Thomas’s name appears on the Morecambe War Memorial. The first source to mention his existence is the 1901 census:
We see that Thomas’s parents were Henry and Mary De Maine and that Thomas had a brother called John McClure Demaine who was born in about 1893. The next source is the 1911 census:
Henry was now a dock labourer (probably at Heysham), John an assistant domestic gardener, Thomas an errand boy and Sarah Margaret (born in 1902) a school pupil. Henry and Mary had been married for 19 years and all their children were still alive. They lived at 13 King Street; it was a five-roomed house.
Thomas joined up in November 1915. His service records were badly damaged in the 1940 London Blitz but have survived. Here are the relevant images:
Summary of Information Contained Within the Service Records:
- Thomas joined the 2nd/5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment on 23rd November 1915
- His number was 4280
- He was a Carpenter’s Apprentice
- He belonged to the Church of England
- He was 5′ 5″ tall; his girth measured 33 and a half inches with a 2-inch expansion
- He said that he had suffered from fits as a child
- He was in the U.K. between 22nd January 1916 and 5th February 1917
- He was in France and Belgium between 6th February and 26th October 1917
- He sailed to France via Southampton and Le Havre
- He was treated for scabies between 27th April and 3rd May 1917
- After his death, his mother received his possessions and medals; she resided at 13 King Street, Morecambe.
Thomas’s battalion, the 2nd/5th King’s Own Royal Lancaster Regiment, was a second line battalion, formed in Lancaster in September 1914. In February 1915 it became part of the 55th (West Lancashire) Division and, in April 1915, was transferred to the 57th (2nd West Lancashire Division). The 57th Division crossed the Channel between 7th and 22nd February and completed concentration at Merris on 23 February 1917. On 26th October it began fighting in the Third Battle of Ypres or Passchendaele. That is the day upon which Thomas died.
The Battalion War Diary for 26th October 1917 describes the action in which Thomas must have fallen. They were in trenches at Poelcapelle near Ypres and formed up to attack the enemy positions, which were some 1000 yards away at 03.40 hours. The weather was ‘dreadfully bad’ and the battalion ‘advanced to the attack’ at 05.40 hours:
… on a 500 yards front with platoons and companies in ‘Normal Attack Formation’ … each platoon having a frontage of about 160 yards. The going was almost impossible due to the conditions of the ground, however the men moved forward slowly and surely. The leading waves had not gone more than 50 yards before they came under an intense machine gun barrage which caused a great number of casualties. Evidently the machine gun positions had been missed by our barrage. All company officers of the battalion became casualties during the early stages of the attacks. But the sergeants and junior N.C.O.s carried on the attack in a most determined manner. It is estimated that small groups of men reached and held shell holes about 500 yards in advance of our original line… The enemy’s sniping was very efficient, it is most essential that all ranks dress alike as anyone assuming command by pointing, shouting or directing was immediately sniped. The heavy casualties were mostly due to the machine gun fire. The ground that had to be advanced over was dreadful. It speaks well of the men that they got away at all. It was almost impassable.
At the end of the attack, the casualties were 6 officers killed, 9 officers wounded, 42 other ranks killed, 144 other ranks wounded and 87 other ranks missing. The dreadful losses presaged the final huge casualty rates for the Battle of Passchendaele when it ended on 7th November 1917.
Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery is the largest memorial in the Passchendaele area. It contains 11,961 marked burials of which 8,373 are unnamed. Thomas Ernest De Maine is one of the 34,947 soldiers with no known grave whose names are inscribed on the memorial panels at the back of the cemetery.
The final records to mention Private De Maine are his medal card and his entry in the Register of Soldiers’ Effects: