Lance Corporal Thomas Lucas M.M.

© Royston Williamson 2015

Many thanks to Jim Edwards from North Holmwood for this research.

Thomas Lucas was born in Capel about 1884. In 1891 he was living in Newdigate with his parents, two brothers and two sisters. He left to become a porter at the Bedford Hotel, Brighton. This was one of the leading hotels on the sea front, having many distinguished guests. (After a serious fire in 1964 it was rebuilt as a 14 story tower block and three years later opened as a Holiday Inn, later becoming a Hilton Hotel.) By 1911 his parents were at 7 Brooklyn Terrace, North Holmwood.

Tom left the hotel after 10 years and joined, in March 1916, the 13th (Service) Battalion (3rd South Down), Royal Sussex Regiment in Brighton (with number 4358), as service became compulsory. This battalion had been formed in Bexhill in November 1914 by the MP and a committee, as a locally raised battalion rather than as part of the Army. It had moved to Maidstone in July 1915, before being adopted by the War Office. It moved again to Aldershot in September and to Witley (near Godalming, Surrey) in October, then landed at Le Havre in March 1916. The South Downs battalions (known as “Lowthers Lambs” after the MP who had raised them) suffered severe casualties in a diversionary attack on 30th June. Tom joined the rebuilt battalions in France in September.

At the end of July 1917 Tom was at St Julian during the third battle of Ypres and was awarded the Military Medal for “Bravery in the Field”. He was on the Headquarters staff of the battalion and volunteered to carry rations to the village during a heavy barrage. The notification appeared in battalion orders on 4th September 1917 and in the London Gazette on 16th October 1917 with his new number G/16046. The Gazette gave his home town as Holmwood. He was soon appointed Lance Corporal.

During the early part of 1918 the Germans had been building up their strength on the Western Front, with dwindling hostilities against Russia before the peace was signed on 3rd March. The British were holding lines that were poorly protected and a shortage of manpower had led to reorganisation and weakening of their forces. The Germans were determined to make one last push, before American troops arrived in France. On the 21st March they started the Somme Offensive (The First Battle of the Somme 1918). The artillery used a new tactic and the initial bombardment concentrated on the gun and machine-gun positions, headquarters and other important centres of communications, rather than the front line troops. Their best soldiers had been arranged into special units and these attacked first, in foggy conditions which led to confusion amongst the British. Although the British had been expecting an attack, its timing and strength lead to the Germans making large gains. Tom was killed on the first day of the battle. “The battalion had moved off suddenly.” Tom had been left with a few others to move stores away from a mess. “Shells had been falling around for some time that morning. Lance-Corporal Lucas was in the mess shortly after 11.30 when a shell came through the roof and blew it up. He was instantly killed by the concussion, as was another man who was with him. He was buried at Tincourt, a few miles east of Peronne.” (Dorking and Leatherhead Advertiser). This area was the scene of later fighting and his grave could no longer be identified, so he is commemorated about twenty miles away on the Pozieres Memorial in the Somme department. He fell on the day that saw the greatest total casualties of the war. It has been estimated that British casualties amounted to 7,500 killed, 10,000 wounded and 21,000 taken prisoner. Estimated German casualties for the day were nearer 40,000 (killed, wounded and missing) of which it has been calculated that over 28,000 were wounded. In two weeks the German Army advanced some 40 miles over this entire area and came within reach of the vital railway junctions at Amiens. The ground was not recaptured by the Allies until early September.

Tom’s address was given for probate as 24 Sussex Terrace, Brighton. He was unmarried and probate was granted to his sister, Emily, and his brother, Joseph, a Police Constable at Hyde Park police station, for an estate of £319. His parents were still in Brooklyn Terrace, North Holmwood. They had lost their eldest son in the Boer war and three other sons were in the forces.

Commemorated at St Martin’s Church, on South Street (Dorking) Memorial and North Holmwood Memorial and on Brighton War Memorial.

Born Capel near Dorking, Surrey
Lived Brighton, East Sussex
Brother of Emily and Joseph
Regiment 13th Service Battalion. 3rd South Downs. Royal Sussex Regiment
Number G/16046
Date of Death 21st March 1918
Place of Death Ypres, Belgium
Cause of Death Killed in Action
Age 34
Memorial Pozieres Memorial

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