‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

THOMAS SAMPSON
Age:17
Date of Death:04/01/1916
Rank:Rifleman
Service No:S/10340
Regiment:Rifle Brigade
Unit:9th Bn.
Memorial:
Ypres(Menin Gate)Memorial
Panel Ref:Panel 48

Thomas Sampson's inscription on the Menin Gate

Thomas Sampson was born in Lees in 1898, to parents Thomas & Jane. Thomas senior was a manager in the cotton industry. Thomas had two older sisters - Mary & Rose and a younger brother, Arthur. By 1900 the Sampsons were living in Oldham but had moved, presumably for his father to take up a position at another cotton mill, to Hyde by the time of the 1911 census. At that time, Thomas - aged 13, was working as a piecer in a mill.
There is every evidence to suggest that by the time Thomas enlisted in the army in 1915 the family were living in Royton. At the time of his death in January 1916 they were at Irk Bank in Luzley Brook - this is perhaps 357 Shaw Road where his mother was to die in 1923. When he did sign up though in May 1915 shortly after he had turned 17, in Ashton-under-Lyne, he gave as his address 353 Stockport Road in Hyde. Either he had remained in Hyde after his parents had moved to Royton or he gave a false address due to being underaged. Thomas claimed to be 19, the age you had to be to be able to go on active service. On his attestation paper it is noted that his father was in Bombay at the time, presumably involved in the purchase of cotton.
Enlisting in Ashton suggests he may have intended to join the Manchester Regiment, whose depot was in the town, but when he was sent out to the Western Front it was to the 9th Battalion of the Rifle Brigade. This unit had suffered heavy casualties in fighting in the Ypres Salient. They were involved in fighting around Hooge in July and August 1915 in which they were one of the first units to be attacked by flamethrowers and then in September of that year, as part of the attempt to regain the ground lost around Hooge, they took part in a failed attack at high cost.
Thomas joined the 9th Rifle Brigade in the Ypres Salient on October 7th 1915. He obviously fairly quickly attracted the displeasure of a superior as on October 12th he was sentenced to 14 days Field Punishment Number Two. This entailed the prisoner being placed in fetters and handcuffs. They weren't attached to a fixed object (unlike Field Punishment Number One) so was regarded as a reasonably tolerable punishment. In both forms of field punishment, the soldier was also subjected to hard labour and loss of pay.
The day after he received this sentence he got his first taste of front line duty on October 13th at Potijze, coming under shellfire whilst the battalion was relieving the 1st West Yorks. Perhaps his punishment was served after this spell as it would seem strange to have a man shackled whilst in the front line.
The final three months of Thomas Sampson's life were spent in and out of the line around Ypres.Then on January 4th 1917, at Elverdinghe, the battalion finished a rest period to begin a four day spell in the front line. The unit war diary states that the Germans in the area were found to be very active with both snipers and machine guns. The four days cost the battalion 18 men killed and 26 wounded. Thomas Sampson was the first to be killed, on January 4th.
The following year on January 6th 1917, the Sampson family placed the following notice in the Oldham Chronicle:

In loving memory of Rifleman Thomas Sampson,
who fell in France, January 4th 1916
Dad, Mamma, Sisters,and Brother
Irk Bank, Luzley Brook, Royton