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H.M.T. Arcadia
H.M.T. Arcadia
"The Second Battle of Ypres, 22 April to May 1915"
image: Richard Jack (1866-1952)
British Front Line near Hooge in April 1916
Santuary Wood, April 1916
image: Paths of Glory
Tyne Cot - the largest British war cemetery in the world
Tyne Cot
image: © Yvonne Heslinga
Previous: Frederick White
Next: Ernest Woodard

White, Thomas William

Thomas William White
1914-1915 Star
1914/15 Star
Victory Medal
Victory Medal
British War Medal
British War Medal
Private Thomas William White (8684)
Killed in Action on Thursday 13th May 1915
Second Ypres - Frezenberg Ridge, aged 28
Son of Henry & Alice White
Father's occupation: Carpenter
Born Q4 1886 at Alton, Hants
7 sisters, 3 brothers, position in family: 6
Relatives: Brother of Pte Frederick White, 30663 Staff Sergt Harry White & Pte Sidney White
Local address: Gloster Cottage, Hurst
Enlisted:Caversham, 1914
Battalion:2nd Bn.
Went overseas:Saturday 19th December 1914
Died:Thursday 13th May 1915
Cause:Killed in Action
Action:Second Ypres - Frezenberg Ridge
Battalion at:Sanctuary Wood
Commemorated:Grave at Tyne Cot Memorial, Ypres

Thomas White was born in Alton, Hants in 1886 to Henry and Alice White. He was the sixth of eleven children and had three brothers and seven sisters. His father was an Assistant Oilman.

By 1901 his father had become a carpenter and the family had moved to 143 Elm Park Road, Reading. Nothing is known of Thomas' life from this point until the start of the First World War. By this time he had already enlisted at Caversham as a regular soldier in 2nd Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment and his parents were living in Gloster Cottage, Hurst.

Prior to the war 2nd Battalion was stationed in Northern China. In September 1914 they boarded HMT Arcadia at Ching-Wang-Tao, bound for Sialkot, India. While off Shanghai orders were received to proceed to England and the Battalion landed at Southampton at 9 a.m. on the 8th November 1914. They then travelled in three trains to Winchester before marching to camp at Hursley Park. The 2nd Battalion was to become part of the newly formed 81st Brigade, 27th Division.

On 18th December 1914 the Battalion embarked at Southampton aboard the City of Chester, bound for Le Havre. From there they moved west by train to Aire-sur-la Lys. In January the 81st Brigade marched to Dickebusch, three miles south-west of Ypres, and 2nd Battalion relieved the Kings Shropshire Light Infantry in the front line near St. Eloi. When they returned to Dickebusch two days later, 12 men had been wounded and 5 were missing. This was the start of two months trench duty during which the Battalion lost 34 men killed and 135 men wounded.

On 23rd March the Battalion moved to Rosen Hill, near Reninghelst and in April they relieved the Argylls on the Ypres salient. In three days between 18th and 25th April the Battalion lost another 44 men killed or wounded as a result of German mortar bombs and heavy shelling. This signalled the start of the Second Battle of Ypres.

On 8th May the Germans commenced an offensive known as the Battle of Frezenberg. Their objective was to smash through the front line held by the 27th and 28th divisions using their superiority in guns and ammunition. The front line trenches were obliterated, but despite this and the use of gas on 10th May they made little headway. By the end of the six day battle the Germans had advanced about a thousand yards.

2nd Battalion was in the front line during the battle, holding trenches in Sanctuary Wood. Sir John French's Despatch describes some of the action:

On the 9th the Germans again repeated their bombardment. Very heavy shell fire was concentrated for two hours on the trenches of the 2nd Gloucestershire Regiment and 2nd Cameron Highlanders, followed by an infantry attack which was successfully repulsed. The Germans again bombarded the salient, and a further attack in the afternoon succeeded in occupying 150 yards of trench. The Gloucesters counter-attacked, but suffered heavily, and the attack failed. The salient being very exposed to shell fire from both flanks, as well as in front, it was deemed advisable not to attempt to retake the trench at night, and a retrenchment was therefore dug across it. At 3 p.m. the enemy started to shell the whole front of the centre Division, and it was reported that the right Brigade of this Division was being heavily punished, but continued to maintain its line. The trenches of the Brigades on the left centre were also heavily shelled during the day and attacked by infantry. Both attacks were repulsed.

On 10th May the 2nd Battalion was relieved by the 1st Royal Scots and marched back to reserve trenches a mile east of Ypres. The Battalion had lost 5 officers and 140 men. On 11th May orders came to retake a little hill near Sanctuary Wood. 'B' Company fixed bayonets and charged straight at the hill, surprising the Germans. Under heavy fire they held the hill until 12th May, when Captain J. Fane decided to withdraw. He reported to Brig-General Nisbet "I can go on taking the damned hill as often as you want, but I cannot hold it." When the Germans took the hill again, 'B' company advanced again and drove them off. After withdrawing from the hill the Battalion reinforced the defensive line and the Battle of Frezenberg petered out on 13th May.

It was on this final day of the battle that Thomas White was killed; he was twenty-eight years old. Thomas White now rests in Tyne Cot Cemetery about seven miles from where he fell. His brother Frederick also died during the war.


Thomas White at Tyne Cot Cemetery, Ypres
Tyne Cot Cemetery, Ypres
God's will be done

They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in morning
We will remember them.
Lawrence Binyon