Thomas HOPWOOD
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 52045
Unit: 1st Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 12 April 1918
Age: 33
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainault, Belgium

When the 1901 Census, 15 year old Thomas Hopwood was working as a creeler at a cotton mill. He lived with his parents, John and Eliza, at the family home on Flowery Field, Woodsmoor, Stockport. He had an older sister, Alice, and four younger siblings, Frances (then 11), John (8), Sarah (5) and Allen (1).

In 1910, he married Harriet Hudson at St Paul's Church, Portwood and they thought to have set up home together at 25 Caister Street, Brinnington. By the time of the Great War, they had one child. Thomas worked for the joinery department of Stockport Corporation's Education Department. He enlisted into the army on 13 March 1916, joining the Cheshire Regiment (service number 30613). His medal entitlement records at the National Archives indicate that he never served aboard with the Cheshires and was, presumably, transferred to the Fusiliers when he completed his training.

On 9 April, the German Army launched the second phase of it's Spring Offensive in what was later officially designated as the Battle of the Lys (after the river which ran through the battlefield). Thomas and his comrades were in Ypres and were ordered south to assist with a counter attack on the Somme. The orders were changed and, by 6.30am on the 10th they had moved by bus to Vieux Berquin and marched to Robermetz where they took up outpost positions.

In the late afternoon, they received orders to take up positions between Pont Tournant and Petit Mortier. This is to the south east of the French town of Bailleul. . However, at 6.50, they received orders to halt where they were on the march and set up a defensive position. They quickly dug in with "A" and "B" Companies in the forward zone and "C" and "D" in support.

The Regimental History records there as some fighting during the morning of the 11th and, at 1pm, the Battalion was ordered forward to support the front line. They suffered many casualties as they did so and found the strength of the German attack too strong to resist. At 5.30pm a withdrawal of 1000 yards was ordered. The Battalion was now reduced to about 250 men - a little more than a quarter of a full strength Battalion.

At 2am on the 12th, a further withdrawal was ordered. Not surprisingly, it was difficult to accomplish this is the dark and it was only just before dawn that the move was completed. By 10am, the Fusiliers' Commanding Officer could see the troops on the left were falling back and, later, similar retirements were taking place on the right. No direct attack came on to the Fusiliers positions but, by 1.45pm, the Germans had succeeded in working round to the rear of the Battalion's left flank and there was now no option but to undertake a further retreat.

The History records "This movement proved to be very costly to the already weak unit as practically no cover was available."

A further withdrawal was ordered at 5.30pm. "The orders for the withdrawal never reached Capt. Lockwood who with 18 men and two Lewis guns was on the extreme right of the line. He found at dusk that the Germans were on both his flanks and also in a Cemetery not a hundred yards in front. But as he had no orders to move, he determined to hold on and he did so, keeping the enemy back and inflicting heavy losses on him until the supply of ammunition was exhausted." (Lockwood was able to lead his men to safety, rejoining the main force around dawn on the 13th)

By 8pm, the Battalion (now only 150 strong) was in its new position back at Vieux Berquin where it dug in and passed a quiet night.

   
           
   
     
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