Tuesday, 13 May 2014

The Sad Case of Thomas Diggory of the Gloucester Hussars

Almost eight million men (ref PCS) were left disabled after WW1 and my Great Uncle Tom was one of them.

I never met Tom, or Thomas James Diggory to give him his full name, as he died before I was born but I knew he'd served in the war and had been injured. His photograph took pride of place on the mantelpiece in my grandmother's dining room. Tom was her older brother.

Tom was born in 1894 in Sedgley in Staffordshire where the family lived in the lodge of Park Hall, now a hotel. Tom is in the centre of the photograph, standing behind his little sister, my grandmother, Edith Alice.

Before the war, Tom worked in service, as a footman, as seen here in his uniform (he's the one on the left).

Tom joined the 7th Battalion of the Gloucestershire Regiment opting to become a cavalryman in the Royal Gloucestershire Hussars, and serving in Gallapoli in 1915.

According to the account on the "Glosters" website, The Royal Gloucestershire Hussars arrived in Alexandria, Egypt in April 1915, a mounted force of 537 men. In August, after a period of training, they landed in Gallapoli where the rest of the 7th battalion had already sustained heavy losses. 

Ordered to leave their horses behind, they spent the next six weeks in battle around Chocolate Hill and the trenches around Cator House. By 17th October, with casualties and, more significantly, disease, having taken a severe toll, they were down to an effective strength of only 95. Tom had been badly injured in the leg, having stepped on an explosive.

Tom wearing his "hospital blues", the uniform that injured servicemen were required to wear during WW1, 
a practice first introduced during the Crimean War.

Tom remained in hospital for some considerable time, and I have yet to establish where, though it's been suggested it may have been in Birmingham. But Tom failed to thrive and continued to have problems with his injured leg.

 In 1932 he married Beatrice Wood (Betty). You can just make out his walking sticks in the photograph below, taken at their wedding. He was aged 38 by now and you can see from the photo that he doesn't look a well man.

A short time after this photograph was taken, Tom's injury became troublesome again, the wound refusing to heal, leaving a gaping hole in the flesh. 

But despite medical advice, and the support and encouragement of his family, Tom refused to agree to the offending leg being amputated.  "I came into this world with two legs," he's reported to have said, "and I shall leave it with two legs."

He remained bed-ridden, nursed by his wife Betty, until his death in 1954, aged 60.


Post update February 2017

I received a comment on this post explaining that Thomas was not in the Hussars, as my grandmother, Thomas's sister always maintained, but in the Infantry. 

Unfortunately, as he/she commented anonymously and left no contact details, I wasn't able to go back to them to clarify matters (I'm confused that Thomas is sitting on a horse in the photo above but allegedly was in the Infantry – I'd love an explanation!).

But if anyone else can unpick the information below and get in touch, I'd be delighted to hear from you!

Sorry to say that Thomas was not one of ours, Gloucestershire Yeomanry, but Gloucesters (Infantry) 7th and 8th Battalions

He was at Gallipoli with the Infantry at the same time as his County cousins in the dismounted Yeomanry.

Name: Thomas James Diggory 
Military Year: 1914-1920 
Rank: Lance Corporal 
Medal Awarded: British War Medal and Victory Medal 
Regiment or Corps: Gloucestershire Regiment 
Regimental Number: 22240 
Previous Units: 7th Glouc. Regt. 22240 Pte., 8th Glouc. R. 22240