Alexandra,  Princess   of   Wales's   Own
The 4th Yorks Battalion Boy Soldiers.
Thomas Sayers.
[Photograph and all information kindly contributed by Kevin Galloway of Thornaby.]

The North Eastern Gazette for the 5th February 1915 carried this photograph of Pte Thomas Sayers under the heading:-

"Drummer Thos Sayers [age 15 and a half] 38 Albert St, Middlesbrough, who is with the 4th Batt. Yorks Regt, stationed at Newcastle. He volunteered to go to the front several times, has been accepted, and expects to go shortly."

Born in the Parish of St Peter's Middlesbrough, Thomas had attested into the local Territorials at the age of 14, giving his occupation as errand boy. He was issued with Army number 1759. When War was declared in August 1914, he must have volunteered for overseas service along with all the others and gone through the same training, for in April 1915 he went with the Battalion to France.
On the 17th December 1915 he was sent back to Le Havre and on to England as being "under age".
In the previous 8 months he must have been involved in the fighting at Ypres and Armentieres, but to what extent is not known. The Battalion Diary records a Pte Ledgard as also having returned home at this time for being too young. Pte Sayers' Army documents quote Army order A2702 of Nov 1915 as the authority for this move and there appears to have been an official change of mind on the subject of boy soldiers, or why were they allowed to go to the Front in the first place, when their age had been correctly declared.
Thomas Sayers returned home and obtained a job as a compositor for the North Eastern Daily Gazette at Zetland Rd, Middlesbrough.
He was not 18 until May 1917, but some time before this he had re-enlisted, for the next record we have of him is being promoted to L/Cpl with the 18th Yorks Regt at Clacton.

[The 2/4th Yorks Training Bn had been re-titled the 18th Regt in April 1916 and moved to Clacton in Jan 1917.] Under the new Army numbering system, he was now 265309. In June he was in Brentwood Hospital with influenza. On the 25th September 1917 he was promoted to Corporal and Lance Sergeant, by which time the 18th had moved to Margate, Kent. In November he was in Herne Bay Hospital with an abcess on his elbow.
On the 31st March 1918 he was finally posted back to France to the 4th Bn.
Both the 4th and 5th Yorks Bns had just been involved in the German offensive "Michael" on the Somme and required reinforcements after many losses. Thomas was transferred to the 5th Battalion and made full Corporal, having reverted to Pte on overseas posting.
Like many others in the two Battalions, his War was not to last much longer, for the two units went straight from the Somme area to face a new German attack on the River Lys.
Thomas was hit by shrapnel from a shell when the 5th Battalion were at Estaires, a small town on the banks of the Lys. He suffered a wound at the top of his left leg, a small wound on his outer right thigh and a severe wound on the inner right thigh with partial fracture of the femur. He would go through the transport process of Casualty station to a General Hospital on the French coast and ended up in the Norfolk War Hospital, Thorpe, Norwich on the 13th April. He had part of his thigh bone removed in August, developed diphtheria in November and remained in Hospital 271 days in all until January 1919.
He was then discharged from the Army with limitation of movement in his right knee and no doubt awarded the miserly disability pension of those days.
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