2nd Lieutenant Thomas James Young - MM

Date of Birth 29 May 1896
Age at Death 21
Date of Death 24 September 1917
Service Number 17430
Military Service 1st Battalion Middlesex Regiment
Merton Address 25 Oxford Avenue, Merton Park
Local Memorial St. Mary's Church, Merton Park

Additional Information

Thomas was born at 2 Station Terrace, Teddington in May 1896 and baptised at the local church of St. Peter and St. Paul on 3 September. He was the youngest child of commercial clerk, John Young and his wife, Martha. The couple also had six older children - four daughters and two sons. When he was baptised the family were living at 6 Wellington Road, but by the time of the 1901 census, they had moved to 5 Seymour Road, Hampton. Thomas’s older brothers, Bertram and William, were working for a blacksmith, whilst his sister Charlotte was a milliner, making hats. By 1911, the Youngs had moved to a fairly substantial property at 14, Pelham Road, Wimbledon – most of the children were still living at home and Bertram, now 32, was a motor engineer. After attending Cheam school, Thomas Young was employed as an accounts clerk.

In December 1915, at the age of 19, he volunteered for military service and joined the East Surrey regiment. At the time of his enlistment, Thomas was living at 1, Cleveland Avenue, Merton and was described as 5 feet 8 inches tall, weighing 131lbs, with a mole on his cheek.

From January to April 1916, he underwent basic training, before being sent to France in May. During mid-June he was admitted to hospital with an injury to the third finger on his left hand, but returned to duty just a few days later. Thomas clearly excelled as a soldier – during his service as a stretcher bearer with the East Surrey Regiment, he was awarded the Military Medal for bravery in battle and was gazetted in January 1917. Soon afterwards he was given a commission and became a 2nd Lieutenant, attached to the 1st Battalion of the Middlesex regiment, part of the sizeable 33rd Division.

In 1917, Thomas and his unit fought in the Arras offensive (9 April – 16 May) and operations on the Flemish coast, before participating in the 3rd Battle of Ypres. Also known as the Battle of Passchendaele, this bloody and arduous campaign lasted from 31 July to 17 November 1917 and claimed 325,000 Allied lives. Constant shelling had churned the clay soil and smashed drainage systems across the conflict zone. The left wing of the infantry attack achieved its objectives but the right wing failed completely. Within a few days, the heaviest rain for 30 years turned the battlefield into a quagmire. Thick mud clogged up rifles and immobilised tanks, becoming so deep in places that it drowned both horses and men.

As the weather improved Thomas and his battalion fought in the Battle of Menin Road Ridge, launched on 20 September 1917. Four days later, as the 33rd Division replaced the 23rd division, Thomas was killed during a German offensive which saw hand to hand fighting in a confused area of trenches, connected by shell holes. The company was forced to fall back and Thomas was left where he fell. Sadly this meant that his remains could no longer be identified and he is one of 34,887 British and New Zealand troops commemorated on the Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing, near Zonnebeke, Belgium. His name also appears on a memorial at St. Mary’s church, Merton Park, alongside that of his brother Bertram, who died at the Battle of Cambrai on 20 November 1917.

In his will Thomas left £6.7.11 to his widowed mother and each of his 5 remaining siblings. The only part of his belongings returned to his family was a locked despatch case.


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