Sunday, 28 December 2014

Thomas James Gadsby 1889- 1953 -Career Soldier

Thomas James Gadsby as a young man


Proudly he set off wearing his tall black furry hat and red uniform.....He was a career soldier.
Thomas James Gadsby b 1889 would have joined the “Busby's” as they were called around 1905.  This was after their return from South Africa to England in 1905. Officially they were known as the 7th (Queens Own ) Hussars. They also had the nickname “The Saucy Seventh “.

When Thomas enlisted they were to spend  a fairly quiet 6 years in England before the Regiment returned to the subcontinent of  India for another tour of duty.  A world war was a long way off.

Thomas was the eldest of 14 children born to Thomas and Selina Gadsby. At the time he left for the Army he had not even known all his siblings. By the time he was reunited they would be living in another country on the other side of the world, Many years would pass and a Great War would intervene.

At the start of World War I in August 1914, the 7th Hussars were stationed at Bangalore later, moving to Secunderabad in February 1915 with detachments keeping order in Delhi.
Having been in the Asiatic theatre of war since 13/9/1915 the 7th Hussar regiment  were  keen sail to the River Tigris near Basra in November 1917 to fight against the Turks. They then moved to Baghdad from where the first attack was launched in March 1918 against the enemy in Khan Baghdadi. 

The 7th had the role of cutting off the enemy retreat, which  is said to have been managed very efficiently. They first destroyed the baggage column, then routing the enemy division in fifteen minutes. With the Turks withdrawal there was little happening around Baghdad.
Another offensive was undertaken  by the British where they encircled the enemy at Sharquat. The 7th executed a brilliant piece of fire and withdrew. On the 30th October, as they were preparing to attack again, news came through that Turkey had surrendered. The 7th remained as an occupying force not arriving home until May 1919.



All memebers of 7th Hussars were issued the British War Medal & Victory Medal and Acting Sergeant Thomas Gadsby of the 7th (Queens Own) Hussars Corps was awarded the Meritorious Service Medal. This  was gazetted on 15/1/1920. 

By the end of the War three Gadsby boys had done their bit for the war effort. John returned home from the Army a little worse for wear having been gassed in France  and Harold who had been on HMAS Australia joined his father as a bricklayer. They began to anticipate the arrival of their brother Thomas who would be returning after his long spell in the army  in India and Mesopotamia.

Thomas was reported in the Sydney Morning Herald as arriving in Sydney on 9th August 1919 on the Steamer Janus from Calcutta.

Upon his arrival after this long absence from his family he was greeted by his sisters who had become women complete with war time boyfriends and his brothers who had also had their own war time experiences. Edie, his little Australian sister was 5 years old when he met her for the first time. 

A few adjustments had to be made. He had joined the Army when he was a boy. He was 22 when the family had come to Australia and now he was 30. Having led a life for 10 years or so in the Army in India, he was used to having servants to attend to his needs. He saw no problem with getting the same treatment at home and felt that his little brother William and little Edie could fill in as “servants” when he left his shoes out for them to shine. This created much resentment amongst the littlies.

Meanwhile Thomas, a deeply religious man was not happy with what he saw when he returned to the family. His mother had taken up with his sister Lena’s ex-fiance, Ben, Lena was left to tend to the girls and the younger children. He told his sister Julia, before her wedding in 1921 that he wouldn’t see any of his family again. True to his word, he didn’t and amazingly given his beliefs, in 1921 he married a young divorcee, Violet Emma Harrison, and moved with her to New Zealand.

You can’t help but think that Thomas’ life and relationship with his family would ever be the same again when he arrived in Australia in 1919 after a long stint in the Army. A new country and previously unknown siblings who resented cleaning his shoes would have been difficult enough. His other brothers and sister were almost strangers after his long absence away from the family. 

