India General Service Medal (1854) with clasp 'Samana 1891'
Thomas was born in around August 1869 in Manchester. His mother was called Mary and he had an older brother called John. The family were Methodists, but we don't know anything else about Thomas' early life.
By mid 1888 Thomas was working as a slipper maker. He must have wanted more from life though because on the 24th July he joined the Army in Manchester. He chose to enlist in the Manchester Regiment and was given the service number 2257.
When he enlisted Thomas was 5 feet 4 inches tall and weighed 121 pounds. He had a 'sallow' complexion, brown eyes and black hair. He began his military career with 6 weeks of training at the Manchester Regiment Depot in Ashton-under-Lyne.
After his training Thomas was posted to the 1st Battalion on the 7th September. They were based in Tipperary, Ireland during his 17 months with them.
Thomas was posted to the 2nd Battalion on the 21st February 1890. He travelled to India and joined them in Agra. They moved to Sialkot in modern Pakistan on the 6th April 1890. He began to receive an extra 1 penny (1d) per day Good Conduct Pay on the 24th July 1890.
Soon afterwards Thomas went to war. The 2nd Battalion of the Manchester Regiment was one of the units ordered to put down a rebellion in the Miranzai Valley on the North West Frontier with Afghanistan. Thomas was one of the 300 Manchester Regiment soldiers who took part in this campaign, called the Miranzai Expedition. It lasted from the 3rd to the 25th May 1891. Samana is the name of the mountain range that rises out of the Miranzai Valley. The British fought hard to capture it.
The 2nd Battalion left Sialkot for Meerut in the modern Indian state of Uttar Pradesh during November 1892. They spent time in Chakrata in the foothills of the Himalayas, and arrived in Dinapore, now Danapur, Bihar State, in 1893. Thomas would be based here until he returned to the UK in mid February 1896.
Thomas had enlisted in the Army for 7 years as a Regular soldier, to be followed by 5 in the Army Reserve. As he was overseas his time as a Regular could be increased by up to one year. He was transferred to the Reserve on the 23rd February 1896. This extra time would be subtracted from his Reserve service.
An Army Reservist could find a home and a job, but could be called back to the Army in an emergency. We don't know anything about Thomas' civilian life.
On the 26th December 1899 an emergency arose and Thomas was recalled. The emergency was the British defeats and casualties in the opening weeks of the Boer War, which had begun in October 1899.
Thomas rejoined the 2nd Battalion before they left for South Africa. The battalion arrived in April 1900. He took part in fighting to the west of Harrismith during July 1900, which qualified Thomas and his comrades for the 'Wittebergen' clasp.
Thomas continued to serve in South Africa until the 1st August 1901. He took part in patrols of the countryside aimed at restricting the movements of the Boers, who fought in small groups as guerrillas. This was difficult, tiring work, but there were few large battles.
We don't know why Thomas left the 2nd Battalion when he did. He is recorded as being 'sent home for discharge' rather than being wounded or taken ill. This discharge took place on the 16th August. We believe Thomas was a member of E Company of the 2nd Battalion during his time in South Africa.
The rest of Thomas' life remains a mystery. His medal was donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1939. As well as his India General Service Medal, Thomas was also awarded the Queen's South Africa Medal with the clasps 'Cape Colony', 'Transvaal', 'Wittebergen' and 'South Africa 1901'.