RFA West Lancs Bdes
656231 GNR. T. FERGUSON. R.F.A.
Thomas Ferguson was born in 1896 in Barrhead, Renfrewshire, southwest of Glasgow. His father was Thomas Ferguson (b. 1852 in Dundonald, Ayrshire), a foreman skinner in a sheep skinning factory. His mother was Jane Donaldson (b. 1856 in Newtown Stewart, Wigtownshire). The couple were married in 1875 and they had 10 children, though two boys died in infancy. The survivors were: Jane (b. 1876), John (b. 1883), Isabella (b. 1885), Barbara (b. 1888), Janet (b. 1891), James (b. 1894), then Thomas and finally Agnes (b. 1899). In 1911, Tom snr, Jane and all 8 children were living at 11 Cloth Street, Barrhead. Tom jnr was an apprentice sheep skinner in the same factory as his father.
Tom enlisted in the Territorials, probably in 1915, and was assigned service number 8890. This was later changed to 656231. This number is in the range used by the Lowland Brigades of the RFA and since Tom was not awarded the 1915 Star it is likely he was posted to the second line unit, 2/Lowland, which was later numbered 327 Brigade. 327 Brigade came under orders of 65th (2nd Lowland) Division. This Division remained in the UK (first in Scotland, then in the south of England) through 1915 and 1916, and in 1917 was restructured. Many of the recruits to this Division were used as replacements abroad.
In the summer of 1917, D/276 compliment of guns was increased from 4 to 6 so Andrew may have been in the gun crews associated with the new guns.
War Diary entries for July-October 1917 are missing from the file in the National Archives so information relating to that period is taken from the 55th Division history.
Third Battle of Ypres
From 55th Divisional History: "The objective of what was called the Third Battle of Ypres was the capture of the enemy's Gheluvelt-Langemark system... The weather during the whole of June and during the greater part of July had been ideal for campaigning purposes. Unfortunately, on Sunday 29 July a particularly heavy thunderstorm filled up the shell holes and turned roads and tracks into a morass. The succeeding days were dull and hazy, making the completion of the artillery preparation peculiarly difficult and typical Flanders weather conditions prevailed on the morning of the 31st - the moment chosen for the attack. Low lying clouds which made aerial observation and cooperation as difficult as could be imagined; a dampness of atmosphere, threatening rain at any moment; a half sodden ground, greasy and depressing; such was the luck of the weather at 3.50am on 31 July 1917, when the barrage opened. Not since the war began had so intense a barrage been put down, and of its wonderful effectiveness all ranks in the line bore eloquent testimony."
55th Division was withdrawn from the line on 7 August and was not called forward again until 12 September. This was a period of recreation, re-equipping and training, but there were also several casualties. On 12 September, 55th Division began to make preparations to return to the line, between Frezenberg and St Julien. When they returned to action on 15 September, the location was exactly the same as where they had left 6 weeks earlier.
After the heavy rain in August, the first few days of September had been warm and dry. On the night of 19/20 September, as they prepared their assault on the Schuler and Pond Farms, the rain began to fall once again. The assault was nevertheless successful and after this operation, the Division was withdrawn and moved to the south of Cambrai.
Thomas Ferguson was killed in action near Frezenberg on 18 September 1917. He was 21 years old.
Service No: 656231
Date of Death: 18/09/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “D” Bty, 276th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: Sp. Mem. No. 5.
Cemetery/Memorial: AEROPLANE CEMETERY