Thomas BURKE
Rank: Private
Number: 316299
Unit: 23rd Battalion CHESHIRE REGIMENT
Date of Death: 7 September 1918
Cemetery: Ploegsteert Memorial, Hainaut, Belgium

Regimental records indicate Thomas had been born in Manchester and enlisted into the army at Stockport. The 1901 Census lists a boy, aged 10, living in the town, who had been born in Manchester and this may be the same person.

His original service number, 3250, confirms that Thomas enlisted in approximately 1916 and was originally assigned to one of the Cheshire Regiment's Territorial Battalions - probably the local 6th Battalion. It is not known why or when he was transferred to the 23rd Battalion, which was formed on 1 January 1917 for Home Service only. However, due to the number of casualties in the previous two months, the Battalion was sent on active service, landing at Calais on 21 May 1918.

On 6 September, Thomas and his comrades were in front line trenches at the Pont de Nieppe, in northern France, near the town of Armentieres. Nieppe had been lost in the German attacks of the spring of 1918, but had been retaken on 3 September. During the day, they were relieved by the 13th Battalion, East Lancashire Regiment. The Battalion's War Diary notes that "B" Company had difficulty in "extricating themselves from their positions" and their acting company commander, 2nd Lieutenant V R Campbell, was killed.

The Battalion then moved back to billets at Lupin Farm near Grand Beaumart. During the evening, a party of stretcher bearers under the Battalion's Medical Officer, Lieutenant Phibbs, managed to bring in several wounded from the area.

About 5pm on the 7th, there were several fruitless attempts to recover the body of Lieutenant Campbell which was, presumably, still lying in the open. His body must have been recovered sometime later as he is buried at Pont-de-Nieppe Cemetery where is grave is maintained by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

The War Diary records all the casualties as occurring on 7 September, although this seems unlikely as by this day, most of the men were in billets. It does note that 8 soldiers had been killed and another 3 were missing. Thomas was one of those missing. His body was never recovered and identified and he is commemorated on the Memorial to the Missing just across the border into Belgium.

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