Thomas Alfred HUGHSTON
Rank: Private
Number: 70250
Unit: 15th Battalion ROYAL WELSH FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 29 September 1917
Age: 17
Cemetery: Erquinghem-Lys Churchyard Extension, Nord, France

One of the myths of the Great War is of thousands upon thousands of underage boys enlisting and being sent off to be slaughtered in the trenches. Numbers are, in fact, greatly exaggerated but Thomas' death shows that it did happen. He was born on 24 February 1901 and was just one month old when the Census was taken. His parents, Thomas and Sarah, had married in 1899 at Holy Trinity Church, Bickerton (near Nantwich). The Census shows the family living at 34 Gloucester Street, Chester and they had lived there for some while. Thomas worked nearby as a parcel porter at a railway station.

When War broke out in 1914, the family had moved to Stockport and was living at 9 Vicarage Road, Adswood. Thomas, junior, was working for David Thorniley & Sons Ltd at the Company's Junction Works at 22 Shaw Heath. The firm made equipment for cotton mills which separated the thread on the looms. In his spare time, he was a member of the St Georges Lads Drill Company and was one of its drummers. He now had three brothers, also born before the move to Stockport - Harold, Alfred and Albert

His father was the first to join the army, enlisting in October 1915 and being assigned to the Royal Garriosn Artillery. He was discharged from the army in February 1918 as no longer fit for duty after being gassed.

His son joined up in March 1917 and was assigned to the Montgomeryshire Yeomanry and given the service number 135698. Thomas' service papers do not appear to have survived a fire in the 1940s so it cannot be known if he lied about his age to enlist. It is more probable that the army was originally aware of his age and that it was intended that, after training, he would remain in the UK until he was 18. Whether through error or a "blind eye being turned" Thomas was posted abroad in August to serve with the Fusiliers.

After a period in reserve billets, Thomas and his new mates started another tour of duty in the front line on 26 September. The Battalion's War Diary notes that this was quiet time over the coming days. "Nothing of importance to report". The entry for the 29th records "The first bit of shelling experienced by the Bn while in this sector.....trenches and Bn HQ shelled." Inexplicably, the diary writer also notes "No casualties", yet this is the day official records show Thomas as having been killed.

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