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200082 Sergeant Thomas Edward Gillett “D” Company 1/4th Battalion
thomas edward gillettThomas Edward Gillett was born in 1875 in Chorley to James and Beatrice Gillett (nee Rogers). His parents married in St. George`s Church in Chorley on the 13th February 1875. Thomas was the eldest of at least twelve children the couple had, the others being; Richard (1878), Myra (1880), Eleanor (1882), Nicholas (1883), James (1885), Nora (1888), Fred (1889-1890), Harry (1892), Florrie (1894), Stephen (1895) and Arnold (1897-1898).

In 1891 Thomas was working as a cotton piercer and living at 106 Eaves Lane in Chorley with his parents and five of his younger siblings. On the 18th June 1898 he married Gertrude Matley, an 18 year old domestic servant who was living at the Prince of Wales Inn in Chorley.

On the 4th April 1900 Thomas attested into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment 1st Volunteer Battalion and was posted to the Reserve with the service number 7441. He re-attested on the 5th February 1901 and was promoted to Sergeant the same day. His medical inspection notes that he was 5`7” tall and weighed 142lb, had a fair complexion, hazel eyes and fair hair. He went overseas to South Africa on the 16th March 1901 where he served for 1 year and 223 days before being discharged on the 15th September 1902.

By 1911 Thomas and Gertrude had five children; Ernest (1900), Edna (1901), Fred (1903), Edith (1905) and May (1908). The family home was at 6 Croft Road in Chorley and Thomas was working as a cotton spinner.

Unfortunately Thomas` service records have not survived so we cannot be sure when he enlisted but his low service number of 175 suggests that it was probably in early August 1914. Thomas sailed for France as part of “D” Company of the 1/4th Battalion on the 4th May 1915.

Thomas was wounded during the `great bayonet charge` at Festubert on the 15th June 1915 which was the Battalion`s first major action. It seems that he was initially thought to have died from his wounds but it later transpired that he was still alive.

thomas edward gillett 2

Fred Rollins, another Chorley man who was also a member of “D” Company, sent a letter home to his father in which he describes what happened on the evening of the 15th June. Fred mentions his own brother George as well as Thomas Edward Gillett and others. The letter was later published in the Lancashire Daily Post.

Letter penned by Fred Rollins of Poplar Street, Chorley to his father – Lancashire Daily Post
“At 6 pm on the 15th we made our assault. About 700 of our guns spoke at once, and the noise was terrifying. We had to crawl up the communication trench which the Germans were bombarding. It was here I saw MONKS and SHERRINGTON wounded. We kept on until we came to a gap in the trenches. Here we had to extend in the open in front of the German front trenches. It was simply murder in the open.

When it came to our Platoon`s turn to come out SERGEANT GILLETT was bowled over. By this time nearly all our non-commissioned officers had got knocked out, and Captain Hibbert said “Rollins, you lead them up”.

I set my teeth and gripped my rifle, at the same time shouting, “Come on lads, try your best”. By this time they were simply raining shells on us. I remember seeing our George and telling him to stick to me. I then saw the first Company up to the first German trench and I remember nothing until we carried three German trenches in one rush, mowing the Germans down as they yelled for mercy. But they got no mercy from the North Lancashire’s – they had outed too many of our lads for that. When we had crossed the three trenches we went further and dug ourselves in, in the open.

We held this place until half an hour after midnight. We sent back for reinforcements, we only had the Kings Own and Scottish Rifles with us. When we looked again the Germans were coming back in massed formation, whole regiments of Bavarians and Prussian Guards.

We then saw to our great sorrow we should have to retire as we could not get reinforcements.

When about half way back about 80 of us determined to try and hold the enemy back. We were all mixed up and our George was still with me. We simply mowed them down as they came along, but they managed to work round to our left flank, and some dressed in English uniforms, shouted, “Come over here, North Lancashire’s”. Our George and about a dozen more went over, and when about 20 yards away the Germans opened fire. That was where I missed him in the darkness.

We held the position from 12.30 till 4.30am and out of 80 only 40 were left, including NALLEY RODEN, ANTHONY FINCH, our George and myself. I was just landing in the trenches when I saw our George coming in after me. He had a bullet wound through the left arm and a slight wound on the head. I got out without a scratch, I daren’t tell you how many we lost; it was terrible.

