Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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16320   Corporal William Nathaniel Thom
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 01/05/2020
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 9th Battalion, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers (British Army)
Died: 01/07/1916 (Killed in Action)
Age:
Summary      
William Nathaniel Thom was the youngest son of William and Margaret Thom, of The Poplars, Cookstown. He joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers gaining the rank of Lance Corporal. Private Thomas Taylor reported that he was with ‘Nat’ Thom as they approached the enemy lines, and that Corporal Thom was struck in the head by a bullet.
Corporal William Nathaniel Thom
Further Information
William Nathaniel Thom was the youngest son of William and Margaret Thom. He was born in Kildress about 1889.
The 1901 census lists William Nat. as age 13 living with the family at house 3 in Tirmacshane, Orritor, County Tyrone. He was still at school. His father was a farmer. His mother was a National School Teacher.
Family: William Thom, Margaret Thom, John Thom (born about 1884), Richard Morrow Thom (born about 1886), William Nat Thom (born about 1888).
William had been a National School Teacher in Cookstown for a time.
The 1911 census listed his parents as still living at Tirmacshane, Orritor, County Tyrone. None of their children were living with them at time.
The 1911 census lists 23 year old Nathaniel lodging with the Mills family in Oldtown Street. He was by then a Linen Factory Manager after serving his time at Gunning’s Factory in Milburn. His friends called him Nat.
Gunnings Factory, Milburn, Cookstown
It is believed his father died on 3rd June 1913 in the Cookstown area, aged 63.
Shortly after being promoted as under-manager, the war broke out.
Nat Thom promptly responded to the call of King and Country, enlisting in Cookstown and joining the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers.
Medal card
William Nathaniel Thom photo
He soon gained the rank of Lance Corporal, and preferring to remain among his pals, he declined a commission in another regiment.
On the 1st July 1916, the 9th Battalion attacked up a slight rise which at first shielded them from the worst of the machine-gun fire but as they crested that rise they became a target for heavy German machine-gun fire which decimated their numbers, causing a huge loss of life.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 15th July 1916: Private Thomas Taylor (Brother of Hugh Taylor)
Newspaper Report
Private Thomas Taylor, whose wife resides at Waterloo Terrace, Cookstown, writes that he is in hospital, but getting on all right. He was sorry to say that the cost of the advance on July 1st was terrible. There were only four left in his platoon. His brother Hugh, he fears, was killed. He was wounded in the first of the German trenches and had not been seen or heard of since. All the captains got killed and there were hardly 100 men in his battalion. He saw Joe Taylor in hospital wounded through the leg, but getting on well. The Germans suffered severely. Their trenches were piled with dead and they suffered in hundreds. Nat Thom was killed too, shot through the head and never spoke. Indeed, nearly all his chums are knocked out and he is thankful to be in a condition to write home.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 22 July 1916:
Newspaper Report
THOM – Killed in action 1st July in France, William Nathaniel, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, youngest son of the late William Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown. Deeply regretted by his sorrowing mother and brothers. ‘I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith’ – 2nd Timothy, iv, 7.
Private Thomas Taylor from Waterloo Terrace, Cookstown, wrote home to say that he was with ‘Nat’ Thom as they approached the enemy lines, and that Corporal Thom was struck in the head by a bullet.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 5th August 1916: Corporal William Nathaniel Thom
Newspaper Report
Corporal William Nathaniel Thom, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed in action in France, 1st July 1916, known among his many sorrowing friends as Nat Thom, served his time to the linen trade in Gunning’s factory, Cookstown, when shortly after being promoted to an under management, the war broke out, when he promptly responded to the call of his King and country, joining the above regiment as a Private, soon gaining the ranks of lance corporal and corporal, preferring to gain his honours among his pals although a commission was within his reach in another regiment. Truly he laid down his life for his friends, and let us hope that he has now heard, ‘Well done good and faithful servant’, from the greatest Captain of all. Lieutenant E W Crawford, 9th Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, writing to his mother says:-
‘It is with the greatest regret that I have to inform you that your son, Corporal W N Thom, fell in the attack we made on 1st July. It was a terrible day for the battalion for we lost our best, both officers and men. I knew your son well and we were proud to have him in the battalion. He was a fine soldier, and what is more a fine man. I know that any words of sympathy are of little worth in your great sorrow, but you may have pride and consolation that he had a fine and manly end; a fitting end to a fine life. The commanding officer is so worn out with the stress of the past week, and as I knew your son so well and had such an admiration for him, I asked to be allowed to personally write you. If I can do anything further, if you will let me know, I shall be only too pleased to do it.’
