Westmacott, William A, Air Mech 2nd Class, d. 09 March 1919
Guardsman John Pickett Spackman, d. 01 June 1918.
To be confirmed whether the absent voter record found is for the same man.
Street, Hubert H Styles, Lance Corporal, MM, d. 05 March 1918
Walker, Jasper Wilfred, Private, d. 21 March 1918
Able Seaman George Gingell, Royal Navy, drowned at sea, 12 January 1918, age 18 years
(Please note George Henry Lewin Gingell is on another page)
George Gingell was born on May 22nd 1898. Some sources give his birthplace as Wootton Bassett but it was much more likely to be Preston Lane, Preston, between Tockenham and Lyneham, where the family were living in 1891. They were still living in Preston at the time of the 1901 census. George’s father, Henry Gingell, was a farm labourer and cowman, born in Lyneham in about 1869, and his mother was Mary Jane, nee Horsell. By about 1908 the family had moved to Rodwell Lodge, Hilmarton. In 1911, when George was 12, he was only at school part time. His three older brothers, Ernest, Frank, and William Gingell, were all farm labourers, and by now George had two younger brothers, Thomas, who was at school, and Sydney, who was 2. George’s youngest sister Eliza was born in about July 1914. When she was baptised in September 1914 the family lived at Highway near Hilmarton. George, now 15 and perhaps determined that working as a farm labourer was not for him, had already left home.
George joined the Navy at the age of 15 on 30th Jan 1914 with the rank Boy 2nd Class (J/29314). Such entry was conditional on a boy’s physical height, weight, medical fitness, and evidence of ‘good character’. His parents or guardians would sign a declaration that the boy would serve in the Navy for a given period. George began his naval career at the training establishment HMS Impregnable in Devonport, where the moored training ships at the time were HMS Howe, HMS Inconstant and HMS Black Prince. Having proved his proficiency in seamanship and earned at least one good conduct badge, on August 2nd 1914 he was promoted to Boy 1st class, with an associated pay rise (slightly quicker than the usual probation of 9 months). After promotion to Boy 1st Class, George was shuffled quickly through Devonport’s shore based training units Vivid I and Victory I, moving finally, on 28th August 1914, to the shore based torpedo training school HMS Vernon.
George was posted to his first sea going ship, HMS Superb, on 1st November 1914. HMS Superb was one of a trio of Bellerophon-class dreadnought battleships, and was built for the Royal Navy in 1907. Superb was assigned to the Home and Grand Fleets, carrying out routine patrols and training in the North Sea. On January 1st 1916 George was promoted to Ordinary Seaman. On 22nd May 1916 he was reengaged for 12 years. He was 5 feet 8 inches tall, with a 35 inch chest. The Royal Navy Registers of Seamen’s Services tells us that he had brown hair, brown eyes, a fresh complexion, and a scar on his forehead.
Suddenly everything changed for George. A matter of days after his engagement, HMS Superb was taking part in the Battle of Jutland, which lasted from 31st May to 1st June 1916. Having truly earned his ‘sea time’, George was rapidly promoted to Able Seaman on 27th July 1916. HMS Superb later took part in the Action of 19th August 1916, an inconclusive attempt made by the German High Seas Fleet in 1916 to engage elements of the British Royal Navy. After another eight months at sea, George returned to HMS Vernon in England on 1st May 1917. On 31st October 1917 George was assigned to the destroyer depot ship HMS Diligence to await his next posting. He did not have long to wait. He was assigned to HMS Narborough, an M class destroyer, built by John Brown & Company at Clydeside, and launched on 20th November 1916. On board, George’s character and ability were described as ‘very good’.
