Private PLY/30(S) Thomas Richard Pearce

Pearce Thomas 96 360x600
Thomas Pearce photograph courtesy of Jack Clegg.
Pearce Thomas Richard 96 633x500
Grave photograph courtesy Stephen Moore and Margaret Carter, 2014.
Further photographs at bottom.

Killed in Action on Sunday, 4th July 1915, age 33.
Buried in Grave B. 126. 'Special Memorial' at Redoubt Cemetery, Helles, Turkey.

Royal Marine Light Infantry, Plymouth Bn., 2nd R.N. Brigade of Royal Naval Division.
Formerly 16285 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry.

Husband of Mrs Hannah Pearce, of 74 Stoneyford Road, Wombwell, Yorkshire.
Born: Princes End, Enlisted: Mexborough, Resident: Wombwell, Yorks.

First landed Balkans, 25th April 1915.
Medal entitlement: 1914-15 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Service Papers exist at the Fleet Air Arm Museum, Yeovilton.

Commemorated on the St. John's Memorial, and Wombwell War Memorial, St. Mary's Church, Wombwell, S. Yorkshire.
Commemorated here because he appears on a Tipton memorial.

Link to Commonwealth War Graves Site: www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/601158/

Genealogical Data

1901 Census
79 High Street, Princes End, Tipton, Staffs.
Joseph Pearce (41, Coalminer, born Sedgley), his wife Nancy (40, born Tipton), and their 8 children: Thomas (19, Boiler Maker, born Sedgley), Emily (17, born Sedgley), Joseph (14, Iron Moulder - Learner, born Sedgley), William (11, born Sedgley), Nancy (9, born Sedgley), Isaac (6, born Sedgley), Betsy (3, born Sedgley) and Ernest (1, born Tipton).

1911 Census
74 Stoneyford Road, Wombwell, Barnsley, Yorks.
Thomas Richard Pearce (29, Miner - Colliery Labourer, born Tipton, his wife Hannah (27, born Tipton), and their 2 children: Joseph Henry (4, born Tipton), and Thomas Richard (3, born Tipton). Also lodging with them was Joseph Lotwick (23, Miner's Trammer,born Tipton).

Personal Data

Thomas Richard Pearce was born in Tipton on 9th September 1881 to Joseph and Nancy Pearce. Thomas married Miss Hannah Maria Grainger at Tipton on 14th January 1906. They had 2 sons: Joseph Henry, born in Tipton on the 13th May 1906, and Thomas Richard, born in Tipton on the 3rd January 1908. By 1911 they had moved to 74 Stoneyford Road, Wombwell, near Barnsley, Thomas was working as a coal miner. His close friend Joseph Lotwick had also moved to Wombwell and lodged with the Pearce family.

Thomas and Joseph enlisted at Mexboro 9th September 1914 as Privates 16285 and 16299 King's Own Yorkshire Light Infantry. At his enlistment, Thomas was 5 feet 4⅞ inches tall, had a 38-inch chest and weighed 10 stones and 13 pounds. He had hazel eyes, dark hair and a fresh complexion. Just a week later on 16th September 1914, they transferred to the Plymouth Battalion, Royal Marine Light Infantry as PLY/30(S) and PLY/31(S).

They served with the Plymouth Battalion RMLI in the Mediterranean Expeditionary Force from 6th February 1915 until both were killed on 4th July 1915 by a shrapnel burst whilst in rest camp at Cape Helles. Both Thomas and Joseph were buried at Redoubt Cemetery, Helles, where they now have Special Memorials.

Thomas's younger brother William must also have enlisted and transferred at the same time, as he was numbered PLY/34(S). He was also at Gallipoli with the RMLI (Plymouth Battalion) but survived. William was discharged as no longer fit for military service on 25th July 1918 after having received a Gun Shot Wound to the left thigh at Passchendaele on 26th October 1917 whilst serving with the 2nd Royal Marines. In civilian life he returned to mining and lived until 1960, dying at the age of 71. William and his wife Mary had a son, Joseph, killed in action at Dunkirk in 1940.

Another brother, Joseph, enlisted with the 18th York & Lancaster but, presumably after being wounded, was transferred to the Labour Corps. His Service Papers did not survive, but he died as a result of his war service on 3rd May 1919 as he is buried with a CWGC headstone at Barnsley (Ardsley) Cemetery.

Much of the above detail is courtesy of the excellent site www.jackclegg.com telling the story of Jack Clegg and the Barnsley Royal Marine volunteers.

Action resulting in his death

Thomas's RMLI contingent left Devonport on 2nd February 1915 bound for Gallipoli; they landed briefly in Malta on 16th February, before landing at Tenedos on 21st February. Tenedos was an island just 3 miles off the Turkish coast on the Asian side of the Gallipoli Straits which had been in Greek hands since 1912.

