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Remembered Today:

Royal Welch Fusiliers - Percy Thomas 1928 pilgrimage


Bryn D
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In 1982 I bought a photo album in a secondhand bookshop in North Wales. It appeared to be someone's record of a pilgrimage to the first world war battlefields. It begins with the Cross channel ferry S.S Riviera, records a service at the Menin Gate in Ypres, proceeds to the area concerning the 3rd battle of Ypres and the final photograph shows a freshly laid wreath on the grave of a Welsh soldier who died in November 1916 in the Somme area.

Now as we commemorate the centenary of the beginning of the war, I am trying to find out who took the photographs and what relation to the soldier they were? Also if any relatives or possibly descendants can shed any light on this?

Please take a look at the photographs here https://www.flickr.c...th/15136941261/

thank you / Diolch

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Bryn D,

The easier to find info states that the grave is in Varennes Military Cemetery, Plot I Row G grave 47. The cemetery is some miles northwest of Albert on the Somme, France, so the pilgrims had to journey quite a way south of Ypres in order to see the grave. The soldier was Percy Thomas, Private 37760 1st Battalion Royal Welsh Fusiliers who died on 29th November 1916 aged 21.

Born Hyde, Cheshire, and enlisted in Llandudno. Landed in France 27th August 1916. Died of pneumonia (CWGC register details given by family states died of disease: Soldiers Died in the Great War states died of wounds).

The War Graves Commission documents show he was the son of John and Ada Thomas of Hyde, Cheshire. The epitaph on the stone reads Died as he lived / Doing his duty / Never forgotten. The next of kin who chose this message was Mrs A.Thomas, Woodleigh, 41 Trinity Street, Llandudno; though it is his father who is listed as formal next of kin on his papers below.

His papers survive and show he was a Clerk resident at the Trinity Street address when he enlisted aged 20 years 5 months on 11th December 1915 (a Derby Scheme enlistment). Mobilised 30th January 1916 and joined 21st (Reserve) Battalion RWF at Kinmel Park, near Rhyl a couple of days later. A couple of minor infractions of duty by being improperly dressed and some minutes late for parade. He had some dental issues, and was found dentally unfit in June 1916, then fit in August (possibly following extractions/dentures fitted).

He was at the Base in Rouen until joining 1st RWF on 8th September. Admitted to 11th Casualty Clearing Station 29th November and died the same day of pneumonia. File also states died of wounds.

He is on the memorial in Holy Trinity Church Llandudno, and the town's Cenotaph. Also on the memorial panels in Hyde Town Hall, Cheshire.

Darryl Porrino's new book on Llandudno Lads in Foreign Fields adds that his father was an ale and porter bottler formerly resident at 4 Lumm Street, Hyde.

Clive

Edited by LST_164
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This is a lovely album of the Great Pilgrimage of 1928 from the point of view of the Welsh Party - Party C. They stayed at Tourcoing as described in the pictures. They were led by Harry Calderwood.

On the first day of the tour , trains took everyone to Vimy. On the second Beaucourt on the Somme and the final day centred on the ceremony at the Menin Gate. Private trips were organised to farther flung cemeteries, The main visit for the Welsh on the Somme was Mametz Communal .

I have a similar album done by a member of the Essex Party.

A book of the event entitled "The Story of an Epic Pilgrimage" is not too uncommon.

My Grandfather was there!

Cheers Ian

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Tempting to surmise that his mother Ada and elder brother Frederick visited his grave. His father had passed away before the war. But who knows?

Varennes would have been a quite short taxi ride from Beaucourt on the second day. That said, there are 71 RWF men at Varennes so there may have been a bus there.

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Ian,Clive,

Thank you both, your research is so much appreciated. Where did you find out his father had passed away before the war?

Making that presumption as he is listed with the family on the 1901 census but not on the 1911. However , I suppose he might have been away somewhere.

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Ta, the 1911 census lists Ada as being married but not widowed. Most likely he was away as I think the census records people in a dwelling on one particular night. A passenger list of the as Riviera would be handy and give a clue to who was the photographer.

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Yes. I seem to have rushed to judgement there. I don't suppose the legion will still have the lists of the 11,000 who made the pilgrimage. Not sure if the cross channel ferries kept meticulous passenger lists.

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Did Frederick serve in the Great War or might he have had a reserved occupation if his foundry did war work?

Might he have obtained a generic set of Welsh Party pilgrimage photos and perhaps added the pictures taken at Varennes. Did he do the inscriptions on the pics?

