Duty Called and He Obeyed1
Born on 29th April 189618 in his parent’s home, The Hollies, English Frankton17/19, Thomas Edward Townsend was the second and youngest son (out of twelve children) born to Mary and her husband Alfred4/5, a Farmer and employer5 with strong family links to Cockshutt. His own Father had been both Farmer and Publican of the Red Lion Inn, Cockshutt2; named Thomas Townsend, it seems that they chose to name their new son after him2/18.
As the new parents introduced their youngest son to their burgeoning family5, they surely gave little thought to anything but the propitious and promising future awaiting him, as he learnt how to manage the family farm alongside his older brother Alfred5.
As the late Victorian era33 languidly moved towards its end, young Thomas began taking his first tentative steps into childhood. With so many siblings, it is unlikely that he was ever short of a play-mate5 or opportunities for play; between them they probably concocted many adventures as they chased through open fields, climbed trees in the woody glades and hid inside the cosy barns. Perhaps they even listened out for and followed the passing Hunt13. All-in-all, it was a time when little seems to have disturbed the “noiseless tenor of our way”13, other than the raucous and good-humoured “Pro Boer” meeting held in the school in 190113.
With the dawn of the Edwardian era24, Thomas was attending the local School; as he joined his siblings on the daily walk, they probably took great delight in finding all the, “short cuts, gates, and weak fences”13, to help liven up the journey.
By the time he was fourteen, with school behind him, Thomas appears to have fulfilled his Father’s expectation by working full-time on the farm alongside his older brother Alfred5; his untimely death within the next few months21 would have deeply affected everyone. Yet Thomas understood the importance of duty; he was the remaining son and regardless of his own grief, he found the fortitude to keep the farm going, whilst supporting his parents and family during this difficult time42.
Within three years, change was again on the horizon as Europe descended into a bottomless crevasse of a violent, bloodthirsty war44; with no end in sight and the increasing demand for new recruits, Thomas went to Oswestry39 and enlisted with the KSLI 6th (PALS) Battalion11.
In 1916, Private TE Townsend 3362516 was deployed to France. It was a time of intense hostilities, including the Somme Offensive and The Battles of Langemarke and the Menin Road (Ypres)25. Yet, in letters home, Thomas reflects on the daily difficulties of life, such as, “the sweat … dropping off me like peas”, during the intensity of the Summer heat, whilst during Winter the only means of washing was by “breaking ice in a shell hole17”.
In November 1917, the Battalion was in action at Cambrai, the objective being to break through the heavily fortified Hindenburg Line25. For the first time, massed tanks and new artillery techniques would be used50. In the early hours of 20th November, hostilities commenced when, “the Battalion attacked the German positions46”. Seriously wounded23 in the fray, Private TE Townsend was admitted into the Lord Derby Hospital, Warrington17, where he died from wounds on 4th December 191716/17.
Posthumously awarded The British War Medal and Victory Medal11, Thomas’s final resting place is in The Churchyard, Ss Simon & Jude Church, Cockshutt40, where, on 8th December 191817, he was reunited with his brother Alfred42. In poignant tribute, his headstone inscription reads, “Duty Called, and He Obeyed1.”
We Will Remember Him.
Pte TE Townsend 33625, 6th (PALS) Battalion, KSLI36
Died Warrington Military Hospital 4th December 1917 from wounds received at Cambrai, The Somme
Buried Ss Simon & Jude Churchyard, Cockshutt
Perhaps the summer woods will shimmer bright,
And Crimson roses once again be fair,
And Autumn Harvest fields a rich delight,
Although you are not there29.
