The CWGC Living Memory Project asks us to visit war graves in our local area and find out more about the people buried there. The project itself is running to commemorate the Centenary of the Battle of the Somme.
I have chosen Mere Knolls Cemetery in Sunderland. There are 181 war graves dating from 1914 to 1947 but I have decided to concentrate on the eight men who died during the period of the Battle of the Somme (1st July 1916 to 18th November 1916). I’m looking mainly at their history prior to going to war and, if they are available, their actual war records.
The first of these is Thomas Brown who died 16th July 1916. His CWGC records give the following information:
Died 16th July 1916
Private in Army Service Corp (MT Depot)
Service Number ‘T4/145842’
Grave ref 24. A. 2475.
SON OF THE LATE MATHEW WILLIAM AND MARGARET BROWN.
From this I was able to find out something about him and his family.
Thomas was born in 1895 in Sunderland. In 1901 he was 6 years old and living with his family at 26 Dundas Street, Monkwearmouth, Sunderland. His father Matthew, aged 35, was a fireman at the coal staithes on the river. Also living there was his mother Margaret, aged 32, brothers George, aged 11, and Robert, aged 4 and his sisters Ann, aged 2, and Jane, 6 months. Two cousins are also living with them; Alexander Dall aged 10 and Margaret Newton aged 16.
In 1911 I have been able to find his father, Matthew, who is living at 26 Howick Street, Monkwearmouth. Thomas is not at that address but Jane is there along with a new child, Alex born in 1907. On checking the death records I found a Margaret Brown who died aged 38 in 1908.
Finding Thomas in 1911 was trickier. I looked through all the Thomas Browns who had a Sunderland connection and were born in approximately 1895. I discounted all those who were living with their parents. That left me with 2 records:
- Thomas Brown, aged 16, living as a boarder at 14 Wilden Terrace, Washington Staithes, Country Durham. This Thomas is recorded as being a Coal Mines Pony Driver. The Head of House is an Abison (?) Brown born 1887 and his wife is Mary Ann Brown born 1884. This Thomas is not their child as the census says they have only had 2 children and have been married 4 and a half years.
- Thomas Brown aged 16 living as a boarder at Kimblesworth Colliery. This Thomas is also a Pony Driver at the colliery. He is living with a Henry and Elizabeth Murton.
I can’t locate any other Thomas Browns so it is likely our Thomas is one of them.
I have been unable to locate his Army records. The CWGC details say he was in the Army Service Corp (MT Depot). MT stands for Mechanical Transport. This Company provided food, equipment, ammunition, horses or vehicles. On looking into this further however I have found that the T4 which prefixes his army number was used to denote the man worked in the Horse Transport section of the ASC. Maybe, and this is only a theory, if our Thomas is one of those Pony Drivers working in a pit then he was chosen or volunteered to go into the ASC to work with the horses.