Thomas Walter ScottBorn 6th June 1896 - Killed in Action 13th October 1916
Thomas Walter Scott was the son of Robert Henry and Mary Emily Scott. His father was originally from Suffolk, worked as a bank cashier but sadly died in 1903 when Thomas was seven years old. Thomas boarded at Bancrofts thereafter leaving his mother and older sister Anna behind in the family home which in time settled in Ettisley Avenue in Newnham between Cambridge and Grantchester.
At Bancrofts Thomas - ‘Tom’ was solid academically winning the U4th prize for English and Scripture and featuring prominently in the school debating society where he was Hon. Secretary in the time of Sydney Chaplin and Charles Milne. He was a keen if not necessarily gifted sportsman but lacked nothing in courage and spirit of adventure.
Thomas aged 17 years of age and straight after leaving Bancrofts thought nothing of packing a small bag and leaving for Canada. Travelling ‘steerage’ class he kept in touch with some of his school pals throughout his stay in Canada where he fended for himself throughout.
As one old schoolfriend wrote:
By the summer of 1914 Tom was still in Canada and on the outbreak of war he enlisted with 26th Battalion Canadian infantry (New Brunswick Regiment). Then began the training. He wrote to his sister Anna on the 9th December 1914:
Later he wrote:
Sadly it was to be anything but imaginary thousands of miles away on the western front. The recruits were feted in their native land and on New Year 1915 treated to a ‘Splendid Banquet’ by the civic dignitaries of St John, Brunswick... cigars included. Tom progressed up the ranks from Corporal to Sergeant to Platoon Sergeant...no mean feat for a man of 19 years of age!
Then the London gazette announced:
SERGEANT THOMAS WALTER SCOTT, FROM THE CANADIAN INFANTRY, TO BE SECOND LIEUTENANT. DATED 2ND SEPTEMBER, 1915.
A friend was later to comment:
While at home Tom’s sister Anna married her fiancé John Beech an officer in the Royal Engineers in Christmas week 1915. In May 1916 Tom arrived in France. The plans for the Somme offensive were well advanced. The 1st battalion Cambridgeshire or ‘Fen Tigers’ as they were known, all volunteers, had been in France since the February of 1916 and had done their share of front line duties. With the Big Push rumoured, the battalion was in the line around Loos to the north of where the Somme battles were to be fought. His friends commented on how while at the front Tom relished the popular Bairnsfather cartoons that circulated amongst the troops:
Consequently, though still dangerous, they suffered light casualties defending the lines to the north, while on the Somme thousands of allied soldiers assaulted the German lines and in turn drew thousands of German reserves into the maelstrom. If this produced an anxiety amongst the troops keen to play their part, they were not to be disappointed for long. Throughout July and August and September 1916 the lists of the killed tell the story. In that time only 52 of the Regiment were killed across all fronts. The true baptism on the Somme however was to come on the 13th/14th October. This was the date earmarked for the allied army’s renewed attack on the Schwaben redoubt, a heavily fortified network of trenches, dug outs and machine gun nests on the Somme front near the village of Thiepval. The battalion advanced under a creeping barrage and miraculously got as far as entering the trench system without loss. The bitter hand to hand fighting that followed took its toll, but by the standards of the Somme battlefront, casualties were light and the attack a remarkable success. The Cambridgeshires continued to successfully defend the area against concerted counter attack. By the time they were relieved only 32 men had been killed.
Sadly Tom was one of them. A shell had fallen amongst a party of officers and Tom, his commanding officer Captain Formby, and a gunner were killed outright. There bodies were never recovered, as was to prove so often the case with shell impact. Tom is now commemorated on the THIEPVAL MEMORIAL near where he died.