Museum of the Manchester Regiment
The Men Behind the Medals

Thomas George White

Thomas George White :

Thomas George White : (L to R) 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1911 Coronation Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Volunteer Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

(L to R) 1939-45 Defence Medal; 1911 Coronation Medal; Meritorious Service Medal; Volunteer Long Service and Good Conduct Medal

Thomas was born in around 1870 in Gorton, Lancashire. His father was called Francis and his mother was Mary. He had an older brother called Francis and an adopted younger sister called Nora.

Francis senior worked as a law messenger, moving legal documents between lawyer's offices and courts. He had previously been in the Army. In 1871 the family lived at 3 Mason Street in Gorton. In this year's Census Francis was 'sick', meaning Mary and Francis junior had to support the family. She was a laundress and Francis was an errand boy.

Ten years later they had moved to 96 Exeter Street in Ardwick, Manchester. Francis was unemployed. Mary was still a laundress and the family had 3 lodgers living with them. Thomas was at school.

Once he was old enough, Thomas found work as a clerk. As well as this, no later than 1888 he joined what was then the 16th Lancashire Rifle Volunteer Corps. This was a unit of the Volunteer Force based on Burlington Street in Manchester. Volunteers lived as civilians and trained as soldiers during the evenings and weekends. They would also have an annual training camp, usually around 2 weeks long. The unit was renamed the 4th Volunteer Battalion of the Manchester Regiment in 1888. Thomas' service number was 4430.

In 1891 Thomas lived with his parents and Nora at 58 Ducie Grove in Chorlton-on-Medlock, Manchester. They shared this house with a family of 5, a family of 2 and a single woman. Mary ran a lodging house, although we don't know whether it was 58 Ducie Street. Francis was receiving a pension from the Army.

Between July and September 1896 Thomas married Lily White in Chorlton. In 1897 they lived at 9 Fox-Bank Street in Longsight. They had a son, Harry Francis, here on the 17th May 1897. Sadly he died between October and December 1898.

Thomas and Lily had 3 more children. One of them died, and we don't know their name. The other two were George Leslie, who was born in around 1900, and Sydney Thomas, who was born on the 23rd October 1907.

When the 1901 Census was taken Thomas and his family lived at 9 St John's Road in the Longsight area of Manchester. He was a clerk at an ironworks. Thomas, Lily and George shared the house with his mother Mary, who was now a widow, and brother Francis, who was a storekeeper at an ironworks, and a former sailor in the Royal Navy. He was now receiving a pension.

By the time Sydney was born Thomas and Lily lived at 569 Manchester Road. They had moved again by 1911, to 24 Brighton Range in Gorton. Thomas was now a clerk for a textile machinery works.

Throughout this time Thomas had continued to serve in the 4th Volunteer Battalion. In October 1899 the Boer War broke out in South Africa. The British Army suffered some serious defeats during the early months of the war and began to send reinforcements to the country. The Volunteer Force was not organised or trained to fight abroad, but units were asked to form Volunteer Service Companies (VSC) that could be sent to South Africa and attached to Regular Army battalions. The 6 Volunteer Battalions of the Manchester Regiment formed 4 VSCs. Thomas did not go to South Africa.

The Boer War showed that the Volunteer Force was not particularly useful to the Army. Additionally, by 1907 it was in financial difficulties. On the 1st April 1908 the Volunteer Force became the Territorial Force. This was much more closely linked to the Regular Army. The 4th Volunteer Battalion became the 7th Battalion of the Manchester Regiment. Existing Volunteers were given the option to transfer or leave. Thomas was given the service number 13, showing that he was one of the first to transfer.

At some point between 1901, when King Edward VII came to the throne, and April 1908 Thomas reached the milestone of 20 years of service in the Volunteer Force. This was recognised by the award of the Volunteer Long Service and Good Conduct Medal. Thomas held the rank of Colour Sergeant when he was awarded it.

During the change from Volunteer to Territorial Thomas was one of the founders of an Old Comrade's Association (OCA), so that former members of both units could keep in contact. He was Secretary of the OCA for 'a number of years'.

Thomas was one of only around 15,000 people awarded the 1911 Coronation Medal. We don't know why he was chosen to receive it.

A note in the Manchester Regiment Gazette from 1959 stated that Thomas was 'one of the founders of the Volunteer Reserve. A pre-1914 organisation of ex-Volunteers who were prepared to come forward in an emergency'.

We don't know whether this means Thomas had left the 7th Battalion, or organised this group as well.

When the First World War broke out in August 1914 the 7th Battalion was called into service. They were sent to Egypt in early September. Thomas was either called up or rejoined.

Thomas did not serve overseas during the war. He was posted to the 3/7th Battalion after it was formed in May 1915. This was a training and reserve unit. Its role was to train new recruits for the original 1/7th and new 2/7th Battalions.

The battalion moved from Manchester to Witley in Surrey in early 1916. During April it was renamed the 7th (Reserve) Battalion. On the 1st September it was absorbed into the 5th (Reserve) Battalion.

The 5th (Reserve) Battalion moved to Southport in Lancashire during October 1916, Ripon in Yorkshire during January 1917 and finally to Scarborough that July. Thomas continued to serve with it throughout the war. He eventually reached the rank of Regimental Quartermaster Sergeant (RQMS). In March 1917 his service number was changed to 276031.

Thomas' service during the war was recognised when he was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal in the London Gazette of the 3rd June 1919. He did not receive any First World War campaign medals because he did not serve overseas.

We don't know much about Thomas' life after the war. His son George died aged 36 on the 17th June 1936.

During the Second World War Thomas served in a unit that took part in the defence of Britain against attack. We don't know which unit; it could have been the Home Guard, Air Raid Precautions, the National Fire Service or one of many others. This service was recognised by the award of the 1939-45 Defence Medal.

After the war Thomas continued to be involved in the 7th Battalion OCA. He was not able to attend the 1953 Reunion on the 17th October, but 'kindly sent money for two of his less fortunate comrades to go'.

By this time Thomas and Lily lived at Flat 2, The Poplars, The Crescent in Davenport, Stockport. Thomas died on the 18th April 1955, aged 85.

His comrades remembered Thomas as 'a very charming man with a wonderful and very smart wife'. They knew that 'if we want to know anything about our battalion we ask Tom'. He was 'the fount of knowledge everybody asked'.

Lily lived in Flat 2 until she died on the 24th June 1962. She was 89. Sydney died in 1979.

Thomas' medals were donated to the Museum of the Manchester Regiment in 1960.

Museum of the Manchester Regiment
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Trustees of the Manchester Regiment Museum & Archive and Tameside Metropolitan Borough Council