Private 8453 Charles Ernest Thomas

Killed in Action on Wednesday, 3rd October 1917, age 32.
Buried in Grave XII. D. 13. at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq.

9th Bn., Worcestershire Regiment. 39th Brigade of 13th Division.

Husband of Mrs Alice Thomas, of 2/151 Summers Row, Dudley Port, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Birmingham, Enlisted: Dudley, Resident: Dudley Port.

First landed France & Flanders, 12th August 1914 .
Medal entitlement: 1914 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

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/635477/

Genealogical Data

Birth of Charles Ernest Thomas registered June quarter 1885 in Birmingham.

1901 Census
2 Groveland Road, Tividale, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Cotterill (57, Ironworks Labourer, born Birmingham), his wife Jane (32, born Wales), and their 6 children: Charles E. (15, Ironworks Labourer, born Handsworth), Susan E. (13, born Birmingham), Thomas E. (11, born Tividale), George Henry (9, born Tividale), Violet (7, born Tividale), and William J. (5, born Tividale).

1911 Census
105 Dudley Road, Tividale, Tipton, Staffs.
Thomas Cotterill (68, Watchman on tramway, born Birmingham), his wife Jane (40, born Wales), and their 6 children: Thomas (21, Striker, born Tividale), Harry (19, Stamper, born Tividale), Violet (17, Painter, born Tividale), and William (15, Hearth Worker, born Tividale), Olive (11, School, born Tividale) and Gladys (7, School, born Tividale).

Marriage of Charles E Thomas and Alice Timmins registered March quarter 1911 in Dudley.

Personal Data

Charles enlisted on 14th June 1904 in Dudley for the Worcestershire Regiment using the name Charles Cotterill, his step-father's surname. He was employed as a Galvaniser, was a small man being 5ft 4¼in tall, weighing 122 lbs, and having a 33½in chest. Thomas served in Ceylon from 1905 to 1907, and then in England. In January 1912 he made a declaration that the surname Cotterill was incorrect and that his correct name was Charles Ernest Thomas. This was possibly to simplify his records with the Army as in 1911 he had married and become a father.

Private Charles Thomas landed in France on 12th August 1914 with the 2nd Worcesters, as one of the original British Expeditionary Force - an "Old Contemptible". The 2nd Worcesters were involved in the Battle of Mons, and the Retreat from Mons. This took a severe toll on Private Thomas, as he was treated at the No. 2 General Hospital (Havre) on 31st August 1914 with "Sore Feet" and on the same day transported back to England on the Hospital Ship "S.S. Asturias". This must have been extremely severe blistering as the Army were hard pressed for manpower at this stage. Private Thomas returned to the 2nd Worcesters on 11th November as the first Battle of Ypres was ending, and then moving to the Neuve Chapelle area of French Flanders ready for the Artois actions of 1915.

Just before midnight on 15th May 1915, the 2nd Worcesters attacked at Festubert. This was part of the Artois Offensive to prevent the German troops moving to Arras and the French offensive taking place there. There was some success, including the capture of the town of Festubert during the next week, but the 1 km advance had been at a cost of 16,000 casualties. One of these was Private Charles Thomas, who received Gun Shot Wounds (GSW) to the left shoulder, left forearm and left buttock on the 16th May, being treated at Arques, Boulogne and being transported back to England on 23rd May 1915 by Hospital Ship.

Thomas was in England from 24th May until 21st September 1915, when he sailed for Gallipoli to join the 9th Battalion Worcesters. He remained there until January 1916 when the 9th Worcesters were evacuated from Gallipoli. They were transported via Mudros to Port Said, staying in Egypt for a short time until transferred to the Mesopotamia Expeditionary Force. They embarked in Port Said 19th February 1916, and disembarked in Basra 17th March 1916.

Charles served for 18 months in the heat of Mesopotamia, before his death in October 1917.

In December 1919 Alice Thomas, had to complete an army form stating the relatives of her husband, the late Private Charles Ernest Thomas. She gave her address as 11 Waterloo Street, Tipton, and that she and Charles had three children: Charles Ernest (born 26 August 1911), Elsie (born 17 February 1913) and Hilda May (born 18th March 1915). His mother and step-father were given as Thomas and Jane Cotterill of 106 Dudley Road, Tividale, Tipton.

After Charles' death, his outstanding army pay and allowances amounted to £36/9/5d (36 pounds, 9 shillings and 5 pence); this was paid to his widow, Alice, in two payments in April and August 1918. His War Gratuity was £18/0/0d (18 pounds exactly), this was also paid to Annie in September 1919.

Action resulting in his death

Thomas was employed with 39th Brigade HQ during 1917. Conditions in Mesopotamia were poor to say the least: extremes of heat; mosquitoes and flies bringing disease. On 29th September 1917, Charles is recorded as "Dangerously Ill (Enteric)" in Baghdad, and died on 3rd October. He was in illustrious company as the Army Commander in Mesopotamia, Lt. Gen. Maud, also died of Enteric Fever in Baghdad in November 1917.

Newspaper Cuttings