Date of birth: 1880
Regiment: King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Family information: Son of Albert and Alice Patchett
Service number: 263274
On the 17th April 1899 Thomas enlisted in the West Yorkshire Regiment. At the time he was employed as an ‘Oil Extractor’. He was given the service number 5511.
Records show that Thomas went to York after enlistment and passed the ‘Certificate of Education’ ‘Third Class on 14/6/1899 before moving down to Aldershot on 21/8/99. He was then back in Strensall from 4/5/1900 until 1/6/1900 when he was posted to South Africa. He sailed on the S.S. Tagus on 8/6/1900 landing in Durban 29.6.1900.
During the Napoleonic War, a British expedition landed in the Cape Colony and defeated the defending Dutch forces at the Battle of Blaauwberg. After the war, the British formally acquired the colony, and encouraged immigration by British settlers who were largely at odds with the Dutch settlers. Many Boers who were dissatisfied with aspects of the British administration, in particular Britain's abolition of slavery on 1 December 1834, elected to migrate away from British rule in what became known as the Great Trek. The migration was initially along the eastern coast towards Natal and then, after Natal was annexed in 1843, northwards towards the interior, where two independent Boer republics (the South African Republic, also known as the Transvaal Republic, and the Orange Free State) were established.
The British recognised the two Boer republics in 1852 and 1854, but the annexation of the Transvaal in 1877 led to the First Boer War in 1880–81. After the British defeats, particularly at the Battle of Majuba Hill, the independence of the two republics was restored subject to certain conditions, however, relations remained uneasy.
In 1867, diamonds were discovered in Kimberley, prompting a diamond rush and a massive influx of foreigners to the borders of the Orange Free State. Then in 1886, gold was discovered in the Witwatersrand area of the South African Republic. Gold made the Transvaal the richest and potentially the most powerful nation in southern Africa; however, the country had neither the manpower nor the industrial base to develop the resource on its own.
As a result, the Transvaal reluctantly acquiesced to the immigration of Uitlanders (foreigners), mainly from Britain, who came to the Boer region in search of fortune and employment. This resulted in the number of uitlanders in the Transvaal potentially exceeding the number of Boers, and precipitated confrontations between the earlier-arrived Boer settlers and the newer, non-Boer arrivals.
British expansionist ideas (notably propagated by Cecil Rhodes) as well as disputes over uitlander political and economic rights resulted in the failed Jameson Raid of 1895. This raid, led by (and named after) Dr. Leander Starr Jameson, was intended to encourage an uprising of the uitlanders in Johannesburg. However, the uitlanders did not take up arms to support the raid, and Transvaal government forces surrounded the column and captured Jameson's men before they could reach Johannesburg.
As tensions escalated, there were political manoeuvrings and negotiations to reach a compromise on the issues of the rights of the uitlanders within the South African Republic, control of the gold mining industry, and the British desire to incorporate the Transvaal and the Orange Free State into a federation under British control. Given that the majority of Uitlanders were of British origin, and that new uitlanders continued to arrive in Johannesburg, the Boers recognised that granting full voting rights to the uitlanders would eventually result in the loss of ethnic Boer control in the South African Republic.
To Lord Milner's satisfaction, the June 1899 negotiations in Bloemfontein failed, and in September 1899 British Colonial Secretary Joseph Chamberlain demanded full voting rights and representation for the uitlanders residing in the Transvaal. Paul Kruger, the President of the South African Republic, issued an ultimatum on 9 October 1899, giving the British government 48 hours to withdraw all their troops from both the borders of the Transvaal and Orange Free State, failing which the Transvaal, allied to the Orange Free State, would declare war on the British government. The British government rejected the South African Republic's ultimatum, resulting in the South African Republic and Orange Free State declaring war on Britain.
The war had three distinct phases. In the first phase, the Boers mounted pre-emptive strikes into British-held territory in Natal and the Cape Colony, besieging the British garrisons of Ladysmith, Mafeking and Kimberley.
In the second phase, after the introduction of greatly increased British troop numbers under the command of Lord Roberts, the British launched another offensive in 1900 to relieve the sieges, this time achieving success. After Natal and the Cape Colony were secure, the British were able to invade the Transvaal, and the republic's capital, Pretoria, was ultimately captured in June 1900.
