Thomas DUTTON
Rank: Guardsman
Number: 23680
Unit: 3rd Battalion GRENADIER GUARDS
Date of Death: Between 14 17 September 1916
Age: 21
Cemetery: Thiepval Memorial, Somme, France

Little is known about Thomas's life and, as will be seen above, even his date of death is not known with certainty. Regimental records, published after the War, note that he had been born in Manchester but he enlisted at Crewe. His next of kin was his sister, Mrs Mary Wrigley, 154 Chatham Street, Edgeley and it was, no doubt, she who was responsible for ensuring his name was included on the Stockport War Memorial.

The Battle of the Somme had started on 1 July, but the Grenadiers were not in the area at this time and didn't arrive until the middle of August. They undertook periods of duty in the trenches throughout the month and into early September. On the 12th, they were brought forward ready to take part in another major attack in the south of the battlefield towards the village of Flers. The plan was that 3rd Grenadiers would lead the Brigade attack on the right with 1st Coldstreams to their left.

They moved into assembly positions during the night of 14/15th September and were ready by 4am. The men received sandwiches and a tot of rum before they went "over the top" at 6.20am.

The Regimental History notes that keeping direction was difficult as there were no landmarks and the battlefield was masked by early morning mist. Having crossed No Man's Land, the Grenadiers fought their way to the German second line trench system. This was only a series of joined-up shellholes but heavily garrisoned. The Germans fought with the utmost bravery until they were all shot or bayoneted. By now, the various units were mixed up and there had been heavy casualties, but the Guards pressed to secure their first main objective.

The attack had been a success. After a brief rest and reorganisation, they pushed on again towards what they believed to be the second objective securing it a short while later. It was only later in the day when an aeroplane reported back that, in fact, they had stopped half-way to the objective.

3rd grenadiers held their position all day until about 6pm, when the Germans launched a strong counter-attack forcing them to withdraw. They were relieved late on the 16th, but had been under artillery attack the whole day.

In the chaos, it is unsurprising that a complete record of when men were killed was not maintained. Thomas' body was never recovered and identified and his name is now inscribed on the memorial to the Missing at nearby Thiepval.

   
           
   
     
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