Tom France (1889-1919)
Lives of the First World War
Tom France was born on 24 June 1889, the younger son of David and Sarah Hannah France, then living in Berry Brow, Huddersfield. Sadly, Sarah Hannah died and was buried within ten days of his birth leaving his father with a new baby and a five-year old son and he married his second wife Mary Shaw three months later.
At the age of eighteen, Tom enlisted in the West Riding Regiment at Halifax on 3 October 1908, giving his occupation as millhand. Following home service, he was posted to India, arriving there on 19 November 1910 and he is shown serving with the regiment there in the 1911 census.
The following year on 15 March 1912, Tom was invalided home and discharged on medical grounds on 16 April 1912 with partial paralysis on the left side of his body. The medical inquiry established that he had first fallen ill on the boat out with ‘symptoms of tuberculosis affecting lungs and brain’ and that he had been ‘unfit for duty during his entire service in India.’ After 215 days in hospital he was much improved but still complained of weakness in his arms and legs and was admitted to hospital again in December 1911 suffering from neuritis of the circumflex nerve (affecting the shoulder and arm) which took a month to clear. The inquiry concluded that the disability would not be permanent and would be of duration about one year.
Thus it was that following the outbreak of WW1, Tom enlisted once more in November 1914, his occupation this time given as electrical engineer. Following home service, he was posted to Flanders on 27 January 1915 but served only three months before he suffered gunshot wounds to his left leg during the attack on Hill 60 on 18 April 1915. He was transferred to hospitals in Southampton, firstly the Royal Victoria Hospital at Netley and subsequently to the British Red Cross Hospital at Highfield Hall.
Tom returned to duty in France in mid-May 1916 but, according to evidence presented to a subsequent Medical Board, he was blown up by a mine on 17 May 1916 which rendered him unconscious for seven days. On waking, it was discovered that he had lost the use of his left side, echoing the difficulties he suffered in India. Following a Medical Board in September 1916, Tom was discharged once more with Silver Badge no 43308 as unfit for war service due to ‘shell shock’.
On 13 January 1917 he married Doris Lister in Holmfirth Parish Church and they lived at Underbank on Dunford Road. Nothing is known of his subsequent life other than that he died on 11 February 1919 and was interred in the burial ground of Holmfirth Parish Church.
- Imperial War Museums: Lives of the First World War (ID #2537693)