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Thomas Blunden

Rank: Private

Lifetime: 1888-1918

Reference: G/6268

Private Thomas Blunden (G/6268) of the 17th Battalion of the Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment) was killed in action on 11 May 1918 in France/Flanders. His place of residence was Hampton Wick and he enlisted in Teddington (Source: UK Soldiers Died In Great War). He is buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery at Souchez in the department of Pas du Calais.

Thomas Blunden was born in Kingston-upon-Thames in the first quarter of 1888. He was baptised on 10 October 1888 at St Paul’s, Kingston Hill. In the parish records his parents are named as William (a slater) and Jane Blunden who lived at 39 Hudsons Road, Kingston-upon- Thames. Interestingly, Private Blunden’s full baptismal name is given in the parish records as Thomas Blandford Blunden. Clearly Private Blunden was named after his paternal uncle (Blandford Thomas Blunden) who had been baptised in Norbiton on 1 October 1854. His uncle had in turn been named after his own mother (Private Blunden’s grandmother), Ann Blunden, (nee Ann Blandford). Private Blunden’s father had been born in Kingston in 1845 after Private Blunden’s grandparents had moved to the town in 1840 from Mortlake.

By 1891 Private Blunden’s family were living in the Canbury District of Kingston-upon-Thames in Canbury Park Road. At this date the family comprised: William (45), a slater, and his wife Jane (43), a laundress, together with their seven children and two grandchildren. The children were: May (21), a laundress; Jane (20), also a laundress; Martha (13; William (11); Alice (9); Florence (3) and Thomas (3). The grandchildren were Margaret (9) and Annie (7 weeks). Both May and Jane are described as single so it is unclear whether the grandchildren were their offspring or the children of their siblings. Given the age of Margaret it would appear that she, at least, was the offspring of an older sibling.

Ten years later the family had moved to 5 Canbury Place, Kingston. Only Martha, Margaret (now described as a daughter), Thomas and Florence (now described as a niece) remained at home with William and Jane Blunden. William was still working as a slater and the older girls, Martha and Margaret, were working as laundresses.

Recorded as a Hampton Wick resident when he enlisted Thomas Blunden had moved to Hampton Wick by 1911. At the time of the Census he was living, aged 24, at 2 Stamford Cottages (off the High Street) together with his wife, Lily, who was a year older than Thomas; his two children Thomas William (apparently 13 months old) and an, as yet, unnamed one month old baby daughter. Also in occupation was his 65 year old father, William Blunden, still described as a slater. Thomas Blunden’s occupation is given as a general labourer.

According to his Service Medal Roll at the National Archives, Thomas Blunden was sent to France with the Royal Fusiliers on 6 March 1915 where his battalion was immediately plunged into the Battle of Neuve Chapelle. He served for most of the War in France. However, his Medal Roll records that he also served in the Dardanelles (Gallipoli) campaign from 11 August 1915 until 9 December 1915 when troops began to be evacuated from this theatre of war. This ill-fated campaign was intended to undermine Germany by knocking the Ottoman Turks, Germany’s ally, out of the war. The Allies hoped that a successful campaign in this area would help their weakest partner, Russia, and would also encourage the unaligned Balkan states to join the allies.

The initial allied invasions on 25 April 1915 were unsuccessful and so additional forces (including Private Blunden’s battalion) were despatched in August 1915. Unfortunately, the Ottoman forces continued to repel each successive attack with extremely heavy casualties being suffered by both sides. The Regimental Official Great War History of the Royal Fusiliers comments of the Dardanelles that: “one of the terrible characteristics of the whole of this campaign was the impression of always advancing at great cost and never changing position”. By the end of November 1915 the weather had become extremely hostile. On 26 November 1915 heavy rain and the resultant flash flood cost many lives in his battalion. Subsequently, the peninsular became intensely cold with blizzard conditions. Private Blunden may have been a victim of these adverse conditions as he appears to have been evacuated on 9 December just before the evacuation of his battalion which took place on 2 January 1916. The campaign was clearly failing and was receiving adverse publicity from the allied press both in England and the colonies and so ultimately at the end of 1915 the War Cabinet decided to abandon the campaign and withdraw from the Dardanelles.

From Private Blunden’s Service Medal Roll it would appear that there is a gap in his deployment from 9 December 1915 (the date he left the Dardanelles) until 24 February 1916 when he returned to the Western Front. Perhaps given his slightly earlier evacuation from the peninsular he had been wounded and had received medical treatment during this three month period. However, after 24 February 1916, he returned to France where he remained until 22 July 1916. At this point there is a further three month gap in his service record. Given the date in July 1916, it is probable that he was injured in the Battle of the Somme which had begun at the beginning of July 1916. Certainly his battalion was involved in fierce fighting at Delville Wood on 20 July 1916. This was a German position apparently captured numerous times without ceasing to be the scene of very bitter fighting according to the regimental history.

If Private Blunden was injured he must have been well enough to return to the Front by 18 October 1916. He remained in France for a further seventeen months until his death on 11 May 1918 serving most of that time in the 20th Battalion only moving to the 17th Battalion just nine days before he died. By the end of April 1918 the main thrust of the final German Spring counter-offensive was beginning to weaken and so, having survived over three years at the Front, Private Blunden was extremely unlucky to die on 11 May 1918 at a relatively quiet period of the war.

The first phase of this Project is to gather information about the men commemorated on the Hampton Wick War Memorial who fought in the Great War, also known as World War I, WWI or the First World War.

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