Wood after the major battle at that place.

He managed to obtain furlough over the Christmas period of 1916 and celebrated his 28th birthday at home on the 24th unfortunately he absented himself for one day on his return journey to his battalion. He arrived back at 06.15hrs on 31st December 1916 a full 24 hours late. As a result in the New Year on 2nd January 1917 he forfeited 2 day’s pay and had 7 days deferred pay recorded against him.

With the change to the new army numbering system in 1917 his army number became 241166.

He was one of 140 men who on the 9th January 1917 marched to spare land near to Ypres prison and practiced their actions that would be put into effect he next day, watched by the Divisional Commander who afterwards expressed his approval of their display, the area today is close by the site of the CWGC Ypres Reservoir Cemetery.

On the 10th January 1917 the men divided into two groups, left and right parties, both had Bangalore torpedoes to cut any obstructing enemy wire. The left party under the command of Lt Robert Keith Makant MC would assemble at 15.00hrs at Lone Farm and the right party under 2nd Lt John Cecil Frankland at Prowse Farm. They moved onto to their jump off point a ditch running S.E from Argyle Farm and at 17.15hrs they left their trenches and approached the enemy defences. The right party was immediately met by a heavy machine gun fire and artillery a single shell accounted for both Bangalore parties of this group as they moved together and were all casualties.

2nd Lt Frankland had been killed and the reserve officer 2nd Lt Charles Warburton Whitaker who had also been wounded gave the order to retire as the wire they encountered had not been cut and they no longer had the means to destroy it. The left party gained their objective and was successful in their attempts in the enemy trenches though the raid had been costly.

Of the officers 1 had been killed and 2 wounded and of the other ranks 7 had been killed and 49 wounded with 4 missing presumed dead, of the wounded some would later die of their wounds.

Two pieces appear for him relating to him being killed in action on 10th January, on page 5 of the Bolton Journal & Guardian of 2nd February 1917 a poem penned for him by his sister and a week later on the 9th February which showed his photograph.

The medals earned by Pte Warburton for his service in WW1 were forwarded to his sister at home over a two year period. She received and acknowledged receipt of the 1914-15 star on 28th January 1920, the British war medal on 9th December that year and the victory medal on 3rd November 1921. She would have also taken receipt of his Memorial plaque and scroll relating to his death.

For the Weiltje Trench Raid main index please CLICK HERE.

Garry Farmer
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