Thomas Hartley, Private 10538, 1st Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Killed in action 9th November 1914 in Belgium, aged 29
Thomas Hartley was born in 1885, the son of Alice and Henry Hartley, a cotton weaver of 18 Parsonage Street, Macclesfield. In 1891, Thomas was living at the same address with his parents and siblings Jane, George E., Frank, Samuel and Henry. By 1901, the family had moved to 8, Statham Street, with three more children in the family – Percy, Winifred and Amelia – and Thomas was working as a cotton weaver.
On 8th October 1903 at the age of 17 years 11 months Thomas attested with the Cheshire Regiment for a term of six years. He said that he was previously employed as a Railway Porter at Cheadle Hulme. He was 5 feet 5¾ inches tall, weighed 127 pounds, with a 33 inch chest, and had a fresh complexion, green-grey eyes and light brown hair. He also stated that he was a Methodist.
Thomas was discharged from the army on 12th June 1905 as a result of being found medically unfit for service.
In September 1907, then 21 years of age, Thomas married Eliza Mulrooney, who was just 19 years old, at St John’s Church, Macclesfield. The 1911 census, however, records him living at an address in Moss Side, Manchester and employed as a fireman at a local bleach works while his young wife was living with her parents at 9 Orchard Passage, Waterside, Macclesfield.
The Macclesfield Courier & Herald reported on 29th August 1914 that men of the Macclesfield National Reserves (Class 1) had assembled at The Drill Hall the previous Saturday, and at 1.30pm marched down to the railway station to depart for Chester. The list of names includes Private Thomas Hartley, 68 Daybrook Street, Macclesfield.
Thomas’ First World War service records have not survived, but it’s known that he was serving in a Regular Army battalion, the 1st Cheshires. The Battalion deployed from Londonderry to France in August 1914 as part of the British Expeditionary Force. It was decimated by German attacks in the retreat from Mons and the Regimental war history records that by the end of October “the Battalion practically ceased to exist”. According to his medal index card, Thomas arrived in France on 9th October, so was one of many men sent out from the Cheshire Regiment Depot to rebuild the Battalion’s strength. The Battalion moved into trenches 6km SE of Ypres on 5th November to reinforce defences against the Germans. The war diary records that the Battalion was subject to shelling by the enemy over the following days and sustained continuing casualties. Six men were killed on the 9th November, including Thomas Hartley; his death was reported in The Macclesfield Courier & Herald on 26th December 1914:
MACCLESFIELD SOLDIERS KILLED IN ACTION – … In Tuesday’s list of casualties appeared the name of Private T Hartley, of Macclesfield, who was unfortunately killed near Ypres. He was a married man, 29 years of age, and served in the 1st Cheshires.
Private Thomas Hartley has no known grave and he is commemorated on Panel Ref. 19-22 of the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial in West-Vlaanderen, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Thomas Hartley, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.
The floral tributes laid when the Macclesfield Park Green War Memorial was unveiled on 21st September 1921 included one with the words “In loving memory of Thomas Hartley, from sister and brothers.”