Private Thomas Charles Whiting
Died 12th April 1918 age 40
Thomas Whiting was a Herefordshire man. He has the dubious distinction of being the oldest man commemorated on the war memorial. He was born in 1879 in Pipe cum Lyde, the child of James and Martha Whiting. James Whiting was an agricultural labourer but Thomas found work as a gardener and by 1901 he was working in Little Caradoc in Hereford and boarding with another family.
He married in September 1901 in Kington. His wife, Eliza, was 10 years older than her husband. She was also from Hereford but they moved down to Gloucester where he was working as a gardener in 1911.
Thomas enlisted in 1915. He and his wife (they had no children) had moved to 19 Burway Road. He was 38 when he enlisted, and still working as a gardener. He took the Short Service Attestation, sworn in Church Stretton. This meant he was ready to be called to serve as soon as he was needed.
He joined the Kings Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment) 1st/4th Battalion. It is probable that he was simply assigned to this Regiment: he does not seem to have any connection to Lancaster. He remained in Britain from 15th June 1916 until December 1917. Then on 24th December 1917 he was sent to France.
The 1st/4th Battalion was re-designated as such in 1915. From 1908 there were 2 territorial force battalions, the 4th having its headquarters at Ulveston. Both were mobilised and recruited men and were supplemented by reserve battalions but in 1915 they were re-named the 1st/4th and 1st/5th as frontline battalions with reserves 2nd/4th and 2nd/5th. Only the 1st battalions served overseas.
The battalion was engaged in various actions on the Western Front from 1915. On April 9-11th they were fighting The Battle of Estaires and were then involved in the Defence of Givenchy. Thomas Whiting died of his wounds on 12th April so it seems likely that it was in one of these engagements that he suffered his fatal injuries.
He is buried in grave XC9A in Wimereux Communal Cemetery in France. Wimereux is a region just below Calais. The cemetery was used for many of the casualties from the hospital situated there, and contains the graves of 2847 commonwealth soldiers, including Lt Col John McCrae who wrote “In Flanders Field”.
Photograph courtesy of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Following his death he was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory medal. His effects were sent on to his widow, Eliza, at an address in Southampton. The list of his meagre belongings was as follows,
“2 identity discs, letters, 1 pipe, 1 pocket book, 1 religious book, 1 tobacco case, a cigarette case, 1 purse, pencils, buttons, studs”.
The Register of Effects also shows how much money was returned to Eliza. She was sent £6 2s 5d representing the money he owned, together with a War Gratuity of £8.
Eliza’s correspondence with the war office continued when she was back in Church Stretton. She wrote in 1920 querying the whereabouts of a 10 franc note that her husband had said he was enclosing with one of his letters, which had obviously gone astray. We will never know if the loss was resolved. Interestingly, Eliza is now giving her address as Overdale on Clive Avenue. This is a very imposing residence and my guess is that she lived there as a residential servant. She would now have been in her 50’s and would have to make her way in life alone.