Tom was married to Martha and they lived at 9 Oak Street, Cheadle Heath. His father, also called Tom, is thought to have lived nearby.
His original service number, 2370, indicates Tom was either a pre-war member of the Territorial Army Battalion or enlisted within days of war being declared on 4 August 1914. An account of the Battalion’s early months of service is here.
On 21 June 1917, the Battalion moved from the front line area to billets at Moulle (approximately 25 kilometres south east of Calais). For the next several days, it undertook training exercises. The unit’s War Diary records that, on 28 June, it “engaged in special training for open warfare on training area. Close order drill, bayonet fighting, physical training, range finding and musketry contributed to the programme of training carried out.” It notes that one soldier was killed and one was injured and required hospital treatment.
Regimental records suggest that the soldier killed was William Ratcliffe. However, the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records that both Private Ratcliffe and Tom were killed in action that day. Ratcliffe is buried near to where an army medical unit was based in Belgium so may be the soldier recorded as being wounded. This does not explain why Tom is missing from regimental records, not why he is buried nearly 90 kilometres away from the training area. It is possible that Tom was temporarily attached to another, unknown, unit and was killed whilst serving with them. With the passage of time, it is impossible to be sure what happened to him or William Ratcliffe.