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1538 PTE. T. WHITMAN. L.N.LAN.R. – 1st Battalion 

Thomas Whitman was baptised in St. Luke`s Church in Preston on the 5th July 1891 the son of Emmanuel Thomas and Ellen Whitman (nee Shaw). He was actually christened Emmanuel Thomas after his father but appears to have used the name Thomas in most of the official documents including his military service papers.

His parents married in St. Luke`s Church in Preston on the 28th May 1882 and they had twelve children seven of whom survived; William (1885), David (1887), John (1889), Emmanuel Thomas (1891), Alfred Edward (1895), Frederick (1899) and Elizabeth Ellen (1903).

In 1901 the Whitman family home was at 17 Morgan Street in the Deepdale area of Preston and Thomas`s father was employed as a general labourer while his mother worked as a cotton weaver.

On the 18th August 1910 at the age of 19 years and 2 months Thomas enlisted for six years as a Special Reservist with the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. At his medical inspection he was described as being five foot three and a half inches tall and weighing 117lbs with blue eyes and brown hair. He was allocated the service number 1538. A character reference was provided for him by Arthur Turner a butcher of 154 Ribbleton Lane in Preston who stated that “he had known Thomas all his life and that he was sober, honest and a very good lad”.

The 1911 Census was recorded on the 2nd April and by this time the family had moved to 37 Portman Street in Preston. Thomas and his elder brother John were both working for the Lancs & Yorks Railway Company as carriage cleaners. The eldest brother William had by this time joined the 2nd Battalion Loyal North Lancs Regiment and he was with his regiment in Bangalore, India at the time of the Census. David had left the family in August 1910 and had emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts. Alfred was a warehouse boy in a cotton mill and the two youngest siblings, Fred and Elizabeth were both attending school.

As a Special Reservist Thomas was mobilised in early August 1914 and by the 19th September 1914 he was on his way to France to join the 1st Battalion. The majority of the 1st Battalion had been overseas as part of the British Expeditionary Force for the past five weeks and by the time Thomas arrived they would just be recovering from the great retreat from Mons.

On the 22nd October 1914 the 1st Battalion moved north to Boesinghe, near Ypres in readiness for their part in the First Battle of Ypres. On the 22nd October they were ordered to march to Pilkem, reaching there just after dawn the following day. They were then ordered to attack the German trenches and as soon as it became light enough the Battalion moved forward to the attack.

“C” Company was on the right and “A” on the left advancing by sections under Major A.J. Carter. They advanced to within 100 yards of the trenches and then began to come under heavy shell fire. The order to fix bayonets was given; a bugle sounded the charge and with loud cheers the Battalion dashed forward. In less than ten minutes the Battalion had carried the trenches and cleared them of the enemy. They took 600 prisoners which would have been more had they not been hampered by our own artillery.

In this action the Battalion had 2 Officers killed and another four wounded, while 178 other ranks were killed, wounded or missing. Thomas was one of the wounded and he was removed to a field ambulance but sadly died as a result of gun-shot wounds to his chest on the 24th October 1914.

His service papers reveal that he was “buried at Pilkem in a field immediately south of the windmill and opposite the south end of a school on the east side of the road”. However, Thomas`s burial place was eventually lost probably as a result of subsequent fighting in the area and so his name is remembered on the Menin Gate Memorial to the Missing in Ypres.

A few weeks after his death the local paper in Preston published the following information about Thomas and his family.

Whitman 1

After the war Thomas`s family took receipt of his 1914 Star, British War and Victory Medals that he was entitled to.

Rank: Private
Service No: 1538
Date of Death: 24/10/1914
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1st Bn.


2601 PTE. A. E. WHITMAN. L.N.LAN.R. – 1st Battalion

Alfred Whitman embarked for France on the 3rd June 1915 and on arrival was posted to the 1st Battalion LNL. Unfortunately Alfred`s papers have not survived so precise information on his military service is unknown other than from his Medal Index Card and the Medal Rolls. However, the newspaper article below does give some additional information.

During his service he was awarded the Military Medal for rescuing wounded men under heavy fire on the 30th June 1916. Alfred had apparently been wounded three times and was also hospitalised at Frome Bank, Bromyard in Herefordshire suffering from the effects of gas poisoning. Alfred`s Military Medal was presented to him while he was recovering in hospital in Frome Bank by Major-General Sir Elliott Wood K.C.B.  Whitman 2

At some point later in the war Alfred achieved the rank of Lance Corporal and he also joined the Machine Gun Corps (Service number 176906). He was finally discharged from the Army on the 22nd June 1919. As well as his Military Medal, Alfred also received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals in recognition of his service for his country.