On 12th January 1918 HMS Narborough and her sister ship HMS Opal of the 12th Flotilla left Scapa Flow to meet the light cruiser Boadicea at sea and carry out a ‘Dark Night Patrol’ or DNP. These took place on every moonless night to deter enemy fast surface minelayers. The two destroyers rendezvoused with Boadicea at 15.35 off the Pentland Skerries. At this time the weather was still good, and the barometer steady, but as the patrol cruised eastwards the weather deteriorated. By 5.05pm speed was reduced to 12 knots. Heavy snow squalls were occurring and visibility was down to a few hundred yards. At 6.30pm the Boadicea ordered the destroyers to return to base. Eventually the Opal (the lead ship of the pair) reported that she had run aground, but with only a partial position. The sole survivor, Able Seaman William Sissons, described how the snow had cleared revealing too late a cliff ahead. The Opal struck this heavily, then the Narborough beached beside her, tipped over to her right and immediately started to break up. Some of the Opal’s life rafts were launched but were carried away and the remainder unusable. Sissons clung to a funnel and eventually managed to swim to the shore.
The snow was too thick that night for tugs or destroyers to go out looking for the two destroyers. In the morning of the 13th of January a variety of ships, sloops, trawlers, drifters and shore parties set out to search for them, but the weather remained poor, and those searching on the shore had to battle through 6 foot deep snow drifts. Later that day a washstand marked ‘Sub Lt HMS Narborough’ was picked up half a mile south of the Pentland Skerries. Finally, on the morning of 14th January, the destroyer Peyton found the wreckage of the destroyers. The ships were submerged to the tops of their torpedo tubes, with everything above deck completely flattened. Able Seaman Sissons, who had been sheltering beneath driftwood and eating shellfish for two days, was picked up by a trawler at the Clett of Crura.
In all there were 95 casualties on the HMS Opal and 93 on HMS Narborough. Only eight men from the Narborough were identified and buried, and another 35 graves were buried with the inscription, ‘A Sailor of HMS Narborough, Known unto God’. George Gingell has no known grave. He is commemorated on the Portsmouth Naval Memorial, panel reference 29. A small memorial also stands at Windwick Bay. It reads:
In memory of the 188 men who perished here when HMS NARBOROUGH and HMS OPAL were lost on the rocks of Hesta during the snowstorm of 12 Jan 1918.
The enquiry found that the disaster was due to poor seamanship and lack of judgement in trying to enter harbour under such poor conditions, and that the Opal’s Lt. Commander de Malan had probably not allowed for the northerly set of the tide. For more information on the loss of HMS Narborough, see http://www.kbrady.com/opal.html and http://www.gwpda.org/naval/opalnarb.htm. See also K.D. McBride in the The Mariner’s Mirror, vol 85 1999, published by the Society for Nautical Research, and the Admiralty Report on the wreck, from which sources I have quoted many details. There are artefacts from the wreck at the museum at Scapa Flow Visitor Centre and Museum, Lyness, and at the Orkney Museum. Kirkwall.
George was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914 Star. When George’s mother was notified of his death, she had returned to Preston and was living at Bridgend Cottage.
Gunner Alfred Reginald Hunt, d. 22nd December 1917
Alfred Reginald Hunt was born in 1893, and was known as Reginald or Reggie. His father, Alfred, born in Wootton Bassett in about 1867, was a bricklayer and mason. Alfred and his wife Mary had four children: Reggie, who was the eldest, Arthur Henry, born in 1895, Joseph Clarence, born in 1897, and Beatrice Mabel, who was born in 1900, and Freda Mary in 1906. In 1901 they were living at The Barton in Wootton Bassett. Reggie’s mother Mary died in July 1910, when Reggie was 17 years old. By 1911 the family were living at 1 Victory Row, except Freda, who was with her uncle Thomas Palmer in Broad Town. In the summer of 1911 Alfred married his housekeeper, Eliza Matilda Sainsbury from Luckington. She was already pregnant; Reggie’s baby half brother, Edwin, arrived in October 1911.
In 1912 Reginald received the gift of an illustrated bible when leaving the YMCA bible class as he was leaving the town. He probably went to live with his mother’s sister Emily and her husband Samuel Hooper at 6 Newland Street, Gloucester, Gloucestershire. Samuel was a postman. Emily was Reggie’s sole legatee on his death, either reflecting his attachment to his sister, or suggesting that he was estranged from his father after his mother’s death.
