Henry Wyatt Thompson, maternal relative: Passchendale October 1917

Henry Wyatt Thompson was related to my maternal side of the family through marriage and he died during the so-called War to End all Wars, at Passchendale on the 20th October 1917.

Henry Wyatt Thompson was the grand nephew of the husband of the wife of a great grand uncle of a first cousin once removed, or to be pricise, this is the lineage:

  • Henry Wyatt Thompson (1896 - 1917) - grand nephew of husband of wife of great grand uncle of 1st cousin 1x removed
  • Ellen Yardley (1865 - 1923) - mother of Private Henry Wyatt Thompson
  • Elias Yardley (1833 - 1902) - father of Ellen Yardley
  • John Yardley (1797 - 1870) - father of Elias Yardley
  • Ambrose Yardley (1824 - 1885) - son of John Yardley
  • Mary A. Brooks (1823 - 1887) - wife of Ambrose Yardley
  • Joseph Sheward (1805 - 1872) - husband of Mary A. Brooks
  • Sarah Rea (1781 - 1860) - mother of Joseph Sheward
  • Richard Sheward (1817 - 1883) - son of Sarah Rea
  • Edwin Sheward (1851 - 1906) - son of Richard Sheward
  • George Sheward (1877 - 1958) - son of Edwin Sheward
  • Allan George Sheward (1906 - 1986) - son of George Sheward
  • George Sheward (1879 - 1958) - father of Allan George Sheward
  • Susannah (Susan) Speake (1847 - 1927) - mother of George Sheward
  • Mary Louisa Sheward (1880 - 1967) - daughter of Susannah (Susan) Speake - my maternal grandmother
  • Alice May Priday (1917 - 2009) - daughter of Mary Louisa Sheward - my mother
  • William G Hyde - me

His Family

Henry Wyatt Thompson was born on the 21st November 1896 in Timaru, Canterbury, New Zealand. His father was James Henry Thompson (1852 - 1926) born in South Shields, Durham, England & died in Palmerston North, Palmerston North, Manawatu-Wanganui, New Zealand. Henry's mother was Frances Louisa Steventon (1830 - 1879) born in Edinburgh, Midlothian, Scotland & died in North Shields, Durham, Engand.

Henry was not married (as far as I can tell) and lived with his parents before embarkation on the journey to England.

The records show that Henry was born at Timaru, Canterbury and by 1913 the family was in Christchurch, Canterbury. However, the address shown for his family at the time of embarkartion is 50 Shakespeare St, Napier.

Military

Henry was in 3rd Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment, New Zealand Expiditionary Force and his regimental number was 23 1216.

The battalion was created early in 1917 under Lieut. Col. W. H. Fletcher, who had been a major and second in command in the 2nd Battalion. When the 4th New Zealand Brigade was formed, on 15th March 1917, the battalion joined this and the brigade became part of The New Zealand Division. The history goes on to say that 'Towards the end of March, both battalions in the field sent over to England experienced officers and non-commissioned officers and these, together with others then in England, recovered from wounds and sickness, formed the nucleus of the new 3rd Battalion.

The 3rd Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment was formed at the same time as the 3rd Battalions of the Canterbury, Auckland and Otago Regiments. These Battalions were formed into the 4th Brigade and used during Passchedaele. The Brigade was only in existance for a short period as the New Zealand Division was mauled during the battle and had to make good the casualties, so the 4th Brigade was disbandoned and absorbed back into the Division (as well as forming three entrenching battalions).

The men that formed the 3rd Battalion of the Wellington Infantry Regiment came from the reinforcement depot in England (to which Henry was shipped birect from New Zealand) and were in the UK due to a build up of drafts from New Zealand. 

New Zealand 'budgeted' X amount of reinforcements per month to be sent over from New Zealand and these men had kept on arriving, but had not been posted to units. The New Zealand Government was under pressure to provide a second division of troops from the UK War Office, but compromised by forming another Brigade instead. This gave New Zealand one large Division, as opposed to two understrenth divisions. Following Passchendaele, the New Zealand Government reduced the flow of reinforcements to ensure that New Zealand troops were not going to be attrited prematurely.

Cemetery

hwt-pic2Henry Wyatt Thompson is recorded on a panel on the wall at The Tyne Cot Memorial, which is located north eat of Ypres town centre in Belgium.

The Tyne Cot Memorial to the Missing forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery on the Tynecotstraat, a road leading from the Zonnebeekseweg.

The names of those from United Kingdom units are inscribed on Panels arranged by Regiment under their respective Ranks.

The names of those from New Zealand units are inscribed on panels within the New Zealand Memorial Apse located at the centre of the Memorial.

The Tyne Cot Memorial is one of four memorials to the missing in Belgian Flanders which cover the area known as the Ypres Salient. Broadly speaking, the Salient stretched from Langemarck in the north to the northern edge in Ploegsteert Wood in the south, but it varied in area and shape throughout the war.

The Salient was formed during the First Battle of Ypres in October and November 1914, when a small British Expeditionary Force succeeded in securing the town before the onset of winter, pushing the German forces back to the Passchendaele Ridge. The Second Battle of Ypres began in April 1915 when the Germans released poison gas into the Allied lines north of Ypres. This was the first time gas had been used by either side and the violence of the attack forced an Allied withdrawal and a shortening of the line of defence.

hwt-pic1There was little more significant activity on this front until 1917, when in the Third Battle of Ypres an offensive was mounted by Commonwealth forces to divert German attention from a weakened French front further south. The initial attempt in June to dislodge the Germans from the Messines Ridge was a complete success, but the main assault north-eastward, which began at the end of July, quickly became a dogged struggle against determined opposition and the rapidly deteriorating weather. The campaign finally came to a close in November with the capture of Passchendaele.

The German offensive of March 1918 met with some initial success, but was eventually checked and repulsed in a combined effort by the Allies in September.

The battles of the Ypres Salient claimed many lives on both sides and it quickly became clear that the commemoration of members of the Commonwealth forces with no known grave would have to be divided between several different sites.

The site of the Menin Gate was chosen because of the hundreds of thousands of men who passed through it on their way to the battlefields. It commemorates those of all Commonwealth nations, except New Zealand, who died in the Salient, in the case of United Kingdom casualties before 16 August 1917 (with some exceptions). Those United Kingdom and New Zealand servicemen who died after that date are named on the memorial at Tyne Cot, a site which marks the furthest point reached by Commonwealth forces in Belgium until nearly the end of the war. Other New Zealand casualties are commemorated on memorials at Buttes New British Cemetery and Messines Ridge British Cemetery.

The Henry Wyatt Thompson now bears the names of almost 35,000 officers and men whose graves are not known. The memorial, designed by Sir Herbert Baker with sculpture by Joseph Armitage and F.V. Blundstone, was unveiled by Sir Gilbert Dyett on 20 June 1927.

The memorial forms the north-eastern boundary of Tyne Cot Cemetery, which was established around a captured German blockhouse or pill-box used as an advanced dressing station. The original battlefield cemetery of 343 graves was greatly enlarged after the Armistice when remains were brought in from the battlefields of Passchendaele and Langemarck, and from a few small burial grounds. It is now the largest Commonwealth war cemetery in the world in terms of burials. At the suggestion of King George V, who visited the cemetery in 1922, the Cross of Sacrifice was placed on the original large pill-box. There are three other pill-boxes in the cemetery.

There are now 11,956 Commonwealth servicemen of the First World War buried or commemorated in Tyne Cot Cemetery, 8,369 of these are unidentified.