After his discharge from the Army Alfred went back to work on the railways in Preston. On the 16th October 1920 he married Florence Kirby in Christ Church, Preston and the following year a daughter Winifred Ellen was born (1921-2000). Alfred, Florence and Winifred appear to have emigrated to the USA in 1923 and they spent several years living in Bedford, Massachusetts where Alfred`s older brother David was also still living. The passenger list gives Alfred`s occupation at the time as a watchmaker.

Florence and daughter Winifred returned to England in 1932 followed by Alfred in 1933. The great depression of the thirties may well have been the reason for their return home to England and there is no indication in the passenger lists to suggest that Alfred and his family ever returned to the USA. Daughter Winifred married in Chorley in 1948. Alfred died in Preston in 1966 aged 70 and Florence passed away four years later in 1970 at the age of 73.


201489 PTE. J. WHITMAN. L.N.LAN.R.  – 1/4th Battalion LNL

John Whitman enlisted into the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment on the 31st May 1915 and embarked for France on the 25th December 1915. John was discharged from the Army on the 1st November 1918 due to sickness and was awarded the Silver War Badge numbered B36437. He also received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.


8393 SJT. W. WHITMAN. L.N.LAN.R. – 2nd Battalion LNL

William Whitman initially enlisted into the Militia at Preston on the 7th September 1904 before joining the 2nd Battalion of the Loyal North Lancs Regiment on the 31st July 1905 by which time he had been made a Lance Corporal. As previously mentioned he was in Bangalore, India with the Battalion when the 1911 Census was recorded. At the time of his enlistment he had been working for Mr. Seed, Aerated Water Manufacturer in Preston. At his medical he was described as being 5`2” tall and he weighed 100lbs. He had a fresh complexion, grey eyes and brown hair.

Unfortunately his service record is not available but his Medal Index Card states that he sailed for Africa on the 9th December 1914. Four years later on the 16th October 1918 William married Eileen Alice Smither in Bangalore, India. For his war service William received the 1915 Star, British War and Victory Medals.

A year after their marriage a son William Thomas John was born in India (1919-2003) and then the family seem to have returned to England. A daughter Eileen Alice was born in Preston in 1920 (d.1990) and she was followed by another son Eric Arthur who was born in Bolton in 1922 (d.1995).

On the 23rd June 1928 William, Eileen, the three children and a young lady named Miss L R Smither boarded the Orient steamship liner `Osterley` in London. The ships final destination was Australia but the Whitman family disembarked in Colombe in India. The passenger list also notes that William`s occupation was an upholsterer.

There is no further information about William and his family for the years after they landed in India that is until the notification of William`s death on the 28th December 1943 aged 57 years. He was buried in Kirkee War Cemetery in India apparently having died from a haemorrhage. The CWGC notes the following details; 23004 Warrant Officer Class II C.S.M. William Whitman of the Royal Indian Engineers.


DAVID WHITMAN – Canadian Railway Troops

David emigrated to Boston, Massachusetts in August 1910 and later married a lady named Hannah Burgess (date unknown). Hannah also emigrated from England in 1908 and the couple had two children, Elizabeth and Alfred who were both born in Boston.

On the 5th June 1917 David filled in and signed his U.S. WW1 Draft Registration Card, he was aged 30 and working as a mill hand. On the 18th March 1918 he attested in Toronto, Canada at the Railway Construction Depot and signed his declaration to serve abroad with the Canadian Expeditionary Force as part of the Canadian Railway Troops, his number was 2500047. His wife Hannah remained in the USA with their two children living at 60 Salisbury Street, New Bedford, Massachusetts.

David did go overseas with the Canadian Railway Troops and he returned safely to Canada via the SS Aquitania on the 26th May 1919 before making his way back home to Hannah and the children in New Bedford. David died in 1940 and was buried in Pine Grove Cemetery, New Bedford, Massachusetts.Whitman 3

Janet Davis
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2 Responses to The Whitman Brothers

  1. Marion Woan says:

    My great uncle David William Kirby (Private 10374) forfeited his WW1 medals. Do you have any information? David was the brother of Florence Whitman, married to Alfred Whitman, (my Grandfather).

    • Hi Marion, David continued to serve post-WW1, following his release from captivity, his post-war number 3846910. He was discharged in March 1921 having been convicted by a civil power for desertion. This appears to have led to him forfeiting his WW1 medals, which were scrapped. Hope this helps, Paul

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