THOMAS HENRY WOODHAMS

Sergeant, G/1307, 9th Battalion, The 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 Tom Woodhams
(Click to enlarge)

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.

Tom's 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 William was also working as a horseman on the farm aged 16. William served with the Machine Gun Corps in Italy in the First World War and survived to marry Mary, in 1921. He died in 1970. They had five other siblings living with their parents in 1911, Albert, Frederick, Bertha, Charlie and Mary. Mary died in 2004; she was a housekeeper for Brian Jones of the Rolling Stones at Cotchford Farm and knew A.A. Milne. All his male siblings worked as agricultural labourers.

 

Tom Woodhams' Sunday school certificates
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Tom's brothers Albert, Wallie, and Fred also served in the Great War. Albert survived to marry Fanny Lee in 1923; he died in 1961. Frederick, born married Florence Baker in 1920 and died in 1962. Wallie (William) married Mary Harrison in 1921.

The 9th Battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment at Brighton
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Tom enlisted in the Royal Sussex Regiment on 31 August 1914 at 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.

Sergeant Tom Woodhams
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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. Tom was wounded at Richebourg-L'Avoué on 9 May 1915 and again at Ypres on 12 April 1915.

Sergeant Woodhams 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. He 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".

The Arras Memorial
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His Commanding Officer, Captain G.M. Shackel, wrote:

"I have been your son's Company Commander since Aug 1916, and naturally knew him very well. I could always rely on him as one of the steadiest and bravest men I had with me. The men knew it too, and he had the best platoon in the company. It was a glorious show in which he fell, leading his men, but one very sad for you and me...There is nothing I can say, I know, will help you, except to pay my tribute to a very brave Englishman".

 
    

Newspaper cutting announcing Tom Woodhams' death in action (left)
The watch mentioned in the cutting (right)
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Sergeant Tom Woodhams has no known grave and is listed on the Arras Memorial, Bay 6.

Listed on the war memorial in Hartfield.

Carol O'Driscoll

 

Acknowledgement
With thanks for additional material from Barry Woodhams via the Hartfield History Group.