Corporal, King’s Royal Rifle Corps, 2nd Bn.
Service no. 9948
Died on 31 October 1914, aged 22
Remembered at Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, West-Vlaanderen, Belgium
Chris Burge writes:
Thomas Thorne was born in Lambeth in 1892 and baptised on 31 January at St Andrew’s, Stockwell Green, the third child of William and Sarah Jane Thorne. By 1901, William and Sarah were living at 52 Burgoyne Road [location] with their seven children. Thomas’ father worked as a brewer’s carman, and his older brother Harry was a telegraph messenger.
In the 1911 census, William and Sarah were living with four of their children in five rooms at 70 Dalyell Road, Stockwell, across the road from the Marquis of Lorne pub. William was still working for a brewer. Older brother Henry was now a Post Office sorter, younger sister Annie was a daily domestic and William was a school newsboy. Frank was still at school. The property was shared with a middle-aged couple living in two other rooms and a young couple and their baby living in one other room.
In 1911, Thomas was a new recruit at the Army’s Shorncliffe Camp near Folkestone, Kent. He had enlisted in the King’s Royal Rifle Corps in January close to his 18th birthday. The 2nd KRRC, based in Blackdown, Aldershot in the two years prior to the war. Thomas’s records no longer exist, but private 9947 Frederick John Wallace Austin joined in London on 11 Jan 1911. Fred Austin’s next of kin was living in the Stockwell Park Road. If Fred and Thomas were friends, their paths would soon diverge when Fred was posted to the 3rd KRRC and Thomas to the 2nd KRRC.
In the spring of 1914 Thomas Thorne married Gertrude Nellie Hall. Their son Thomas Clement was born soon after, on 12 May 1914. Within three months, Thomas was in France.
The 2nd KRRC were mobilised on 4 August 1914, the day war was declared. They crossed from Southampton reaching Le Havre at 2.45pm on 13 August 1914. They were near the Belgium border when the retreat from Mons began in late August. The battles of the Marne and Asine followed, a period when the battalion suffered a total of 322 casualties. By 20 October they had moved to Boesinghe north-east of Ypres. By then the opposing forces had dug in. An assault on enemy trenches on 21 October was deemed a success despite the cost of 36 killed and 60 wounded. Before dawn, on the 31st, the enemy delivered a furious assault with overwhelming numbers of infantry and guns. In a desperate fight, the 2nd KRRC held the line before withdrawing to a less exposed position. The losses were severe, with over 400 men killed, wounded or missing.
Thomas Thorne was not accounted for and was posted missing. His wife and family hung onto the belief he may have been taken prisoner. When Gertrude baptised her son Thomas Clement on 27 January 1915 at St John’s, Worlds End, Chelsea, soldier Thomas Thorne was recorded as the father. Well into 1915 Thomas’ father, William made enquiries via the British Red Cross, leaving his address as 116 Dalywell Road, Stockwell, London SW. Their hopes were crushed in mid 1915 when Thomas was officially presumed to have died on 31 October 1914.
Ten years later, Gertrude Nellie Thorne, then living in Larkhall Lane, married again. Her wedding to police constable Alfred James Butter took place on Christmas Day 1924 at Christchurch, Clapham. Her son Thomas Clement Thorne later became a serving police officer.