Captain Thomas Pilling GIBBONS


Regiment/Service:
Hertfordshire Regiment
Unit:
1st Battalion
Service Number:
n/a
Date of Death:
22 March 1918 - Killed in Action
Age:
23
Cemetery / Memorial:
Grave Number:
VII. A. 17.
Awards:
Military Cross
Mentioned in Despatches




Personal History:
Thomas was born in the June quarter 1895 at Huntsford, Cheshire, the son of Sir Thomas C. P. Gibbons K.C. (Barrister) and Lady Mary J. In 1901 (Census RG 13/3270) Thomas' parents were living at 'The Rowans', Burbage, Buxton. Thomas was a former pupil of 'Holme Leigh School', Buxton, where he was School Captain. Thomas, known as "Tommie" joined the School in 1904, aged 9, and won his Cricket Colours in 1905, remaining in the First XI for 5 years. He also represented the School at football, hockey and shooting. The "Holme Leigh Magazine" called him "one of the best cricketers the School has ever turned out and certainly the best goalkeeper we ever possessed."

Thomas left Holmleigh in 1909 and the 1911 Census (RG 14/6468) shows him boarding at St Peter's College, Radley, Abingdon, Berkshire. Whilst there he also gained cricket and football colours and Captained the School. [Thomas often opened the batting - see here ]  In 1918 Sir Thomas was serving as Attorney General of Bengal, and the 'Buxton Advertiser' of 13th April 1918 (reporting Thomas' death) stated that they - the parents - were very popular with "all classes" of the community when they resided in Buxton.

On the 13th October 1916 Thomas married Edith Doris Evison at St Mary's Church, Felpham, Sussex, presumably whilst home on leave. Their address at the time was The Turret House, Felpham. Edith died in the September quarter 1918, aged 25, at Sedgefield, Co. Durham. Thomas' Probate record shows a home address of 'Homefield', Coulsdon Common, Caterham, Surrey. He left 521 2s. 11d. (521.15) - about 20,280 today [2014] - presumably to his wife, but she had since died and so the bequest went to Ernest Edward Evison, Merchant, Edith's father.

Military History:
On the outbreak of War Thomas joined up and received his Commission as Temporary Lieutenant on 28th October 1914, having been a Sergeant, Radley College Officer Training Corps. (London Gazette 27 October 1914) According to his Medal Index Card Captain Gibbons entered France as a Lieutenant on 30th January 1915 and the War Diary for 2nd February 1915 confirms when he joined the Battalion: "Captain Lowry, Lieut. Molony, Lieut. Gibbons, Lieut. M. Rately, Lieut. Oldham arrived from Reserve Battalion. The Battalion moved to ANNEQUIN, one Company in support trenches in CUINCHY, two Companies and H.Q. at ANNEQUIN."

The War Diary for the 26th May 1917 records that Thomas had been Mentioned in Despatches:

"2/Lieut. B.V.A. Tennant joined the Battalion. London Gazette published that the undermentioned have been mentioned in Despatches: Lieut. Col. F. Page D.S.O., Lieut. Col. G.E. Whitfield, M.C., Major T. Barber, Captain A.G. Clark D.S.O., M.C., Captain T.P. Gibbons,  2/Lieut. G. McMullen, 265292 Sgt. Rand S." Thomas was promoted to (Temp) Captain, "with precedence as from 1st June 1916", on 23rd August 1917. (London Gazette 21st August 1917).  

Early in 1918 Thomas' Battalion left the Ypres salient and moved to the area to the east of Amiens. On the 22nd March 1918 Thomas was killed in action, the penultimate day of "Operation Michael" during The Battle of St.-Quentin (21-23 March 1918). When the German Spring Offensive began they were in Reserve, but were soon moved up into the line, between Epehy and St. Emilie, on the 21st March. As the 16th Division withdrew the following day, the 1/Hertfordshire Regiment, serving as the rearguard, were heavily involved all day, suffering 21 killed in action on the 21st and 22nd March. 

The History describes the action:

"Day 2 - 22 March 1918 On the second day of the offensive British troops continued to fall back, losing their last footholds on the original front line. Several British and German Battalions were destroyed by huge casualties in the vicious fighting over the first two days, never to be recreated. For example, by 8:00 a.m. the 1/4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment was in the Green Line west of St Quentin with the East Yorkshires on their right and the 5th Yorks Battalion in Reserve. Again it was a thick misty morning. Two Divisions in the front were ordered to retire in a flow of men, horses, tanks, guns and limbers as the Green Line became the Front Line. At 6 p.m. the enemy attacked and the Battalion was forced back to a position about 800 yds West of the Green Line. Another example of the severity of the retreat is given in the war diary of the 1/1st Hertfordshire Regt. The Battalion were heavily engaged in fighting at St. Emilie, which at the start of the offensive had been more than 5 km west of the front line."

On the first day of the Battle of St Quentin Thomas' Battalion suffered: "Violent enemy bombardment on the whole of our Corps front. Bn stood to at 6.30 a.m. but did not move off until 4 p.m. when it took up dispositions in the BROWN LINE at St. EMILIE."  according to the War Diary.

The Battalion War for the day Thomas lost his life is equally terse: "22-3-18. Enemy violently bombarded and assaulted our positions forcing our Battalion to retire to the GREEN LINE. Battalion spent the night at HAMEL. There was much confused fighting during this retreat and the regiment suffered severe casualties."

Three other officers were killed with Thomas that day (Major John Bolle Tyndale GOUGH, Lieutenant Donovan PERRY and 2nd Lieutenant Charles Leonard KING - all killed in action). Thomas is buried in the Roisel Communal Cemetery Extension, 11 kilometres east of Peronne. He was posthumously awarded the Military Cross in May 1918 (London Gazette 31st May).

In contributing to his Obituary in the 'Buxton Advertiser', The "Holme Leigh Magazine" stated that: "Tommie Gibbons was one boy in a thousand. he combined all those qualities that endeared him to us and to everyone who knew him. Immensely popular wherever he went he never for one moment let success and admiration to affect his wonderfully modest nature. We really think that he loved his School as much as his School loved him, and we preserve amongst our greatest treasures his loving and affectionate letter to us.

His last letter from France to us ends thus: 'My kind regards to ...... and all I ever knew at the dear old place. Cheer-oh, ever your affectionate old boy, Tommie Gibbons.' This will tell you more than we are able what Tommie was to us and how deeply we mourn his death. There never was a straighter, cleaner, more affectionate boy than he, and to his parents and his young widow our hearts go out in the fervent hope that this thought may help them bear their terrible grief."

                                    

Sources:
· The notes on "Operation Michael" are from uniblogger.com (no longer available)
· 'The Buxton Advertiser' - 13 April 1918
· Thomas' photograph from 'The Sphere' magazine

Link to CWGC Record
Capt Gibbon's Grave in Roisel
The Military Cross
poppy
Captain Thomas Gibbons