THOMAS NEAL (1881-1916)
14005 Private Thomas Neal, 8th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment died of wounds 22 July 1916 and is buried at Mericourt-L’abbe Communal Cemetery Extension, France. He was 35 years old and is commemorated on the memorial plaque on the St. Helens Colliery Memorial Cottages.
Thomas was born c.1881 at St. Andrew’s Auckland to William and Ellen Neal. William was born at March, Cambridgeshire and Ellen, Ireland. There were 5 children:
- Henry born c.1864 at Leadgate, Co. Durham
- Sarah born c.1870 at West Auckland
- William born c.1871 at West Auckland
- James born c.1873 at St. Andrew’s Auckland
- Thomas born c.1881 at St. Andrew’s Auckland
In 1881, the family lived at Tindale Crescent. William aged 49 and his son Henry aged 17 were both coal miners. Thomas’ mother Ellen had died by 1891 and his sister Sarah had married David Davis from Shropshire. By 1901, the Neal family lived with Sarah and David. At this time 20 year old Thomas worked underground as “a hauling machine tender”. By 1911, 30 year old Thomas still lived with David and Sarah Davis and their 6 children at Tindale Crescent. He was a coal miner (hewer).
Thomas Neal was 33 years 11 months old when he enlisted 30 October 1914. He was 5ft 4” tall and weighed 127 lbs. He had a sallow complexion, blue eyes and fair hair. His religion was Church of England. Private Thomas Neal was given the regimental number 14005 and transferred from the depot to 9th Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment 12 November 1914.
7 October 1915: on joining the BEF in France, he was posted to the 8th Battalion.
The 8th (Service) Battalion, East Yorkshire Regiment was formed 22 September 1915 at Beverley as part of Kitchener’s New Army K3 and came under the orders of 62nd Brigade, 21st Division. It landed at Boulogne 9 September 1915 and was involved in action at the Battle of Loos, 25 September – 8 October 1915. The battalion was transferred to 8th Brigade, 3rd Division 16 November 1915.  At this time, the following units served with the 8th Brigade:
- 2nd, the Royal Scots
- 1st, the Gordon Highlanders
- 13th, the King’s (Liverpool Regt.) left 4 April 1916
- 1/5th, the London Regt. left 10 February 1916
- 1st, the Royal Scots Fusiliers joined 5 April 1916
The 3rd Division was involved in the following actions around Ypres, Belgium:
- 14 – 15 February and 2 March 1916: Actions at the Bluff
- 27 March – 16 April: Actions of the St. Eloi Craters
And then moved south to take part in the great Allied Offensive, the Battle of the Somme
- 1 – 13 July: Battle of Albert
- 14 – 17 July: Battle of Bazentin in which the Division helped capture Longueval
- 15 July – 3 September: Battle of Delville Wood 
The Battalion War Diary  records that:
4 July 1916: marched to Cardonnette.
5 July: marched 14 miles to Corbies.
6 July: marched to Carnoy and relieved the 6/Bedfords
8 – 12 July: fatigue parties carrying ammunition to form the Brigade Dump in the Quarry. The fighting strength was about 20 officers and 800 other ranks.
13/14 July: left Carnoy for the Montauban area.
14 July: reached point of deployment, artillery bombardment took place and was lifted 6.45am. The assault on the enemy trenches was made but was held up by uncut wire. The enemy opened up with machine gun and rifle fire. Men returned to the point of assembly, others took cover in shell holes.
- 7.00am: machine guns and stokes mortars “got going.” 1/Royal Scots Fusiliers joined the battalion.
- 7.40am: enemy shelling commenced
- 7.45am: reported that Bazentin was in the possession of the 9th Brigade.
- 8.40am: Colonel Forbes, 1/RSF arrived with reinforcements and took over command.
- 10.15am: patrol reported heavy fighting in enemy trenches.
- 10.20am: Bombers and 2 platoons RSF send to join the fighting in the trenches on right flank.
- 11.50am: Orders received that the position was to be taken at once at all costs.
- 12.15am: Bombing party of 2/RS appeared on the left. They advanced quickly and carried all before them as they advanced, our men joined in and the fight was over at once.
- 1.00pm: received orders to consolidate the position as soon as possible.
- 2.00pm: Re-organised Battalion. The strength was 3 officers and 100 other ranks and 1 Lewis gun.
- Other Ranks……..81
- Other Ranks………218
- Other Ranks………..141
- 19 Officers
- 440 Other Ranks
14-20 July: The new position was held and suffered heavily bombardment, gas and lachrymatory shells. There were many casualties.
20/21 July: Relieved by the King’s Own Scottish Borderers.
It is assumed that Private T. Neal took part in this action and died of wounds at No. 1/2nd Hospital Field Ambulance 22 July 1916. 6 other ranks serving with 8/East Yorks died on this day.  Later research confirms that during this struggle, the 8/East Yorks lost 6 officers and 145 other ranks, killed in action or died of wounds between 14 and 21 July. 
Private Thomas Neal served a total of 1 year 266 days but was deducted 24 days due to transgressions of discipline. 
Private Thomas Neal was awarded the 1914-15 Star, the British War and Victory medals.
Another miner who worked at St. Helen’s Colliery to serve with the 8/East Yorkshires was Private J.E. Hodgson and he died of wounds 20 July 1916 in this action.
Private T. Neal is buried at grave reference II.C.14 Mericourt-L’Abbe Communal Cemetery Extension, France.
 Commonwealth War Graves Commission
 1881 census
 1891 census
 1901 census
 1911 census
 Attestation Form
 Army Form B.178 Medical History
 8th Battalion, the East Yorkshire Regiment War Diary 4 – 26 July 1916
 Army Form B.103 Casualty Form – active service
 Soldiers Died in the Great War
 Officers and Soldiers Died in the Great War. Note: Private T. Neal is recorded as serving with 9th Battalion and was the only soldier to have died on the 22 July but this is incorrect since he had been transferred to the 8th Battalion 7 October 1915.
 Military History Sheet
 Medal Roll card index
 CWGC and SDGW