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Thomas Harold Graham

THomas Harold Graham2nd Lieutenant Thomas Harold Graham, 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade

Thomas Harold Graham was born in 1894 when his parents, Ossett born Thomas (1865-1930) and Sarah Elizabeth nee Turner (1866-1936) from Pontefract, lived on The High Street in Horbury. Thomas and Sarah Elizabeth had married in 1885 but prior to their marriage Sarah Elizabeth had been employed as a servant at Green Mount, Ossett in the home of the Pickards.

Like his sister Ethel Irene (1892-1972), Thomas Harold was born in Horbury. His two oldest sisters, Annie (1887-1947) and Florence (1889-1984), were both born in Ossett.

At this time, Thomas was doing well in business and he was able to employ a general servant to help around the home. His success was further confirmed when he moved his family to The Laurels, Jenkin Road, Horbury. Thomas snr was a second generation mungo manufacturer, having followed his father Benjamin into the business. Benjamin had begun his working life as a weaver but turned from weaving to recycling rags for mungo and shoddy. In 1900 Benjamin Graham, whilst out cycling with one of his granddaughters, met his death when he plunged into the Calder and Hebble Canal at the bottom of Netherton Hill. Having lost control of his bicycle Benjamin fell over the four foot parapet of the bridge and into the muddy waters.

In 1903 Thomas senior became a member of Horbury's first town council but he later left Horbury and by 1911 he had moved his family to Old Bank Road, Dewsbury. He finally settled at Hollow Bank House in Earlsheaton, close to the mill where he continued to manufacture mungo. However Thomas's business was in trouble in 1912 and he was sentenced at Dewsbury Crown Court for debt. He was released on New Year's Eve after serving 28 days at HMP Wakefield.

After leaving Ossett Grammar School, which he attended for several years, Thomas Harold spent time in Ghent, Belgium. On his return to England he became an auctioneer in Scarborough before returning to Earlsheaton to take over the family business at Hoyle Head Mungo Mill.

With the advent of WW1 his father came out of retirement and, in August 1915, Thomas Harold entered the Leeds University Officer Training Corps. Later that year, on Christmas Eve, he received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Fusiliers. He was sent to Ireland and took part in the suppression of the rebellion there, but requested to be transferred to the Western Front. He arrived in France on September 2nd 1916 where he subsequently joined the Rifle Brigade as a 2nd Lieutenant.

2nd Lieut Thomas Harold Graham of the 2nd Battalion, Rifle Brigade died on October 25th 1916 from wounds which he received in the aftermath of the Battle of Transloy Ridges, part of the Battle of the Somme. He was seriously wounded in the abdomen by shell-fire at Misty trench and was taken back to Grove Town Casualty Clearing Station (CCS) where he died. He had been at the Front for only seven weeks.

Three telegrams were sent to his parents in quick succession:

"Your son has been seriously wounded";

"His wounds are grievous, he is not expected to survive";

"Your son died . . ."

2/Lt.Graham's service file is available at the National Archives and among the list of his belongings sent back to his parents was a "white metal identity disc". This turned up in a box of jewellery at a Bradford Fleamarket in 1981 and was bought by WW1 historian David Whitford for the sum of 50p.

Wrist Bracelet T.H. Graham

Above: Wrist Bracelet T.H. Graham

His parent's letters are in the Archive and are mainly about the lack of expected items returned to them. Looking at the list, there was nothing from his tunic pockets, but with serious abdominal wounds these would have been unlikely anyway since his tunic would have been removed to initially dress his wounds.

Lt. Thomas Harold Graham is buried at Grove Town, Meaulte, France where the name on his CWGC headstone reads just 'T.H.Graham' as per his identity bracelet. It is doubtful that he was ever conscious to have given his full name at the CCS that night. The epitaph on his headstone reads:

"HE GAVE HIS LIFE FOR HIS COUNTRY AND THOSE HE LOVED AT REST"

Thomas is commemorated on the Dewsbury Roll of Honour, on the Dewsbury Cenotaph in Crow Nest Park, on the War Memorial in Earlsheaton Park, at St Peter's Church, Earlsheaton and on the War Memorial at St Columba's Church, Scarborough.

Baptist Lane Memorial

Above: Thomas was also commemorated on his grandfather Benjamin Graham's memorial at the now destroyed Baptist Lane Graveyard, Ossett. The epitaph chosen for this memorial was almost identical to the one in France.

Thomas Harold Graham was never commemorated on the Ossett Grammar School WW1 Memorial. However we have contacted the school and they have confirmed that Lieutenant Graham's name will be added.

Meaulte is a village just south of Albert. From Albert head south-east on the D329 in the direction of Bray-sur-Somme. In September 1916, the 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at this point, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields. They were moved in April 1917 and, except for a few burials in August and September 1918, the cemetery was closed. Grove Town Cemetery contains 1,395 First World War burials. The cemetery was designed by Sir Edwin Lutyens.

Thanks to Anne-Marie Fawcett for her research on Thomas Harold Graham.

References:

1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site

2. Correspondence with David Whithorn, WW1 historian 

3. Ossett Through The Ages