Thomas Birtchnell

1889 - 1916

Thomas became a printer’s machine minder and moved to Oxford. He joined the Royal Engineers and worked on communications and water supplies for the troops.

Born in Aylesbury

Thomas Bodsworth Birtchnell* was born in 1889 in Aylesbury. He was the youngest of his parents’ ten surviving children. His father was a stonemason, and at his marriage in 1866 he had been able to sign his name, but Tom’s mother, who was a servant, could not.

Printer’s machine minder

Most of Tom’s brothers and sisters went into printing-related work, and by 1911 he was a printer’s machine minder. His father had died the previous year, and he was living with his mother and three of his sisters, still in Aylesbury. But at some point before 1916 Tom moved to Oxford with other family members.

Communications and water supplies

Tom joined the 1/3 Kent Field Company of the Royal Engineers as a Sapper. His unit had been in Gallipoli but returned to France in February 1916, and Tom seems to have joined them there. They worked on communications and water supplies, but when the Somme offensive began in July they were attached to attacking brigades. Their division was in action straight away at the Battle of Albert. Tom was killed in action on 8 July at Beaumont-Hamel, a village where the division had already suffered huge losses, and which was not finally taken by the British until November. Tom was aged 26, and was buried in Englebelmer Cemetery.

Mother returned to Aylesbury

Tom’s mother appears to have continued to live in Oxford for some years, but then returned to Aylesbury, where Tom’s name had been added to his father’s gravestone.

 

* Recorded on his father’s gravestone as “Tom Bosworth Birtchnell”

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