Baxenden Lads: Bates TH

4th August 1917

PTE. 60141 THOMAS HENRY BATES of the Royal Welsh Fusiliers was killed in action near Ypres in Belgium on August 4th 1917 in the early days of the huge British offensive of what became known as the Battle of Passchendaele.

Tom was born in Nantwich, Cheshire, and at the outbreak of war in August 1914 he lived in Baxenden and worked in Accrington. He enlisted in the East Lancashire Regiment, but after being wounded in France he was, on recovery, transferred to the Royal Welsh Fusiliers.

The Battle of Passchendaele came to embody all the worst repellent connotations of trench warfare. The preliminary bombardment by 3,000 heavy guns totally destroyed the water-table and the incessant rain could not run away. “Shell holes filled to over-flowing with water, and the earth turned to a thick mud, stinking and foul with the decay of dead horses and thousands of corpses. The mud reached to thigh level in places, and sucked under any unwary soldier who left the duckboard path.” So wrote a witness. Wounded men drowned in mud. In one month British losses, killed and wounded, were over 67,000 men in an area eleven miles wide.

Tom’s body, like many thousands, was never found. His name, therefore, is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. This Memorial spans one of the two main gateways of the old town. The names of 54,365 men who died in the Ypres battles between October 1914 and August 16th 1917, and have no known grave, are inscribed on panels inside the archway and the stairways leading to the ramparts of the town wall. Four hundred and eighty four Royal Welsh Fusiliers are listed, and Tom’s name is included with his comrades.