Cross T.W.

THOMAS WATSON CROSS (1894-1918)

30642 Private Thomas Watson Cross, 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment was killed in action 25 April 1918 and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial.[1]  He was 23 years old and is commemorated on the Copley War Memorial and the memorial plaque in St. John the Evangelist Church at Lynesack, County Durham.

Family Details

Thomas Watson Cross was born 1894[2] at Woodland the son of Thomas and Annie Cross.  In 1901, his father Thomas was a farmer and the family lived at Main Road, Woodland.  Thomas appears to be their only child from their marriage although Annie had an 11 year old daughter, Mary Lizzie who lived with them.[3]  By 1911, the family lived at Galloway Moor House, Woodland.  Mary Lizzie is not recorded as living here.  Thomas senior worked as a roadman for the Barnard Castle Rural District Council and 16 year old Thomas junior was employed as a colliery horse driver. [4]

Thomas married Mary Wilson 15 January 1916 and they had 1 son, Stanley born 8 November 1916.  By 1916, he worked as a colliery banksman and they lived at 3 Copley Lane, Copley.

Service Details

Thomas Cross enlisted 24 February 1916 at Bishop Auckland and joined the Army Reserve.  He was 5ft 7½” tall and weighed 137 lbs.  He was mobilized 19 May 1917.  He joined the 5th Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment 20 May 1917 and was given the regimental number 45757.  He entered France 10 August 1917 and was transferred to the 8th (Service) Battalion, the Yorkshire Regiment, 28 August 1917, joining the battalion in the field 31 August 1917.

The 8/Green Howards was formed as part of K3, Kitchener’s New Army and came under the orders of the 69th Brigade 23rd Division.  It landed in France in August 1915.  The 69th Brigade comprised: [5]

  • 11th (Service) Bn., West Yorkshire Regiment
  • 8th (Service) Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment
  • 9th (Service) Bn., the Yorkshire Regiment
  • 10th (Service) Bn., the Duke of Wellington’s Regiment
  • 69th Machine Gun Company joined March 1916
  • 69th Trench Mortar Battery formed June 1916

The Division served on the Western Front and in June 1917 had seen action at the Battle of Messines.  Private T.W. Cross was to see action during the Third Battle of Ypres at:

  • The Battle of Menin Road: 20-25 September 1917
  • The Battle of Polygon Wood: 26 September -3 October 1917 [6]

Private T.W. Cross was wounded (shot gun wound to the right hand) 1October 1917 and was sent back to Britain for hospital treatment.  He had served 63 days in France.

In January 1918, Private T.W. Cross was posted to the depot at Richmond, North Yorkshire and entered France for a second time 1 April 1918.  He was posted to the 1st Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment 3 April 1918 and given the regimental number 30642.  The 1/East Yorkshires came under the orders of the 64th Brigade 21st Division.  Other units were:

  • 9th (Service) Bn., King’s Own Yorkshire Regiment (KOYLI)
  • 10th (Service) Bn., KOYLI
  • 15th (Service) Bn., Durham Light Infantry (DLI)
  • 64th Machine Gun Company
  • 64th Trench Mortar Battery

In the spring of 1918, the Division had seen action at the Battles of St. Quentin, Bapaume and Messines as the German offensive pounded the Allied forces. [7] The 21st Division was part of the 22nd Corps, Second Army which took part in the Battles of the Lys 1918, the Fourth Battle of Ypres. [8]  1/East Yorkshires saw action during:

  • The First Battle of Kemmel: 17 – 19 April 1918.
  • The Second Battle of Kemmel: 25 and 26 April 1918.