Clarence was the first of the brothers to enlist. He joined the 2nd Battalion of the Wiltshire Regiment (3/172) on August 14th, 1914, age 17. He was to die of wounds received in action, on the 23rd July 1916, aged 19. Reggie’s brother Arthur served with the 4th Wiltshires in India (201888). He survived the war, and died in 1954 age 59.
Reggie enlisted in September 1914 and like his brother Clarence, was listed by the North Wilts Herald among the first reservists and recruits from the Wootton Bassett area to enlist. He joined the Royal Field Artillery (94702) 52 Brigade, and served as a Gunner. He went out to France for the first time on 12th May 1915 and remained there until at least July 1916. He was wounded twice, and was brought back to a hospital in England.
When he was fit to return to action, Reggie transferred to the 1st/1st East Anglian (Essex) Heavy Battery of the Royal Garrison Artillery (174398) and served with them as a gunner. The Essex had been based at St Albans until setting off for France on March 14th July 1916, where they were attached to the 23rd Heavy Artillery Brigade. In the field, the Heavy Batteries were most often employed in destroying or neutralising the enemy artillery, as well as putting destructive fire down on strong-points, dumps, stores, roads, and railways behind enemy lines.
At the beginning of December 1917 the 1st/1st East Anglian (Essex) Heavy Battery were on the Ypres Salient east of the St Julien road at Langemark, just north of the Lekkerbokesbeek. During the first two days of December the War Diary reads:
C.B. Work [i.e. Counter Battery fire] and Harrassing Fire. 210 rounds fired. 2 Guns in action at Cat House. 1 Man wounded Premature in the bore of a gun at rear position. C.P.O. casualties [CPO may stand for Command Post Officer]. Gun completely destroyed. Took part in attack on ground N of Paschendale. Only partially successful. 417 rounds fired.
The war diary routinely reported wounds and deaths at this time, so Reggie may have been the man mentioned as wounded by the explosion of a gun (he is certainly known to have been wounded on December 2nd 1917). He was taken to the 64th Casualty Clearing Station and died there on the 22nd December 1917, age 24. The Herald reports:
Reginald Hunt’s character and disposition had endeared him to a wide circle of friends in Wootton Bassett and Swindon. His former teachers and employers and those who knew him in connection with the YMCA recognised in him qualities of character and intelligence which gave them confidence in his future. Deep sympathy is felt for Mr and Mrs Alfred Hunt in his second loss of a promising and loved son. Their only surviving son is also serving his country abroad.
Reggie was buried in the Mendinghem Military Cemetery, Belgium, grave reference VI BB 30. Mendinghem, like Dozinghem and Bandaghem, was one of the tongue in cheek names given by the troops to the casualty clearing station groups.
Reggie was awarded the Victory Medal, the British War Medal, and the 1914-1915 Star. A note on the medal roll shows that his father Alfred applied for the medals for his late son. His father requested the text “He died for Freedom” on his cross in Belgium.
Reginald is listed in the Wootton Bassett Boy Scouts Roll of Honour, which records those who served and those who died.
Gunner Herbert Jeffrey Chequer, died 31st December 1917
Photograph from the Great Western Railway Magazine
Herbert Jeffrey Chequer was born in Wootton Bassett in about August 1889. His father was Henry Lewis Chequer and his mother Annie, nee Titcombe. He had one older brother, Henry John Chequer. His mother died in 1891 when Herbert was a year old. That same year Herbert’s father remarried to Elizabeth Hill, who had until recently been working as a servant in London. In 1901 the family were living on the High Street, probably at number 109, which was owned by W E Chequer.
At some point over the next ten years Herbert’s father disappeared to London. By April 1911 Herbert was living with his stepmother Elizabeth and her spinster sister Fanny, in Bright Street.
