Private Thomas Edward Pursley

Regiment:   8th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers
Service No:  1028
Date and place of birth: 4th qtr 1887 in Midhurst, Sussex
Date and place of death: 14 June 1917 in France and Flanders

Family background

Thomas Edward Pursley was the fourth son of William and Harriett Pursley and was baptised at Midhurst Parish Church on 30 December 1887. William Pursley was a house painter, born in Blackfriars, London in 1849 who married Harriett Grover in Midhurst in 1877. She was born in Selsey, Sussex, also in 1849.

In 1891 William and Harriett were living at 5 Bennetts Terrace, Station Road, Midhurst, with seven children: Sally (13), William Alfred (11), Frank (9), Frederick (6), Thomas Edward (3), Arthur and his twin sister Emily (1).

A sixth son, Victor, was born in 1893. Harriett Pursley died in 1898, aged 48.

In 1901 William Pursley was still living at the same address with seven children, William Alfred having left home.

William Pursley died in 1903, aged 54.

By the time of the 1911 census the family had dispersed. Sally (32) had married Ernest Streat, a groom, in 1905 and they were living at Nyewoods, Rogate, Sussex. Her brother Victor (18) a ‘hodman disengaged’ was boarding with them. William Alfred (31) had married Florence (Agnes) Court in 1908 and he was working as a baker’s assistant. They were living with their adopted son Stanley (2) at 41 Ashford Road, Brighton. Staying with them was William’s brother Arthur, a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers. Frank (28) had married Florence (Nellie) Payne in 1907 and he was working as a house painter. They were living with their son Jack (2) at Westborough Road, Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex. Thomas (24) was a Private in the Northumberland Fusiliers serving in India. Emily (21) was in service at Lynch House, Clarendon Road, Sevenoaks, Kent.

Military service

In 1911 Thomas Edward Pursley was with the British Army in India as a Private in 1/5th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers.

The 8th battalion Northumberland Fusiliers was formed in August 1914 in Newcastle as part of Kitchener’s First New Army (K1) and moved to Grantham, joining the 34th Brigade of the 11th Division. The Regiment raised fifty two battalions with twenty nine of them serving overseas. In April 1915 they moved to Witley, Surrey and in July embarked for the Mediterranean, landing at Sulva Bay, Gallipolli on 7 August. The battalion took part in the Battle of Sari Bair which was the final attempt by the allies to secure the peninsula from the Ottoman and Turkish armies. The losses suffered during the fierce fighting plus the ranks being decimated by disease and harsh weather conditions led to the evacuation of the British and Commonwealth troops to Egypt. The Northumberlands were involved in defending the Suez Canal before being deployed back to Europe and the Western Front in France. From July 1916 they saw action in the capture of Wundt-wenk and the Battles of Flers-Courcellete and Thiepval. In 1917 they  were involved in the Battle for Ancre in January and is probable that Thomas Pursley lost his life during the Battle of Messines (7 to 14 June). During the battle allied casualties and losses totalled 24,562. This British attack advanced the front line beyond the previous German front lines and was a prelude to the much larger Third Battle of Ypres.

During the war the regiment was awarded 67 Battle Honours and 5 Victoria Crosses with a loss of 16,000 men.

Thomas Pursley was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.

Death and commemoration

He was killed in action on 14 June 1917 in Flanders and is commemorated on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial, Panel 8 and 12.  His name is inscribed on Midhurst War Memorial and on Memorial Panels in Midhurst Parish Church.

Subsequent family history

The names of his brothers Arthur, Frank and Victor Pursley are also listed on the Panels in the church as having served in the war.

There are several records of Arthur’s service in the army. He enlisted at Chichester on 5 December 1905 at the age of 16, into the Northumberland Fusiliers, no. 1567. After an initial period at Home, he was in India from 18 October 1912 to 17 November 1914. After another time at Home, he went to France on 18 January 1915 until 23 October 1915 when he was sent to Salonika. He returned Home on 27 September 1916 until 19 July 1918 when again he went to France. He served there until 12 March 1919 and was back at Home for a month until his discharge on 15 April 1919. Arthur Pursley, 9th (S) Battalion Essex Regiment, L/cpl 46258, married Gertrude Nellie Farrow on 6 January 1919 at West Ham Registry Office. He was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals. He died in 1927, aged 36 in the Maldon, Essex district.

Frank Pursley served in the Tank Corps, Private 92774 and was awarded Victory and British medals. He died in 1961, aged 78 in Midhurst.

Victor Pursley was in the Rifle Brigade, Private B.1958 and first served in France from 20 May 1915. He was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals. In 1928 he married Eva Harris in Midhurst. He died in 1951, aged 58, in Midhurst.

William Alfred Pursley was in the Army Service Corps, Private S4/042318 and first served in France from 24 July 1915. He was awarded Victory, British and 1915 Star medals.  He died in Brighton in 1962, aged 82.

Sarah Streat died in 1946, aged 68, in the Windsor district.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project