The Great War had changed everyone. Perhaps Thomas’ family would not have approved of his new love- a divorcee in the 1920s. Certainly this was at odds with his opinion of his mother’s carry on with his sister’s ex-fiance.  Perhaps his mail never quite caught up with a constantly moving family and contact could not be made. 

History can be unravelled but not undone. There is a kind of comfort in knowing that he lived a long life in Waikumete NZ and although childless he had created a good life with Violet probably living through the memories of all the parts of the world he had visited and experienced.  Not bad for a poor kid born in London in 1889!

Sunday, 14 December 2014

Robert Strelley 1887-27/4/1918 Killed in Action - Flanders

Robert Strelley born in 1887 was the youngest son of William and Lavina Strelley.
1891 census has him living with Lavinia  and William aged 4  in 59 Dunn St Glasgow. Upon his marriage to Janet Bell in August 1912 he is  working as a ship rigger, aged 25.

With the coming of the Great War two years later he appears to have enlisted as Robert Stralley in 5th Service Bn Cameron Highlanders on 3/9/1914 at age 27. Service no S 11517.

Details from Strelley's Medical

  However he only stayed for one month before being discharged  on 19/10/1914 as “unsuitable” and “not likely to become an efficient soldier" This record matches with his marriage to Janet Bell so is undoubtedly him.


Some time after this, Robert Strelley re-enlisted as a Private in the 1/7th Blythswood Territorial Battalion.Service Number 280890. This is possibly around March 1917 (see Will) The 7th (Blythwood) Battalion, Highland Light Infantry was a unit of the Territorial Force with its HQ at 69 Main Street, Bridgeton, Glasgow.

 According to the website   www.wartimememoriesproject.com in 1917 the 7th Highlanders were

“in action during The First, Second and Third Battles of Gaza, at Wadi el Hesi, The capture of Junction Station, The Battle of Nabi Samweil and The Battle of Jaffa including the passage of the Nahr-el-Auja. 52nd Division remained in the line near Arsuf until March 1918 when it was relieved by the 7th (Meerut) Division and proceeded to France, sailing from Alexandria on the 11th of April, via Marseilles they concentrated near Abbeville. 52nd Division took over a sector of front line near Vimy on the 6th of May until the 23rd of July when they moved to take over the line north east of Arras. They were in action inThe Battle of Albert, The Battle of the Scarpe, The Battle of the Drocourt-Queant Line, The Battle of the Canal du Nord and The Final Advance in Artois. At the Armistice 52nd Division was north of the Mons canal engaged on clearing Herchies.”

But that was too late for Robert as he was Killed in Action on 27th August 1918.
His medal record shows he received the Victory and British Medal. Although a Private he is Acting Lance Corporal  by the time of his death. 

His grave is located at  St. Martin Calvaire British Cemetery  St. Martin-sur-Cojeul Pas de Calais France Plot: II. A. 25.
Robert Strelley's War Grave

An informal will  dated 28/3/1917 found in his Pay Book was declared valid under Scottish Law. The will was likely made around the time he re-enlisted.  In it he left his property and effects to his widow, Janet who was still residing  at 20 Sister St with his one year old daughter Agnes Short Strelley. Agnes was unlikely to have even met her father. Sadly, Agnes died of convulsions on 25/10/1918 just 2 months after her father was Killed in Action in France.   


Strelley's informal War Will
Thought of the Day:

The second record for Robert Strelley matched with the first  due to the address recorded on a number of other documents. Although it is not a very common name in Scotland, Robert had changed the spelling of his name- perhaps to put the authorities off the fact that he had been discharged before. It’s not unusual for the Scottish Strelleys to use different variations in spelling. 


Interestingly enough another child born illegitimately to  his brother William  was also  Robert Strelley- regiment no 64222 turned up in the search. Born 1898 in Glasgow he had enlisted as soon as he was old enough with the Royal Scots on  4/7/1918 but was discharged by 11/8/19 as   "No longer physically fit for war service". I'll have to chase up those records!!