1918-2008: Ninety Years of Remembrance

Soldier Record

Thomas Charles Cracknell

Contributed by: Ruth King, on 2008-11-05

Thomas Cracknell
First Name Thomas Charles
Surname Cracknell
Year of Birth 1896
Year of Death 1918
Regiment Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own)
Place of Wartime Residence Kensington, London, Greater London

Thomas Charles's Story

Tommy was one of 11 children of Walter Cracknell and his wife Annie. He was born in 1896 in St Pancras, London. Both he and his brother Walter fought in WW1.

My great-great uncle Tommy Cracknell

Tommy enlisted and joined the 13th (County of London) Battalion TF Kensington, which was formed in August 1914. In October 1914 the name changed to 13th (County of London) Princess Louise's Kensington Battalion. In November 1914 the battalion went to France.

The London Regiment was an all volunteer force which at its peak consisted of 34 battalions. It was mobilised in August 1914 whereupon its units became full time soldiers on a par with the regular army.

Tommy was a runner taking messages from trench to trench - a very dangerous task.

In May 1915 the battalion transferred to GHQ Troops and formed a Composite Battalion with the 1/5th and 1/12th Battalions (London Rifle Brigade).

From the letters which he sent home we can deduce that life was grim. Rations were poor, morale at a low. These young men had no idea of the appalling conditions that they would encounter.

Tommy was wounded twice by falling shrapnel while in the trenches. After spells in military hospitals in France he was sent home to a hospital in Deal, Kent. He did come home on leave as far as his letters reveal.

He was sent back to France in 1918 where he joined the offensive in the later stages of the war. Details of this offensive, obtained from the was diaries at The National Archives, reveal that on 2nd November his regiment relieved the 7th West Riding Regiment, east of the River Rhonelle, near Famais. They advanced towards Saultain, crossing the Rhonelle. On 4th November, 2nd Lieutenant JHM Wright was sent as liasion officer to contact the Battalion of the 169th Brigade who were to the right of their position. He was wounded together with battalion runner, Thomas Cracknell. They then sent 2nd Lieutenant W Osborne as liaison officer to meet up with the Canadians and he never reported back. His body was discovered the next day.

Sadly Tommy died from his wounds on 4th November, 1918, one week from Armistice. He lies with other young men in a cemetery in Ghissignies, France (near the Belgian border). His brother Walter survived and went on to serve in WW2.

We visited Tommy's grave 12 years ago, the first relatives to do so. We were able to tell his only surviving sibling, Katie (aged 90 at the time) that we had been.....she was just 13 when he died.

We owe so much to such brave young men.

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