THOMAS FAIRHURST 1895 – 1915
2751 Private Thomas Fairhurst, 1/6th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry died of wounds 19 October 1915, aged 21. He is buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France1 and commemorated on the Witton Park War Memorials and the St. Helens Colliery Memorial Cottages.
Thomas Fairhurst was born 1895,2 at Howden-le-Wear near Crook, the son of Margaret Fairhurst. In 1901, Thomas and his grandmother Mary Ann were visitors to Mathew and Isabella Brown, 13 Albion Street, Witton Park. 3 The 1911 census records Thomas as living with his grandmother, 71 years old Mary Ann Craig at 27 High Thompson Street, Witton Park, Bishop Auckland. He was 16 years old and worked as a coal miner (helper-up). Lydia and Alice Fairhurst also lived there, his sisters. 4
Thomas Fairhurst was a territorial soldier and a member of his local force, the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry. Once war was declared, the territorial force was mobilized. The 1/6 DLI was formed in Bishop Auckland in August 1914 as part of the Durham Light Infantry Brigade, Northumbrian Division and in May 1915 were under the orders of the 151st Brigade 50th (Northumbrian) Division. 6 Other battalions were:
- 1/7th Battalion, DLI
- 1/8th Battalion, DLI
- 1/9th Battalion, DLI
- 1/5th Battalion, the Loyal North Lancs. joined June 1915
16 April 1915: the 50th Division moved to France and served with distinction on the Western Front throughout the war. It arrived just as the German army attacked Ypres using poison gas for the first time and rushed into battle, the Battle of St. Julien (24 April-4 May 1915) then Battles of Frezenberg (8-13 May) and Bellewaarde (24-25 May). These 3 are known as the Second Battle of Ypres. 7 Following heavy casualties, in June 1915 the battalion merged with the 1/8th to become the 6/8th then it returned to its original identity 11 August 1915.
27 June 1915: Private T. Fairhurst entered France 8 presumably with drafts to replace ranks lost in fighting earlier in the year. 6/DLI was then in a quiet sector of the front, Kemmel to Armentieres where the battalion occupied trenches in front of Kemmel Hill, known as Regent Street.
27 June: billets at Locre
3-8 July: Regent Street trenches
9-14 July: Kemmel Hill area, Brigade support, night working parties
15 July: marched to Armentieres
17 July: Armentieres reached. Billets at Blue Blind Factory.
18-23 July: trenches at Chapelle d’Armentieres:
“Quiet sector, in First World War terms, is not one which is completely inactive. Desultory artillery fire may be experienced. The early morning and dusk “hate” bombardment were invariably fired on both lines. Snipers were always active and a soldier needed to keep his head down when going about his daily tasks in the trenches.” 9
The pattern of life in and out of the trenches continued until 10 November 1915 when the battalion was relieved and marched to billets at La Creche, near Bailleul where it stayed for a month enjoying its first rest since embarkation.10 Private T. Fairhurst didn’t make it.
“On the 8th October Private W. Hutchinson of Crook, a member of Z Company was killed when walking up the fire trench. The following night, a patrol comprising Corporal Moyle and Privates Coglan, Pybus, Brown and Fairhurst, all of W Company set out from our lines, first to call at a listening post in front of trench 83. Having done so, they moved off to find another listening post in front of Trench 82. They never arrived at this post and it is probable that they stumbled into the German lines and were taken prisoner. Navigation in No Man’s Land at night was never easy, particularly without assistance of moon or stars and identifiable landmarks.” 11
A report dated 25 October 1915 listed Private T. Fairhurst as missing. 12
19 October 1915: Private T. Fairhurst died of wounds.13 The place of death is recorded as, “Feldlaz, Lomme”14 which maybe the location/name of a German field hospital. Details of his death may have been provided by the German authorities. During the tour of duty in the front line sector, Kemmel to Armentieres, between 15 July and 10 November 1915, 6/DLI lost 2 officers and 14 other ranks. 15
2751 Private Thomas Fairhurst was awarded the 1915 Star, the British War and Victory medals.16
Private T. Fairhurst is buried at grave reference XX.F.11, the Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. The cemetery holds over 7,650 burials, 3185 identified. 17
Private T. Fairhurst’s pension was awarded to his sisters Misses Lydia and Alice Fairhurst of Woodside Bank, Witton Park.18 His effects went to R.W. Blackburn which seems strange.19
In addition to the Witton Park war memorials, Private T, Fairhurst is commemorated on the St. Helen’s Colliery Memorial Cottages. Four cottages were built near the colliery institute at St. Helen’s Auckland and it constitutes the local war memorial. Memorial tablets on the front of each pair of houses bear the names of the fallen. 20
The 1911 census records Thomas Fairhurst as living with his grandmother, 71 years old Mary Ann Craig at 27 High Thompson Street, Witton Park. He was 16 years old and worked as a coal miner (helper-up). Thomas Fairhurst was a territorial soldier, a member of the 6th Battalion, The Durham Light Infantry and entered France in June 1915 as a draft to replace men lost in earlier fighting. The battalion was posted to trenches at Chapelle d’Armentieres, which was regarded as a quiet sector of the front. On the night of 9 October, Private T. Fairhurst was in a party visiting outposts in No-Man’s-Land which failed to return. Initially, he was reported as missing then recorded as having died of wounds 19 October 1915 and he is buried at Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery, Souchez, France. He was 21 years old.
1 Commonwealth War Graves Commission
2 England & Wales 1837-1915 Birth Index Vol.10a p.258 Auckland 1895 Q2. Note: Thomas Alfred Fairhurst.
3 1901 census
4 1911 census
5 The service record of Private Thomas Fairhurst and the 1/6th DLI War Diary have not been researched. Captain R.B. Ainsworth and Harry Moses publications have been used as primary sources.
7 www.1914-1918.net/50div.htm & http://www.warpath.orbat.com/battles_ff/1915.htm
8 Medal Roll card index
9 Moses p.46
10 Ainsworth p.10
11 Moses p.48
12 Archive reference DT05111915
13 Soldiers Died in the Great War
14 UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects Record Number 231255
15 Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War
16 Medal Roll card index
18 Pension Award Dependants card index
19 UK Army Register of Soldiers’ Effects 1809-1920 Record Number 231255
20 Darlington & Stockton Times (North) 19 November 1921 and http://www.newmp.org.uk