Thomas PALFREYMAN
Rank: Private
Number: 36910
Unit: 19th Battalion LANCASHIRE FUSILIERS
Date of Death: 25 April 1918
Age:
Cemetery: Tyne Cot Memorial, Zonnebeke, Belgium

Nothing is known about Thomas, except that Regimental records published after the War (and now available as a CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War") indicate he was born the Stockport area and enlisted in the town. When he joined up, he was assigned to the Monmouthshire Regiment (service number 4410). His medal entitlement records at the National Archives do not mention this, confirming that he never served abroad with the Regiment. He was, no doubt, transferred to the Fusiliers when he had completed his training.

On 9 April 1918, the Germans opened the second phase of their spring offensive around the border between Belgium and France in what would become known as the Battle of the Lys. The fighting was still going on two weeks later. The 19th Battalion of the Fusiliers was a Pioneer Battalion. They were trained fighting soldiers, but their main job was in the construction of trenches and strong-points. During a major attack, they would follow the leading waves of troops and undertake the consolidation of any captured positions. Between the 22nd and 24th April, they were engaged on this task, digging a communication trench from the rear area towards the front line at the south east corner of Mt. Kemmel (about 6 miles south west of Ypres).

The Regimental History recounts "At 2.30am on the 25th, the German artillery opened a heavy bombardment with high explosives and lachrymatory and mustard gas as had been foretold by a prisoner taken by the French the previous evening. The infantry assault followed at 6am when the Germans over-ran the French positions and, in a little over an hour, had seized Kemmel village and Mt. Kemmel with its invaluable observation".

The Battalion now took up the best defensive position it could, around a farm on a spur of the hill known as Little Kemmel. They were continuously attacked until the enemy succeeded in working round both flanks when surrender or death became the only possibilities.

"In spite of a gallant and prolonged resistance against overwhelming odds, the Battalion had met with disaster owing to a German advance of a rapidity which could not have been foreseen and which should not have been possible."

Thomas Palfreyman and Arthur Wray were two of the 58 men from the Battalion who were killed during the day. Few have a known grave. Gerald Griffiths was one of the many taken prisoner. He died on 31 May

   
           
   
     
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