THOMAS HENRY PRITCHARD
This post was written by Victoria Doran
Thomas Pritchard was a young man, who, on conscription in 1916 was found to be Category C, that is unfit for overseas service. He is unique in being the only member of the 25th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment to die overseas before they were sent on guard duty in 1918.
Thomas Pritchard was born in West Kirby early in 1896. He was the 4th child and son of William Edward Pritchard (1866-1923) and Sarah Hickman (1867-1938). He also had 3 younger brothers and a younger sister, and his parents also lost 2 children as infants.
William Edward Pritchard was born in Shropshire. His grandfather Thomas Pritchard (1811-1874) had started out as a coal miner, but managed to become a small farmer, shopkeeper and inn keeper. William’s father, another Thomas Pritchard (1840-1891) was in the middle of a sizeable family, so by 1871 he had joined a railway company as a porter. He must have shown promise as he rose to the rank of Station Master, moving his family to Ince Station in Cheshire by 1881. His wife Mary Ann Evans (1844-1930), also from Shropshire, moved to Birkenhead after his death at the beginning of 1891.
William Edward Pritchard followed his father onto the railways. He started work as a machine boy in 1878 for the London & North Western Railway Company at Bromborough.
Sarah Hickman was born in Rock Ferry. Her father William Hickman (1826-1904) came from Sedgeley, Staffordshire, but moved to Liverpool and then to Wirral. He started as a bricklayer, but later had a small building business employing 4 men in Birkenhead. Her mother Sarah Seddon (1836-1894) was the eldest child of a Liverpool shipwright. They were married in Liverpool on 14 July 1859.
Thomas’ parents were married at St Paul, Tranmere on 2 November 1887 by licence, as Sarah was only aged 19 and required her father’s consent. Their first child, Harold Pritchard (1888-1970) was born at Rock Ferry where his father was by then a railway clerk. They then moved to Condover, Shropshire on William’s appointment as station master, and second son William Hickman Pritchard (1890-1901) was born there. Sadly William died on his parents’s 14th wedding anniversary aged 10 years and was buried in St Bridget’s churchyard.
By January 1894 when 3rd son Harry Pritchard (1894-1913) was born the family were back on the Wirral at Bebington. There was more sadness when Harry was drowned in an accident at a pool at a colliery in Wigan in June 1913, aged 19. He was also buried at St Bridget.
In February 1894 William Edward Pritchard was promoted to become joint station master of both the London & North Western and Great Western stations at West Kirby, a position he held until just before his death in 1923 (moving to Hooton 3 months before he died). He was a Master of the local Freemason’s Lodge and an enthusiastic bowler. So Thomas grew up knowing his father to be an important person in the local community. The family lived for most of their time in West Kirby at 5 Westbourne Road.
5th son Frederick George Pritchard (1897-???) was born towards the end of 1897, and was followed in the spring of 1899 by Charles Godfrey Pritchard (1899-1915). Charles was baptised at St Bridget at the age of 6 on 16 March 1905. He was epileptic and by 1911 was living in the Home for Epileptics in Maghull, Lancashire where he died in the spring of 1915 aged 15.
Son number 7, Sydney Pritchard (1900-1984) was baptised at St Bridget on the same day as his sister Lucy Pritchard (1904-1976) who was the youngest of Thomas’ siblings. No record of the earlier children being baptised has been found.
By 1911 Thomas was an apprentice painter living at home with his parents and surviving siblings (apart from Charles). His military record has not survived, so all we know of his service is what can be deduced from the report of his death.
Deeside Advertiser 13 April 1917
Thomas must have been conscripted in 1916. He would have been given a medical on conscription and was deemed Category C, that is unfit for overseas service. He would have been sent home to await mobilisation. This was probably when he joined the Cheshire Volunteers, who were a First World War equivalent of the Home Guard of the Second World War.
During March 1917 he was mobilized and assigned to the 25th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment as Private 78295.
King’s Liverpool Regiment cap badge
The 25th Battalion was a regimental Labour Battalion, created as the 43rd Battalion in 1915 for members of the Territorials who were either not suitable for overseas service or refused to serve overseas. It was then a Provisional Battalion with guard duties on the Home Front. On 1 January 1917 it became the 25th Battalion and changed to become a Labour Battalion. Its primary purpose was to train conscripts and others for use in support roles. It was based at Sheringham, Norfolk.
At Sheringham Thomas will have been re-assessed. This time he must have been deemed slightly fitter than in 1916 as he was sent to France within a couple of weeks or so of his mobilisation.
Category descriptions from Wikipedia
He must have been in one of the B categories. Once in France he will have been sent to a Base depot to await assignment to a role and Battalion. Whilst there he contracted pneumonia and died aged 21, probably in a Stationary Hospital. At the Base Depot he is likely to have been living in a tent. Even some Stationary Hospital wards were in tents. The weather may well have been cold and wet, as on 8th and 9th April there was sleet and snow not far away during the Battle of Vimy Ridge.
So when he died he was still on the strength of the 25th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment.
He was awarded the Victory and British War medals and buried in Janval Communal Cemetery at Dieppe. His mother requested the words ‘Peace perfect peace’ be written on his grave stone.
Janval Communal Cemetery, Dieppe, France
Birth: Jan 1896 at West Kirby
Death: 9 Apr 1917 at Dieppe, France due to pneumonia
Address: 5 Westbourne Road, West Kirby (01) (11)
Occupation: painter & decorator
Unit: 25th Battalion, King’s Liverpool Regiment
Number and Rank: 78295; Private
Medals: Victory & British War
Buried & Commemorated: Janval Communal Cemetery, Dieppe, France; Grange Hill War Memorial, West Kirby; St Bridget & St Andrew churches, West Kirby
Sources: CWGC, MC, RSE, DA, Census: 01, 11, BR, PR, family