Lance/Sergeant Thomas James GREEN


Regiment/Service:
Grenadier Guards
Unit:
2nd Battalion
Service Number:
15922
Date of Death:
24 December 1914 - Killed in Action
Age:
22
Cemetery / Memorial:
Memorial Reference:
Panel 2


Personal History:

Thomas James was born in Derby, about 1893, the son of James Henry (Former Soldier in 1901 / Rent Collector in 1911) and Jane Green (1901 Census RG 13/3269)) living at Model Cottages, Fairfield, Buxton. However, shortly before his birth his father was a serving soldier at Scraesdon Fort, Cornwall. (1891 Census RG 12/1806) 

He had an older brother and older sister, Mary Charlotte and Harry, and six younger siblings, Lucy Genevieve, Bernard Crawford, George Leo, Elizabeth Winnifreda, Mary Margaret and Joseph Patrick (1911 Census RG 14/21243)

In 1911 Thomas was working as a "Clerk Railway A/c Clerk For Buxton Lime Firms Co Ltd".  After the War the family moved to 22 Darwin Avenue, Buxton.
Military History:
Thomas' Service Papers have not survived but it is known that he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion, The Grenadier Guards, in June 1912, at Manchester. His Medal Index Card shows that he was posted to France on 23rd November 1914, to reinforce the Battalion for earlier losses.

His Battalion had originally sailed for France aboard the 'S.S. Cawdor Castle’ on Wednesday 12th August 1914, advancing to Spiennes where they clashed with the enemy for the first time on Sunday 23rd August 1914. The 2nd Division was one of the first British formations to move to France and was engaged in The Battle of Mons and the subsequent retreat, including the Affair of Landrecies, the rearguard affair of Le Grand Fayt and the rearguard actions of Villers-Cotterêts. During this time the 2nd Battalion had 40 men killed in action, 37 between 1st - 4th September.

On the 1st the Battalion had retired to Villers-Cotterêts and took up positions on the main road running east-west through Rond de la Reine, where they engaged the enemy. Three Officers were killed and there were 161 other casualties. The retreat continued the next day, the 2nd, to Meaux. The Battalion crossed the Marne at Trilport on the 3rd and to Bertrand on the 4th. Thomas was no doubt one of the wave of reinforcements to all Battalions to replace the men lost from the original B.E.F.

The period after Thomas' arrival was quite quiet, with the War Diary's comments being few and far between:

"21 to 30 November 1914 "The battalion moved into general reserve at Meteren. During this time the battalion was and companies route marched or drilled daily.
1 to 21 December 1914 - Meteren. Battalion refitting. Companies route marched or drilled daily."

On Tuesday 22nd December 1914 Thomas' Battalion advanced into Béthune and the following day took over the front line trenches at Rue de Cailloux, north east of Béthune, part of the German lines being only 25 yards away. This came after the Indian Corps had been attacked and driven out of their positions between La Bassée Canal and Richebourg.

On the day of Thomas' death the Germans mounted an attack on the line, this being repulsed at a cost of about 20 men killed. At 7.00 p.m. the following day the battalion was relieved in the trenches to Le Touret by the 3rd Battalion, Coldstream Guards. In the early hours of the morning the Germans commenced sniping and heavy fire from trench mortars. They mined to within 10 yards [16 m.] of the Guards' trench and blew up 2 Company's trench, before attacking in great numbers. However, they failed to take the Guards line, despite great losses.

The War Diary records:

22 December 1914 - Marched at 7am by Merville to Béthune and billeted at 6.30pm. Halted at 1.30 till 3pm for dinners.

23 December 1914 - Marched at 7am and halted at 9.30am bivouacked in field at Essars near Le Touret in readiness to support 2nd Brigade holding a line in front. Moved at 3.30pm about 2½ miles and took over line at Rue de Cailloux from Royal Sussex Regiment after dark. Trenches mostly improvised from dykes were full of water, the mud was very bad, several men had to be dug out of mud where they had sunken, before relief could be completed. Enemy continually sniping.

24 December 1914 - Trenches waist deep in water, considerable sniping and bombarding with heavy trench mortars during early morning. Enemy sapped to within 10 yards at 2 points. About 11am they blew in the end of Number 2 Company’s trench and attacked at same time. Number 2 and 3 Companies retired from trenches and occupied 2nd line which was attacked, attack driven off with loss. Communication between trenches difficult owing to deep water and mud. During night dug new line of trenches.

Lost Captain Sir M.A.R. Cholmeley and Second Lieutenant J.H.G. Nevill killed, Second Lieutenant C.G. Soschew wounded and missing, Second Lieutenant Meryn Williams slightly wounded and following NCOs and men; 15 killed, 27 wounded, 5 wounded and missing, 2 slightly wounded, 4 missing. Total 4 officers 53 NCOs and men.”

In fact CWGC Records show that 20 NCOs and men of the 2nd Battalion died on 24th December. 15 of them (including Thomas) have no known grave and are commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. The Officer casualties named in the War Diary are Sir Montague Aubrey Rowley CHOLMELEY and 2/Lt. John Henry Gaythorne NEVILL, both also commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial.

                                         
Sources:
· I am grateful to Graeme Clarke for the extract from the 2/Grenadier Guards' War Diary
· "British Battalions in France and Belgium 1914" - Ray Westlake [ISBN-10: 0850525772] p. 4
· "Buxton Advertiser" - 2 January 1915

Link to CWGC Record
The Le Touret Memorial
L/Sgt Thomas Green's name on the Memorial
poppy
L/Sgt Thomas Green