In the 1911 census and in the Great Western Railway magazine Herbert is recorded as a wagon painter. In his 1915 attestation he described his trade as GWR wheelwright. On 25th May 1912 Herbert married Elsie, née Curtis, at the Congregational Chapel, Cricklade. Elsie was a domestic cook for Edward Radbone the Wootton Bassett grocer. They had one daughter, Lilian Elsie Ethel, who was born in Wootton Bassett on January 9th 1915. Some time between January and December 1915, Herbert and Elsie moved to 10 Handel Street, Gorse Hill, Swindon.
Herbert enlisted in on December 11th 1915 in Swindon and joined the Royal Garrison Artillery (78142). Herbert’s Army statement form confirms that his father Henry had been missing for some years and that his mother was dead. Herbert served at home from the 11th December 1915 to 11th September 1916.
On 12th September 1916 he went out to France with the 172nd Siege Battery. He was wounded by gunshot on 22nd May 1917 and was sent to the 1st Canadian General Hospital in Etaples from which he was invalided home on 26th May 1917. When he had recovered he again left England on 10th December 1917 attached to the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.
Herbert was drowned at sea age 28 on 31st December 1917, aboard the Osmanieh, a mail steamship which had been hired by the British Royal Navy as a troop transport ship. The Osmanieh hit a mine in the entrance to Alexandria Harbour in Egypt. Osmanieh sank quickly taking with her three officers, 21 crew, one medical officer, 166 other ranks and eight nurses. The Herald reported that Gunner Chequer was a bright, cheery fellow, and that his old comrades would mourn his death.
Herbert’s body was recovered and buried at Alexandria Hadra War Memorial Cemetery with the inscription, chosen by Elsie, “Thy will be done”, grave reference A 144. Note that the Commonwealth War Graves Commission records show his name incorrectly as Hubert.
On May 10th 1918 Elsie wrote a poignant letter:
Dear Sir, I am writing to say that I am returning things which I know for certain did not belong to my husband as he never smoked in his life, but purse, disc and coins did belong to him. He was wearing a belt and watch which I should be more than pleased to have if sent to you. The belt he made himself worked with Royal Garrison Artillery guns and flags lined with leather. I am sir, yours faithfully, E Chequer.
Herbert was awarded the British War Medal and the Victory Medal. He is remembered on the Carriage and Paint Shop memorial plaque which can be seen at the former GWR Works, and is listed in the GWR Magazine.
Herbert’s brother Henry John Chequer was working in Wales in 1911 and married Margaret Jones there at the beginning of 1914. He joined up in December 1915 and served in the Prince of Wales’s Volunteers (South Lancashire) Regiment. By 1915 he was living in Birkenhead, and was living in Elgin Street, Birkenhead, at the time of his death in 1940. Herbert’s stepmother Elizabeth Chequer died in Swindon in 1937. Herbert’s daughter Lilian died in 1958 and was outlived by her mother Elsie, who died in 1977.
Herbert’s father resurfaced in 1920 at 1 Ayr Cottages, Uxbridge, with a woman going under the name of Elizabeth Chequer. This may have been Elizabeth Buchanan, who certainly had his children, or Eliza Ogbourne, for whom I have found a possible bigamous marriage in 1926.
Raymond Metcalfe Shepherd was born in Barford, Warwickshire, on 5th June 1890. He was the son of George Edward Shepherd and Alice Mary, nee Chater. Raymond was the sixth of seven children: Alice (who was born to his mother before her marriage), George, Lily, Frank Shepherd, Ernest, Raymond, and Aileen. In about 1889 the family moved to Barford, Warwickshire. In 1891, Frank’s father George was a butler, probably for Josiah Yeomans Robins, J.P., at West Hill, a mansion house in New Cubbington. George and his family lived nearby, at 7 Lulworth Cottages, Westhill Road, New Cubbington, Warwickshire.
George’s employer, Josiah Robins, died in May 1898. He left the bulk of his estate to nephew Charles Hubert Blount, but his widow, Mary Isabel, was given the use of West Hill for the remainder of her widowhood. Although she remained at West Hill until her death in 1916, it seems likely that Josiah Robins’ death precipitated George’s move to new employment. Some time between 1891 and 1901 George became the butler at Basset Down, near Wootton Bassett. He and his family took up residence in Basset Down Lodge.
