RFA West Lancs Bdes
680739 DVR. T. TOWERS. R.F.A.
Thomas Towers was born in the first quarter of 1895 in Preston. His father was Peter Towers (b. 1858 in Preston), a cotton grinder. His mother was Mary Jane Gregson (b. 1857 in Newcastle under Lyne). Peter and Mary Jane were married in 1881 (Mary Jane already had a son, William, born out of wedlock in the previous year). Peter and Mary Jane then had 13 children but lost 4 in infancy, so the 9 survivors were: Robert (b. 1881), John (b. 1883), James (b. 1886), Mary (b. 1888), Elizabeth (b. 1892), Francis (b. 1894), then Thomas, then Margaret Ann (b. 1898) and finally Peter (b. 1899). In 1911 the family lived at 45 Skeffington Road, Preston. Tom was then 15 and working as a cotton weaver.
Tom enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery, probably in May 1915, and was posted to “B” Battery of 286th Brigade. He was assigned service number 680739.
After training they landed in France in February 1917 and fought first in the defence of Armentières and then at Passchendaele. In 1918, they fought in the Battle of the Lys and then joined the final push in September.
Tom was injured as the advance progressed and he died of his wounds at 33rd Casualty Clearing Station near Ficheux on 1 October 1918. He was 23 years old. At the time, 286Bde was attached to the Canadian Division and they were advancing towards Cambrai, which would fall a few days later.
Service Number: 680739
Date of Death: 01/10/1918
Service/Regiment: Royal Field Artillery, "B" Bty. 286th Bde.
Cemetery/memorial reference: III. B. 39.
Cemetery: BUCQUOY ROAD CEMETERY, FICHEUX
Additional Information: Son of Peter Towers, of 53 Skeffington Road, Preston.
1918 was a terrible year for the family. Tom’s mother, Mary Jane, died at the beginning of the year. And just a month before Tom was killed, his younger brother Peter was also killed in action.
105420 PTE. P. TOWERS. K.L.R.
Peter Towers was born towards the end of 1899. He was still at school in 1911. He must have lied about his age to enlist, but somehow he managed to do so and joined the King’s (Liverpool Regiment) and was assigned service number 105420 and posted to 13th Battalion. 13Bn came under orders of 9th Brigade in 3rd Division. 3rd Division was heavily involved in most of the fighting in Flanders in 1918: Operation Michael (the opening phase of the German Spring Offensive); Operation Georgette (or the Battle of the Lys); and then after a brief respite, in the opening of the 100 Days Offensive in August. 3rd Division fought in the Battle of Albert (21-23 August 1918) and the Second Battle of Bapaume (31 August – 3 September 1918). Peter was killed in action on 31 August, still only 18 years old. Nearly 100 men from 13Bn were killed in this Second Battle of Bapaume, at least 10 of whom were aged 18 or 19.
Service Number: 105420
Date of Death: 31/08/1918
Service/Regiment: The King's (Liverpool Regiment), 13th Bn.
Cemetery/memorial reference: V. F. 11.
Cemetery: H.A.C. CEMETERY, ECOUST-ST. MEIN
Their older brother Francis was also a soldier. He was born on 5 April 1894. He joined the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, aged 18, in 1912. His service number was 1973. He remained in the Army when War broke out and he landed in France on 22 June 1915. He served throughout the War with 1st Battalion L.N.LAN.R. He was wounded in action on 25 September 1915 (at the Battle of Loos) and returned to England on 18 November 1915 but was back in France on 31 December 1915. He remained in France until 19 August 1918, when he again returned home, to be demobbed almost a year later, in August 1919. (So Frank was back in England at the time his two brothers were killed). During the course of his service, Frank was promoted to Corporal and Acting Sergeant. He rejoined the army in 1921 and the following year was promoted to Lance Sergeant. He just signed up for 2 years and I don’t know if he saw any further service abroad. When he left the Army, Frank married Elizabeth Topping (b. 1903 in Preston) and the couple had at least two children: Mildred (b. 1923) and Peter (b. 1931). According to an Ancestry member’s family tree, Frank collapsed and died on 14 March 1964, after watching the semi-final of the FA Cup (when Preston North End beat Swansea Town 2-1, before going on to lose 3-2 to West Ham in the Final).
Older brother John also served in the Army. He was born in 1883. In 1902 he joined the East Lancashire Regiment. He 0riginally joined for 4 years but then extended his service several times and when War broke out he was mobilised with the Northumberland Fusiliers, with service number 8537. John first landed in France on 9 November 1914 and remained there until 11 March 1915. He then returned home and was transferred to the Machine Gun Corps with a new service number, 3462. He landed in France with MGC on 17 July 1916, serving at the time with 106 Company. He was wounded and suffered shell-shock on 25 August 1916. The following year, he transferred to 233 Company and was promoted to Lance Corporal. At the end of the War, in 1918, he was transferred again to the Labour Corps, with yet another service number, 654117. In all, John served a total of 12½ years in the Army. I don’t know if John married or when he died.
Their sister Mary married a man who enlisted and fought with the Royal Field Artillery. Mary was born in 1888 and in 1915 she married Matthew Wren. Matthew was born in 1884 in Preston. He was a cotton spinner. He was probably in the Territorials before the War. When he enlisted he was assigned service number 2950 which was later changed to 696783. The service numbers 695001-70000 were issued to men serving in the Divisional Ammunition Columns of either 55th or 57th Divisions. Matthew was in England getting married in the summer of 1915 and 55th Division went to France in September that year. And the football team photo below shows Matthew with 55th DAC team, so that seems certain that he was with 55th Division, supporting 276 Brigade. Matthew survived the War but according to a family member, Matthew was gassed and he never fully recovered. He and Mary had a daughter, Mary Elizabeth, in 1923, but Matthew died aged 55 in 1939.
Matthew Wren (left) and in the football team picture below, Matthew is seated in the middle row, second from the right