Thomas Edwin MASON
Rank: Private
Number: 220027
Unit: 2/4th Battalion BERKSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 18 November 1917
Age: 34
Cemetery: Brown’s Copse Cemetery, Roeux, Pas de Calais, France

Edwin Mason was 30 when he got married in 1883. His bride was 18 year old Eliza Bradley and the service was held at St Mary’s Church, Heaton Reddish. Thomas was born a few months later. He had a younger sister, Florrie, born in about 1886. When the census was taken in 1901, the family was living at 20 Mellor Street, Portwood and Thomas was working as a cotton spinner in one of the local mills.

In 1906, he married Margaret Alice Peel at Tiviot Dale Methodist Church and, over the years, they would have three children together. By the time of the Great War he had changed jobs and was then working for British Westinghouse at the company’s factory in Trafford Park.

He enlisted into the army, probably as a conscript, at Manchester and was assigned to the Cheshire Regiment. His service number was 243642 which is consistent with him being a member of the 5th Battalion – one of its pre-War Territorial units. Six-digit numbers were not issued until the beginning of 1917, dating his departure from Britain to go on acitve service to after this. At some point he was transferred to the Berkshires. It is possible that this was immediately on arrival in France and might have occurred if the Berkshires were suddenly in desperate need of replacement troops.

Roeux was a small village alongside the ArrasDouai railway. Its main pre-War employer was a large agricultural chemical works and the area around the works was the scene of intense fighting from April 1917 until the late autumn. During the afternoon of 18 November, the army conducted an exercise which may have cost Thomas his life.

At 3pm, there was a large scale discharge of smoke across the British front line which drifted towards the Germans. The intention was to see what would happen and if it would deceive them into thinking that an attack was imminent. They would then fire off all their artillery ammunition and be out of supply when the real attack followed later. Perhaps there was a further intent to do this several times with no attack taking place so the German sentries would eventually stop “crying wolf”. The plan certainly worked and the Germans shelled the British trenches. For protection most troops had been withdrawn from the front trenches and it was only lightly held. Thomas may well have been one of those holding the front line.

In the early evening, the troops on the right raided the enemy trench and the Germans again retaliated with shelling. If the afternoon bombardment had not killed Thomas, the evening one certainly did.

After a period of grieving, Margaret remarried in 1921. her new husband was John Woolley and they are known to have lived at 3 Cecil Street, Stockport.

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