Thomas Fletcher was born in Southam, Warwickshire on 29th July 1876. His parents were Alfred, a brazier and Emma (nee Loveridge). Thomas worked as a labourer at Southam Cement Works and in 1897 he married Emily Manning.
In December 1894, aged 18 Thomas had joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment – the local militia. He was listed as present at the annual training until 1900 when he marked absent and was struck off on 23rd January 1900. This was because he had enlisted in the Royal Welch Fusiliers on 31st October 1899, in Birmingham. Army number 6183.
He gave his age as 19 years 3 months old and it states that he had previously served 5 months in the Warwickshire Regiment and had been discharged by purchase. On his Attestation Form his occupation is given as Labourer and Groom.
His description as given on the Medical Examination Form is: Height – 5ft 7in, Weight -124lbs, Chest – min 33in, max 34in
Complexion Fresh & Freckled, Eyes – Brown, Hair – Black
Distinctive Marks – Female figure back r. forearm. Anchor back right hand
The Approving Officer described him as “ a respectable and intelligent youth”
By March 1901 he was training at Bulford camp with Sitwells Mounted Infantry and a month later was in South Africa, serving with 22nd Mounted Infantry. On 6th Feb 1902, he was wounded, “Severe gunshot left hand”, and in March 1903 he was transferred to the Reserves and returned home to live at 128 Wood Street, Rugby. He worked as a shunter on the railway and by 1914 he and his wife had four children.
In 1911, when his service was complete, he re-engaged in the Reserves, so that when war was declared in 1914, he was immediately called up.
He arrived in France on 4th October, with the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His war was to last 27 days.
After fighting at the battle of Langemark (21-24th Oct) a few miles north-east of Ieper (Ypres) in Belgium, by 29th October 1914 he was in Zandvoorde, a small village about 4 miles south-east of Ypres.
“The ridge running north from here towards the Menin Road was thinly held by the Royal Scots Fusiliers and 1st Royal Welch Fusiliers, who had been in action since 19th October. Throughout the day the Germans attacked believing the line to be strongly defended, but a combination of valiant defence and German incompetence – shells landing in the midst of their own machine-gun sections – meant that the line held until the evening when the surviving officers decided it was time to fall back from a position that was now almost surrounded. Only 120 wounded men reached the new British line closer to Ypres, and of the Welch Fusiliers only 86 returned.”
(The Ypres Salient, A guide to the Cemeteries and Memorials of the Salient – Michael Scott, page 135)
It is not known exactly when or how Thomas Fletcher died but it was during this battle – part of the 1st Battle of Ypres. Bodies were buried by the Germans in unmarked graves, so he has no known grave, but is probably in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission cemetery at Zandvoorde.
His name is inscribed on the Menin Gate Memorial in Ypres, Panel 22.
RUGBY REMEMBERS HIM