Name: Thomas Sidney Wathes
DoB: November 2 1887
Regt: Capt., Royal Warwickshire Regt.
DoD: Killed in action at Fromellis, (sic) July 19 1916. Commemorated at Ploegsteert Memorial but now believed to be one of those buried in the new cemetery at Fromelles
Academic Career: CGS 1904- 1906. B. Wadham Coll., Oxford, 1906; B.A. (4th Class Mod. Hist.), 1909. son of late C. W. Wathes, care of Mrs. Wathes, Mancetter, West Hill, Kings Norton.
Thomas was the fourth child of Charles Weetman Wathes, a dairyman from Leicestershire, and Caroline, from Warwick. He had older brothers Arthur and Charles, an older sister Margaret and younger brother John. All the children were born in Birmingham. Thomas’ father died in 1904 and in 1911 Thomas and brothers Charles and John were still at home in King’s Norton, Worcestershire, with Charles an engineer and John Watson an engineer’s apprentice. Thomas himself was working as a dairyman’s assistant.
Thomas had married Doris (néeCollins) on 4 June 1913, and a son, Richard Sidney was born 10 August 1915. At the time of Thomas’ death the home address was Highfield Road, Moseley, Birmingham. In 1919 she was at Mayfield Road. He left £140 5s in his estate. Soon after Thomas’s death Doris’s brother wrote to the War Office on her behalf asking for his pay.
Carlisle Grammar School 1904- 1906. B. Wadham Coll., Oxford, 1906; B.A. (4th Class Mod. Hist.), 1909.
The Old Carliol, which regularly reported from Oxbridge on former students, said this in the December 1908 magazine: “Wathes, at Wadham, spends his leisure hours reading History on the river toggering (sic). He recently made a startling appearance at the Jesus Smoker and may be the cause of the disappearance of several name plates. But stop – not a word!”
Captain 2nd/6th Battalion Royal Warwickshire Regiment. In the War Diary it is written: “The men started to file out through the sally ports for the offensive on WICK SALIENT and formed four lines in NO MAN’S LAND…immediately they(?) left the trenches the enemy shelled very heavily with the result that in a very short time all the officers had been killed or wounded…two platoons reached the enemy’s parapet but owing to the heavy losses caused and the casualties among the officers the attack was unable to advance…Meanwhile D Company moved 2 platoons into the front line successfully. The position was reported to Brigade HQ & orders received that the attack would be continued. Telephone communication with the front line now broke down but in spite of the heavy fire was quickly resolved. Immediately after orders were received that the attack would be postponed…and the survivors would be withdrawn under cover of a barrage by our artillery on the WICK. At 7.10 the barrage started and all who could returned to the trenches. The attack was now postponed till 9.0 pm and later orders were received that the attack would be abandoned. At 9.45 orders were received that the 2/8th WARWICKS could relieve the Battalion and by 1am (?)the relief was complete with the exception of part of D Company who remained to bring in as many of the wounded as possible…
The conduct of all ranks throughout the whole action was most excellent, orders being cheerfully carried out without the slightest hesitation under the most trying conditions.
Casualties sustained during action fought on 19.7.16 – officers killed Capt W SIMMS – missing…Capt TS WATHES…Other ranks killed 9, missing 68, wounded 154…” .
“The battle began 19 days after the opening of the Somme campaign being fought eighty kilometres to the south, and was a complete failure militarily. Described as the worst 24 hours in Australia’s entire history, the assault also drastically reduced the strength and effectiveness of the British formation already impacted by lack of equipment and training.
Comprising the 182nd (2nd Warwickshire) Brigade, the 183rd (2nd Gloucester and Worcester) Brigade and the 184th (2nd South Midland) Brigade, the 61st British Division never fully recovered from its losses at Fleurbaix, although was reformed and deployed in such actions at the Battle of Langemarck in 1917 and the Battle of St. Quentin in 1918.
REGARDLESS OF THE CONTROVERSY ABOUT THE COMPETENCY OF BRITISH COMMAND AT FROMELLES AND THE CONFUSION SURROUNDING THE DECISION TO CANCEL THE ATTACK, IT IS IMPORTANT TO REMEMBER THE VOLUNTEERS FROM WARWICKSHIRE, GLOUCESTERSHIRE, WORCESTERSHIRE, BERKSHIRE AND BUCKINGHAMSHIRE AND THE OTHER PLACES IN GREAT BRITAIN FROM WHICH THE 61ST DIVISION WAS DRAWN DURING THIS PERIOD, WERE RELATIVELY INEXPERIENCED AND UNTRIED UNLIKE MANY OF THE 5TH DIVISION AIF WHO HAD HAD THEIR METTLE TESTED AT GALLIPOLI.”
Taken from the website Missing Soldiers of Fromelles Discussion Group
“The disastrous attack at Fromelles on the night of 19 July 1916, the first engagement undertaken by the Australian 5th Division on the Western Front, also proved to be the most costly. By the time the action was called off the next morning, the Australians had lost 5,533 men killed, wounded and missing. Casualties for the British 61st Division, who attacked alongside the Australians, numbered 1,547.
The Commission’s records suggest that between 19 and 21 July 1916 the Australian dead at Fromelles amounted to 1,780, the British 503. Many of those killed in the engagement could not be accounted for at the time. Historians have long speculated that up to 400 of the missing dead were recovered by the Germans in the days following the attack and buried behind their lines. Painstaking research led to the possible identification of several mass burial pits on the edge of Pheasant Wood near Fromelles. In May 2008 the Australian Government asked the Commission to oversee a limited excavation to establish whether or not the pits contained remains. The three week dig found conclusive evidence that substantial numbers of Australian and British soldiers had been buried in five of the eight pits identified.
In May 2009 work to recover the dead for individual reburial in a new military cemetery at Fromelles began.”
Taken from peterbmillzz on RootsChat website
The Military Records of 1919 concerning deceased officers from the National Archives reveal that Thomas’ body had not been recovered.
a) Carlisle School Memorial Register 1264-1924
b) Census: 1911 RG14; Piece: 17858; 1891 RG12; Piece: 2378;
d) Missing Soldiers of Fromelles Discussion Group on the Internet
f) Records from the National Archives
g) The Old Carliol