The Royal Marine Light Infantry landed at 'Y' Beach at Cape Helles on 25th April in support of the 29th Division landing, but after heavy losses were forced to withdraw. They were in action during May and June in the 3 Battles of Krithia, none of which were successful. By July the Plymouth Battalion was preparing for the fourth Battle of Krithia.

On 4th July, whilst at a rest camp at Cape Helles both Thomas and his pal Joseph Lotwick were killed by the same shrapnel shell, and both are buried at Redoubt Cemetery, Helles. A third man, Private G.A. Bell, was killed in the same incident.

In March 1916 the King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry wrote to Mrs Pearce asking for information regarding her husband’s present address and service details, for the purpose of forwarding his documents to his regiment. Mrs Pearce replied: "His last letter was dated June 30th, Sir I regret to inform you my husband was killed along with Private J. Lotwick at Gallipoli on the 4th of July."

Newspaper Cuttings

Barnsley Chronicle 25 June 1915
Private T.R. Pearce, a Low Valley marine, now at the Dardanelles, writing to his wife says: "I expect you have heard of our Will being missing. He got right through the Turkish lines, but he is alright now. He is a lucky chap. I was glad when he came to me three days later. I thought I should have gone mad when I thought he was lost. We have been shelled very badly. I had a trying time, and I prayed, I can tell you. An aeroplane came over our trench and dropped a bomb close to us.
The General met us at the base and said we were all heroes, and that our deeds were known in England. We have to go through more even than those in France. I have just taken off my shoes for the first time in three weeks, and I lost my clean shirts and socks in that big 'do' we had. I picked up a pair on the battlefield and put them on."

Barnsley Chronicle 24 July 1915
News of a sad double bereavement has been received at 74 Stoneyford Road, Wombwell, the victims being Private Thomas Pearce and Private Joseph Lotwick, both of the Royal Marine Light Infantry, who were killed in action at the Dardanelles. The sad information came by the same post to both men’s wives. Private Lotwick married just before enlistment. Both men were killed by a bursting shell. They were bosom pals, resided in the same house, worked together at the Houghton Main Colliery, enlisted together in the R.M.L.I. in September last, and have remained in each other’s company in the Gallipoli Peninsula. According to the official intimation, they died together on July 4th. The greatest anxiety is felt with regard to Private Pearce’s brother who is also in the Dardanelles.

The widows of Privates Lotwick and Pearce have received letters of condolence from Chaplain C.W.G. Moore and Captains J.C. Farrar and J.F. Richardson, “They were killed instantaneously about 10.00 a.m. today,” says the Chaplain, “and neither of their bodies were mutilated, although they were killed by shrapnel fire. They were buried by their sorrowing comrades in a little cemetery with the rites of the Church. It was a pretty spot, shaded in with trees. I hope to be able to send you a photo of the spot later. I could not help writing to tell you that Private Lotwick, when killed, had a New Testament in his pocket which he bought at Port Said.” Both the officers named speak in high terms of the men’s qualities, adding that they were the type of men that could be ill spared.
LOTWICK. Killed in action in the Dardanelles, Private Joseph Lotwick, R.M.L.I., late of 74, Stoneyford Road, Wombwell.
PEARCE. Killed in action in the Dardanelles, Private Thomas Richard Pearce, R.M.L.I., late of 74, Stoneyford Road, Wombwell.

Tipton Herald 7 August 1915
News was recently received of the death, in the Dardanelles, of Privates J. Lotwick and T. Richard Pearce, whose wives now reside at 74, Stoneyford Road, Wombwell, Yorkshire. Both men were natives of Princes End, Tipton, and lived there until a few years ago, when they obtained work at Wombwell. Pearce had three more brothers, and a brother-in-law serving with the colours. The men were great friends, and resided in the same house for some considerable time prior to enlisting in the Royal Marine Light Infantry. Both were employed at the Houghton Main Colliery. They were drafted to the Dardanelles some months ago, and were accompanied by Private Pearce's brother, who had joined the same regiment, and who is still in the Gallipoli Peninsula. Both wives of the deceased soldiers have received touching letters from the Captain of the Company and the Chaplain. They were killed instantaneously, with a third man, by a shrapnel shell, which burst over them in camp at Cape Helles. Private Lotwick, when killed, was found to have in his pocket a New Testament which he bought in Port Said.

  Lotwick Joseph 96 436x600Pearce Thomas Plaque
Photographs courtesy Jack Clegg, see his fine web site at: http://www.jackclegg.com/.