Edwin Thomas was born in Lewes at the beginning of 1898, the eldest of three sons born to Edwin and Adeline Alice Trash, nee Martin. Edwin snr had been married before and had several older children. He was a farm labourer although he was working as a builder’s carter in 1901. At that date the family were living at 3 North Court. By 1911 they had moved to 12 Spring Gardens and Edwin snr was working for the Lewes Gas company as a labourer. He died the following year.
Little is known of Edwin jnr’s early life except that he joined the Lewes Company, 1st Cadet Battalion, of the Sussex Yeomanry. One record gives his number as TR/9/1243 25th TR. The Sussex Yeomanry was a territorial force. B Company were based in Lewes and formed part of the S E mounted brigade.
As a cadet Edwin would have drilled and trained. His date of joining is not known but is likely to have been around the outbreak of war.
Edwin’s army papers are no longer available but from the record of his death printed in the local paper it is known that he enlisted for war service in October 1916. This almost certainly means he was called up. His commanding officer in the Yeomanry may have recommended a regiment for him to join as it is known that he enlisted in Lewes.
He joined the 2nd Battalion the Royal Fusiliers and was numbered G/53056. The ‘G’ shows that this was a general service war time enlistment. His number is quite late in the sequence for this battalion and ties up well with an enlistment in late 1916. Despite his yeomanry service there would have been further training.
The battalion war diary records that on 10/12/1916 they moved to Meauzte where ‘a draft of 100 men’ were waiting for them. It would seem very likely that Edwin was one of those 100 men. November had been very wet and December started in the same way.
Although it was relatively quiet Edwin would have encountered very muddy trenches. Such were the conditions that on 23/12/1916 it is recorded in the diary that the ‘Battalion had baths.’
The period leading up to the Battles of Scarpe was relatively quiet. Parades, training, marches and other activities that kept the men occupied are detailed in the diary.
By May 1917 the battalion were in billets near Arras. They spent the beginning of the month generally tidying up the area ready for an inspection. The entry for 11/05/1917 records ‘Company training and bathing. Digging strong points from Arras-Cambrai Road to Wancourt during the night. Casualties 30 other ranks.’ One of those casualties was Edwin.
Edwin was initially buried near where he fell. After the war the CWGC took the decision to re-inter those men who had been buried in outlying smaller cemeteries where it was difficult to maintain their graves in an appropriate manner.
Edwin is now buried in the Wancourt British Cemetery in plot IV D 38. He was entitled to the War and Victory medals which, along with his effects, were sent to his mother.
He is additionally remembered on the St John sub Castro Memorial and the Lewes War Memorial.