‚ÄčRoyton Roll of Honour

Date of Death:07/07/1916
Service No:4010
Regiment:Lancashire Fusiliers
Unit:10th Bn.
Thiepval Memorial
Panel Ref:Pier&Face 3C&3D

photo courtesy of Walter's great niece, Mary Thomas

Walter Thomas was born in 1891 at 59 Turf Lane, Royton. His father, Joseph, worked at the Higginshaw Gas Works and along with Walter's mother, Hannah, was originally from Herefordshire. Walter was one of 9 children. His siblings were Arthur, Elizabeth, Albert, Alfred, Joseph, Ernest,William and Eliza Ann.
The Thomas family didn't stray far from Walter's birthplace as in 1901 they were at 51 Turf Lane and in 1911 it was the same road at number 84. In 1910 his brother William married Margaret Martin, the sister of Allan Martin. By 1911, Walter was working as a piecer in one of the local cotton mills. After his death the Oldham Chronicle stated he had worked at the Parkside Mill, the Manchester Evening News that he worked at the Park Mill. One of Walter's interests outside of work was cricket and he was a member of the Heyside Cricket Club. Walter's mother died in 1912 and after that he lived at 3 Sutcliffe Street along with his father.
Walter enlisted in the army, in Oldham, early in the war. Signing up with him was his friend Charles Mills, another Turf Lane resident who was given the adjacent service number. They both became members of the 10th Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers. This unit had been formed in Bury in September 1914. Walter was with them when they landed at Boulogne on July 15th 1915. They went almost at once into the front line at Vierstraat, 3 miles from Ypres.The battalion suffered large casualties from a single shell on September 5th of that year. A group of men from another regiment marching along the skyline drew fire from a German artillery gun. A shell hit a barn where two platoons of the company were quartered. 14 men were killed outright, 6 mortally wounded with a further 27 wounded.
In February 1916, the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers found themselves manning positions near by 'The Bluff', near Ypres. This was a prominence about 30 feet above the surrounding ground which had been created from the spoil when a nearby canal had been cut. The position gave whoever controlled it an excellent observation post of the enemy positions. Most of the battalion were south of the canal with a platoon of C Company on the other side on the edge of The Bluff itself, cut off from the remainder of the battalion except for a plank footbridge across the waterway some way back from the front line.
At 15:30 on February 14th, a heavy German artillery bombardment began on the positions around the canal. There were false reports that half of A Company had been wiped out but reinforcements from C Company found this report to be erroneous. Between 17:30 & 18:00 the Germans blew several mines, one of which was under The Bluff. This buried most of the platoon from C Company present there and the Germans were able to walk into their position taking most of the men prisoners. It slowly became apparent to the British that the whole of the Bluff was now in German hands.
At 04:15 the following morning a counter attack was launched by the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers along with bombers from the 6th Dorsetshire Regiment and a company of men from the York & Lancasters.The three groups of British soldiers reached the top of The Bluff and engaged the Germans there with grenades. Some men succeeded in getting into the German trench and hand to hand fighting ensued for nearly 45 minutes. The numbers of Germans were too great however and the attackers had to fall back - under attack from grenades and machine gun fire. It was apparent that the defenders were too well dug in for the size of the British force and also the attackers were hampered by a heavy snow fall that had begun. It was decided that any further counter attacks would be futile and the men withdrew.In the fighting that morning a fellow Heyside man George Smith was killed along with 15 others from the battalion. A little over two weeks later the British retook the positions lost, a further 3 Royton men were amongst those killed.
After the action at The Bluff the battalion was in the Armentieres sector until May. It then went to the back areas for rest and training until the middle of June when it moved down to the Somme sector in advance of the great offensive there of July 1st. The 10th Lancashire Fusiliers were not involved in that ghastly first day, in which 13 Royton men were killed, but two days later they moved up to take over the former German trenches north of Fricourt. At 00:15 on July 5th the British artillery opened a bombardment on the German position known as Quadrangle Trench. Under cover of this bombardment the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers and 9th Northumberland Fusiliers crept to within a hundred yards of the German line. At 00:45 the men charged forward. C & D Company of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers captured Quadrangle Trench and another position known as Shelter Alley without too much fighting - apart from on the left where they came under some rifle and machine gun fire. Although casualties were comparatively light there had been 16 deaths amongst the Fusiliers - one of them was Walter's friend Charles Mills. By 02:00 the fighting was over and the rest of the day was spent consolidating their new position amongst the many German dead lying around them. On July 6th the men came under German bombardment and there was also contact on several occasions with German bombing parties (grenade throwers).
