Thomas G WARD
Rank: Private
Number: 4629
Unit: 5th (Princess Charlotte of Wales’) DRAGOON GUARDS
Date of Death: 13th May 1915
Cemetery: Menin Gate Memorial, Ieper, Belgium

Thomas had been born in Burnley and, as a young man, had served as regular soldier during the Boer War. He had left the army sometime before the Great War and, when war was declared, he was living in the Stockport area with his wife and two children. He worked for the London and North Western Railway Company as a "fire dropper" at Stockport. The fire dropper's job was to clear locomotive boilers of old ashes, etc. Thomas would later be commemorated on the LNWR's Roll of Honour of its employees who died.  He was still on the army reserve list and was recalled in August 1914.

He will have taken part in all the cavalry actions of the early weeks of the war, starting with the Battle of Mons on 23 August. As the fighting stagnated into trench warfare, the Dragoon Guards were increasingly used as ordinary infantry manning the trench line.

The Germans had launched an attack that would become known as the Second Battle of Ypres on 22 April 1915 and fighting continued almost all the way through May. There had been many casualties and units had to be temporarily amalgamated to maintain a chain of command. This probably accounts for why Thomas was attached to the 1st Life Guards on the day he was killed.

On 12 May, Thomas and his comrades took over a section of the front line near the village of Vlamertinghe (to the west of the town centre of Ypres - now Ieper).

The next day, the Guards War Diary records they were shelled from 4am to 7am. "This was unquestionably the heaviest bombardment the Regiment had ever experienced during the campaign. The enemy's "minenwerfer" (Note: trench mortars) were particularly effective. At 7am, the enemy's infantry advanced. They did not appear to be in any great strength and made a frontal attack on "B" Squadron."

At 7.10, it was noticed the right of Brigade line was retiring. "A" Squadron was involved in this retirement. Regiment less "A" Squadron hung on for another ten minutes, when it was forced to retire. They rallied behind a mound 100 yards in rear of the support trench, but the enemy advanced feebly and presented no target. Throughout the day, the trenches were heavily shelled. In all, the enemy's guns fired on the position for 16 consecutive hours."

At 8.30pm, the Guards retired to near the village of Potijze. 5th Dragoon Guards had lost 16 men killed, including Thomas; 1st Life Guards had lost another 19. In the retirement, they will not have been able to bury their dead. Thomas body may have been buried by the advancing Germans but, if so, it's location was lost over the course of the War. He now has no known grave and is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing at Ieper.

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