Thomas Herbert DIXON M.C.
Rank: Captain
Unit: 12th Battalion MANCHESTER REGIMENT
Date of Death: 25 August 1918
Age: 24
Cemetery: Delville Wood Cemetery, Longueval, Somme, France

Thomas Herbert Dixon suffers the indignity of having his name wrongly inscribed as J H Dixon on the Heaton Moor War Memorial, close to his family home. It is correctly recorded as T H Dixon on the Stockport War Memorial.

He was the eldest son of Herbert and Helen Dixon. Herbert, senior, was a very successful merchant and shipper. When the 1901 Census was taken, the family was living at Alder House, Burford Road, Whalley Range , Manchester. The Census lists their four children - Thomas (who was later always known as Herbert), Alfred, Elsie and Arnold. The family could afford to employ four live-in servants - a cook, housemaid, and a nurse and undernurse to look after the children.

Herbert, junior, was educated locally at Hulme Grammar School and then went to Mill Hill, a boarding school north of London. Whilst he was there, he was a sergeant in the Officer Training Corps. He later attended Caius College, Cambridge but it is not known if he obtained his degree.

By the time of the Great War, the family was living at Berne Cottage on Heaton Moor Road. A note in his service file at the National Archives indicates he was married to Helen by this time (but it has not been possible to find a date of marriage and she is not listed as his next of kin). He joined the army soon after War was declared and, as with many young middle class men, he was quickly selected to become an officer and received his commission as a 2nd Lieutenant in December 1914. He was posted to the newly formed 12th Battalion. Shortly before the Battalion went overseas on active service in July 1915, Herbert was quickly promoted to Captain and was put in command of one of its four companies.

In February, he will have heard the sad news that his younger brother, Alfred, had been posted as missing. It would not be until August 1917 that confirmation came that he had been wounded and taken prisoner by the Germans, dying very soon afterwards.

Towards the end of April 1916, he was wounded in the right leg by a piece of shrapnel from an exploding shell. After initial treatment at a military field hospital, he left Le Havre for Southampton on the 20th aboard the St Patrick. On arrival back in Blighty, he was admitted to Lady Northcliffe's Hospital in London but was later moved nearer home and became a patient at 2nd Western General Hospital which was spread over several building throughout the Manchester area. He recovered quite quickly and returned to duty in July.

On 30 May 1917, Herbert was granted nine days leave and, no doubt, returned home to see family. A couple of months later, he suffered a minor injury to his ankle which kept him from duty until 9 September. He was again on leave for a week form 24 January 1918.

On 21 March, the Germans launched a long-anticipated attack on the British positions. The following days saw the British being overwhelmed and forced into a retreat of many miles along a wide front. It's believed that it was sometime during this period that Herbert undertook an act of bravery for which he was awarded the Military Cross. The official citation, published in the London Gazette on 26 July, reads "For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty when he took his Company forward to clear away the enemy who were reported to be cutting wire under cover of darkness when he led his men with great coolness."

The Allied attack that would end the War in November started on 8 August and, from that date, there were no more serious reverses although many men would still be killed in what has become known as The Hundred Days. On the 24th, Herbert and his men moved into assembly positions near Mailly-Maillet in the heart of the 1916 Somme battlefield.

At 4am the next morning, the advance started. "A" and "C" Companies led the way, followed by "B" and "D" Companies - the latter commanded by Herbert. The Battalion's War Diary contains scant details but records that they advanced 4000 yards in good order, capturing and securing the village of Martinpuich but were then held up by heavy machine gun fire for the remainder of the day. Herbert was amongst the 31 men killed.

After Herbert was killed, his commanding officer wrote to the family "I knew your son well and he was an excellent company commander. One always knew that any part of the line he was holding was safe. He always had a complete grasp of the situation. He studied his men's comforts and they liked and respected him - so did I. I recommended him on more than one occasion."

Correspondence from 1922 in Herbert's file at the National Archives confirms that he was originally buried near to where he died. It was recorded as being 750 yards south of Martinpuich. Many of these small front-line burial areas were closed as the land was returned to civilian use in the 1920s. Herbert's body will have been exhumed and reburied at Delville Wood where his grave is now tended by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission.

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