Thomas MCCUMSKY/MCCUMSKEY (McCamskey as spelt on Memorial)
Rank: Private
Number: 263133
Unit: 7th Battalion BORDER Regiment
Date of Death: 3 August 1918
Age: 18
Cemetery: Harponville Communal Cemetery Extension, Somme, France

There is considerable uncertainty about the actual spelling of Thomas' surname. This is not that uncommon in a time when literacy levels could be quite low in families. It is spelt McCamskey on the Stockport War Memorial, although another inscription on the same Memorial to L McCumsky is almost certainly his brother Luke. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission, using regimental records, has it as McCumskey. Records of his birth, registered at Stockport, record it as McCumasky and, finally, the 1901 Census spells the family name as McCummasky. It is probable that when asked for their surname, the family members would not have known how to spell it and it's been left to the various officials who recorded the information phonetically.

It is, therefore, somewhat difficult to be absolutely certain about the man' identity. However, only one family with a likely variant of the name's spelling is listed on the Census and had a connection with the Stockport area (as above). This family included James (34, a grinder in a cotton mill) and Margaret, 31. Their children were George (10), James (8), Luke (4), Margaret (6), Mary (12) and Thomas (2).

Assuming this is the right family then Thomas had been born in the autumn of 1899 and was about 18 when he was killed. Details of his entitlement to service medals are available on-line at the National Archives and these reveal that he had a reasonably extensive military service before being assigned to the Borders. He must have lied about his age, then about 15, to join up in early 1915. He was first assigned to the Cyclist Company of the Welsh Division (service number 299) which was formed in May 1915. Later he was transferred to the Army Cyclist Corps (service number19973). The Cyclists undertook reconnaissance patrols in the early part of the war and, later, worked as despatch riders.

At some point, he may have been wounded or ill and out of action for some time. When he had recovered and was ready to return to duty, he was assigned to the Royal Welch Fusiliers. His service number, 238094, is consistent with this being to the Regiment's 4th Battalion, sometime after early January 1917. He was later transferred to the Borders, perhaps after another period of injury. His final service number is consistent with this being to the 5th Territorial Battalion. There was a re-organisation of battalions in the early summer of 1918 and this is probably when Thomas ended up in the 7th battalion.

On 28 July 1918, Thomas and his mates started another tour of duty in the front line in Aveluy Wood in the heart of the Somme battlefield which had seen such hard fighting in 1916 and, again, earlier in 1918. The Battalion's War Diary notes that 150 Americans from the 2nd Battalion, 318th Infantry Regiment were attached to be "broken in to the line". The next day, enemy artillery "whiz-banged our line. Trench mortars accounted for the first casualties amongst the Americans, 2 killed and 3 wounded."

On the 30th "Quite a lively day. Started with a "Chinese attack" in which all the artillery were engaged firing smoke, shrapnel, high explosive. Our Lewis Guns fired 3000 rounds, Americans took part in that. The return fire was not heavy - "D" Company suffered 5 casualties, 2 killed, 3 wounded." The next two days were quiet enough for the Battalion diarist to record that the Commanding Officer's horse "The Woman" had won a race (presumably in the UK)

On 2 August, 2nd Lieutenant Stewart took a patrol out into No Man's Land during the hours of darkness. They found that the enemy had withdrawn and, in consequence, the British were able to move forward during the day and set up a new front line. The next day "Holding new line. Enemy very quiet. Only a few shells on new positions, resulting in 3 casualties to "C" Company."

Thomas was one of the casualties. The other men killed were William Henderson from Wolsingham, Durham and George Surridge from Chelmsford, Essex. They are buried near to each other in the War Graves Cemetery next to the village church at Harponville.

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