At 02:00 on July 7th the men of Walter's battalion were once more sent into the attack. Their first objective was to seize Quadrangle Support Trench and establish a defensive flank along Pearl Alley which ran northward about 500 yards east of Contalmaison. Once these were attained the second objective was to take Acid Drop Copse which lay in the angle of Quadrangle Support Trench & Pearl Alley. Once taken Acid Drop Copse was to be converted into a strong advanced post
capable of bringing fire down onto the Germans entrenched in Mametz Wood.
Quadrangle Support Trench lay over the crest of a hill and was invisible to the advancing men until they had nearly reached it. Once they had gotten over the crest they found that the trench was heavily manned, the Germans were seemingly about to launch an attack of their own. The 10th LF and 9th Northumberlands were received with heavy fire and driven back. Two companies of the Lancashire Fusiliers managed to establish themselves in Pearl Alley and held on until daybreak.At noon the Germans launched a counter attack which expelled the British soldiers fighting in Contalmaison and the men of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers in Quadrangle Trench now found themselves sharing it with many other British soldiers from a bewildering amount of different units. Later in the day men of the 10th were involved in further fighting to support two companies of the Welsh Regiment holding onto the edge of Contalmaison. At 17:00 the battalion was withdrawn from the front line and went into the rear area at Meaulte. It's casualties had been 9 officers killed, 5 officers wounded and 393 other ranks killed and wounded. Walter Thomas was one of those killed, his body either never recovered or identified. Across the same ground the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers had fought and died, later that morning the 12th Manchesters had gone into action in another failed attack, in this John Brannon was  killed.
Later that month unofficial news reached his father back in Royton that Walter was missing, this news presumably came from one of his comrades. Then in mid August came the official notification that he was missing in action. It was not until February 1917 that he was pronounced to have been killed. In 1918 Walter's brother William and sister in law had a baby boy who they named Walter Allan Thomas in memory of his two dead uncles, sadly little Walter Allan died after only six days. Walter's father, Joseph, passed away in Royton in 1920 aged 80. After the war another man who was present told one of Walter's brothers that he had been shot by a sniper.
The other men of the 10th Lancashire Fusiliers listed as being killed that day were:

ALDERMAN WALTER Private    23816    
BALL RICHARD Private 7316    
BARBER GEORGE 20 2nd Lt. from Bath
BARRATT GEOFFREY 25 2nd Lt. from Norfolk
BARRY WILLIAM 30 Private 9854 from Bootle
BENNETT JAMES Private 15487 from Chorley    
BICKERSTAFFE WILLIAM Private 12634 born St Helens,enlisted Wigan    
BLANKSBY HENRY Private 5391 from Manchester    
BOOTT HECTOR 36 Private 4493 from Manchester
BOWERS JAMES Private 5632 from Leigh
BROGDEN ROBERT Private 23245 from Middleton    
BURKE THOMAS Private 4120 from Manchester    
BUTTERWORTH FRED 26 Private 14568 from Littleborough.Two brothers also killed in WW1
CLANCY ANDREW 40 Private 4367 from Warrington
COYLE JOHN Private 4303  from Wigan
CREAM ALFRED 26 Private 6957 from Stockport
DAVIES JAMES Private 6085 from Lees    
DILLON ROBERT Private 4186 from Manchester    
DIXON AMBROSE Private 5058 from Manchester
DUTTON CHARLES 2nd Lt.        
