Sunday, March 15, 2015

206610 Rifleman Thomas William Deadman, 24th Rifle Brigade

The Thomas Deadman noted by Chailey Parish Magazine is Thomas William Deadman of Newick, Sussex. 

He was born in Funtley, Hampshire in 1878, the son of Thomas James Deadman.  He appears on the 1881 census living at Lower Street, Farringdon, Hampshire at his grandmother’s house.  The household comprised Elizabeth Deadman (head, widow, aged 69, working as a grocer), Hannah Deadman (daughter, single, aged 30, working as a draper), Thomas James Deadman (son, widower, aged 29, working as a wheelwright) and three year old Thomas (whose middle initial looks like the letter N). 

Ten years later, the 1891 census records Thomas still living in Lower Street, Farringdon.  His grandmother, aged 78 is recorded as a general shopkeeper, classified on the census as “Neither Employer nor Employed”.  Living with her are her daughter Hannah aged 38 and Thomas, a 13 year old scholar.  There is no mention of Thomas’s father. 

By the time the 1901 census was taken, Thomas had moved away from Hampshire and was settled at Fount Hill, Newick and working as a domestic gardener.  He had married Elizabeth Ada Parris just the previous year, their marriage registered at Lewes in the June quarter of 1900.  The Deadman household comprised Thomas and Elizabeth (aged 26, born in Fletching) and their son, Thomas James Henry Deadman aged two weeks old and born at Newick.  Three more children would follow: Elizabeth Louisa Deadman (born 1906), William Mark Deadman and Alfred Edward Deadman. 

In March 1915, Chailey Parish Magazine notes that Thomas Deadman is serving his King and Country and in October that year, adds that he is serving as a private with the 2/5th Royal Sussex Regiment in England.  In March 1916, it is noted that Private Deadman is with the battalion in India. 

In August 1916, the parish magazine notes that Thomas Deadman is still in India but is now a rifleman with the 24th Rifle Brigade.  Except for the omission of his whereabouts, that information is repeated up until the final published roll call in July 1919.

Thomas’s medal index card held at The National Archives in Kew does not make any reference to the Royal Sussex Regiment but it does confirm that he was a private with the Rifle Brigade.  Two numbers are given: 502 and 206610.   

The 24th (Home Counties) Rifle Brigade was a Territorial Force formation formed at Halton Camp West on 10th November 1915.  The Rifle Brigade had no pre-war TF battalions and the 18th through to the 24th Battalions were comprised of supernumerary TF companies from drafts men on the National Reserve who were used in guarding vulnerable points in Britain.  The 24th was composed of drafts from the Queens, Norfolk, Suffolk, Bedfordshire, Royal Sussex, East Surrey, Essex, Royal West Kent and Hertfordshire Regiments and was commanded throughout by Lieut-Col F.W. Burbury, a retired officer of the Royal West Kent Regiment.   

In 1916, the seven battalions were all posted overseas - three of them, the 18th, 23rd and 24th, to India.  Thomas arrived in India on 12th February 1916 and the battalion reached Agra thirteen days later.  The photo above was taken at Agra in 1916 and shows Thomas, standing in the middle, with his companions in the 24th Rifle Brigade Military Police.  He would have been about 38 years old at the time and some of his colleagues in the photo are sporting ribbons from the Boer War campaign.  Thomas does not have any campaign medals but given that the 24th Rifle Brigade was initially comprised of Reservists, it is possible that Thomas had previous military experience. 

On 19th April the battalion moved to Sialkot with detachments dispersed at different periods to Jullundur, Amritsar, Lahore and Ferozepore where they were engaged in Internal Security Duties.  The battalion finally dispersed on 29th November 1919 although Thomas had already received his discharge on 21st October that year.

After the war ended, Thomas returned home and settled in Chailey where he worked on the roads.  Latterly he and Elizabeth lived at 2 Warren Cottages, North Chailey.  He died in June 1953 and is buried with his wife in the graveyard of the now redundant, St Mary’s Church, Chailey.
My thanks to Tom Deadman's grandson Alan for supplying me with information about his grandfather and also some wonderful photographs including the one published on this post.

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