The Second Battle of Kemmel: summary

25 April 1918: at 2.30am over 250 batteries of German guns opened up on Allied positions with a mixture of gas and high explosives.  For 2 hours they concentrated on destroying Allied gun emplacements.  At 5.00am the German barrage was switched to the French front line.  At 6.00am the German infantry launched its attack, by 7.10am Kemmel Hill was in enemy hands and by 10.30 it was all over.[9]  Allied troops consisting of British and French Brigades were brought forward to hold the line and that evening a further British Division arrived and were placed under French command to attempt, with the French, to seize back Kemmel but to no avail.  The position would remain in German hands until the end of August when the British 34th Division and the American 27th Division drove the enemy from the area.[10]

1/EYR: in action

The 1st Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment war diary records events as follows:

“April 23rd: The battalion left camp 8.30pm and relieved the 9th KOYLI.  In the RIGHT subsector (WYTESCHAETE)

April 24th: Foggy morning.  Quiet day.  LT. Constant W. & 2/L. BOYES

April 25th: In the Line.  About 2.30 am the enemy opened a heavy bombardment with gas shells which continued for about 1-2 hours.  Intermittent shelling continued until about 5am and then a very heavy barrage was put down on all the valleys and possible assembly positions in the rear of the front line defences.  The enemy then attacked under a smoke barrage and was greatly assisted by fog.  After 2.30am all communication with BHQ from coys ceased, telephone lines broke down and repeated attempts to get runners through failed although touch was maintained with the front line coys of the left & right battalions for two hours after.

No news whatsoever came from the front coys but about 7am small parties of Germans wandered over the BLACK COT RIDGE and into the e.side of GRAND BOIS.  BHQ was then organised into two parties, each about 12 strong and a stand was made around BHQ for nearly two hours and the enemy sniped as he appeared over the ridge.  By 8.30am the enemy had established machine gun posts on the ridge and was advancing in strength (in snake formation) down the ravines from PETIT BOIS & BOIS DE WYTSCHAETE.  The party around BHQ was by this time obliged to withdraw and during the withdrawal came under heavy machine gun fire, the CO, Major J.H. COLES was killed.

Only three officers and 30 OR succeeded in getting there.  (No details reached the battalion headquarters) but from information gathered from one or two men who had succeeded in getting away from the front line coys, the enemy succeeded in enveloping the front line coys under the cover of his smoke barrage.  2 L/T S.W. HOWARD, A/ADJT. 2/LT.A.D. ROBINSON OC D. Coy and the MO CAPT.R.T. RAINE got safely through the barrage.  The two former reported at nucleus camp DEVONSHIRE CAMP, CUDERON during the afternoon.

Casualties

Killed: Major J.H. COLES, 11 OR Wounded:  27 OR Missing.” [11]

Later research records that between 25 and 30 April 1918, 1/East Yorkshire Regiment lost 78 other ranks killed in action or died of wounds including Private T.W. Cross. [12]  He was initially recorded as “Missing” then presumed dead by virtue of the length of time elapsed.  He has no known grave.

Private T.W. Cross was awarded the British War and Victory medals.[13]

Commemoration

Private T.W. Cross is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial along with almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are unknown.  The Memorial forms the north eastern boundary of the Tyne Cot Cemetery and is one of 4 memorials to those with no known graves in Belgian Flanders.  The memorial was designed by Sir Herbert Baker and unveiled in July 1927. [14]

15644 Lance Corporal W. Holmes serving with 1/EYR, a resident of Cockfield is recorded as being killed in action on the same day.  He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial and the Cockfield War Memorial.

References:

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] England & Wales Birth Index 1837-1915 Vol.10a p.254 Teesdale 1894 Q3

[3] 1901 census

[4] 1911 census

[5] www.1914-1918.net/yorks.htm & http://www.1914-1918.net/23div.htm

[6] http://www.1914-1918.net/23div.htm

[7] http://www.1914-1918.net/21div.htm

[8] http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1918_pt1.htm

[9] http://www.webmatters.net/belgium/ww1_lys_4.htm

[10] http://www.ewt.org.uk/memorial/mills

[11] 1/EYR war diary

[12] Officers & Soldiers Died in the Great War Note: ODGW records Capt. (Act Lt-Col.) J.H. Coles DSO as killed in action 24 April 1918

[13] Medal Roll card index

[14] Commonwealth war Graves Commission

Photographs:

TYNE COT MEMORIAL

TYNE COT MEMORIAL

CROSS T.W. Inscription Tyne Cot

CROSS T.W.
Inscription
Tyne Cot

One thought on “Cross T.W.

  1. Pingback: COPLEY | The Fallen Servicemen of Southwest County Durham

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