In 1906 Raymond left home at the age of 15 and on 19th May 1905 he became an Indentured Apprentice in the Merchant Navy. He was bound to Devitt and Moore for one voyage, to expire in 1907.
The North Wilts Herald reported on his career and his experience of the earthquake in Messina:
Mr Raymond Shepherd, the 19 years old son of Mr George Shepherd, of Basset Down Lodge, Swindon, was amongst those who had an experience of the terrible earthquake at Messina, and thus added to the series of the remarkable incidents which have characterised his career on the sea. He is engaged on trading vessels, and his first journey was to Australia on the Port Jackson, which was in a collision in the Channel soon after the harbour tug had left it. His next trip was to Chili in a sailing vessel, the barque Heathfield, which was engaged 16 months on the journey. When at Colleta to start home it drifted onto the rocks at Collosa. Shepherd is now on O.S. on the steamer Drake, and his escape from the recent earthquake is really his third experience in which his life has been imperilled. We have been furnished with a copy of a letter to his mother which he wrote the day after the upheaval from the Sailors’ Rest, Syracuse. In this he recounts what he saw and heard, and the perils he underwent.
“I expect,” he says, “by now you have heard of the terrible earthquake at Messina, and are no doubt worrying about me, but thank God! we are all safe. But we had a very narrow escape, and we carried out some very dangerous work after it happened in rescuing the poor people. It occurred about 5.30am, and threw us out of our bunks. We went on deck, thinking another ship had run into us [indeed, an Italian vessel was thrust into the side of the Drake and bore much of the force of the tidal wave], and when we got there it was as black as pitch, with clouds of dust about, and people screaming and crying out. So we rushed back, put on our clothes, and went to clear our boats ready for lowering [it later emerged that they expected the Drake to sink]; but it was so dark we could not see. At that time the quay was crowded with people, and then came the tidal wave. It took our ship right up on the quay, but thank God! we slipped off again, or it would have been our end. It rose 14 feet up the houses, and when it had gone back again there was not a soul to be seen, so they must have all been drowned. Then came a trying time for us, as we had broken loose from our moorings, and we were running first against one steamer and then against another; but nothing very serious happened. When daylight came our men were sent ashore with shovels to dig the people out [19 people were dug out], and the other O.S. and myself were in the boat with orders to take anyone on board, no matter what nationality. We were on until four o’clock in the afternoon, never stopping for food. It was dangerous work, the men were simply wild, but we had our flag in the boat, so that if they touched us, they touched the flag.
The General Steam Navigation Company received a cablegram from Syracuse stating that their steamer Drake, which had been loading lemons, oranges and wine in Messina for three days when the earthquake struck, had been instrumental in rescuing 250 survivors. After taking refugees on board she sailed for Syracuse and arrived safely. By the end of the month the Drake was safely returned to London Bridge in England, and it was stated in the press that she had rescued 308 men, women and children. Greeted by the Lord Mayor Raymond’s grandson’s wife tells me that Raymond was awarded a Medal from the King of Italy for his efforts in rescuing people from the devastation.
On 16th September 1912 he was appointed to the Dredge Service in New South Wales.
In 1914 Raymond married Alice Myrtle Murdoch and had four daughters. It is likely that Raymond served in the Merchant Navy during WW1 but the Australian Merchant Navy records have not yet been digitised.
Raymond’s wife Alice died on 13th July 1923. In 1925 Raymond married Mabel Pettit. Raymond served in the Merchant Navy during the hostilities of WW2. He died on 1st November 1974.
Details of the earthquake in Messina were published in the Daily Telegraph & Courier (London) on Friday 22nd January 1909.
Private Thomas George Hunt, d. 11th November 1917.