In the third and final phase, beginning in March 1900, the Boers launched a protracted hard-fought guerrilla war against the British forces, lasting a further two years, during which the Boers raided targets such as British troop columns, telegraph sites, railways and storage depots. In an effort to cut off supplies to the raiders, the British, now under the leadership of Lord Kitchener, responded with a scorched earth policy of destroying Boer farms and moving civilians into concentration camps.
The Boer forces finally surrendered on Saturday, 31 May 1902, with 54 of the 60 delegates from the Transvaal and Orange Free State voting to accept the terms of the peace treaty.
Thomas Patchett was awarded both the Queen’s (Victoira) Medal and the King’s (Edward VII) Medal due to having served in South Africa during the end of one reign and the beginning of another. The clasps on the Queen’s medal indicate that he saw action in the Cape colony, Orange Free State and Transvaal.
During his time in South Africa Thomas was promoted on 28/04/1902 to Lance Corporal.
On 7/4/1903 Thomas was transferred to the Reserves which meant he could return home and pursue a ‘normal’ life but could be recalled at any time.In 1905 he was living at Undercliffe Road, Eccleshill and on 2/8/1905 he married Alice Maud Hardaker at St Luke’s Church, Eccleshill.
Thomas remained in the Army reserves until 16/4/1911 when, after a total of 12 years, he was discharged.
During the period he was in the reserves his civilian occupation was that of a ‘Carter’. On his later army records it states that he had two children. Although the names are somewhat indistinct they could be Edward and Albert born on 12/12/1907 and 1/6/1911 respectively.
On 5/8/1914 Thomas again enlisted in the Army. He was enrolled in the 2nd/4th Battalion of the KOYLI and assigned the number 2040 later to be changed to 263274 when service numbers were altered to reflect the large number of enlisted soldiers.
Although he gave his age as 40 when it was probably about 35 there is no doubt that, given other information, this is the same Thomas Patchett.
The 2nd/4th Battalion was formed at Wakefield on 30 September 1914 as a second line unit. On the 1st March 1915 it moved to Bulwell and was attached to 187th Brigade in 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division. Moved in April 1915 to Strenshall and on in May to Beverley, going on in November to Gateshead, then in January 1916 to Larkhill and June 1916 to Flixton Park near Bungay. Moved again in October 1916 to Wellingborough. The battalion Landed at Le Havre on 7th January 1917.
During 1917 the 2nd West Ridings were involved in the following actions although it is not possible to state exactly what part Thomas would have played in these actions.
The Operations on the Ancre (15 February - 13 March)
The German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (14 - 19 March)
The first attack on Bullecourt (part of the Arras offensive) (11 April)
The German attack on Lagnicourt (part of the Arras offensive) (15 April)
The Battle of Bullecourt (part of the flanking operations round Arras) (3 - 17 May)
The actions on the Hindenburg Line (20 - 28 May)
The Cambrai Operations (Tank attack 20 - 21 November and the capture of Bourlon Wood 27 – 28 November
The following extract from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission February 2012 Newsletter gives a clear indication of the conditions that Thomas and his comrades were to endure.
‘The winter of 1916/17 was probably the harshest of the war. The War Diary of the 7th K.O.Y.L.I. describes the freezing conditions:
During the tour it was difficult to get hot drinks to the men and also to use screw picquets for putting out (barbed) wire because the ground was so hard”.
If anything, conditions deteriorated when there was a slight thaw. In a rare departure from its usual unemotional narrative the Official History details the conditions in graphic terms:
“Here in a wilderness of mud holding water logged trenches or a shell hole post accessible only by night the infantry abode in conditions which might be likened to that of earthworms rather than of human kind. Our vocabulary is not adapted to describe such an existence because it is outside the experience for which words are normally required. Mud for the men in the line was no mere inorganic nuisance and obstacle. It took on an aggressive wolf-like guise and like a wolf could pull down and swallow the lonely wanderer in the darkness.”
The German withdrawal
Initially the Germans intended to withdraw to a stronger line only if the British broke through the existing front line, but on 4 February 1917 the order was given by the
German High Command to start to prepare for the withdrawal to the new Hindenburg Line. During the withdrawal the Germans were to implement a ‘scorched earth’ policy whereby nothing of possible use to the Allies was to be left standing. Houses were destroyed, road junctions were mined, wells were filled in (some may even have been poisoned), even fruit trees were cut down to prevent them being used as a source of food. The Germans also left behind hundreds of booby traps, from simple pieces of duck boarding in trenches which, when stepped on, would detonate a grenade, to a huge delayed‐action mine under the Bapaume Town Hall.