Mr W Leeper, J.P., from Gunning’s Factory, also writing to his mother says:-
‘He was a straight honourable fellow, kind hearted and sympathetic with the workers here, liked by them and by everyone with whom he came in contact in the course of his duties , these he carried out quickly, efficiently and conscientiously and was most reliable. I liked him very much and missed him greatly when he left. Now I deplore his loss and extend to you, his mother, my deepest sympathy in your great sorrow. He was a good and brave man who has nobly done his duty.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 8th June 1918: William Thom (father of William Nat Thom)
THOM - In loving memory of William Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown, called to rest 3rd June 1913:
‘Not lost, but gone before.
In this world of care and pain,
Lord, thou wouldst no longer leave him;
To the sunny heavenly plain,
Thon hast now with joy received him;
Clothed in robes of spotless white,
Now he dwells with thee in light’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 29th June 1918:
THOM – In loving memory of Corporal W Nat Thom, Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers, killed in action 1st July 1916.
‘No longer on their ears, the bugle’s summons falls;
Beyond these tangles spheres, The Archangel’s trumpet calls,
And by that trumpet led, far up the exalted sky,
The army of the dead goes by, and still goes by…
Look upwards, standing mute, salute!’
Deeply mourned by his sorrowing mother and brothers, Rev John Thom, Senior Chaplain to the Forces (S.C.F.), Triple M.C., and R M Thom, Rathgar, Dublin.
William Nathanial Thom has no known grave and is commemorated on panel 4D-5B on Thiepval Memorial to the Missing of the Somme.
He is also commemorated on Cookstown Cenotaph, Gunning’s (Milburn) Factory Memorial (Royal British Legion Cookstown) and St. Luran’s Church of Ireland Roll of Honour, Derryloran, Cookstown.
Rev John Thom M.C. (brother of Nat Thom)
John Thom was the eldest son of William and Margaret Thom. He was born in Kildress about 1884. John attended Cookstown Academy.
Rev John Thom M.A. was the curate at St Catherine’s Church, Dublin. His mother, Mrs Margaret Thom, lived at 89 Donore Terrace, South Circular Road, Dublin.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 2nd January 1915:
The name of Rev John Thom, curate of St Catherine’s Dublin, and eldest son of the late Mr William Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown, appears in the list of the Trinity College graduates on whom the M.A. degree was conferred recently.
Rev John Thom M.A. was appointed army chaplain on 1st December 1915.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 4th December 1915: Presentation to Rev John Thom M.A.
On Monday evening, 30th November, an interesting and pleasant ceremony took place in St Catherine’s School, Donore Avenue, Dublin, under the auspices of the Christian Association, in the form of a presentation to the Rev J Thom, M.A., C.F., on the occasion of his departure to take up duties as chaplain to his Majesty’s Forces in France.
Rev H W B Thompson, B.D., rector of the parish, took the chair, and in making the presentation, which consisted in a gold illuminated wristlet watch and cheque, desired Mr Thom to bear in mind always that he brought with him the sincere goodwill of all the people in St Catherine’s parish. All appreciated the unselfish work which Mr Thom carried out during his three years of life in the parish, and wished him God-speed in the noble work he was now undertaking.
Mr Walsh, on behalf of the church wardens, expressed the good wishes of St Catherine’s parish, and Mr Marshall and others spoke in the highest terms of his kind, energetic and cheerful manner.
