Regiment: 7th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment
Service No: G/8823
Date & place of birth: August 1894, Petworth
Date & place of death: 5 April 1918, Somme, France

Private Thomas William Harper was born and raised in Petworth.  He went missing in action and there is a lot of correspondence about this in his army record; however it is stated he is buried in Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery so perhaps his body was eventually found.

Family background

Private Thomas William Harper was the son of William, a groom, and Emma Harper.  Thomas had five sisters and two younger brothers. In 1911 he was living at home in Byworth working as an assistant butcher. On 21 July 1917 he married Alice Kate Sopp at Petworth Parish church.

Military career

Private Thomas William Harper enlisted in Horsham on 11th December 1915 aged 21 years and four months, into the Royal Sussex Regiment. He was mobilised on 8 February 1916 but stayed in England and didn’t go to France until 19 March 1918.

Death & commemoration

Private Thomas William Harper went missing in action on 5 April 1918. His body was not found and there is a letter from the war office stating that there is sufficient evidence for his death to be confirmed and it was assumed he had died 5 April 1918. There is a letter dated 1 May 1918 from his wife asking for information about his whereabouts. On 16 October a telegram says there is no further news and on 6 November 1918 there is a letter from his sister, Alice, asking for news of him.  In this letter she says how her parents are anxiously awaiting further news. The reply on 21 November 1918 from the War Office says that since he was reported as missing and cannot be traced as a prisoner of war, and in view of the lapse in time, it must be feared he cannot have survived.

Thomas was awarded the Victory and British medals.  The commonwealth war graves site states that he is buried in Bouzincourt Ridge Cemetery.

Subsequent family history

There is a letter 16 August 1918 about a widow’s pension of 13s 9d and Thomas’s wife Alice received his victory medal on 4 November 1921.

Midhurst U3A WW1 War Memorial Project