Thomas George Hunt was born on 26th June 1886 in Ashburton, South Rakaia, Christchurch, New Zealand. Thomas’s father, Wootton Bassett born William Hunt and his wife Lucy, née Angelinetta, had emigrated to Christchurch, New Zealand, in 1886. They returned to Wiltshire the following year, 1887. In 1891 and 1901 Thomas and his family lived near Coped Hall, in the vicinity of Church Hill. The Meux catalogue of 1906 lists William Hunt renting an unnamed brick and tiled cottage, now demolished, on the corner of Swindon Road and Stoneover Lane, just opposite Rylands Farm, which is probably Thomas’s father. The cottage had four rooms, a washhouse, a stone built piggery, a wood shed, and a paddock stretching west along the Swindon Road behind the house. Thomas’s father worked firstly as a bricklayer’s labourer, and then as a domestic groom. By 1909 William and Lucy had moved to Church Street, Wootton Bassett, and William died there. Lucy remarried to Alfred Ringham in 1912. By 1916 she was living at 46 North Street, Swindon.
Thomas probably joined the Imperial Yeomanry as a volunteer at the age of 17, in about 1904. He served in the Yeomanry for five years. (The Regiment was renamed the Royal Wiltshire Yeomanry (Prince of Wales’s Own Royal Regiment) in 1908).
Thomas worked for the Great Western Railway in 1905, firstly as an engine cleaner in Swindon, then from June 18th 1907 as a locomotive fireman engaged in shunting in Trowbridge.
Thomas married Ellen Selman in Wootton Bassett on August 24th 1907. It is not known where Thomas and Ellen lived while Thomas was working in Trowbridge. The newly-weds may have taken over the cottage at Church Hills from Thomas’s parents, or they may have lived with Thomas’s parents in Church Street, or they may have set up their own home elsewhere in Wootton Bassett. Thomas and Ellen’s first daughter, Constance Ellen May, was born in Wootton Bassett in May 1910. Soon after Constance was born Thomas and his family moved to Trowbridge and they lived there for a few months with Thomas’s widowed mother and his youngest sister, 14 year old Elizabeth.
On 15th April 1911 age 24 Thomas resigned from his job at the Great Western Railway to emigrate to Canada. Ellen followed him there with 11 month old Constance on October 11th 1911, on the ‘Royal George’. Thomas had already found work there and his occupation is recorded on the passenger list as “electric”. Their second daughter Kathleen Mabel Agnes Hunt was born in 1912 at 66 Dodds Avenue, Toronto, Canada. In 1913 Thomas is listed as a motorman in the Toronto City Directory, living with his family in rooms at 66 Dodds Avenue.
Most of Toronto’s men of service age, some 70,000 of them, flocked to join up between 1914 and 1918. A few women also pursued the opportunities open to them. Thomas attested with the 126th Overseas Peel Battalion of the Canadian Expeditionary Force (775920) on 3rd March 1916. He certified that he was working as a motorman and was living at 178 Lappin Avenue Toronto (there is a newer house on this site now). He was 5 feet 4½ inches tall and his chest measurement was 35½ inches. He had a fair complexion, brown eyes and dark brown hair and no distinctive marks. He was a member of the Church of England. His wife is named as Helen, rather than Ellen. Her address is given as 178 Lappin Avenue at the time of attestation, but this is later crossed through and replaced with 5 North Street, Swindon.
Thomas embarked for England with his regiment from Halifax Nova Scotia, on the SS Empress of Britain, on August 14th 1916, and arrived in Liverpool ten days later. On October 15th he was transferred to the 116th Battalion in the Canadian camp at Bramshott in Hampshire. According to Ellen’s Ocean Arrivals form of 1920 she returned to England in November 1915 or 1916 and lived near Thomas’s mother in North Street, Swindon, specifically in order to be closer to her husband. Although the writing appears to say 1915, this does not fit with Thomas’s service record, and I believe the date must be 1916. This would have been her last opportunity to see Thomas before he went to the front. She appears to have moved from 5 to 8 North Street, then, as several sources confirm, by November 1917 she moved to 13 North Street.
