205713 GNR T. ELLIOTT.  R.F.A.

 

(My thanks to Wayne Finch for providing the information that Thomas served in D/276.)

 

Thomas Elliott was born in the first quarter of 1901 in Drummeel, Co. Longford, Ireland.  His father was William Elliott (b. 1862 in Drummeel), a farmer.  His mother was Rebecca (maiden name possibly Montgomery) (b. 1862 in Drummeel).  William and Rebecca were married in 1897 and they had five children: William George (b. 1898), Rebecca Elizabeth (1899-1906), then Thomas, then Lucinda Maud (b. 1903) and Edward (b. 1904).  From the 1911 Ireland Census we learn that William was a widower (his wife Rebecca died in 1904) and he was living on the farm with his four remaining school-age children, two spinster sisters and a servant.  William himself died in 1916 and this may have been a factor influencing Thomas’ decision to join the Army.

 

From information provided by a member of the “Great War Forum”, Thomas enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery on or after 20 January 1917 at No5 Depot RFA, Athlone, Ireland.  He had only just turned 16.  He was given service number 205713.  I can’t know for certain as there are no other extant military records, but my guess is that Thomas spent 1917 in training and was sent out to France among reinforcements in early 1918, and it is likely that it was at this point that he joined “D” Battery of 276 Brigade.

 

55th Division relieved 42nd (East Lancashire) Division in the front line at Givenchy and Festubert on 15 February 1918. Here, it faced numerous strong enemy raids in March. Early April was at first much quieter but this was the quiet before the storm.

 

From the War Diary

9 April 1918 4.15am Enemy opened heavy H.E. and Gas bombardment on all Battery areas, Headquarters, and Wagon Lines.  Batteries opened on “Counter preparation” and later on S.O.S.  Hostile infantry reported attacking, and pressing back our Infantry on the Left.  164th Infantry Brigade still holding GIVENCHY.  Continuous hostile shelling throughout the day.  Enemy infantry at one time reached forward gun of A/276 Battery in GUNNER SIDING, but counter-attacked and driven off.

6.42pm A/276 Bty report all guns destroyed and personnel manning trench in front of position.  Ordered to move personnel to Wagon lines with all material that can be salved.  D/276 Battery moved forward gun back to main position.  Throughout the day information received of enemy concentration.  Batteries opened fire on all occasions, and with the exception of local encounters no further attack on a large scale developed on Group Front.

8.00pm  Information received that 800 prisoners captured to date.

10 April 1918 7.30am FESTUBERT heavily shelled and enemy attacking in neighbourhood of LOISNE.  (The enemy attack continued throughout the day but by) 8.30pm Infantry report enemy attack driven off.  All Batteries ceased fire on S.O.S. lines but continued harassing fire at slow rate.

 

11-14 April The enemy attacked, were repulsed, re-grouped and attacked again, but the ferocity of the attacks slowly diminished.  They make another effort on 18 April but again are repulsed.  On 26 April 164th Infantry Brigade feel confident enough to mount a counter-attack which is initially successful but they are later forced back to their original line.

 

The enemy attack continued until 18 April, when it slackened off then ceased.  On 20 April, the Division re-captured a number of trenches near Givenchy and skirmishes continued until the end of the month but neither side made any gains.

 

During May, the Brigade remained near Givenchy but there were no more attacks and on 27 May they were relieved from the line and withdrew to bivouac at Bois des Dames.  They moved back into the line between 9-12 June and between 13-20 June they supported a number of infantry raids.  Throughout July, August and September they engaged in harassing fire, mainly by night.  Some relatively minor infantry raids were mounted but the action was mainly to disrupt the enemy and prevent any counterattack.  On 2 October, the Brigade received information that the Germans had begun to withdraw and the Brigade then began its advance.  They reached Hantay on 4 October, Hocron on 16 October then Allennes and Seclin on 17 October, Fretin on 19 October, and Esplechin on 20 October (they were now in Belgium).  Here they encountered some resistance and they were still in Esplechin at the end of the month.  It was during the fighting at Esplechin that Tom was killed on 21 October 1918.  He was still only 17 years old.

 

Rank:  Gunner

Service No:  205713

Date of Death: 21/10/1918

Age:  17

Regiment/Service:  Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 276th Bde.

Cemetery/memorial reference: I. A. 5.

Cemetery/Memorial:  ESPLECHIN CHURCHYARD

Additional Information:  Son of William Elliott, of Drummeel, Ballinalee, Edgeworthstown, Co. Longford.  (In fact, William died in 1916 and Soldiers’ Effects identify his siblings as his next of kin).

Footnote: The Elliott’s were Protestants living in a largely Catholic area.  The increasingly difficult political, social and economic circumstances in Ireland in 1916 may have contributed to Thomas’ decision to join the Army.  Tensions were high after the Easter Rising of 1916 and the following year Thomas turned 16 and he was no longer considered an orphan but an adult.  Conditions remained difficult for the family after the War and a family member tells me that Thomas’s older brother William was killed by the IRA in 1921.

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