thomas crane

Name Thomas Crane
Corps Leicestershire Regiment, 2nd Battalion, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment, 1st Battalion
Rank Corporal
Service No. 7915, 29058
Date/Place of entry 12 October 1914
Date of death 1944

Thomas was the third child and second son of farm labourer Charles Crane and his wife Alice Rebecca nee Beadsworth. Thomas grew up with his seven siblings and two Beadsworth half siblings on Corby Road, Cottingham. His Beadsworth grandparents lived nearby; his Crane grandparents died before he was born. Both sets of grandparents had large families so Thomas had a considerable number of close relatives in the village.

The 1911 census shows that he was serving with the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment in India. He was not the only member of his immediate family to be in the army as his elder brother Charles  joined the Northamptonshire Regiment 3rd (Territorial) battalion in October 1907 though he was discharged the following July.

In 1911 the 2nd Leicestershires were stationed at Fort St George in Chennai (formerly Madras) on the Bay of Bengal. The Fort was built in 1644 and is widely thought to be the first establishment of the British in India. It is still in use and is looked after by the Archaeological Survey of India.

At this point the 2nd battalion contained three other men from Cottingham, David and William James Tansley, and Sydney Thomas Tilley. Arthur Towndrow of Wilbarston was also there.

There are no surviving service or pension records for Thomas, so we do not know when he joined up. However, William James Tansley joined in May 1906, declaring he was eighteen years old though in fact he was two years younger. Thomas had turned eighteen in May 1906 and the two youths were near neighbours in Corby Road, as was Sydney Tilley. Maybe they joined together? William James’s relatives David and Lovel Tansley had enlisted in 1904 and David was posted to India in the autumn of 1906. Did Thomas and William follow once they’d undergone preliminary training?  India must have been a beguiling prospect compared to labouring life at home.

Both Thomas and William James Tansley were appointed corporals on 12 October 1914, the day the 2nd Battalion arrived at Marseilles from India. It was sent to the Western Front and fought in several actions, most notably the Battle of Neuve Chapelle in the following March. William James Tansley and Edwin Towndrow (Arthur’s brother) were both killed in action during the fighting. Thomas survived but was transferred on 31st July 1915 into the Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire Regiment, 1st Battalion (Sherwood Foresters) which had also fought at Neuve Chapelle. Sidney Thomas Tilley also transferred from the Leicestershires into the Sherwood Foresters (with a spell in the Somerset Light Infantry too) but not necessarily at the same time.

The Sherwood Foresters were involved in a great many of the subsequent actions of the War as part of the 8th Division, notably the various phases of the Battles of the Somme, the Third Battle of Ypres, the Battle of the Aisne, and the Second Battles of Arras. In the Final Advance in Artois the Division captured Douai. Thomas may well have fought in all of these. It is likely he was discharged in 1919 as that is the year he got married.

He and his wife Kate Eliza moved to Kent and settled in the pretty village of Biddenden on the Kentish Weald, where they had seven children between 1921 and 1935. The 1939 census shows they were living at West Lodge, Biddenden where Thomas was employed as a horseman on a farm. Unusually they had a former head of state living nearby; King Rama V11 of Siam, reputedly a keen gardener and his wife lived in the village after his abdication in 1935. Nowadays Biddenden is a highly desirable location with a Michelin starred restaurant, thriving vineyard industry and lots of luxury holiday cottages. West Lodge may be one of them.

Thomas died in 1944 aged just fifty six. Kate lived on until her death in 1983 aged ninety.

Thomas’s younger brother Amos definitely fought in the War and it’s likely that some or all of his other five brothers did too, but they cannot be identified from all the other Cranes listed in the Medal Records who have the same given names.  

Another man to serve with the 2nd Battalion of the Leicestershire Regiment was Alick Slater Beadsworth, a second cousin of Thomas Crane’s mother Alice Beadsworth. I wonder if the two men knew they were related? Also on the Beadsworth side were his cousins Samuel William Booth, Frederick and Albert Oliver, and Harry, George and Frederick Arthur Beadsworth (of the Sherwood Foresters) in Nottingham

In all, thirty men descended from the three Crane families of the early 1800s are known to have served during World War One.