RFA West Lancs Bdes
681323/296764 DVR. T. BAILEY. R.F.A.
Tom Bailey was born on 7 August 1884 in Low Moor, Clitheroe, and baptised at Clitheroe St Paul on 7 September. His father was Francis (Frank) Bailey (b 1850 in Clitheroe), a cotton weaver. His mother was Jane Patefield (b. 1850 in Clitheroe). Frank and Jane were married in 1880 and they had four children: Herbert (b. 1881), Elizabeth (b. 1882), then Tom, and finally Sarah (b. 1886). Both parents died relatively young: Frank died in 1888 and Jane died in 1903, so in 1911, Tom was living with his sister Sarah at 32 Charlesworth Terrace, Clitheroe. This terrace name no longer exists but it was close to Holmes Mill, which is where they both probably worked, as cotton weavers.
In 1912, Tom married Emily Mitchell (b. 1891 in Clitheroe); she too was a cotton weaver. I don’t think they had any children.
Tom enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery, probably in 1915. He may have initially been posted to “A” Battery of 286 Brigade and he was given service number 681323, but at some stage he, along with a group of about 65 other West Lancs men, was transferred to the regular army, given a new service number, 296746, and re-assigned to a new brigade and division. In Tom’s case, he was posted to “B” Battery of 44th Brigade. 44Bde came under orders of 74th (Yeomanry) Division. At least five other men who were recruited at the same time as Tom were also posted to the same Division. Unfortunately, I don’t know precisely when this transfer occurred. 74th Division had been engaged in Egypt and Palestine from April 1917 to April 1918, when they moved from Egypt to France. So it seems possible/likely that Tom joined them in France in the spring or early summer of 1918.
According to The Long, Long Trail:
On 14 July, the Division took over a sector of front line near Merville and then remained in France and Flanders for the rest of the war, taking part in the following engagements:
The Second Battles of the Somme (Second Battle of Bapaume, 2-3 September 1918)
The Battles of the Hindenburg Line (Battle of Epehy, 18 September 1918)
The Final Advance in Artois and Flanders
The Division crossed the Scheldt on 9 November and two days later the advanced units crossed the Dendre (Dender) Canal. When the Armistice came into effect they had occupied Ath. Five days later the Division moved to the area Rebaix – Herinnes – Tournai, with HQ being at Frasnes-lès-Buissenal. Work was carried out on reparing the Tournai-Leuze railway. King George V visited the Division on 7 December 1918.
Although demobilisation took place principally in the first months of 1919, Divisional HQ was kept in operation near Lessines until 10 July 1919.
Again, we don’t know precisely when Tom came home, but when he did get home he was seriously ill. He died of sarcoma (soft tissue cancer) in the shoulder at Whalley Military Hospital on 31 July 1919, having suffered with the illness for at least the previous 3 months. He was 34 years old.
Service No: 296764 (RFA no. 681323)
Date of Death: 31/07/1919
Regiment/Service: Royal Field Artillery, “B” Bty, 44th Bde.
Grave Reference: 2643
Cemetery: CLITHEROE CEMETERY
After the War, Emily remarried but she herself died in 1923.