23622 PTE. T. SLATER. L.N.LAN.R.
Thomas Slater was born in March 1891 in Bamber Bridge. He was the youngest child of Henry Slater (b. 1857 in Bamber Bridge, a flagger and slater by trade) and Mary Ellen Unsworth (b. 1859 in Brindle). Henry and Mary Ellen were married in 1877 and they had 7 children, 5 of whom survived: Margaret (b. 1878), Clara (b. 1880), Henry (1881-1896), John (b. 1883), Peter (b. 1884) and finally Thomas. In 1911, Tom was living with his parents at 3 John Street, Bamber Bridge and at the time, working as a weaver in a cotton mill, though later, the article says, he worked for his brother’s building firm. In 1911, both brothers, Peter and John, were working as flaggers and slaters like their father.
Tom enlisted in March 1916, about the time conscription was introduced, joining The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment. He was assigned service number 23622 and posted to 1st Battalion. During the first six months of 1916, small reinforcing drafts were constantly arriving in France to prepare for the planned major offensive on the Somme. 1Bn came under orders of 1st Brigade in 1st Division. In 1916, on the Somme, 1st Division fought at the Battle of Albert (July); the Battle of Bazentin (July); the Battle of Pozières (July-September); the Battle of Flers-Courcelette (September) and the Battle of Morval (September). The following year they were engaged in the British pursuit of the German retreat to the Hindenburg Line (March-April) and then the Division was warned to prepare for an operation along the Belgian coast (“Operation Hush”) in summer 1917. It moved to the Dunkirk area for specialist training. Several mobile units were attached in readiness. The Battalion, along with the rest of the Division, arrived at Coxyde-Les-Bains on 23 June 1917, the intention being to force their way along the coast to capture the ports of Oostende and Zeebrugge, which were the bases for the German submarine fleet which was causing so much damage to British shipping in the Channel. The Germans mounted a strong defence. The War Diary recounts what happened on 10 July:
“About 6am the enemy commenced a heavy bombardment of the front system – the river, Nieuport-Les-Bains, and the back areas, Coxyde and Coxyde-Les-Bains. This increased during the day and about 7.25pm the enemy successfully attacked, taking our trenches up to the east bank of the river. The two battalions in the front line (2nd Royal Sussex and 2nd King’s Royal Rifles) were practically annihilated.” Incidentally, this attack was the first time mustard gas was used by the Germans.
Later that evening, German aeroplanes dropped bombs on the camp occupied by 1Bn. Tom Slater was among the missing, later presumed dead. He was in fact 26 years old (he would have been 27 when the article was published). The operation eventually failed and was cancelled in October 1917 when the initial assaults in the Third Battle of Ypres failed to progress as expected.
Service No: 23622
Date of Death: 10/07/1917
Regiment/Service: The Loyal North Lancashire Regiment, 1Bn
Commemorated at: NIEUPORT MEMORIAL