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According to the census Frederick was two years older than Percy so could have served also. The photographer says in pic 1928-4 "our first glimpse of France since the war" suggesting he served on the western front. The photos seem to be personal as pic 1928-9 is poorly composed with someone's big head in the way and pic 1929-13 is either conclusive proof that ghosts exist or a double-exposure as he forgot to wind on the film in the box brownie. the captions are written in white ink which has smudged

A little. More research........

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One way would be to check the family address on the Caernarfonshire Absent Voters List 1918 - if Frederick was serving he might be listed along with his unit details.

Clive

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Frederick Thomas was 21338 in 14th RWF. He is on their Dec 1915 Embarkation Roll as being from Woodleigh, Trinity Street, Llandudno. In Cheshire Absent Voters List (1919) he is at 21 Shepley Street, Hyde.

Enlisted towards end January 1915.

He is on a War Office wounded list dated 17 9 1917. It's a small list and there are a couple of 14th Bn men on it know to have been wounded at Paschendaele end Jul/beginning Aug.

Hywyn

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Possible further evidence that Frederick Thomas was the photographer, pic 1928-21 says "x36 TM battery's target on the opening day of the 3rd battle of Ypres." Could Frederick have been a member of that battery?

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Bryn

His Medal Roll entry does not show an attachment to a Trench Mortar Battery unit. Having said this I have found instances in the Rolls where such attachments were not noted so it is possible.

The 14th Bn was in 38th Division. Its relevant TMBs therefore being x, y and z 38. (see below link)

Are there any other brothers?

http://www.1914-1918.net/trenchmortars.htm

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Fascinating thread - what a find. I'd say, from experience, that he was a very able with the camera. The pictures are well composed and balanced. Details aren't just slap in the middle with subjects deliberately off centre, using perspective to lead the eye in. You'll get heads in the way in crowds and film not rolling on properly, or thinking you've got one extra shot when the film has run out.

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If attacking on 31.7.17 Frederick would have been heading towards Pilckem.

However, with regard to the trench mortar issue, I have established that the Welsh party shared their billets at Tourcoing with 100 representatives from Ulster.and toured with them The X36 T.M battery was attached to the 36th Ulster Division so that explains the reference to their target - the Ulstermen would have briefed their Welsh friends about this bit of battlefield topography..

Interestingly in the Ulster party report in the Legion book, they express their delight in being with the Welsh on the pilgrimage because of the welsh habit of getting "the best of everything" ! This included a very good position during the ceremony at the Menin Gate apparently. There was also some good "partying" in Tourcoing including a visit to a local circus,

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Possibly of interest. I was doing a little bit of research on a Deganwy soldier, Private Henry James Jones (16590) and his next of kin, his father, is also listed as living at 'Woodleigh', Trinity Street, Llandudno. Private Jones' father (also called Henry) was a former Mayor of Conwy and had lost both his wife and eldest son around the same time that Henry Jones was shot through the head at Levantie in May 1916. Did he move in with or marry Ada Thomas? Sergeant Frederick Thomas is listed on Llandudno's Roll of Honour and living at 'Woodleigh', Trinity Street. Trinity Street has now be re-named Trinity Avenue.

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When answering your query on H J J via Al P on the RWF Forum I had considered the likelyhood of Ada being a native of Llandudno (maybe a sister to Henry Jones senior) but the census said otherwise. I hadn't considered this angle though. I've had a look for a marriage for Ada Thomas and a Jones in that era but there is nothing likely looking. Might be, as you say, living together. Any chance the house could be flats around then?

Are you on the Three Towns Forum?. I seem to recall when looking there a few times that someone had access to the electoral rolls. They might provide something.

Hywyn

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When answering your query on H J J via Al P on the RWF Forum I had considered the likelyhood of Ada being a native of Llandudno (maybe a sister to Henry Jones senior) but the census said otherwise. I hadn't considered this angle though. I've had a look for a marriage for Ada Thomas and a Jones in that era but there is nothing likely looking. Might be, as you say, living together. Any chance the house could be flats around then?

Are you on the Three Towns Forum?. I seem to recall when looking there a few times that someone had access to the electoral rolls. They might provide something.

Hywyn

The property is now subdivided into holiday flats so it may well have been divided into flats back then however I would have thought it either a single large dwelling or a boarding house (as mine was and I used to live opposite this property!). The archives re-open on Monday, after their annual stock-take, so if I get chance I will see what else I can find out.

Adrian

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