On November 28th Thomas was transferred to Witley to join the 18th Battalion of the Canadian Infantry (keeping the same Regimental Number, 775920) and was sent out to France, arriving on the 29th of November. He joined his new unit in the field on December 3rd 1916 and remained with them for nearly a year. The battalion went into the front line near Potijze on the 8th October 1917 (Operation Order 167). The War Diary of the 18th Battalion on 9th November 1917 tells us of the conditions in the front line.
Owing to bad weather and the continual shelling by the enemy, the front line and supports were in poor condition, the mud and water in many places being waist deep.
The War Diary merges the reports for the 9th to 12th November 1917 into one report. This tells us of the action taking place in the last days of Thomas’s life:
During the whole of this tour, the officers and men held this post of the line under the most severe conditions possible. Great difficulty was experienced in the evacuating of casualties from the front line to Regimental Aid Posts and dressing stations. Front line trenches were subjected to frequent barrages and the rear country was also heavily shelled and bombed. The supports on this front were reached by a series of tracks, being trench mat walks, and rations had to be carried by mules up these tracks. Each track being subjected to continual shellfire, the transport and ration parties were fortunate in escaping with the loss of 3 men killed and 1 mule which fell off the duck-board track and owing to the depth of the mud, had to be shot. Splendid work was done by the Battalion stretcher bearers in tending and evacuating the wounded […] The total casualties for this tour approximately being:- Killed in action: 45 other ranks; Wounded: 6 Officers, 60 other ranks; Gassed: 1 Officer, 25 other ranks.
The Canadian War Graves Register tells us that Thomas was killed in action by the explosion of a shell about 150 yards to the left of the Passchendaele Church on the night of 11th November 1917. He was 31 years old. Of the 70,000 soldiers and nursing sisters of Toronto who joined up to serve in the Great War, Thomas was among the 13,000 who never returned. The North Wilts Herald of 30th November 1917 reports:
Mrs Ellen Hunt, of 13, North Street, Swindon, has received the sad news of the death of her husband, Pte. Thomas George Hunt, of the Canadians, who was killed in action on November 11th. The deceased soldier was a native of Wootton Bassett, but went to Canada about six years ago, and was employed by the Toronto Street Railway Company. At the outbreak of the war he enlisted with the Canadian Forces and has been serving in France 18 months.
The Herald printed a copy of a letter received by his wife from his Lieutenant:
It is with extreme regret that I have to report to you of the death of 775920 Pte. T. G. Hunt, who was killed in action on November 11th, 1917. He was hit by a shell and killed instantly, so suffered no pain. Our battalion has left the vicinity. Particulars of his place of burial, I expect, will be sent to you later by the authorities. As his platoon commander, kindly accept my sincerest condolence in your sad bereavement, as I feel the loss of a good, dependable man who always did his share and was liked by all his comrades. He died manfully and fearlessly doing his duty under intense shell fire. Therefore I cannot but say that I feel his loss keenly.
Thomas was originally buried in a field beside Klijtgatstraat, in Klien-Zillebeke, Ypres, Belgium (28.NE.D.6.D.2.7). He was later exhumed, identified by his identity disc, and reburied at the Passchendaele New British Cemetery, grave reference VI C 9.
Thomas was not eligible for a British medal. His Canadian medal, plaque and scroll were sent to his widow Ellen, and a Memorial Cross was sent to both Ellen and his mother Lucy. He left no property, but his personal estate was left to his wife, Ellen. He is commemorated on a plaque to members of the Toronto Street Railway Employees Union at Toronto Old City Hall on Queen Street.
Ellen was granted a widow’s pension on April 1st 1918. She returned to Canada in May 1920 with the intention of getting married, and settled at 87 Frejama Avenue (now Greendale Avenue), Mount Dennis, Toronto, Ontario. In 1921 the Toronto census lists that she had a lodger here, William Henry Cam, who was a former Corporal in the Royal Garrison Artillery. He was born in Badminton, Gloucestershire. They married in 1922.