Thomas was named after his grandfather, who was a local magistrate and a director of the hat manufacturing firm of Sutton and Torkington (which remained in business until 1964). Thomas' father, William, was also a director of the family business. At the time of the Great War, William and his wife, Thomas' mother, Marie lived at 18 Kennerley Road, Stockport. They had at least two other children - Gladys and Harry (who in 1915 was serving in Egypt with the 6th Battalion, Manchester Regiment).
Thomas decided not to join the family firm and emigrated to Canada in 1913. He settled in Vancouver but spent time away as he was a sailor. When War was declared in August 1914, Thomas was quick to join the army, enlisting on 23 September 1914. The local Stockport newspaper recorded that he originally joined British Columbia's "New Westminster Fusiliers". In fact, at the outbreak of War, the "Royal Westminster Fusiliers" was renamed as the 7th Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force. Perhaps not as evocative a name, but still entirely comprised of ready volunteers from near Vancouver.
Thomas' attestation papers survive at the Canadian National Archives and can be viewed on-line. They allow the reader to form something of an impression of the man. He had been born on 20 September 1892 and stood just over 5 feet 6 inches tall (about average height for those days). His chest measurement was 36.5 inches and he could expand it by a further 2.5 inches. A man of fair complexion, he had brown hair and grey eyes. He'd recorded that he worshipped as a Presbyterian. The army doctor examining him noted that he had a number of distinguishing marks - a scar on his left jaw; another on his left wrist; a mole on right chest; two vaccination marks on left arm. Perhaps not surprising for a sailor, he had anchor and heart tattoos on his left forearm and a ship and clasped hands on the right.
The newly formed Battalion quickly left Canadian shores, arriving in Plymouth on 16 October on HMS Virginian. They trained at Salisbury and, before leaving for France on 11 February 1916, Thomas had time to return to Stockport to see the family.
From 22 February, the various platoons of the Battalion went into the trenches for the first time at Ploegsteert in Belgium, near the border with France. They were to receive first hand instruction, in trench warfare, from experienced units. On the 26th, it was the turn of Thomas' platoon. The Battalion's War Diary for the day records, simply "Trench instruction. One officer, Lt N R Briggs and one Other Rank (17173 Pte T Sutton) killed in action. One OR wounded. Rain". These two men are the battalion's first fatalities and they are buried together in the village churchyard. Almost certainly, they had been killed by shellfire.The Battalion's diarist wrongly record the name of the officer. He was, in fact, Herbert Beaumont Boggs who came from Victoria in British Columbia.