Published By John Davies
John Thomas was born at Llanforda in 1879 the son of John and Agnes Thomas. They lived at Brookside, Candy where his father was a joiner, possibly employed by Llanforda Hall Estate. John Thomas was their second of 8 children. By 1901 John had left home and was working as a joiner at Heath, Staffordshire. In 1904 he married Florry Jones at Dudley and sometime after they moved to Oswestry where his mother, father and siblings were now also living, at 81 Beatrice Street. His father died in 1904. In 1911 John and Florry were living at 101 York Street, they had 2 children, Nesta, born 1904, and Rose, born in 1909. John had worked as joiner at Brogyntyn Estate but at the outbreak of war was employed at Park Hall Camp.
Few details of John’s military service have been discovered. He enlisted in July 1916 at Oswestry. His obituary gives as ‘Pioneer, Royal Engineers attached 2 Bn South Wales Borderers. The 2 Bn SWB were in China at the outbreak of war and only arrived in France in March 1916. He did spend time at SWB Base depot, possibly with 9 Bn, Reserve and Training, he also spent time at 4 Army Musketry School. He was probably posted 2 Bn SWB in 1917. John was killed on 19 May 1917 at Monchy le Preux during the Arras Offensive. At 9.00pm on 19 May the battalion was engaged to capture enemy positions. The attack was held up and repulsed by heavy machine gun fire. Only 1 officer and 36 other ranks got back unscathed, altogether there were 79 casualties – 2 officers and 6 ranks killed, 1 officer and 26 ranks wounded and 44 missing. John was probably one of the missing, his body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Arras Memorial.
Acknowledgements: Photo by Louise Culliford