|50||WW1 A Layman’s Guide, Scott Addington, 2012, Amazon, ISBN: 9 781495 911569|
World War One, Training to be A Soldier, Jonathan Boff, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/training-to-be-a-soldier
|48||World War One, Rupert Colley, 2012, William Collins, ISBN: 978 0 00 753911 6|
|47||War Hospital Memorial Plaques Are Reinstated, 19th November 2009, Warrington Examiner|
|46||War Diary, 20th Division, 60th Infantry Brigade, 6th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, July 1915-April 1919, pgs. 127(1.2), 1(1.3), National Archives|
|45||The War Graves of the British Empire, The Register of the names of those who fell in the Great War and are buried in Cemeteries and Churchyards in the Administrative County of Shropshire, Compiled and Published by order of the Imperial War Graves Commission, London. 1931|
|44||The Guns of August, Barbara Tuchman, Penguin Books, ISBN: 978 0 241 96821 5|
The Group System Derby Scheme, https://www.longlongtrail.co.uk/soldiers/a-soldiers-life-1914-1918/enlisting-into-the-army/the-group-scheme-derby-scheme/
The Final Resting Place of Pte TE Townsend, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH
|41||The County Around Ellesmere is Full of Charm and Interest, H.Clayton Jones, Shropshire Magazine, March 1959, Shropshire Archives|
The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH, www.meresandmeadows.com
|39||Soldiers Died in the Great War 1914-1919, Naval and Military Press Ltd 2010|
|38||Shropshire’s Sacrifice in the Great War, Neil Evans & Phil Morris, 12th October 2014, Bluprint, ISBN 978 0 9931233 1 3|
|37||Shropshire Pack 1, Shropshire Archives|
|36||Roll of Honour, Lest We Forget, Shropshire, Cockshutt War Memorial, Martin Edwards 2017|
|35||Roll of Honour, 4th August 1914 – 28th June 1919, The Church of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|34||Rev. John Rowley Donald, Vicar of SS Simon & Jude Church, Cockshutt (Incumbent 1907-1921)|
|33||Queen Victoria (1837-1901)|
|32||Photograph of Thomas Edward Townsend, Original Image of Soldier, Ref: MI8946-4, Shropshire Archives|
|31||Photograph of the Final Resting Place of Thomas Edward Townsend, The Churchyard of SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|30||Pocket Diary of Private Thomas Edward Townsend, XMI8946/1, Shropshire Archives|
|29||Perhaps, Vera Brittain, 1916|
Old Occupation Names, http://rmhh.co.uk/occup/a.html
|27||Notes on the Shropshire Regiments, Shropshire Regimental Museum, Shrewsbury Castle, 2007|
Monthly Weather Report of the Meteorological Office, January, 1896, February 1896, March 1896, April1896, May1916, June 1896, November 1917, https://www.metoffice.gov.uk/learning/library/archive-hidden-treasures/monthly-weather-report
King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, 1914-1918, https://www.shropshireregimentalmuseum.co.uk/regimental-history/shropshire-light-infantry/the-kings-shropshire-light-infantry-1914-1918/
|24||King Edward VII 1901-1910|
|23||In the Hands of Boys, Shropshire Boys Dancing, Shropshire Remembers, First World War, 2018, Shropshire Council,|
How Were Families Informed of the Death of a Soldier in WW1? https://www.quora.com/How-were-families-informed-of-the-death-of-a-soldier-in-WWI
|21||GRO Index England and Wales Deaths 1837-2007, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England vol 6A, page 844|
|20||GRO Index England and Wales Births 1837-2006, Ellesmere, Shropshire, England vol 6A, page 685|
|19||GRO Certified Copy of An Entry of Death, 1911, Ellesmere, Salop and Flint|
|18||GRO Certified Copy of An Entry of Birth, 1896, Ellesmere, Salop and Flint|
Diary and last letter written to parents, Thomas Edward Townsend, 24th September to 18th November, 1917, Ref M18946/I Shropshire Archives
Commonwealth War Graves Commission, https://www.cwgc.org/find/find-war-dead/
Combat and the Soldier’s Experience in the First World War, Vanda Wilcox, 29th January 2014, British Library, https://www.bl.uk/world-war-one/articles/combat-and-soldiers-experiences
|14||Cockshutt War Memorial, The Churchyard, SS Simon & Jude, Cockshutt, Shropshire, SY12 0JH|
|13||Churchwardens’ Account Book for Cockshutt from 1794 to 1926, Milestones in the History of a North Shropshire Rural Parish, August 1956, Shropshire Magazine, Parish Pack 2, Shropshire Archives|
British History in Depth: The Rural Exodus, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/victorians/exodus_01.shtml
|11||British Army Medal Index Cards 1914-1920, WO 372/20/67133, Series WO3272, National Archives|
|10||Around Horton and Longsdon, Sheila Hine, Churnet Valley Books, pgs. 47-48, ISBN: 978 1 904546 62 7|
6th Battalion, King’s Shropshire Light Infantry, https://wartimememoriesproject.com/greatwar/allied/battalion.php?pid=6448
5 Light Machine Guns from World War One, https://www.historyhit.com/light-machine-guns-of-world-war-one/
|6||24 Hrs at the Somme 1 July 1916, Robert Kershaw, 2016, WH Allen, Penguin Random House, ISBN: 9780753555484|
|5||1911 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Shropshire, Ellesmere, RG14PN16180 RG78PN1001 RD351 SD3 ED3 SN128|
|4||1901 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Shropshire, Ellesmere, RG13, Piece No 2550, Folio 11, Page 14|
|3||1881 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Shropshire, Ellesmere, RG11, Piece No 2664, Folio 58, Page 17|
|2||1861 England, Wales & Scotland Census, Shropshire, Ellesmere, Enumeration District 3D, RG09, Piece No 1883, Folio 62, Page 14|
‘Duty called and called me to obey’ – Remembering Noel Chavasse, July 31, 2017 by Anna Powell, http://blog.royalmint.com/noel-chavasse/