Private 44403 William James Thornton

 Thornton William 96 414x600Thornton William sonHarry 96
William and Sarah on their wedding day, 12th April 1915.        Also their son Harry who sadly died in 1918.       Photographs courtesy of Dorris Farrow.

Died Mesopotamia on Monday, 9th July 1917, age 37.
Buried in Grave XX. M. 9. at Baghdad (North Gate) War Cemetery, Iraq.

8th Bn., Royal Welsh Fusiliers. 40th Brigade of 13th Division.

Only son of Mrs Esther Thornton and the late Mr Henry Thornton, of Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Born: Tipton, Enlisted: Tipton, Resident: Tipton.

First landed Mesopotamia, 29th November 1916.
Medal entitlement: British War Medal, Victory Medal.
Soldier's Papers at National Archives survived and transcribed.

Commemorated on the Dudley Clock Tower 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/635500/

Genealogical Data

1891 Census
72 Union Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Esther Thornton (34, Widow, Draper, born Kidderminster), and her two children: Catherine (12, born Tipton), and William (11, born Tipton).

1901 Census
35 Union Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Esther Thornton (44, Widow, General Dealer, born Kidderminster), and her two children: Catherine (22, General Dealer, born Tipton) and William (21, Clerk, born Tipton).

1911 Census
23 Waterloo Street, Tipton, Staffs.
Esther Thornton (52, Widow, Shopkeeper - General Dealer, born Kidderminster), and her son William (31, Clerk at Fender Making Factory, born Tipton).

Wedding of William J Thornton and Sarah A Bruton, 12th April 1915, registered in Dudley.
Birth of Robert Henry Thornton, 16th January 1916, registered in Dudley.
Death of Robert Henry Thornton, December quarter 1918, registered in Dudley.

Personal Data

William Thornton attested in Tipton on 11th December 1915 under the Derby Scheme, and was allocated to the Reserves (age-related Group 42) awaiting his call-up. He was 36 years of age and employed as Fender Foundry Manager. His address was originally given as 37 Hurst Lane, Tipton which was probably his marital home, but this was changed to 12 Tinchbourne Street, Dudley when he and his wife moved back with her parents in preparation for his war service.

William was called-up on 11th September 1916 when he was medically examined at Wolverhampton. He was 5 feet 4 inches tall, weighed 118 pounds with a 35 inch chest, and wore upper and lower dentures. His physical development was described a 'Good', and his vision was '6/6' when wearing glasses. His religion was stated as Roman Catholic. He joined the 3rd Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers on 16th September for his initial training.

In November 1916 he proceeded to India, via Cape Town with a detachment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. On 28th May 1917 William joined the 8th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers in Mesopotamia where he succumbed from heat stroke just 6 weeks later on 9th July.

His widow Sarah received a pension of 18 shillings and 9 pence for herself and their one child from 14th January 1918. Unfortunately their son, Robert Henry, died in late 1918, just 2 years old. Sarah also lost two brothers in the in the Great War, Henry Bruton of the Worcesters and Frederick Bruton MM, also of the Worcesters. Sarah never re-married; she was at times a school-teacher and ran a private school from her home in the 1930s. She died at the age of 79 in 1966.

Action resulting in his death

By the time William arrived in Mesopotamia in late May 1917, Baghdad had been captured and fighting had drawn to a close until late in the year. With July temperatures regularly over 120 degrees, offensive action from either side was impossible. All troops suffered in these conditions, but it led directly to William's death on 9th July.

An official enquiry was held into William's death and is available in his Soldier's Papers (or by request from this site). The troops sheltered in their tents during the day, and here William was unwell on 7th July but refused the offer of a 'sick report' saying he would be alright when the sun went down. On the next day he attended early morning Mass, and then wrote letters, but in the afternoon was taken ill and carried unconscious to the Medical Inspection tent. He was seen almost immediately by an R.A.M.C. Doctor, Captain Davy, who found his temperature was 111 degrees and suffering from heat stroke in an "almost hopeless condition". Captain Davy was correct, as William died at 7.30 am on the next day, 9th July.

William is buried in Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery in modern day Iraq.

Newspaper Cuttings

Tipton Herald 17th April 1915
At the Roman Catholic Church, Dudley, on Monday, the marriage took place of William J Thornton of Waterloo Street, Tipton, and Miss Sara Bruton of Dudley.
The Reverend Father Connor performed the ceremony. The bridegroom is well-known in Tipton Green, where for several years he has been a prominent supporter of the famous Tipton Harriers club.
Mr W Fallon of Park Lane West acted as best man at the wedding ceremony.

Tipton Herald 28th July 1917
No more popular man resided in Tipton than Private William J. Thornton, whose home for many years was with his widowed mother in Waterloo Street, Tipton Green. He joined the army in the latter part of 1916, and early in January last left England for the East with a detachment of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers. He proceeded to India, via Cape Town, and his letters at the outset reflected his jovial, optimistic nature. He was sent to Mesopotamia, and his relatives received the news last week that he succumbed there from heat stroke on July 9th.
Private Thornton was the only son of the late Mr Henry and Mrs Thornton. He married a Miss Bruton, of 12 Tinchbourne Street, Dudley, about two years ago. His young widow's male relatives are all in the army, Lieutenant Bruton (a brother), having been awarded the Military Cross. The deceased soldier was for many years prominently identified with the Tipton Harriers, and after he retired from active participation in running was an enthusiastic official. His mother and family have received sympathetic letters from Miss G. Round (of the Primrose League) and others who knew him. His only sister is the wife of Mr W.E. Griffiths of Queen's Road, Tipton.