THOMAS HENRY WOODHAMS

Sergeant, G/1307, 9th Battalion, Royal Sussex Regiment
Killed in Action near Arras, Pas de Calais, France, 13 April 1917, aged 24
No known grave. Listed on the Arras Memorial: Bay 6
 

Sergeant Thomas Henry Woodhams was born in Hartfield in 1893. He lived at New Cottages, Cotchford Farm, Hartfield and at Beeches Farm, Butcherfield Lane, Hartfield.

He was the son of Henry Thomas (1865-1932) and Sophia Catherine (née Jenner) (1869-1947). His mother was born in Cowden, Kent, and his father in Withyham, Sussex. His parents married around 1891 and in the 1911 census were listed as living at Cotchford Hill, Hartfield. His father was a farm labourer as was his elder brother, Albert, aged 20 in 1911.

Thomas' pre-war occupation was as a cowman. In 1911 he was listed as working as a cowman for Harriet Taylor at Beeches Farm in Hartfield aged 18. His brother Thomas was also working as a horseman on the farm aged 16. They had five other siblings living with their parents in 1911.

Thomas enlisted in September 1914 in Tunbridge Wells. His battalion, the 9th, was formed at Chichester in September 1914 and was part of Kitchener's New Army. After its formation the battalion went into camp on the South Downs around Brighton where it often took part in recruitment marches on the seafront. Here it became part of the 73rd Brigade of the 24th Division. In December 1914 the battalion moved to Portslade, and in April 1915 to Shoreham. In June 1915 a further move was made to Woking, Surrey.

The 9th Battalion landed in France, at Boulogne, on 31 August 1915. Within a few weeks of arrival the battalion was thrown into the Battle of Loos, suffering heavy losses.

Thomas was killed in action on 13 April 1917 near Arras, Pas de Calais, aged 24. This was the fourth day of the Battle of Arras. The 9th Battalion were involved in the attack on Vimy Ridge. Five officers were killed and four wounded on that date and of the other ranks 40 were killed in action and 63 died of wounds. Thomas Woodhams is likely to have been one of the other ranks' fatalities. The 9th Battalion had been in action the day before in the attack on Bois en Hache. They had gone over the top in blizzard conditions and had faced severe machine gun fire. They achieved their objective of capturing the German front line. However the attack had taken place, according to the Battalion diaries, "in a blinding snow storm and over ground full of large shell holes and churned into a sea of mud by bad weather and heavy shelling".

Thomas Woodhams has no known grave and is listed on the Arras Memorial, Bay 6.

Listed on the war memorial in Hartfield.

Carol O'Driscoll