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Thomas Briscoe Sumner’s birth was registered in the December quarter of 1872 in Preston by his mother 22 year old Agnes Sumner. Agnes was living at home with her parents Thomas and Alice Sumner at 34 Maudland Bank in Preston when Thomas was born but by 1881 she had moved elsewhere leaving Thomas with his grandparents. Thomas` grandfather had previously worked as an `overlooker` in one of the mills but in 1881 he was a confectioner and the family including young Thomas had moved to 59 Friargate in Preston.

By 1891 Thomas` grandfather had passed away and Thomas was still living with his grandmother Alice but now they were living in Victoria Street in Preston where his grandmother was a shopkeeper and Thomas a grocer`s assistant. Alice Sumner passed away in 1894 and two years later on the 1st September 1896 Thomas attested into the Militia at Preston, joining the 3rd Battalion of the South Lancashire Regiment. His attestation papers state his occupation was a grocer and that he had been living in Liverpool although he also gave an address of 54 Manchester Road in Preston. Thomas was 5`4” tall and weighed 118lbs and had a 32” chest. He had a sallow complexion, brown hair, grey eyes and had a scar on his left forehead. His religion was noted as Wesleyan.

On the 14th December 1904 in the church of St. Paul in Preston Thomas married Isabella Smith, the marriage record noting his occupation as a soldier. Thomas was 32 years old and Isabella was 31 and her home address at the time was 30 Schleswig Street in Preston. In 1910 a son, Harold Briscoe Sumner was born and in 1911, Thomas, Isabella and their one year old son Harold were living at 13 Penny Street in Preston. Thomas was employed as an Insurance Agent and Isabella was a weaver. In 1912 a second son was born to Thomas and Isabella and they named him Henry.

After the outbreak of war Thomas rejoined the Army as a Special Reservist on the 31st August 1914 at Preston. His occupation at the time was noted as a butcher, aged 38 years and 9 months old. He also confirmed his previous service with the South Lancashire Regiment (time expired). The following day he was posted to the 3rd (Reserve) Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment at Felixstowe.

On the 22nd September 1914 Thomas set sail for France and according to the Battalion War History he was with at least 100 other men who had been sent out to reinforce the 1st Battalion at that time.

Sadly, just three months after landing Thomas` name was one of 320 men listed as either wounded or missing after a night attack that took place at Givenchy on the 21st– 22nd December 1914. To read a full account of the action on 22nd December, click here.

Thomas` family was eventually informed that he was missing in action from that date and they had the following photograph published in the local paper in Preston;

3434 Private Thomas Briscoe Sumner

The date of the 3rd March 1914 is noted in Thomas` service record along with `Prisoner of War, Wittenburg`, presumably this is the date when the Military Authorities received confirmation that he was still alive and was a prisoner of war.

Thomas would have been at Wittenburg when the infamous outbreak of Typhoid occurred at the camp, many men died during the outbreak and it would have been many more but for the actions of a small number of Officers who helped to eventually overcome the disease. Unfortunately there is no other information available regarding Thomas as a prisoner but he did remain in captivity for the duration of the war.

His service papers note that he was finally discharged from the Army on the 27th February 1919 at Preston and was awarded the Silver War Badge with the number B138670. The reason for his discharge was stated as `General debility, no longer fit for war service`. When Thomas applied for a pension the Medical Officer also noted his debility as `Neurasthenia` (a term which appears to have been used to describe physical and mental exhaustion, irritability and hysteria amongst other things).

At the time of his discharge Thomas, Isabella and their son Harold lived at 115 Park Road in Preston where they remained for a number of years.

For his war service Thomas also received the 1914 Star, British War and Victory Medals which he signed for himself.

Thomas Briscoe Sumner passed away at the age of 57 on the 17th July 1929, his probate record notes his home address as being 115 Park Road in Preston. It also states that his death occurred at Whittingham, whether this was at Whittingham Mental Hospital is unknown. Thomas left the sum of £128. 8s.1d to his widow Isabella Sumner.

Isabella Sumner died ten years after her husband on the 8th March 1939 at her home address of 115 Park Road in Preston, she left the sum of £642.8s.6d to her two sons, Harold Briscoe Sumner, boot repairer and Henry Sumner, French polisher both of 115 Park Road, Preston.

Janet Davis
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