RFA West Lancs Bdes
681033 DVR. T. KING. R.F.A.
Thomas King was born on 23 February 1890 in Layton, Blackpool, and baptised on 4 May. His father was John King (b. 1864 in Blackburn), a cotton weaver. His mother was Isabella Grace Swarbrick (b. 1870 in Marton, near Blackpool). John and Isabella were married in Bispham in 1899 and Tom was their only child, as Isabella died, aged only 24, in 1894. Two years later, John re-married. His second wide was Edith Florence Hazeldine (b. 1869 in Lymm, Cheshire). John and Edith then had two daughters in Blackpool – Nellie (b 1897) and Mary (b. 1900) – before moving to Blackburn where their third daughter Sarah was born (1901). John died in 1904. Things seem to have got hard for Edith. In 1911, she was living with her parents-in-law, John and Sarah King, at 4 Inkerman Street, Blackburn. Her step-son Tom and daughter Sarah were also in the household, but her older daughters were not. In fact, I have found records for them as inmates in the Inebriates Reformatory at Billington, near Blackburn. Built in 1904 this later became the Brockhall Hospital.
In 1911, Tom was working as a driver for a wholesale grocer. The following year, Tom married Elizabeth Catlow Thompson (b. 1891 in Blackburn), and in 1914 the couple had a daughter, Norah.
Tom went back to Blackpool to enlist, in 1915. He was assigned service number 681033 and posted to “B” Battery of 286 Brigade.
After training, the Brigades left for France in early 1917 and were involved in the heavy fighting to defend the town of Armentières, on the French-Belgian border. In July 1917 they suffered their first attack by the new mustard gas. In late September the Brigade was relieved from the front line and withdrew for a period of training, and returned to the line at Langemark about 35km north of Armentières, not far from the small village of Passchendaele, which would be the scene of some of the bloodiest battles of the War. On 9 October 286 Brigade returned to action engaging in harassing and destructive fire on enemy strongpoints, but also suffering their heaviest losses of the war so far, with many soldiers being gassed. On 27 October, 285 and 286 Brigades were placed under temporary command of the Canadians as they began the final attack on the village of Passchendaele. On 28 October, the War Diary reports: “Bombardment and barrage against enemy strong-points and harassing fire by 57th Divisional Artillery Group on front of the XVIII Corps. … 11th Bde RFA took part in barrage and bombardment of enemy strong-points on our own front. 1 Other Rank killed in action. 5 Other Ranks wounded.” These operations were repeated on the following day, and 5 Other Ranks were wounded in action, 11 Other Ranks were gassed and 1 Other Rank was missing (later confirmed dead). From 1-7 November, 286 Brigade were at Langemark engaged in the defence of the village and were under heavy shelling from the enemy, including gas attacks every day. Tom died of wounds at 61st Casualty Clearing Station, at Dozinghem, on 4 November 1917. He was 27 years old.
Service Number: 681033
Date of Death: 04/11/1917
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 286th Brigade.
Cemetery/memorial reference: XV. D. 23.
Cemetery: DOZINGHEM MILITARY CEMETERY