Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 306504
Unit: 1/8th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 27 September 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: Ribecourt Road Cemetery, Trescault, Pas de Calais, France

Thomas parents, John and Caroline, both originated from the South West but had married locally at St Mary's Church, Reddish. When the Census was taken in 1901, they had seven children and the whole family was living in four rooms at 1 Mill Lane, Reddish. The eldest child was 18 year old John and Thomas, then 4, was the youngest.

Thomas was educated at North Reddish Council School and was member of the Old Scholars Association. He enlisted into the army in October 1915, leaving his job at the local cotton spinning mill of Thomas Houldsworth Ltd. By then the family had moved to 19 Westbourne Grove (and, by the 1920s, was at 17 Spencer Street).

Six digit service numbers were not issued to infantry soldiers before the beginning of 1917 and Thomas' medal entitlement records at the National Archives confirm this is the only number he held whilst serving abroad. Although it is not known when he did go on active service, it can be said with reasonable certainty that it was after January 1917.

Allied forces had been on the advance since August 1918 but the Germans had proved to be no "pushover". By late September, the advance had reached the prepared German defensive line known as the Hindenberg Line. The 27th would see Thomas and his comrades in 42nd Division tasked with breaching the Line and carrying through an attack to a planned depth of two miles, east of Trescault.

The attack started just after 8am. In Thomas' sector, his Battalion was on the left and the 1/7th Battalion on the right. As they moved forward, they came under heavy machine gun fire from German positions near Beaucamp. A British artillery barrage, designed to "soften up" the Germans prior to the attack, had missed its targets. It had also failed to smash the barbed wire protecting the enemy trench system. Within minutes, all of "C" Company's officers were killed or wounded and only one officer remained with "A" Company. In spite of this, Sergeants led the men on and they captured their first objective. But they had lost 141 men - dead, wounded or missing.

In the early afternoon, the Battalion advanced again and captured its second objective with relative ease. Patrols pushed forward from this and one platoon from "A" Company managed to reach the third objective, but had to fall back to avoid the British artillery shelling which had now readjusted its range. Although costly in terms of the loss of men, the day had been a success and 200 prisoners had been captured.

When the local newspaper reported Thomas death, it noted that he had two older brothers serving in the army. There are no other men called Hillier listed on Stockport area War memorials so, presumably, they survived.

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