THOMAS HENRY STOKOE

Lance Serjeant Thomas Henry STOKOE 1919 – 1944

946257 Lance Serjeant Thomas Henry Stokoe, 127 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery was killed in action 16 June 1944 aged 25 years and is buried at Ranville War Cemetery, Normandy, France and commemorated on Evenwood War Memorial.[1]

Family Details

 Thomas Stokoe was born 26 April 1919 [2] the son of Isabelle and Thomas There were at least 3 children:

  • William born c.1907
  • Edith born c. 1908.
  • Thomas Henry born 1919

Isabelle’s younger brother Thomas was 36618 Private Thomas Henry Dunn, 11th battalion, the Durham Light Infantry who died of wounds 26 December 1916.  It can be safely assumed that Isabelle named her son in honour of her younger brother.

By 1919, the Stokoe family lived at 8 Brookside, Evenwood (otherwise known as Vart’s Yard) as they did in 1939.  Thomas worked as a coal miner [hewer] and Thomas an apprentice motor mechanic.[3]

Military Details

The service record of 946257 Lance Serjeant Thomas Henry Stokoe has not been traced.

The 127 Field Regiment, Royal Artillery formed part of the Divisional Support Units for the 51st (Highland) Infantry Division.  The 51st Division commanded by Major-General Victor Fortune formed part of the British Expeditionary Force at the start of World War 2. With the capture of two of its brigades in France the division effectively ceased to exist.

The 9th (Highland) Infantry Division was renumbered as the 51st and subsequently served in the North Africa campaign. From there it went to Sicily.

November 1943:   The 51st Highland Division returned to Britain and after leave settled down to training.

March 1943:  It moved to East Anglia.

5 April 1944:  The Division transferred to 1st Corps and commenced training for the invasion of main land Europe, “Operation Overlord”. In June they moved to the River Thames and embarked.

The Battle of Normandy [4]

7 June:  The 51st Division landed in Normandy, as part of I Corps. After spending a brief period supporting 3rd Canadian Infantry Division, it was sent across the Orne River, and spent two months supporting the 6th Airborne Division in its bridgehead. During this period, it fought many difficult actions at places such as:

The Role of the 51st Highland Division.

The role of the 51st Highland Division in the landing was as a second echelon division to support and fill in behind the first wave. 153 Brigade would be the lead brigade of 51st Highland Division. They landed in the afternoon of D Day. 152 Brigade followed on D+1 and 154 Brigade on D+4. The latter remained as Corps Reserve until placed temporarily under command of 6th Airborne Division.

After the landings, the operations in the following weeks were some of the worst the Division had experienced. The Division landed west of the Ornemouth but, after initial operations by 5th Black Watch against the area of Douvres, 153 Brigade followed by 152 Brigade crossed the Orne to operated to the east of the Orne and north east of Caen centred on an area known as the Triangle. This was bounded Ranville – Touffreville -Breville, with a wood also called the triangle on the east side.

13 June:  152 Brigade ran into stiff opposition in the area of St. Honorine and Demouville. Their attacks were driven off and they went into a defensive position north of St. Hororine. Without securing St. Honorine it was not possible to take Demouville further south and to the east of Caen.

16 June: Lance Serjeant Thomas Henry Stokoe was killed in action.

Burial: Ranville War Cemetery [5]

Lance Serjeant Thomas Henry Stokoe is buried at grave reference II.D.8, Ranville War Cemetery.  Ranville is a village in the region of calvados, Normandy, France to the east of Caen.  The Allied offensive in north-western Europe began with the Normandy Landings of 6 June 1944.  Ranville was the first village to be liberated in France when the bridge over the Caen Canal was captured intact in the early hours of 6 June by troops of the 6th Airborne Division.  Many of the Divisions casualties are buried here.  The cemetery contains 2,235 Commonwealth burials of the Second World War.

REFERENCES

[1] Commonwealth War Graves Commission

[2] 1939 Register & England & Wales Birth Index 1916-2007 Vol.10a P.406 Auckland 1919 Q2

[3] 1939 Register

[4] http://www.51hd.co.uk/history/normandy/landing

[5] http://www.cwgc.org/search/SearchResults.aspx?surname=stokoe&initials=t&war=2&yearfrom=1944&yearto=1945&force=Army&nationality=6&send.x=45&send.y=11