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Private William Ewartt Thorne

Menin Gate Memorial. Authors image

Menin Gate Memorial Panel 39

‘B’ Company, 10th Battalion Essex Regiment, 53rd Infantry Brigade, 18th Division

Age 32

KIA 12.8.17

Son of Will Thorne, Trade Unionist and member of the Social Democratic Federation. MP for West Ham South (later Plaistow) 1906 to 1945. In 1882 he moved to London and joined the Social Democratic Federation. He improved his reading and writing skills with the assistance of Karl Marx’s daughter Eleanor. In 1889 he helped to found the National Union of Gas Workers and General Labourers and became the General Secretary. He remained a member of the SDF as it became the British Socialist Party and he visited the Soviet Union shortly after the revolution removed the outdated Royalist regime in 1917. In the 1918 election he was   re-elected as MP with 94.9% of the vote and remained an MP until he retired in 1945 aged 87. He married four times, Harriet Hallam died in 1895, Francis Emily Byford he married in 1895, Rebecca Cecilia Sinclair he married in 1925 and she died in 1926, and his last wife Beatrice Nellie Collins. He had four sons and three daughters with Harriet and three sons and three daughters with Emily. He lived at 1 Lawrence Road, West Ham.


Early Life

William was born on 6 July 1886 and was educated at Credon Road School, Plaistow. He was employed as a carpenter/joiner by the Corporation of West Ham. He married Francis Emily and they lived at 7 Rochester Row, Green Street, Upton Park with their three children. He enlisted in the Essex Regiment number 35097 on 2 November 1914 and went to France on 29 December 1916.

Medal Index Card

His Death

On 12 August the Battalion was in the line at a location known to the British as Stirling Castle located to the right of the Menin Road.

Linesman map

They had been here since 10 August when they had relieved the 7th Battalion Royal West Surrey’s. On the 11 August the Battalion had sent a patrol out to occupy an enemy strong point in front of their lines which they succeeded in doing. The 12 August entry is silent as to casualities and any activity with the War Diary simply recording ‘Bn holding line’  The entry in the House of Commons Book of Remembrance 1914-1918 records that: ‘He was recorded as wounded and missing at Ypres on august 12th, 1917, and reported killed on August 8th, 1918. It would appear that he was wounded and carried to a dressing station, which was afterwards bombed and everyone in it blown up.’ Men posted as missing had their deaths confirmed 12 months after their death. The Manchester Evening News reported on William’s death referring to a letter received by his father from William’s company commander. He wrote that Will’s son ‘..was wounded and missing. He was wounded in the thigh, and when last seen was lying on a stretcher awaiting removal to the rear.’

Manchester Evening News article of 29 September 1917

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