Mr Thom, in replying, thanked the rector and parishioners for their beautiful and costly gifts; also for the loyal support they had generously given him during his curacy. He thanked his fellow curate, Rev P Colthurst, B.A., who had refused a more lucrative position, to allow him to go forward to help the ‘noble boys’ he loved so well. He also paid tribute to his mother, who although she had one son in France already, unselfishly yielded to his earnest desire to do his bit for his country and for his God. The singing of the National Anthem concluded this loving and sorrowful goodbye.
Rev Thom embarked for France as a Chaplain to the Army on 4th March 1916.
Rev John Thom won Military Cross Number 1 in 1916. The citation published in the London Gazette (issue 29824) on 14th November 1916 states:-
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. During an attack he worked continuously under heavy fire attending the wounded. Though ill and exhausted, he spent the night after an attack in No Man’s Land and at the dressing station, tending the wounded and visiting the dying.’
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 18th November 1916: Rev John Thom M.C. (brother of William Thom)
The Rev John Thom, Chaplain to the Forces, A Chaplain Department, is awarded the Military Cross ‘for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. During an attack he worked continuously under heavy fire attending the wounded. Though ill and exhausted, he spent the night after an attack in No Man’s Land and at the dressing station, tending the wounded and visiting the dying.’ Rev John Thom M.A., is the curate at St Catherine’s Church, Dublin. He is the eldest son of the late Mr William Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown, and of Mrs Thom, Dublin. His younger brother was in the 9th Inniskillings, and was recently killed in action. Rev John Thom M.A., was appointed army chaplain on 1st December last. He is the second Cookstown Academy boy to get the award this year.
A newspaper report states he was also Mentioned in Despatches on 14th November 1916. John Thom was the second Cookstown Academy boy to get the award in 1916.
Rev John Thom won Military Cross Number 2 in 1917. His first bar was listed (with no citation) in the London Gazette (issue 30308) on 25th September 1917. The first bar was awarded for bravery on 31st July, 1st and 2nd August 1917. Rev Thom was invested with Military Cross and Bar on 20th November 1917. The citation for the First Bar was published in the London Gazette (issue 30466) on 8th January 1918. It states:-
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. During the attack he went forward and assisted in establishing an aid post in the captured area, and then went forward and guided stretcher bearers back to the aid post. He constantly went out to comfort the wounded that were waiting to be brought in. During the whole period the battalion was in the line he worked night and day, consoling the wounded and helping to dress them and when stretcher bearers were not available, he carried in the wounded himself.’
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 17th December 1917: Chaplain’s Unique Distinction
The circumstances in which Rev John Thom, M.C., C.F., son of the late Mr W Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown, won the second bar to his Military Cross were stated in a special brigade order issued in connection with the recent fighting. The second bar was awarded for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty on 26th and 27th September, and during the operations afterwards. It is stated that this chaplain throughout the attack stationed himself at an advanced aid post which was heavily shelled throughout the day. He assisted in dressing the wounded and comforted all those who were hurt. On the day after the attack he went up to the front line in broad daylight, in full view of the enemy machine gunners and snipers, visiting the wounded and comforting the dying. He superintended the burying of the dead under heavy shell fire. He displayed throughout coolness, cheerfulness, and a contempt for danger that were an inspiring example to all. On 28th September he superintended the burial of our dead who were lying out on the captured position. The winning by a chaplain of a second bar to a Military Cross is unique. The three honours have been won within two months – the first bar being awarded for bravery on 31st July, 1st and 2nd August.
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 9th January 1918: Rev John Thom M.C. (brother of Nat Thom)
Rev John Thom, M.C., Chaplain’s Department, son of the late Mr W Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown. ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in action. During the attack he went forward, and assisted in establishing an aid post in the captured area, and then went forward and guided stretcher bearers back to the aid post. He constantly went out to comfort the wounded that were waiting to be brought in. During the whole period the battalion was in the line he worked night and day, consoling the wounded and helping to dress them and when stretcher bearers were not available, he carried in the wounded himself.’ (M.C. gazetted 14th November 1916). This officer has since been awarded a second bar to the Military Cross.
