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Thomas Isaacs

Private Thomas Isaacs, 20288, King's Own Scottish Borderers, 1st Battalion

The "UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1919" list includes Thomas Isaacs, born Ossett, living in Batley and serving in WW1 in the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers (KOSB) with regimental service number 20288. Thomas Isaacs died of his wounds on the 7th February 1917. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission records the same information recording his name only as T. Issacs.

There are two medal cards for soldier 20288 KOSB. One is in the name of Thomas Isaac and the other in the name Thomas Isaac(s). Both Medal cards indicate that Thomas embarked for the Balkans on the 6th November 1915 and that he was awarded the 1914/5 Star, British and Victory medals. One medal card states "See T. Isaacs" and the other medal card indicates that his correct Surname is Isaac.

It has not been possible to trace a Thomas Isaac, Isaacs or Issacs in any census or birth record who might have had an Ossett birth or connection. There was a James Isaac and Fred Isaac who were both recorded in the 1901 Census as being born in Ossett in 1891 and 1898 respectively. Both were living as paupers in Dewsbury Workhouse in 1901. Fred’s birth was registered at Dewsbury in Spring 1898 in the name of Isaacs and there is no other male Isaacs or Isaac registered at Dewsbury or Wakefield which fits the profile of James.

It is possible that one or the other of James or Fred changed their name before enlistment and they appear to be the only Isaac(s) born in Ossett who fit the profile of a WW1 soldier.

The 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers were in Lucknow, India when war broke out in August 1914. As soon as a territorial unit arrived to take over the garrison, they departed for England, arriving on the 28th of December 1914 to join 87th Brigade, 29th Division at Rugby. They were training for France when orders arrived to prepare to depart for Gallipoli. They embarked from Avonmouth between the 18th of March 1915 sailing via Malta to Alexandria then on to Mudros in April. They landed at Cape Helles, Gallipoli on the 25 April 1915 and were involved in heavy fighting until the evacuation on the nights of the 7th and 8th of January 1916 when they returned to Egypt.

In March 1916, they were sent to France, sailing to Marseilles arriving on the 18th of March and travelling by train to concentrate in the area east of Pont Remy by the end of March. In July they went into action in the Battles of the Somme. In 1917 they were in action in the The First, Second and Third Battle of the Scarpe during the Arras Offensive, then moved to Flanders and fought in the The Battle of Langemarck, The Battle of Broodseinde and The Battle of Poelcapelle. Before moving south for The Battle of Cambrai.

In 1918 they were in action in The Battle of Estaires, at Messines and The Battle of Hazebrouck including the defence of Nieppe Forest and The Battle of Bailleul. They were involved in The Action of Outtersteene Ridge, The capture of Ploegsteert and Hill 63 during the Advance in Flanders. At the Armistice the 29th Division was selected to march into Germany to occupy the Rhine bridgehead, they crossed the Belgian-German border at Malmedy on the 4th of December 1918. Demobilisation began in December.

In the winter of 1916/17, 29th Division and the 1st Battalion KOSB were in the trenches of Sailly-Saillesel and Rancourt in the Somme area of France and during this time Private Isaacs lost his life. There were no major battles until April 1917, but we know that Private Isaacs died of wounds, probably sustained by sniper fire or enemy shelling.

Thomas Isaac(s) is not remembered on any Ossett Memorial or Roll of Honour which, in the circumstances is not surprising. He is remembered in this 2014 biography and Roll of Honour because the Commonwealth War Graves Commission and/or the "U.K. Soldiers who Died in the Great War 1914-1919" listing records him as born or residing in Ossett.

Rancourt village 1917

Above: The remains of Rancourt village in 1917.

Private Thomas Isaacs died on the 7th February 1917. He is buried at grave reference II. N. 41. at the Grove Town Cemetery, Meaulte,1 Somme, France. Meaulte is a village just south of Albert. From Albert head south-east on the D329 in the direction of Bray-sur-Somme. Just before the main buildings for the Aerobus turn right for the centre of Meaulte. Approximately 200 metres west of the church, take the road south "rue de Etinehem" Continue south past Meaulte Military Cemetery, and approximately 2.3 kilometres further on turn left (eastwards) Grove Town Cemetery is 600 metres along on the right side of this track.

In September 1916, the 34th and 2/2nd London Casualty Clearing Stations were established at this point, known to the troops as Grove Town, to deal with casualties from the Somme battlefields. They were moved in April 1917 and, except for a few burials in August and September 1918, the cemetery was closed.

Grove Town Cemetery contains 1,395 First World War burials.


1. Commonwealth War Graves Commission web site