The First Rainham Soldier Killed in World War 1
When war was declared in July 1914 most people believed that it would be a short and glorious affair. In Rainham young men joined up while others who were already in the forces soon became involved.
Originally born in Chatham, Thomas Henry Anderson lived in Chatham, Rainham and Upchurch during the period leading up to 1914, working as a butcher’s assistant before joining the 1st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. His first military experience took place in India which at that time remained part of the British Empire and while serving there he was awarded the Delhi Durbar Medal in 1911 to commemorate King George’s coronation celebrations in India
After completing his posting in India he returned to England where he was stationed at Portsmouth but with the outbreak of war in July 1914 it wasn’t long before he found himself sailing to France as part of the British Expeditionary Force made up entirely of professional soldiers under the command of General Sir John French. As a member of the 1st Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers he disembarked at Le Havre in France before being transported inland by train to Landrecies.
According to the regimental history of the Northumberland Fusiliers, on 21st August Thomas Anderson’s regiment marched towards Mons where the Ist Battalion took a position on the Mons Condé Canal while the French were fighting the Germans at the battle of Charleroi on the right of the British Expeditionary Force. The British aim was to hold a line along the Mons-Condé Canal for 24 hours to prevent the advancing Germans from threatening the French left flank. When the battle began the British inflicted heavy casualties on the German side but with the retreat of the French Fifth Army which exposed the British right flank to numerically superior German forces a retreat was ordered.
After their first conflict the battalion crossed the River Marne on September 9th and soon confronted German infantry in a wooded area at Veuilly. During the course of this they crossed a stream and marched on to the village of Dammard. They then crossed the River Aisne and billeted at Vailly. On September 14th they moved forward in support of the 4th battalion of the Royal Fusiliers near Rouge Maison and waited. At dawn the Germans attacked and the fusiliers were driven back after engaging their enemy in a wood on the left side. They lost more than 30 soldiers which probably included Thomas Anderson and 84 officers and men wounded or missing.
It isn’t clear exactly how he was killed but Thomas, who held the rank of Lance-Corporal, was later awarded the ‘Mons Star,’ a medal awarded to those who had fought the Germans in France and Belgium between 5th August and 23rd November 1914. He is remembered on the Upchurch and Rainham war memorials and on La Ferte-Sous-Jouarre memorial east of Paris. The Northumberland Fusiliers in which Thomas Anderson served raised 51 battalions for service in the Great War and lost a total of 16,000 men.
Thomas Anderson became the first Rainham serviceman to be killed in the conflict and 98 others from the village suffered the same fate in the Great War of 1914-1918. 527 words.