EASON JAMES Private 5196 born Liverpool,enlisted Ashton-under-Lyne    
EDWARDS THOMAS 27 Serjeant 5708 from Glamorganshire
EMLEY WILLIAM 27 Private 23899 from Liverpool
FARNWORTH JOSEPH 38 Private 23125 born Preston,enlisted Rochdale
FARRAR MATTHEW 38 Private 15332 from Pendleton
FILLINGHAM WILLIAM Serjeant 5498 born Nottingham,enlisted Wigan    
FINCH THOMAS Private 4468 from Wigan    
FLYNN THOMAS 26 Private 31194 from Great Harwood
GARLICK LUKE 40 Private 12261 from Oldham    
GORTON ABRAHAM Private 573 born Heywood,enlisted Rochdale    
GRICE WILLIAM 19 Private 13671 from Failsworth
GRIMLEY JOSEPH 31 Lance Corporal 13749 from Nottingham
GUDGER WILLIAM 30 Private 5425 from Failsworth
HALL FRED 22 Private 28147 from Middleton
HANNON LAWRENCE 30 Private 4379 from Warrington
HARRIS MAURICE Private 27092 from Cardiff    
HARRISON VINCENT 35 Private 5750 from Rochdale
HARROP WILLIAM Private 19154 from Manchester    
HATFIELD JOHN Private 31224 from Salford    
HEBBLETHWAITE GEORGE 22 2nd Lt. from Mirfield,Yorks
HOLDEN ISRAEL 30 Private 17151 from Rawtenstall
HOLT FRED Private 28094  born Bury,enlisted Rochdale
HOULGRAVE SAMUEL 23 Private 5484 from Liverpool
HOWARTH  HAROLD Private 28138 from Rochdale    
HUTTON THOMAS 24 Private 13040 from Colne
JACKSON ERNEST 24 Private 13087 from Heywood
JONES FC Lieutenant        
JONES JOHN Private 29692 from Salford    
JONES WILLIAM Private 5699 from Glamorganshire    
JORDAN JAMES Private 5018 born Manchester,enlisted Ashton-under-Lyne    
KEDIAN THOMAS 26 Lance Corporal 9593 from Heywood
KERSHAW JAMES 27 Private 4104 from Oldham
LEVEY THOMAS Private 5112 from Heywood    
LOMAX PHILIP Private 23670 from Tyldesley    
LONGSDEN JAMES 25 Private 13502 from Manchester
MANN ANDREW Private 5315 from Oldham    
MASSEY GEORGE 32 Private 5715 from Darwen
MILLER JAMES 30  Private 12307 from Bolton
MOGGAN JAMES Private 6005 from Leigh    
MORAN MICHAEL Private 28088 born Co.Mayo,enlisted Rochdale    
MORRIS THOMAS Private 5529 born York,enlisted Ashton-under-Lyne    
McHUGH MICHAEL Private 9555 from Stockport    
McKEON JOSEPH Private 23298 from Rochdale    
NORTHAGE CHARLES 36 Private 5464 from Colne
OLDFIELD WILLIAM Private 4286 from Wigan    
PENNINGTON JOHN Private 6703 from Wigan    
POLLARD JOSHUA 32 Private 23895 from London
REDMOND CHARLES Private 5028 from Liverpool    
ROWLEY ROBERT Private 5353 from Liverpool    
SCALLY MILES Private 23277 from Wigan    
SEMPLE JAMES Private 6041 born Perth,enlisted Oldham    
SKELLY JOHN Private 5035 from St Helens    
SOUTHERN CHARLES  Private 5097 from Bury    
STOCKDALE EDWARD 22 Lieutenant from Ely
STOTT WILLIAM Private 28074 born Wigan,enlisted Atherton    
SUMNER FRANK Private 3997 from Withnell,Lancs    
THOMAS RICHARD Private 9639 from Pendlebury    
TOMLINSON JOHN Private 9882 from Wigan    
TURNER HENRY Private 5002 from Great Harwood    
WALSH ROBERT 19 Private 5057 from Blackburn
WALTON JOHN 20 Private 12672 from Salford
WARWICK FRANKLIN 30 Private 5071 from Radcliffe
WILKINS ARTHUR Private 7186 from Frome    
WORMALD ERNEST 25 Private 5424 from Oldham
YATES GEORGE Private 13063 from Darwen