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Capt Arthur de Bells Adam (MC)
1885 - 1916

CPL David Wallace Crawford
1887 - 1916

Lce-Corpl John Joseph Nickle
1894 - 1916

Pte 17911 Morton Neill
1897 - 1916

Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft
1883 - 1918
Lieut Edward Stanley Ashcroft

Pte 17962 James Thomas

  • Age: 26
  • From: Liverpool
  • Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment) 19th Btn
  • K.I.A Tuesday 11th July 1916
  • Commemorated at: Thiepval Memorial
    Panel Ref: P&F1D8B &8 C.

James Thomas was born in the March quarter of 1890 in Toxteth Park, Liverpool, the son of George Thomas and Martha (nee Birch), both from Liverpool, who married in St. Thomas, Toxteth, on 25th August 1879, listing George’s occupation as sailmaker, and Martha’s address as 10 Yates Street.  They had nine children, two of whom died young.  James was the fifth of the seven surviving children; his  siblings were Ethel, George, Martha, Herbert, Eva, and Arthur.

In 1891 George, a sailmaker, and Martha are living at 7 Yates Street, Toxteth Park with five children.  James is one year old.  By 1901 they are at 298 Mill Street, Toxteth Park, where they remain.  His father is a sailmaker, and they now have seven children.  His sisters Ethel, 19 and Martha, 15, are confectioners, brothers George, 17, and Herbert, 14, are dock labourers.  James is 11, Eva 9, and Arthur 7.  They have a boarder, John Whallen, 58, a tent maker from Manchester.

His father George died in 1906, aged 52, when James was 16.

James, Merchant Marine No.113489, is found on Crew Lists as a steward earning £3 a month, in 1910 and 1911 on the S.S. Haverford (an American Line transatlantic liner).

In 1911 the family is still in Mill Street.  Martha, 54, widowed, is head of household, employer, running a ‘chip & fish business’; James is 21, single, is a ship steward, at home.  His brother George, 26, is an electrical arc lamp attendant, Martha, 25, is a telephone operator, Herbert, 24, is helping in the business, Eva, 19, is at home, and Arthur, 17, is a cotton broker’s clerk.  Also in the household is a grandson (son of his married sister Ethel), George Giles, age 1, and Archibald Prentice, a boarder from Scotland, who later marries James’ sister Martha, as well as boarder John Whallen, 67.

James enlisted in Liverpool on 11th September 1914 as Private 17962, ‘A’ Company, 22nd Reserve (Pals) Bn, King’s (Liverpool) Regiment,  giving his age as 24 years and 220 days and his occupation as clerk.  He is described as being 5’ 7” tall, weighing 119 lbs, with a fresh complexion, brown eyes and  black hair, and a tattoo of a flag on his right forearm.  He gives his next of kin as his mother Martha Thomas, 298 Mill Street.  James gives his religion as Church of England (although both his parents were buried as non-conformists).

The battalion trains locally at Knowsley, near Liverpool.  In October he is transferred to the 19th Bn, K.L.R. and appointed unpaid Lance corporal on 1st June 1915.  Although the battalion moved to Belton Park Camp in Lincolnshire in April 1915, James’ service record shows him at Knowsley in September of that year.  On 2nd September 1915 whilst training at Knowsley, James is deprived of his stripe for ‘smoking while on bayonet fighting parade’ and later that month, on 27th, is confined to barracks for three days  for ‘entering barracks by an unauthorised entrance’ and forfeits 11 days’ pay for absence.  James rejoins his battalion and ships to France, disembarking at Boulogne on 7th November 1915.  In the new year the Pals battalions take up position in the south of the Somme line near Carnoy. 

The War Diary records that, on 12th May 1916, a shell burst in a shelter, killing two Other Ranks, fatally wounding another, and wounding three.  James, one of the wounded, was taken to 96 Field Ambulance, admitted the next day to 5 Casualty Clearing Station with a shell wound to the head, and admitted to 2nd Canadian General Hospital on 14th.   He was discharged on 11th June, and rejoined his unit in the field on 19th June.

On 30th June the battalion moved in small parties, commencing at 3.30 a.m., to its battle position at Maricourt for the coming Battle of the Somme.  James survives the deadly early days of July 1916,  until the Pals attack upon Trones Wood.

The murderous fighting that went on inside Trones Wood rendered it impossible to put specific dates on some of the casualties which is why many of the 17th Battalion losses have been bracketed as killed in action between 10th – 12th July 1916.The conditions are best described in the following passage from Everard Wyrall’s book The History of The King’s Regiment (Liverpool) Volume II. 

The remembrance of Trones Wood in July 1916 to those who passed through it is of a noisome, horrible place, of a tangled mass of trees and undergrowth which had been tossed and flung about in frightful confusion by the shells of both sides. Of the ghastly dead which lay about in all directions, and of DEATH, lurking in every hole and corner with greedy hands ready to snatch the lives of the unwary.  The place was a Death trap, and although the attacks were made with great determination,   the presence of snipers who could not be detected and often fired into the backs of our men made the clearing of the wood impossible. 

His service record shows that James was wounded in action on 11th July, and sent to a Field Ambulance, but was then reported Missing. 

On 29th August, over six weeks later, his family had not heard any news except that James was missing and posted an appeal in the Liverpool Echo on 29th August 1916: 

 “Private James Thomas, of the “Pals”, believed to have been wounded, is missing.  Any information will be gladly received by his mother, at 298, Mill Street, Liverpool.”

He was reported Wounded and Missing in the Liverpool Daily Post 14th October 1916:

- Thomas, 17962, J.

His record shows that James was not officially declared Killed in Action until 10th November 1916, aged 26 years and four months after he was declared Missing.

James’ body was not recovered or was subsequently lost as he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial. 

The Thiepval Memorial, the Memorial to the Missing of the Somme, bears the names of more than 72,000 officers and men of the United Kingdom and South African forces who died in the Somme sector before 20 March 1918 and have no known grave. Over 90% of those commemorated died between July and November 1916. 

On 01st August 1932 the Prince of Wales and the President of France inaugurated the Thiepval Memorial in Picardy. The inscription reads: “Here are recorded the names of officers and men of the British Armies who fell on the Somme battlefields between July 1915 and March 1918 but to whom the fortune of war denied the known and honoured burial given to their comrades in death.”  

James earned his three medals;  his mother signed for his 1914-15 Star, but the British War and Victory Medals were returned, which usually implies the next of kin could not be traced, but records show that his family remained in Mill Street for some years. 

His mother Martha was informed on 19th April 1917 that there were no personal effects to be sent.  She received a War Gratuity, and a pension of 8/- a week from 27th May 1917. 

James was remembered on teh first anniversary of his death in the Liverpool Echo 11th July 1917;

THOMAS - In loving remembrance of my dear son Private James Thomas, King's Liverpool Regiment (Pals), of 298 Mill Street. He was reported missing July 11, 1916, and then reported killed. (Gone but not forgotten. Sadly missed by his dear Mother, Brothers and Sisters.) 

Martha died in the June quarter of 1933, aged 77, still living in Mill Street.

We currently have no further information on James Thomas, If you have or know someone who may be able to add to the history of this soldier, please contact us.


Killed On This Day.

(108 Years this day)
Tuesday 18th July 1916.
Pte 27346 John Mawdsley
34 years old

(106 Years this day)
Thursday 18th July 1918.
Cpl 106108 William Alexander Unsworth
38 years old