Private Thomas North, MM, 202669, 1st/4th Battalion, Duke of Wellington's (West Riding) Regiment
Thomas North was born, on the 4th February 1895, on The Green in Ossett. He was the only son of Ebenezer Illingworth North and his wife Sarah Elizabeth (nee Smith).
In 1901, the family were still living on The Green. Ebenezer (39 years old) was employed as a Card Cleaner in a Woollen Mill and Sarah (37 years old) was a Housewife.
Thomas attended the Wesleyan School in Ossett, which he left in 1908, as soon as he reached his thirteenth birthday. Three years later, he was employed as a Woollen Cloth Piecener and the family were living at 4 Greenwood’s Yard, The Green, Ossett. Sarah’s sister Alice Smith (aged 55) a Rag Sorter was living with the family.
Thomas’s mother, Sarah Elizabeth, died aged 50, when he was 19 years old.
Thomas (20 years and 9 months old) volunteered to join the Territorial Army on the 22nd November 1915. He joined the 3/4th Battalion of the Duke of Wellington’s (West Riding) Regiment, a Reserve Battalion based at Halifax. He was placed in the Army B Reserve and was not called up until 5th April 1916. When examined at Pontefract, he was 5 feet 2¾ inches tall, had a 34½ inch expanded chest and was in a good physical condition. He was trained as a Rifleman by the 3/4th Battalion and sailed for France on the 26 August 1916. Following a short stay at the 34th Infantry Base Depot, Thomas joined his new Battalion (the 1/4th Battalion Duke of Wellington’s Regiment) on the 10th September 1916. The 1/4th Battalion had been serving in France since April 1915. The Battalion had suffered very heavy casualties, on the 3rd September 1916, during its first big attack of the Battle of the Somme. Three of its 4 Companies had been practically wiped out. Thomas was one of the reservists used to bring the Battalion back up to strength.
Thomas North’s Army Service Record is damaged and partially illegible. During his time with the Battalion they fought and took casualties in the following actions:
- 1916. Battle of the Somme, Hannescamps and Fonquevillers,
- 1917. Berles-au-Bois, Riviere, Ferme du Bois, Cordonnerie, Hulluch, Nieuport, Belle View Spur, Keerselaarhoek and Molenaarelsthoek.
- 1918. Reutlel, Battle of the Lys, Battle of Kemmel, Ypres and finally Villers-en-Cauchies.
Thomas was hospitalised at least twice during his war service. The first time when he was diagnosed with Trench Foot on the 14th January 1917. On the 20th January 1917, he was admitted to the 1/3rd West Riding Field Hospital, where he was successfully treated and was able to re-join his Battalion on the 24th March 1917. The second occasion was on 29th April 1918, when he was wounded during the Battle of Kemmel. After being treated at Army Hospitals in Trouville and Etaples, he returned to active service on the 3rd June 1918.
Thomas’s award of the Military Medal (MM) is recorded in the "Supplement to the London Gazette" dated 23rd July 1919. There is no official record of when and why Thomas received his MM. Family tradition suggests it was for carrying messages between the frontline and HQ whilst under heavy fire.
After surviving 26 months of trench warfare on the Western Front, as an infantryman, and serving a further 3 months in Auby (France) after the end of the War, Thomas North, returned to the UK on the 12th February 1919 and was demobilised on the 14th March 1919.
Following his return to Ossett, Thomas moved back into his father’s house at 4, Greenwood’s Yard and was employed as a Rag Grinder in a Shoddy Mill. On the 25th December 1920, he married Lily Watson in the Zion Congregational Church, Gawthorpe. They initially lived at 4, Greenwood’s Yard, with Thomas’s father, but by 1939 all three of them plus Thomas and Lily’s five children had moved to 48, Ryecroft Street, Ossett. In October 1947, whilst working at Messrs J. W. Smith Shoddy Manufacturers, in Healey. Thomas was hit in the eye by a button thrown from a rag grinding machine. Following this accident, he was unfit to work until his death a year later. He died suddenly at home at 48, Ryecroft Street, Ossett on the 6th October 1948, aged 53 years. Thomas was buried in the Green Independent Congregational Church Yard in Ossett. He was survived by his wife, three daughters (Mary, Joyce and Doreen) and his two sons (Harry and Jack). Thomas was a member of the British Legion and Central Working Men’s Club, Ossett.
Thanks to David Preston for his research on Thomas North.
1. Picture from "Ossett Observer" July 1919