The 62nd Division had taken over part of the front line on the night of the 13/14 February.
Conditions were awful; the History of the 62nd (West Riding) Division describes the scene:
“Trenches as such did not exist for they had been obliterated by the concentrated fire of the guns…The front line was held by a series of posts and dugouts which somewhat resembled islands in a sea of mud. Shell holes pock-marked the ground often overlapping one another and where pathways existed between them they were but a few inches wide. The holes were full of water and more than one man lost his life through slipping off the narrow pathways into the slimy mass which engulfed him”.
One battalion of this division, the 2/5th K.O.Y.L.I., reported 43 men with trench foot on 23 February. The following day, Saturday 24 February, the 2/4th York and Lancasters were ordered, at 3.15pm, to move forward in pursuit of the Germans; at 4pm an advance was made but due to the state of the ground progress was very slow. After only 500 yards, with darkness having fallen, a halt was made. That night
(24/25 February), the 2/4th KOYLI relieved the 2/4th York and Lancasters.
At 8am on 25 February the 2/5th K.O.Y.L.I. passed through the positions the 2/4th K.O.Y.L.I. were holding, and continued the advance.
Thomas was granted leave to the UK between 20/12/1917 and 6/1/1918 before being posted to the 2/5th Battalion on 30/1/1918.
On the 2nd of February 1918 the 2/5th Btn were absorbed into the 1/5th and were renamed 5th Battalion. They were in action during The Battle of Bapaume,
The First Battle of Arras,
The Battle of the Tardenois,
The Battle of the Scarpe,
The Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line,
The Battle of Havrincourt,
The Battle of the Canal du Nord,
The Battle of the Selle,
The capture of Solesmes and The Battle of the Sambre.
At the Armistice the advanced units had crossed the Sambre and reached the Maubeuge-Avesnes road. The Division was the only Territorial formation to be selected to enter Germany and took over the area around Schleiden in December.
Thomas finally returned to the UK on 3/2/1919 and was discharged on 19/8/1919.
Thomas was born in Brotherton about 1880.
In 1881 he was to be found in the home of his grandparents Thomas and Hannah Sharp at Bunkers Hill, Brotherton. His mother was Alice Patchett nee Sharp aged 22. Her husband, Albert, was not in residence at the time.
The Sharp family can be traced back to at least 1841 within the Brotherton Parish although not always in Brotherton itself.
Grandfather Thomas was born in Burton Salmon about 1816 and in 1841he was living with his parents James and Elizabeth (born about 1791) in Burton Salmon and was one of at least 7 siblings.
By 1851 he had married Hannah from Cowick and was living in Rawcliffe. He was employed as a ‘Railway Worker’.
In 1861 he was living at The Lodge, Byram-cum-Poole, Burton Salmon with his wife and 7 children, most of whom had been born in the village. His daughter Alice was 2 years old. At the time he was employed - probably on the Byram Estate - as a ‘Gamekeeper’.
However, by 1871 he had left the employ of the estate and was working as a ‘Railway Signalman’ and living in Bunkers Hill, Brotherton.
Albert Patchett, Thomas’ father had not been in residence in Brotherton with his wife and children at the time of the census in 1881 because he had been in his parent’s home at 4 Ebenezer Street, Eccleshill, Bradford. His family were all from that area and the men were employed mainly as ‘Stone Masons’.
Indeed, by 1891 Albert had moved his family to 14 Manor Street, Eccleshill. His children were listed as Thomas (10), William, (8), Sarah Hannah (5), George Albert (3) and Sam (10 months). No mention is made of George who was at Thomas Sharp’s in 1881 and would have been 12 years old.
Next door was William Beansland Patchet, Thomas’ paternal grandfather who was by then widowed and living with 2 of his daughters.
In 1901 the family had expanded and moved to 4 Eldon Place, Eccleshill and Albert was by then a ‘Foreman Mason’. Thomas who was about 20 by then was not with the family as he had earlier joined the Army and was in South Africa.
After the War the last known address for Thomas was 9 West End Terrace Eccleshill as this was written on the form indicating his medal awards. It was just a few doors away from where his wife Alice lived before they were married.
The only other details currently available are -
On Dec 31st 1915 nineteen month old Alice Maud Patchett from 9 West End Terrace died.
Alice Maud, wife of Thomas, died on 17th November 1964.