Pte. Thomas Charles Terry (1895 – 1915)
Thomas was born on 21 April 1895 in Platt, the eldest of four children to Percy Terry, a railway worker and his wife Emily Ada Clarke. In 1901 the family lived on Windmill Hill in Wrotham Heath and Thomas was a pupil at Platt School. By 1911 Percy’s job had temporarily taken the family away to Ponders End in Middlesex, where both father and son were working on the railway.
When war broke out Thomas was quick to sign up, enlisting with his friend Joel Piper in Maidstone on 9 September 1914 with the 8th (Service) Battalion, The Queen’s Own (Royal West Kent Regiment.) From his medical we know he was 5’ 6” tall, weighed in at 130lbs and had a 36in chest.
Training took place at Shoreham-on-Sea and then Blackdown before the battalion was sent to France on 30 August 1915. When Thomas arrived at the Western Front in early September, preparations for the coming offensive at Loos by the First Army were well underway, and The Queen’s Own had been included as part of the attacking force.
The battalion spent the first three weeks of September encamped near Montreuil, utilizing their time with field-firing practice and engaging in divisional exercises. Thomas began the four-day march to the battle zone on the 21st, laboriously marching overnight along what were congested and chaotic roads full of military transport and men.
The offensive began on the 25th, however the battalion, who had had little water or food, and were sleep-deprived, were scheduled to go into action at dawn on the following day. The ground over which they were to attack sloped gently downwards to the Lens – La Bassée road, before gradually rising the other side towards a rearward system of wire and trenches that ran from the east of Hulloch to the outskirts of Lens.
At zero hour the battalion advanced on the left of the leading line, with the 8th Queen’s in support and 9th East Surreys on their right. At first they made good progress and moved forward at a steady pace – albeit under heavy artillery and rifle fire, which as they proceeded, was added to on their flanks by a hail of lead from machine-guns.
Having reached the road, the West Kents pushed on, crossing the enemy advance trenches (which were full of dead Germans), and then upwards towards the enemy wire. Bullets from machine-guns swept across the landscape in front of them and men from the battalion began to fall fast, with any survivors who managed to reach the German line discovering to their horror that the preceding bombardment had been quite ineffective, and the wire remained intact. The situation was desperate, and several valiant attempts to get through the defences ended in failure. Those who were able, fell to the ground for cover and tried their best to extricate themselves from the battlefield.
Of 24 officers and 800 men who had gone into action that morning, only one officer and 250 men remained. Along with Joel Piper, Thomas was among the 800, and like hundreds of others, his body was never recovered.
Thomas is commemorated on the Loos Memorial. He was posthumously awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War and Victory Medals. These were presented to his father, who by 1918, had moved back to Platt and was living at 9 Whatcote Cottages.