Tom SCHOFIELD
Rank: Private
Number: PO/1356/SS
Unit: 2nd Battalion, Royal Naval Division ROYAL MARINE LIGHT INFANTRY
Date of Death: 28 April 1917
Age: 26
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

Tom was the youngest of the five children of Ellis and Mary Jane Schofield. In 1901, when the national census was taken, the family was living at 24 Holly Street, Stockport where Ellis earned his living as a collector for the Council’s Gas Department. They later moved to 205 Turncroft Lane. Nothing else is known of Tom’s life until he enlisted around the late spring of 1916. He was assigned to the Marines and went overseas on active service on 25 September 1916.

9 April 1917 saw the opening of the British offensive which would later be designated as the Battle of Arras. On the 24th, the Battalion moved from reserve positions to take over a section of the front line which had been captured from the Germans the previous day. Over the next three days, they were heavily shelled and fatalities were experienced on each day. Late on the 27th, they moved to assembly positions ready for an attack at 4.25, the next morning.

Their objective would be some unfinished German trenches north east of the village of Gavrelle. One platoon would be detached to attack a windmill which stood on nearby high ground. The men attacked in four waves, with the single platoon quickly capturing the windmill. In spite of heavy shelling intended to batter down the barbed wire protecting the German trenches, it was found to be destroyed in only place, but the three attacking companies of Marines poured through the break. By 7.30, all the objectives had been captured but there had been a heavy loss of men.

They had been subject to machine gun fire as they crossed No Man’s Land and, now in the enemy trench system, found themselves subject to even heavier fire from both flanks. The battalion intended to support their flank had been unable to advance very far before becoming pinned down and this now left the Marines in a dangerous salient surrounded by Germans on three sides.

Around 10am, the Germans started to mount counter-attacks and, at the same time, their machine gun fire was preventing the fourth Marine company from advancing to support their comrades. Many were forced to surrender but the remainder managed to hold on until the evening when they were relieved. Tom was originally posted as being missing but nothing was ever heard of him again and, in December 1917, an official presumption of death was made. Over 160 Marines had been killed and nearly 200 more taken prisoner.

   
           
   
     
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