Thomas Wellings, Private 290498, 16th Battalion, Cheshire Regiment
Died of wounds 13th November 1917 in hospital at Torhout, Belgium, aged 21
Thomas Wellings was born in Macclesfield in 1897, the son of Emily and Thomas Wellings, a pork butcher of 30 Chestergate, Macclesfield. In 1911, fourteen-year-old Thomas was living “above the shop” with his parents and younger sister Nora, and assisting in the family pork butcher business.
Thomas attested in Macclesfield and was drafted after his basic training to the Balkans conflict, arriving there on 8th August 1915. Surviving Gallipoli, he was then transferred to the Flanders offensive, participating in the attack on the German positions in front of Houthulst Forest during the Battle of Passchendaele (Third Battle of Ypres).
Thomas was stated to be wounded and missing on 22 October 1917, but this information did not reach Macclesfield until 7 December 1917:
MISSING AND WOUNDED
Corporal Tom Wellings, Cheshire Regt, has been posted as missing in France. It is reported that when last seen he was wending his way to a hospital, and as nothing has since been heard from him, it is possible that he may have been captured by the enemy… Other local men missing include Privates Frank Newton and Harry Taylor, both of whom are connected with the Brunswick Wesleyans. Private Newton’s father is the manager of Nixon’s clothing establishment at the corner of Mill Street and Queen Victoria Street. Macclesfield men reported wounded include Corporal W Oliver, Privates Harold Tomlinson and George Scott.
It later transpired that he was a prisoner of war in German hands and he died of his injuries on 13th November 1917, aged 21 years. Thomas was buried in a German cemetery at Torhout, Belgium; after the war his body was exhumed and he was reburied in the Commonwealth War Graves Commission Cemetery near Zillebeke.
The death of Thomas Wellings was reported in the Macclesfield Times on 11 January 1918 (the newspaper report gives his rank as corporal but he is a private in official records):
CORPL T WELLINGS – DIES AS A PRISONER OF WAR
Mr and Mrs T Wellings, Chestergate, have been informed that their son, Corporal Tom Wellings, Cheshire Regt, died of wounds on November 13th whilst a prisoner int he hands of the Germans. It appears that Corporal Wellings went into action on October 22nd and was afterwards reported missing an wounded. The particulars of his death have been received from the Red Cross Society at Geneva, who forwarded a copy of a report from lists despatched from Berlin. The communication stated that Corporal Wellings died at Saxon field hospital at Torhout, and that he was buried in the military cemetery there.
Corporal Wellings was twenty-one years of age and received his education at Mill Street School… He was prominently connected with Park Green United Methodist Chapel, being a member of the choir and a teacher in the Sunday School. Corporal Wellings enlisted in the local Territorials in September, 1914, and was drafted out to the Dardanelles in July, 1915. He was present at the Suvla Bay landing and was afterwards invalided home with dysentery. The deceased soldier was brought from Malta to Bristol, where he arrived at the beginning of December. On leaving Bristol, Corporal Wellings was home on ten days’ leave and then returned to Oswestry. Later, he joined the staff at the Macclesfield Drill Hall, where he stayed for some months. The late Corporal was then recalled to join his battalion at Oswestry and was drafted out to France in March, 1917. He took part in several actions and, from reports received, was held in high esteem by the officers and men of his platoon. A sad feature of Corporal Wellings’ death is that he had been recommended for a commission and in all probability would have been sent over to England to train for an officer had he come safely through the engagement of Oct 22nd.
Private Thomas Wellings is buried in Grave Ref. I. A. 17. of the Larch Wood (Railway Cutting) Cemetery, near Zillebeke, Belgium. The Commonwealth War Graves Commission holds casualty details for Private Thomas Wellings, and he is listed on the Imperial War Museum’s Lives of the First World War website.