Thomas FERGUSON
Rank: Private
Number: 28300
Unit: 1/4th Battalion King’s Shropshire Light Infantry
Date of Death: 7 June 1918 (or 6 June 1918)
Age: 35
Cemetery: Soissons Memorial, Aisne, France

In the summer of 1873, Thomas Ferguson married Mary Stokes at St Mary's Church, Cheadle. Other than the future soldier, it's not known if they had other children. Thomas died in the summer of 1889 and, the following year, Mary married James Dickinson at All Saints, Heaton Norris.

In 1901, when the Census was taken, the family was living at 35 Brinksway Road, Stockport. Also in the house were James' sons from a previous marriage, James and William and 17 year old Sarah Barlow who is recorded as being James' stepdaughter. Thomas worked as a bricklayer and it is possible that he helped his stepfather who was a stone mason.

When Tom Ferguson joined the army, he enlisted at Shaw, near Oldham. It is probable that, in the intervening years, he had moved to that area. He was assigned to the Monmouthshire Regiment (service number 5002). This service is not included in his on-line medal entitlement records at the National Archives, confirming that he never served abroad with the Regiment. He was probably transferred to the Shropshires when he had completed his training.

Tom was killed during the German offensive that was later given the name of the Battle of the Aisne. On 5 June, the Shropshires were withdrawn from the frontline to regroup as a counter-attack battalion, although they numbered only some 200 - 300. During the day, there was a heavy German artillery barrage. The Regimental History recounts that at "daybreak on 6 June, high explosive was substituted for gas shell and it became obvious that a serious attack on Bligny Hill was in progress." At 6.30am, the barrage moved onto the support positions in hastily dug shallow trenches held by the Shropshires. Throughout the morning, the Shropshires could see the German infantry attack which was slowly forcing the troops in the forward areas to retreat down the slope of the hill.

As they were forced to the bottom, a counter attack was ordered at 12.45pm. Due to casualties in the past days, the Battalion was being commanded by a very junior officer - Lieutenant G W Bright. He immediately ordered the men to attack across the open ground in four waves, with 100 yards between each wave. On reaching the foot of the hill, they gathered up the remnants of the two battalions that had been forced down. After a short pause, the men now stormed up the hill, reaching the forward German trenches within five minutes. Desperate hand-to-hand fighting now took place and many Germans were killed by bayonet or grenade. A few were captured, but many of the German garrison were forced to retreat. By 13.30, the area had been captured but immediately came under artillery fire - predictably form German guns, but also from British artillery which was unaware of the Shropshires' success.

The British line now had a large bulge in its line which made it subject to attack from the flanks and these continued for some hours until neighbouring areas had been secured by other units. At 23.30, the Battalion as relieved from the front line and moved back to safety at the Bois de Courton.  For its actions on the day, the French Government awarded the Battalion the Croix de Guerre and, later, the name "Bligny" was inscribed on the Regimental Colours.

Although Tom's death is officially recorded as being 7 June, this seems unlikely in view of the fact that, by then, they were in reserve. It is much more likely that he died in the fighting for the hill. It was one of the most heroic actions of the whole War.

   
           
   
     
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