Tom's father, John Henry Speak was a local man who, at the time of the 1901 Census, was aged 26 and working as railway clerk. In the early summer of 1896, he had married Elizabeth Markham, 24, who had been born in Shrewsbury. Tom was born soon after.
Nothing is known about Tom's life but he did enlist into the army, at Stockport. The Battalion was formed at Port Sunlight on Wirral at the beginning of September 1914 and went overseas the following year. Tom's service number suggests he joined up between May and July 1915
The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July with little success, except in the south of the battlefield. Some small gains had been made in the centre and, on 5 July, the Cheshires occupied newly captured trenches at La Boiselle. These would be the Battalion's jumping-off point for a further attack on the morning of the 7th. The trenches formed a salient into the German line and the Battalion would attack parallel to the main German front and in their full view. It was not a good omen.
The Regimental History describes the attack "It had been arranged that the attack should be protected by smoke and by an intense barrage. But there was no smoke and our men thought the barrage particularly feeble. It is probable that, as the wind dropped, the smoke rose at once. Our advance, being thus unscreened, drew heavy artillery fire. This fire, together with machine gun fire from front and flanks, stopped the attack about half way to Ovillers.......The 13th Battalion lost eight officers killed...eleven other officers were wounded. 243 NCOs and men were killed or wounded. "
Tom was amongst the dead. His body was never found and identified.