We were fighting from 5.30pm till 4.30am. The lads fought like heroes and I am glad to be in such a brave regiment. We have the satisfaction of knowing the Germans lost twice as many as we did. The Regular Army men round here think the world of us and call us “the fighting Lancastrians”.

Whether Thomas was brought back to England to recover from his injuries is unknown. Thomas did see out the war and he did remain with the 1/4th Battalion. In January 1917 he was issued with the new style TF number of 200082.

After the war he was awarded the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service for his country.

Thomas Edward Gillett died at 2 Yarrow Road in Chorley on the 24th September 1962 aged 87 years.

210 Lance Corporal Nicholas Gillett “D” Company 1/4th Battalion

nicholas gillettNicholas Gillett married Lily Lomax in St. James` Church in Chorley on the 19th December 1903. The 1911 Census shows Nicholas and Lily living at 7 Southport Terrace in Chorley with their three children; Elsie (1906), John (1907) and Edward (1910). Nicholas was employed in a local iron foundry as a fire range polisher.

Nicholas also enlisted into the 1st Volunteer Battalion LNL on the 18th February 1902. At his medical inspection it was noted that he was 5`5” tall and he weighed 125lbs. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and light brown hair. He was given the service number 7622. He went to serve in South Africa and after returning was discharged on the 12th July 1902.

Unfortunately Nicholas` service papers have not survived either but he also enlisted into the 4th Battalion LNL around the same time as his brother and was allotted the service number 210.

Nicholas sailed to France on the 4th May 1915 with the 1/4th Battalion and he, like his brother Thomas was a member of “D” Company. A week after they arrived in France the 1/4th Battalion became part of the 154th Brigade of the 51st (Highland) Division.

Nicholas was also involved in the Battalion`s action at Festubert on the 15th June 1915 but he managed to come through that unscathed, unlike his brother and many others.

At 6am on the morning of the 16th June the Battalion War Diary tells us that the remnants of the Battalion were relieved by the 1/8th Liverpool Irish and rallied in a field at Le Touret on the Rue de Bois. The Battalion then marched to billets at Le Cornet Malo, arriving there at about 2pm and remained there until the 21st June whilst reorganising and re-equipping. The following day the Battalion moved into Brigade Reserve and went into billets at Lacouture.

On the 24th June the 51st Division re-joined the Indian Corps and that same day the Battalion marched with the Brigade to Estaire where they went into billets, arriving at 1am on the morning of the 25th June.

Extract from the Battalion War Diary
7pm – 25th June 1915 – Battalion left ESTAIRE and marched via LAVENTIE to take over trenches from the 1/5th Middlesex Regiment at FAUQUISSART. Our front extended from a point 200 yards N.W. of RUE D`ENFER for about 400 yards. 1/6th Scottish Rifles were on our left flank and 1/4th Royal Lancaster Regiment on our right.

26th – 30th June 1915 – Very quiet time, few shells were fired at our portion of the line although snipers were very active at times. During this period 1 man was killed and 3 wounded.

Sadly, the man reported as being killed was Lance Corporal Nicholas Gillett, his date of death recorded as being 28th June 1915.

In the absence of any paperwork we do not know if Nicholas was buried by his comrades but if he was his grave was lost and his name was later inscribed on the Le Touret Memorial to the Missing.

After the war Lily Gillett would have received her husband`s 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals and also his Memorial Plaque and Scroll in recognition of his service and sacrifice for his country.

His name is also remembered on the panels at the Astley Park War Memorial in Chorley

strong>Rank: Private
Service No: 210
Date of Death: 28/06/1915
Age: 32
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment,”D” Coy. 1st/4th Bn.

Janet Davis
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One Response to The Gillett Brothers of Chorley

  1. Jean Stead nee Sanderson says:

    My grandfather Sargent Fredrick Thomas Sanderson from Chorley served in D company 1/4 Battalion and was involved in the battle at Festuburt He was seriously injured on the 15 June 1915 and thankfully survived He died in 1966 and I remember him with love and affection Thankyou so much for posting this information

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