Thomas CLAYTON
Rank: Lance Corporal
Number: 13299
Unit: 11th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 26 September 1916
Age: 43
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Thomas was born in Tunstall, Staffordshire. It's thought that his parents were George and Maria and that he was the oldest of their five children. This is based on the 1901 Census which records a man of the right age, born in Staffordshire, living with his parents and siblings at 48 Victoria Street, Stockport.

In 1906, the future soldier married Harriett Wild in a civil ceremony registered at Stockport. They lived at 15 Lincoln Street in the Portwood area of town and would have three children together. When War came in 1914, Thomas left his job of 25 years at Palmer Mills Ltd on Mersey Street and joined up at Manchester.

There is some doubt about the date of Thomas' death. Official records show it as 26 September but the letter below, from his company commander, indicates it was during the night of 27/28th or 28/29th. There was very confused fighting on these days during the Battle of the Somme and it is, perhaps, no surprise that the normally precise recording of casualty details has not occurred (or, alternatively, that the officer was unsure exactly when he had been killed). In fact, an examination of Regimental records published after the War (and now available on the CD-ROM "Soldiers Died in the Great War") indicate that the Battalion suffered 70 casualties in these three days and all but two are recorded as being on the 26th , with none on the 28th. This seems most unlikely and it is probable that a single imprecise casualty report was submitted for the period covering the attack.

A major attack was scheduled for the 26th, in the heart of the battlefield around Thiepval and a location known as Mouquet Farm (Mucky Farm to the Tommies). In Thomas' sector, the actual attack would be led by other units and 11th Manchesters would be held in reserve at Crucifix Corner, Aveluy, ready to go forward as reinforcements.

The initial attack had gone well and, at 11am, three parties of specialist grenade throwers were sent forward to assist the 9th Lancashire Fusiliers at the Farm. In the early afternoon, a full platoon was sent to the Farm as the enemy was still holding out there but, by late afternoon, the Battalion was able to go forward to occupy the ground around the now captured Farm. There was a further advance at 7.45 towards another, unidentified, objective.

"S" Company was able to secure its objective but the remainder of the Battalion could make no headway against determined German resistance. At 4.20am on the 27th, the position was this - "S" Company in the newly secured objective, "P" and "R" Companies in High Trench and "Q" Company held in reserve on the original British front line. Further small advances were made during the daylight hours of the 27th. By early evening, the Battalion was in possession of the southern portions of Hessian Trench and the Zollern Redoubt, but were under fire from the enemy who were still in possession of other parts of their trench system.

During the night, an attempt was made to work through the trench system using the well-practiced tactic of throwing grenades to clear the way. The German gradually pulled back and, at about 6.45am on the 28th, the officer in command reported the Germans were then only 30 yards away but were in force.

Reinforcements were sent up and the process of consolidating the gains and igging new communication trenches began.

Thomas' captain wrote to Harriett "I am very sorry to have to inform you that your husband 13299 Lance Corporal Clayton was killed in the big battle of September 28th. I am thankful to say he suffered no pain, for a shell burst close to him during the night and he died without regaining consciousness. I known how great your grief will be: but you will know he died fighting for justice and to die for justice is to die for Christ. May he and all his fellow comrades who have made the great sacrifice rest in peace. You have my deepest sympathy."

   
           
   
     
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