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6726 PTE. T. SPEIGHT. L.N.LAN.R.

Thomas Speight was born in Preston in 1884 to Thomas and Margaret Speight (nee Donnelly). Thomas and Margaret married in Preston in 1882 and they had seven children five of whom survived; Hugh (1885), Henry (1887-1888), Benjamin (1888), Henry (1890), Joseph (1892-1893) and Rose Ann (1893).

Sadly, the year after Rose Ann was born Thomas Speight Snr. passed away and by 1901 his widow Margaret had moved to 94 Aqueduct Street in Preston with sons Thomas, Hugh, Benjamin and Henry and her daughter Rose. In order to support the family Margaret was going out to work in a cotton mill as was Thomas and his two younger siblings, Hugh and Benjamin.

On the 3rd January 1902 aged 18 years and 6 months Thomas enlisted into the Dragoons of the Line but by the 1st October 1902 he had transferred to the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment and was subsequently posted to the 2nd Battalion with the service number 6726. He signed on agreeing to serve 7 years with the Colours and 5 years in the Reserve and went on to serve overseas in Gibralter, South Africa and Mauritius. It seems however that his service was not without problems and his Regimental Conduct Sheet lists several instances of him being fined and confined to barracks for drunkenness; in a railway station, a barrack room, during field training and in various towns. Thomas was finally transferred to the Reserve on the 2nd October 1910.

When the 1911 Census was recorded Thomas was back in Preston living at 54 Ellen Street with his mother and his four siblings, all were employed as cotton workers.

At the outbreak of war and as he was still on the Army Reserve Thomas was mobilised on the 5th August 1914. His medical inspection at the time revealed that he was five feet eight and three quarter inches tall and had a 36” chest. He had brown hair and brown eyes. He was a single man and had been working as a cotton piercer at Messrs. Hawkins and Sons` Mill and was living at 54 Ellen Street in Preston. He named his mother Margaret and brothers Hugh, Benjamin and Henry as his next of kin. Thomas passed his medical inspection and was posted to the 3rd Battalion.

Thomas arrived in France on the 27th August 1914 just as the Retreat from Mons was underway and was sent to join the 1st Battalion who had been in France since the 12th August 1914.

Sadly, Thomas was posted as missing during the Battalion`s first general action at the Battle of Aisne on the 13th September 1914. Months later his family finally received confirmation from the Authorities that Thomas was presumed to have died on that date.

His family notified the Preston Guardian of his death and they later published the following article;6726 Private Thomas Speight 1st Battalion

Thomas`s body was never recovered from the battlefield where he fell and so his name was later recorded on the Le Ferte-sous-Jouarre Memorial to the Missing.

After the war Thomas was awarded the 1914 Star and Clasp together with the British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service for his country.

Rank: Private
Service No: 6726
Date of Death: 13/09/1914
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.
Memorial: LA FERTE-SOUS-JOUARRE MEMORIAL

5353 PTE. B. SPEIGHT. L.N.LAN.R.

Benjamin Speight presented himself at the Preston Recruiting Office after being called up for service on the 22nd March 1916. He expressed a preference to join the Kings Own Royal Lancaster Regiment but the following day he was posted to the 2/4th Battalion of the LNL, the same Regiment as his brother.

At his medical inspection he was described as being 5`5” tall and weighing 114lbs. The Medical Officer noted that Benjamin had flat feet but apart from that he was passed fit to serve. At the time he was living at his mother`s home at 54 Ellen Street in Preston and had been employed as a weaver. His mother Margaret was named as his next of kin for official purposes.

Sadly, just two weeks later on the 4th April 1916 Benjamin committed suicide on a farm at Ingol just a couple of miles away from the centre of Preston. Both the Preston Guardian and the Lancashire Evening Post reported on the Coroner`s inquest which was held the following day;

CALLED UP

SUICIDE OF A PRESTON RECRUIT

The circumstances surrounding the death of Benjamin Speight (28), single, 54 Ellen Street Preston, were enquired into by the Coroner Mr. John Parker at Ashton County Police Station this afternoon.

Margaret Speight, widow, said the deceased was her son and he was an operative weaver. Yesterday morning at 8.30 he left home and went to report himself at the Avenham Lane Depot to obtain his uniform for the army. He had been called up on March 22nd and was posted to the 2/4th LNL Regiment. Since being called up he had slept at home, and reported himself at Avenham Lane each morning. He told witnesses he did not wish to be a soldier, as he was not fit. An elder brother, who was in the Army had been taken prisoner and died in Germany. Witness added that he suffered from his nerves and was of a brooding nature.

James Hayes, farm labourer, employed at Slab Hall Farm, Ingol, spoke of finding the body of the deceased in a pit in a field at Slab Hall Farm at two o`clock yesterday afternoon. It was in 6ft. of water and lying face downwards.

PC Wilson of Clifton stated that he recovered the body from the water.

The jury returned a verdict of “suicide during temporary insanity”.

After his death Benjamin was laid to rest in Preston (New Hall Lane) Cemetery.

6726 Private Thomas Speight 1st Battalion 2

Rank: Private
Service No: 5353
Date of Death: 04/04/1916
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 2nd/4th Bn.
Cemetery: PRESTON (NEW HALL LANE) CEMETERY

Author`s note The Coroner`s inquest article refers to one of Benjamin`s elder brothers being taken prisoner and dying in German. Benjamin had two elder brothers, one being Thomas and the other Hugh. There does not appear to be any information to confirm whether Hugh Speight served in WW1 but if he did, he survived because there is no CWGC death record for him but there is a death in Preston for Hugh Speight in 1954 and of the right age (born 1885). Therefore, Benjamin must have been referring to Thomas who died on 13th September 1914. However, there is nothing in Thomas` military records to suggest that he was taken prisoner or that he died in Germany either and so wherever that information came from is unknown and will no doubt forever remain a mystery.

Janet Davis

Janet Davis

Janet Davis has been researching her family history for many years and through this she discovered many relatives who served in WW1. This interest then led Janet to do many walking the battlefield tours with her husband. In April 2013 she discovered this website and volunteered to help. Janet believes that there are lots of stories still to be told, most of them very sad but at the same time they are a fascinating insight into the men, their families, what they did and where they came from.
Janet Davis

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