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Thomas was born in the parish of St Andrew and St Mary in Wakefield (Yorkshire) to Charles (a Miner) and Ellen Gunter on 21 Dec 1884, and baptised in June the following year. He appears on the 1901 Census living with his parents, 3 brothers and two sisters. In 1911, his father Charles had become sole head of the household, after his wife had died. The 1911 census shows he also had a two year old grandchild living at the family home, presumably the son of Martha Gunter (18). At the end of the following year, Thomas married Alice Abson.
Thomas GUNTER (Private)
17366, 8th Battalion, Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry
Single British War Medal
Thomas joined the 8th Kings Own Yorkshire Light Infantry (under command of 70th Brigade), and after training, was briefly based at Shorncliffe Garrison in Folkestone, Kent, before moving to France with the rest of the 23rd Division; landing on the 26th August 1915 at Boulogne. They moved to concentrate near Tilques, two miles North West of Saint-Omer to continue training. In mid September they moved to a section of the frontline at Armentières, later that month providing a diversionary attack and smoke barrage in support of the Battle of Loos.The 70th Brigade left the 23rd Division temporarily, to join the 8th Division on exchange. The 8th KOYLI were involed next at the Battle of Albert (1-13 July), then the infamous Battle of the Somme, where they suffered one of the highest casualty rates of the British Army.
On the 1st July 1916 the 8th Battalion were to attack and capture the Nordwerk at Ovillers-la-Boisselle, known as the Nab. They were attack the front here, against the German 180th Infantry Regiment, then advance onto the Nordwerk, a formidible bastion where they would come under heavy fire from three directions. The 8th KOYLI had lost 10% of it's men from retaliatory fire during the artillery bombardment, prior to the attack. at 7.27am they went "over the top". The first two waves reached the first German lines, and continued on to the second line, where fighting was severe, and they became inter-mingled with other battalions. The following waves of the 8th KOYLI suffered heavy casualties, as the German machine-gunners got their guns into operation, and poured fire upon them, causing 50 per cent casualties before they even got to the first trench. Every single officer of the battalion became a casualty within the first 5 minutes of the attack. The battalion diary was written up by another officer by conducting interviews with survivors on the ground.
The 8th KOYLI never reached the Nordwerk bastion. With their comrades in the 8th York and Lancasters engaged in savage fighting for the second line on their left flank, they were forced southwards by machine gun fire. There was an order to withdraw given at 8.30am, although this is thought to have been instigated by an English-speaking German soldier as a tactic to confuse the enemy. Around thirty men of the 8th KOYLI returned to the British front line. At this time the 9th York and Lancasters were moving forward in support and had reached the British front trench. Just as the men of the 8th KOYLI had returned, they were ordered to join the men of the 9th Y&L. These men of the 8th KOYLI had already been over the top once, captured the first and second lines from the Germans, and returned back to the British lines, and were now faced with the running the gaunlet of no-man's land once again!
The attack failed to capture the Nordwerk bastion, and the 8th KOYLI returned to the 23rd Division on the 16th July, having suffered heavy losses on the first day of the Somme. On the 25th July, they were back in action again fighting along a trench called "Munsters Alley" towards Martinpuich. The division was relieved on 8 August, and was sent to the relatively quiet sector of Ploegsteert Wood near Armentières. Returning to the Somme in mid-september, they were held in reserve at the Battle of Flers-Courcelette, moving to take up positions on the front-line on the 18th September, holding the line and carrying out raids. On the 25th September, they moved up in support of the advance of the Canadians, and occupied German trenches known as "26th Avenue". A further advance on Destremont Farm on 29 September just outside the village of Le Sars was heavily contested, as was an advance into Le Sars on 3rd October. The 8th KOYLI had suffered massive casualties during their time in the Somme, with 389 men killed (of around 1000) - that's not including other casualties and injuries. They were finally relieved on the 9th October, and relocated to the Ypres Salient. They replaced the 2nd Australian Division around Sanctuay Wood and the Menin Ridge Road. They remained here and conducted patrols and trench raids, and were in turn subjected to occasional artillery bombardment, until the end of February 1917, when they were relieved by the 38th Division.
On 23rd January 1917 at 9pm after a short but very intensive barrage, 3 officers and 100 men raided the enemies trenches, successfully occupying them for 15 minutes. The enemy had evacuated their trenches, which they then bombarded heavily with artillery. 8 men were recorded killed or "missing" in the battalion war diary. Among them, was Thomas Gunter. Having survived the intense fighting of the Somme, he happened to be in the wrong place at the wrong time, when on a routine raid he was obliterated with an artillery shell. His body was never recovered, and his name was added to the Menin Gate memorial to the missing. He is remembered there, with honour, along with 54,394 others who have no known grave on the Ypres Salient. He is also listed on the St. Mary and St. Andrew Memorial Roll in Wakefield. His 1914-15 Star and Victory Medal have become seperated from the British War Medal, and I am looking to acquire the missing medals, should they, by any chance ever resurface.
His widow, Alice later re-married, in 1919. She is recorded on the marriage paperwork still using her Husbands name of "Gunter".
Thomas Gunter - Medal Index Card
Thomas Gunter - BWM and Victory Medal Roll
Thomas Gunter - 1914-15 Star Roll
Thomas Gunter - Memorial Certificate (PDF)
Thomas Gunter - "Personal Effects" Register
Thomas Gunter - Menin Gate Panel List
Thomas Gunter - Memorial Register
Thomas Gunter - Entry on "Soldiers Died"
Thomas Gunter - Entry in St Mary and St Andrew Memorial Roll, in Wakefield
Photo - Menin Gate Full Panel - Showing Thomas' Entry
Photo - Alison Abson's Parents (Thomas' in-laws)
Wakefield War Memorial 1
Wakefield War Memorial 2
Memorial to the KOYLI near Ypres
8th KOYLI Battailion diary covering 23rd January 1917
Alice Gunter's (nee Abson) marriage certificate in 1919