Thomas George Ferguson WARNER M.M.
Rank: Sergeant
Number: 54504
Unit: 47th Battalion MACHINE GUN CORPS
Date of Death: 5 April 1918
Age: 22
Cemetery: AIF Burial Ground, Flers, Somme, France

Thomas had been born in the Levenshulme area of Manchester in the June quarter of 1896 and was named after his father. His older sister, Mary, had been born in late 1894. She had been called after her mother. By the time of the 1901 Census, the family had moved to the Stockport area and was living at 268 Stockport Road, Adwood. By 1914, they had moved again and had settled at "Northdene" in High Lane.

When War was declared in August 1914, Thomas was quick to enlist, joining the 18th Battalion, Manchester Regiment - the third of the "Pals Battalions". His service number was 10740 and he was assigned to No. 13 Platoon, "A" Company. He went overseas in November 1915 and was wounded in June of the following year. He was fortunate to miss the first day of the battle of the Somme , on 1 July, when many of his comrades were killed. He is thought to have returned to duty early in 1917.

The Stockport Advertsier, in its edition of 18 January 1918, reported that Thomas had undertaken an act of bravery for which he had been awarded the Military Medal. By then he had been transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. Another local newspaper  reported that he had taken part in an attack but when the German counter-attacked, his party found itself cut off in a wood for five days. Although they were under almost constant shellfire, they hung on, taking rations from the dead until they were relieved.

The Battalions of the Corps operated 64 heavy Vickers guns, each with a seven man crew. Thomas would have been in charge of one of the teams. When under attack, the gunners had a specific role to fulfil. Their guns would have been positioned behind the front line with their fields of fire inter-locked. As the enemy tried to cross No Man's Land, the guns would fire, at a rate of 500 rounds per minute, cutting down the infantry and breaking up the attack.

On 21 March 1918, the German army had launched an overwhelming attack on the British trenches along a wide front. Within hours, the front line had been over-run and the Tommies were in retreat. Over the coming days, all the gains of the previous two years were lost and Thomas Warner found himself back on the 1916 Somme battlefield. By early April, the attack had started to peter out as the Germans found themselves running low on reserve troops and with an over-extended supply line. However, they were still capable of mounting smaller scale attacks

On 5 April, the 47th Division, of which Thomas' Battalion was part, returned to the front line after a period of rest. At about 6am, the German artillery opened up on their positions. An hour later, the enemy infantry attacked, coming on in small groups rather than in easy-to-hit large parties.

The machine guns were immediately brought to bear, forcing the Germans to take cover. They continued to advance in short bursts, taking cover in shell-holes and dug-in about 500 yards away from the British front line. Throughout the morning, the enemy made several attempts to advance but failed and, at 11am, they retired. 30 minutes later, German trench mortar fire opened on the Battalion's position but was silenced by the machine gunners.

Thomas was reported to have been killed by shellfire, although it is not known if this was the trench mortar fire or the earlier bombardment.

Further details, including a photograph, can be found in the book "Remembered" by P Clarke, A Cook and J Bintliff.

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