The Sumners had lived at 40 Barron Street, Portwood, for many years. Thomas, senior, was a labourer in a cotton mill and was married to Mary. The 1901 Census shows they had five children and Thomas was their eldest son (and second child). When he left school, he went to work locally at the Beehive Mills where he became a twiner piecer.
When War was declared in August 1914, it’s thought that Thomas went to enlist quite quickly. He travelled to Chester to do so and in doing so, probably had an intention to join the Cheshire Regiment. If he had enlisted in Stockport, it may have been “pot luck”. However, he found himself assigned to the 4th (Reserve) Battalion of the Lancashire Fusiliers and was given the service number of 19472. He will have undertaken his basic training with the Fusiliers but before he went overseas he was transferred to the artillery.
The 76th Brigade was newly formed and, in July 1915, it was assigned to the Guards Division as one of its artillery support units. By October 1916, the Battle of the Somme had been underway for three months and slow progress had been made in the advance. On 11 October, the Brigade moved to new firing positions near Needle Trench, close to the village of Guedecourt. The unit’s War Diary is scant on details during this period, noting only that the enemy positions were bombarded over the following days. Sometime during this period, Thomas was badly wounded, most probably by retaliatory enemy shellfire.
He was taken to one of the two field hospitals a few miles away at Meaulte where army surgeons would have done all they could to save his life, but without success.