Thomas Dale

wiltshire regiment badgePrivate 26910, 2nd Battalion, Wiltshire Regiment (previously 25556 Lincolnshire Regiment), killed in action, 9th April 1917, aged 35

Born at Crowle in 1882, Tom was the eldest son of Thomas and Evelena Dale (nee Lindley) and older brother of George and Robert Dale. His mother was from Crowle but his father was a flax dresser from Egremont in Cumbria. When Tom was born the family still lived in Gas House Road.

Like the other male members of his family Tom was also a farm worker. Although he was a prize winning one, being the inaugural winner of the Crowle Ploughing Association competition in 1908. In 1901 he was working for Reuben Maw at Curlews Farm, Crowle Wharf but shortly before enlisting Tom had given up farm work and was in business with his mother as a carrier.

In 1906 Tom married Catherine (Kate) Costigan in Luddington and in 1911 the family lived in Eastoft Road, Luddington, with their two children, Ernest born 1908 and Robert born 1911. When Tom enlisted they lived in Merdyke Road.

Tom enlisted in the Lincolnshire Regiment at Crowle in September or October 1916. He went out to France in January 1917 and at some point was transferred to the 2nd Battalion Wiltshire Regiment.

On the 9th April 1917 the 2nd Wiltshire’s were the first battalion into action at the Battle of Arras. Prior to the main attack beginning at 5.30am, at 1.00am a small raiding party from D Company was detailed to put out of action a machine gun post in an old mill near the Henin to Neuville Vitasse Road. Meeting considerable resistance they sustained heavy casualties and were forced to retire. The survivors joined the rest of the battalion in the main attack at 5.30am on their portion of the Hindenburg line, between the villages of St. Martin-sur-Cojeul and Neuville Vitasse.

Their initial attack met little resistance and within forty minutes the village of St Martin-sur-Cojeul had been captured. However when they pushed on to their secondary objective, trenches on a ridge line behind the village, they encountered more serious problems. They had only gone about 10 yards when they were hit by heavy shelling and machine gun fire. When the survivors of this finally reached the barbed wire in front of the trenches, they found it had not been cut sufficiently to allow them through and  had to seek shelter in whatever shell holes and bomb craters they could find. Still under continual heavy fire and suffering more casualties, the remaining men were eventually forced to retire back to a position on the banked verge of the Neuville-Vitasse Road, where they dug in for the rest of the day. They held this position until relieved that evening.

In their attack on the Hindenburg Line on 9th April, the 2nd Wiltshire’s suffered a total of 379 casualties, including Tom Dale. He is buried close to where he fell, in the Neuville-Vitasse Road Cemetery.

Shortly after news of Tom’s death reached Luddington his wife and sons placed a memoriam in the Crowle Advertiser:

Little we thought when we said goodbye,
That we parted for ever and you were to die;
The grief that we felt words cannot tell,
For we could not be with you to bid farewell.

Tom is also remembered in the memorial inscription in the Bible of St Oswald’s Church, Luddington.