Private 21080 Thomas Marsh

Killed in Action on Monday, 3rd July 1916, age 28.
Commemorated on Pier and Face 5 A and 6 C of Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France.

10th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 57th Brigade of 19th Division.

Son of William Marsh, of 281 House, Court 20, Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Wolverhampton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed France & Flanders, 19th July 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives did not survive.

Not commemorated on any Tipton memorial.
Commemorated here because identified as Tipton on 'Soldiers Died in the Great War'.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/804733/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
304 Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
William Marsh (45, Coal Miner, born Tipton), his wife Margaret (46, born Tipton), and their 5 children: Joseph (15, Coal Miner - Horse Driver below ground, born Tipton), Thomas (13, born Tipton), William (12, born Tipton), Arthur (6, born Tipton) and James (3, born Tipton).

1911 Census
281 Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs. (Parents ages are suspect)
William Marsh (45, Miner - Underground, born Tipton), his wife Margaret (49, born Tipton), and 4 of their 5 surviving children of 12: Thomas (22, Miner - Underground, born Tipton), William (21, Miner - Underground, born Tipton), Arthur (16, born Tipton), and James (14, born Tipton).

Personal Data

Appears to be the brother of William Marsh.

Action resulting in his death

As the Battle of the Somme started on 1st July 1916, the 10th Worcesters (57th Brigade of 19th Division) were in reserve west of Albert; at 9.00am they were ordered to assembly positions nearer the line. On 2nd July they were to attack the fortified village of La Boisselle which was still in German hands despite the attacks by 34th Division on 1st July, and despite the explosion of the huge mine creating Lochnagar Crater. The journey to the front was chaotic with heavy mud, huge numbers of casualties filling communication trenches and carrying parties going to and from the front. It was after midnight that the 10th Worcesters arrived at the front line opposite La Boisselle, too late for the attack to be carried out and they were withdrawn to trenches on the Usna-Tara ridge to shelter and rest until the attack could be renewed.

On the afternoon of the 2nd July, their comrades of the 58th Brigade attacked the La Boisselle salient, securing a lodgement on the southern face; and orders were sent for the 57th Brigade (including the 10th Worcesters) to move up after midnight. Rather than risk another jam in the communication trenches the 10th Worcesters were moved across open ground to a position at the western end of the La Boisselle salient. There they lay and waited as flares and bursting shells disclosed their position to the enemy, and a heavy fire of shrapnel caused many casualties.

Shortly after 3.00am on July 3rd, an order was passed down the ranks, the whistles blew and the 10th Worcesters crossed no-man's land and charged the German defences. A fierce fight ensued with bomb and bayonet over successive lines of trenches. In small groups the Worcester platoons fought their way slowly into the village, but the enemy numbers were far greater than was anticipated after ten days of intense bombardment. They swarmed up from every direction, and amid the confusion only when light flares and shell bursts illuminated the battlefield was it possible to distinguish between friend and foe. The fighting was hand-to-hand or at point blank range, with bomb, bullet and cold steel.

The first light of dawn allowed the fighters in the village to recognise themselves with certainty, and the struggle reached its climax. Most of the defenders had been killed or captured, although a few German strong-points still held out. These were isolated, surrounded and reduced. Strong German counter-attacks were made against the village, but a defensive line had been hastily organised on the eastern outskirts of the village and the counter-attacks were withered by machine-guns and musketry. By midday the fighting in the village was over, and La Boisselle was in British hands.

The 10th Worcesters had reason to be proud of their first battle as La Boisselle was of immense strength, but success had been costly. 9 Officers and 197 Other Ranks were killed or died of wounds. 106 NCOs and men were missing, and of these the majority were undoubtedly killed and buried either by falling ruins or in wrecked dug-outs. Tipton men Thomas Marsh, Joseph Cartwright, and William Walker were killed and have no known graves, both are commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.

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