Bombardier, 95855, 109th Brigade, Royal Field Artillery
Died of Wounds at Ypres, West Vlaanderen, Belgium,
on 29 September 1918. He was 27.
Buried in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Grave V. B. 1.

The Regimental Cap Badge of the Royal Field Artillery
(Click to enlarge)

Thomas James Draper was born in East Grinstead in 1891 and baptised there on 31 January 1892. His parents were Ambrose (1858-1937) and Minnie (née Hitchcock, 1864-1935) Draper of East Grinstead. He married Elizabeth Owden (1890-1968) in July 1912 in East Grinstead.

In the 1901 census he is to be found at Poplar Farm in Forest Row. His father Ambrose, born in East Grinstead, was 42 and a bricklayer. His mother Minnie was 37 and born in Tunbridge Wells, Kent. Also in the household were Eliza, aged 14, and Horace, aged 12, both born in East Grinstead, and Rose, aged 8, May, aged 6, Minnie, aged 3 and 10-week-old John, born in Forest Row.

According to the 1911 census, the household was now at 9, Highfields, Forest Row. Ambrose and Minnie had been married for 24 years and had had seven children. Thomas, aged 20, was described as a painter working for a builder. Also recorded in the household were May, Minnie and John.

The Royal Field Artillery in Action
(Click to enlarge)

According to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Thomas was a Gunner (Acting Bombardier) serving with the 1st/36th Division Ammunition Column, Royal Field Artillery. As an Acting Bombardier (a rank in certain artillery regiments equivalent to a Lance Corporal) he would be entitled to wear one chevron or stripe on his uniform. Thomas had also served in the Royal Horse Artillery.

The Royal Regiment of Artillery consisted of three components: the Royal Horse Artillery were highly mobile units used in support of the Cavalry and the Royal Field Artillery; the Royal Field Artillery were mobile, horse drawn medium calibre guns and howitzers used close to the front line; and the Royal Garrison Artillery were mainly concerned with developing the technical aspects of gunnery, manning forts and fortresses, and controlling the heavy guns attached to each infantry division.

Ypres Reservoir Cemetery
(Click to enlarge)

Thomas was killed in action (died of wounds) at Ypres, West Flanders, Belgium, on Sunday 29 September 1918. He was aged 27. He is buried in Ypres Reservoir Cemetery, Grave V.B.1. The grave inscription, chosen by his mother, reads "Nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling". The cemetery, designed by Sir Reginald Blomfield, contains some 1,579 identified WW1 casualties. Burials began there in October 1915 and it was used up to the Armistice in 1918. It was later enlarged with graves brought in from smaller battlefields and burial grounds from around the Ypres Salient.

Thomas was awarded the Victory Medal. The award of the 1914-1915 Star notes that his disembarkation date was 27 November 1915. He would automatically have been awarded the British War Medal for those killed in action.

Kevin Tillett