Rev John Thom won Military Cross Number 3 in late 1917. His Second Bar was listed (with no citation) in the London Gazette (issue 30431) on 14th December 1917. The 2nd Bar citation published in the London Gazette (issue 30645) on 19th April 1918. It reads:-
‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in remaining throughout an attack at an advanced aid post. He also went up to the front line in daylight in full view of enemy machine-guns and snipers, visiting the wounded and comforting the dying, and superintending the burial of the dead under heavy shell fire.’
From the Belfast Newsletter dated 24th April 1918: Second Bar To Military Cross - Rev John Thom M.C. (brother of Nat Thom)
Rev John Thom, M.C., Chaplain’s Department, son of the late Mr W Thom, The Poplars, Cookstown:- ‘For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in remaining throughout an attack at an advanced aid post. He also went up to the front line in daylight in full view of enemy machine-guns and snipers, visiting the wounded and comforting the dying, and superintending the burial of the dead under heavy shell fire.’
The Second Bar to the Military Cross was posted on 8th December 1920. Rev John Thom, M.C., was awarded the Belgium Croix de Guerre as well.
Rev John Thom, who was attached to the 39th Division, was awarded the Military Cross three times, It made him one of a very small number of men, just 157, who were so honoured in the British Army during the war.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 20th July 1918: Courage of Irish Soldiers - William Thom (father of William Nat Thom)
The Rev John Thom, M.C., C.F. (who is home on furlough from France), gave an eloquent account of his work as a military chaplain to a large congregation in St James’s Parish Church, Dublin, on Sunday morning. He referred to the good influence on our soldiers of the old traditions of home, and recounted incidents of bravery of the troops, and especially the Ulster Division in a series of attacks at the Battle of the Somme. One of the most splendid sights of that battle was the dash of the Ulstermen and other Irishmen in an attack on an almost impregnable German line. It was men like those, said a general, that made attacks possible. The sight of those things never fade from the minds of those who had seen them, nor from the memories of those who heard of them. He believed that the Irish people were inspired with wonderful loyalty, and he had often told English people that no matter what happened here, no matter how vile and how despicable were the things that happened, there was no loyalty throughout the whole Empire so earnest and so real as the loyalty of Irishmen.
The part that religion played in the life of the army in the field was a very vexed question. He had been with English Divisions during his time in France, and therefore he was in a position to say that there was in regard to them as in regard to Irishmen, a good deal of unnecessary discouragement. On the other side, they heard that the church had failed, and religion meant nothing in the life of the soldier. That was not his experience. That was a wonderful sense of religion and a realisation of God felt by those in supreme command. He remembered hearing a bishop, who was telling a couple of Canadians some of his experience of our Army commanders, saying that a colonel had told him that he believed God had made him a colonel. There was in that, to his mind, the simplicity, the piety and the reality of religion which was realised by the British Army, and especially by the higher command.
Concluding, Mr Thom said the soldiers showed the spirit of love and of sacrifice and of Christianity, and had they not within themselves, although they showed it not, the Spirit of Jesus Christ? Might our prayer always be ‘God make us worthy of such splendid devotion.’
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Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Tirmacshane, Orritor Orritor Census listing in Tirmacshane, Oritor 54.664846 -6.846625
2 Poplars, Cookstown Tullyhogue Parents lived in Poplars, Cookstown 54.615957 -6.725199
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists Thom family 1901 census lists William Nat. as age 13 at house 3 in Tirmacshane, Oritor, Tyrone
2 1911 Census lists 'Nattaniel Thon' Lists Nattaniel as age 23 lodging at house 24 in Oldtown Street, Cookstown
3 1911 Census lists Thom family Does not list Nat as living with the family at house 2 in Tirmacshane, Oritor, Tyrone
4 Book - Faith Under Fire by E Madigan Details of Rev John Thom
5 Book - For Conspicuous Gallantry Details the medal record of Rev John Thom
6 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
7 Private Hugh Taylor Newspaper report describe mentions Private Hugh Taylor
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2020