Thomas WROE
Rank: Private
Number: 38229
Unit: D Company, 15th Battalion WEST YORKSHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 3 May 1917
Age: 27
Cemetery: Arras Memorial, Pas de Calais, France

The Wroe family originated from Bury and Thomas and Martha's five older children, including Thomas, had been born in the town. They had moved to Stockport in the mid-1890s where Thomas, senior, worked as a stoker in a gas works. By 1901, when the census was taken, another three children had been born. The whole family, now comprising 10 people lived in just four rooms at 8 Harrison Street (and, later, at 19 Hill Street).

In the last months of 1911, Thomas married Emily Price at St Augustine's Church, Brinksway. The couple moved to Uppermill around this time, probably living on Bridge Street (where Emily was known to be living in the 1920s).

British forces had opened the Battle of  Arras on 9 April 1917 and they were still attacking nearly a month later. Thomas was to be killed in one of these large scale subsequent advances when the troops again attacked along a 12 mile front east of Arras.

The West Yorkshires had taken over the front line trenches in this sector on the night of 29/30 April. By 2am, on the 3rd, they were ready in their assembly positions. Thomas and his mates of "D" Company" would lead the Battalion attack on the right, with "B" on the left. "A" and "C" would be in close support. Their total strength was 547.

The Battalion's War Diary comments that the enemy "seemed very nervous" during the night, and no doubt anticipating an attack had bombarded the British lines. At 3.45am, the British covering barrage opened up and the men advanced , reaching the first objective without serious losses.

Until 5.30am, Battalion Headquarters received no news of how the attack was going, but around then, wounded men started to come back in. It became clear from their reports that the troops had failed to reach the second objective and were under severe pressure. The Commanding Officer correctly assumed that a counter attack might be imminent and he ordered all available men to man the front line trench. They were very few but he also collected some lightly wounded men and, in total, 80 of them were on duty. They were able to direct rifle fire onto small groups of the enemy who could be seen moving from trench to trench over the open ground.

As the morning wore on, it became clear what had happened. Battalions on either side of the west Yorkshires had not been able to advance sufficiently to give protection on the flanks. The enemy had seized on this opportunity and counter-attacked in force. By mid morning the Germans, some 400 strong, could be seen advancing but this was broken up by well aimed British artillery shelling. In the late morning, other units came from reserve to support the men in the front line trench and the remainder of the day passed relatively quietly.

By evening, it was clear that the attack had been a failure. Only three officers had returned. When the roll was called, it was recorded that 15 men were known to be dead and another 122 wounded. However the fate of a further 262 was unknown. In due course, the final death toll was recorded as 157.

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