7th (SERVICE) BATTALION, ROYAL SUSSEX REGIMENT
DIED OF ILLNESS ATTRIBUTED TO OVERSEAS SERVICE,
29th OCTOBER 1919, AGED 22
OMITTED FROM THE RUDGWICK WAR MEMORIAL
THOMAS WALLER was born in Horsham, Sussex in April 1897, the son of Mark and Fanny Waller, and brother to Alfred Waller (born c1877), Alice Waller (born c1879) William Raymond Waller (born c1882), James Mortimer Waller (born c1884), Sarah Jane Waller (born c1886), Ellen Waller (born c1888), Fanny Waller (born c1890), Mark Waller (born 1893), Edwin Waller (born c 1895) and Arthur Waller, (born c1900).
Thomas’s sister, Sarah Jane married John Frederick Scammell in 1908. The couple lived in Gadbridge Cottage, Ewhurst where John was a general labourer. By 1911 the couple had two sons, John Cromwell Scammell and Edgar William Frederick Scammell.
In 1911 the Waller family were living at Gravetts, Rudgwick, where Mark senior and junior were farm labourers. Edwin was a farm labourer and Thomas and Arthur were at school together. Their father died in December 1912.
COMMENCEMENT OF THE FIRST WORLD WAR
Thomas’s brother, Edwin, a Special Reserve soldier before the commencement of the war, arrived in France as part of the 2nd Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment on 29th November 1914. Having survived the Battle of Aubers on 9th May 1915 in which his battalion lost heavily he was to die on 28th September 1915 from wounds sustained in the Battle of Loos three days earlier.
Thomas enlisted for service in Horsham on 25th August 1915, gave his age as 19 years 4 months, a year older than his actual age. He gave his home address as ‘Ivy Cottage, Rudgwick’, and occupation as ‘farm labourer’. Thomas elected for service in the Territorial Force and became Private 3584 in the Territorial battalion of the Royal Sussex Regiment, the 4th Battalion. Three days later he was posted to the 2/4th Battalion.
In France the Battle of the Somme had been raging since 1st July 1916. Thomas’s brother in law John Scammell had arrived in France during 1916 and was serving with the 7th Bn Queen’s (Royal West Surrey Regiment). On 18th November 1916 the battalion was engaged in an attack on German positions on the high ground above the River Ancre. The weather conditions were extremely arduous and the attack became dislocated. 7/RWSR lost heavily in the attack, and the news returned to England that John had been lost in the attack.
OVERSEAS TO THE BRITISH EXPEDITIONARY FORCE
Following basic training Thomas was posted overseas on active service on 12th October 1916, arriving at No 40 Infantry Base Depot, Etaples. His personal record indicates that he had qualified as a signaller. Thomas was to remain at the Depot for six months until 13th March 1917 when he his service number was changed to 260069 and he was posted to the Royal Sussex Regiment’s 8th (Service) Battalion (8/RSR). He joined the unit four days later.
The 8/RSR was the Pioneer Battalion of the 18th (Eastern) Division. As such the unit undertook various labour tasks required by the division. The unit had been in the Somme area since its arrival in France on 24th July 1915, and had fought throughout the Somme battles of 1916. Thomas joined the unit as the German withdrawal to its prepared positions on the Hindenburg Line was underway.
Thomas’s elder brother, Mark Waller had posted overseas with 9th (Service) Battalion Rifle Brigade on 2nd December 1916. He was killed in action to the south east of Arras on 21st March 1917, whilst consolidating positions given up by the German withdrawal.
At this time 8/RSR were pulled out of the Somme area and moved north to Arras, before continuing north to participate in the Third Battle of Ypres.
On 11th October 1917 Thomas was posted to the regiment’s 7th (Service) Battalion (7/RSR), joining the battalion in the field three days later. With the 7/RSR Thomas was involved in the Battle of Cambrai in the last months of 1917. During the winter of 1917/18 Thomas suffered a degree of rheumatism due to the wet and cold of the trenches.
HOME LEAVE - JANUARY 1918
On 2nd January 1918 Thomas returned home on leave for a fortnight. Whilst at home he was taken ill with swelling of the knee joints and admitted to the 2nd Eastern General Hospital in Brighton on 18th January 1918.
Whilst Thomas was in hospital he had an acute attack of rheumatic fever following which a loud systolic heart murmur developed. On 28th February 1918 a doctor diagnosed Thomas with mitral V.D.H. (Valvular Disease of the Heart), attributable to the wet and cold he had experienced in the trenches during his service in France. A recommendation was made that Thomas be discharged as permanently unfit.
On 9th April 1918 a Medical Board in Brighton concluded that Thomas’s failing health was due to his exposure to wet and cold in the trenches, that he was 80% disabled and approved his discharge from military service. He was discharged on 30th April 1918 with a pension award of 27 shillings and 6 pence for 4 weeks and 22 shillings for the next 35 weeks. Following this his pension was adjusted to 8 shillings and 3 pence.
Thomas died of his aliments on 29th October 1919 at the age of 22. As he died after discharge he is not recognised in the registers of the Commonweath War Graves Commission or on the Rudgwick War Memorial. He was the third and final Waller son to die as a result of the First World War.
Alfred Waller (born 1877) (died 1897?)
Alice Waller (born c1879)
William Raymond Waller (born c1882), 1919 living The Cottage, Mundays Hill, Ewhurst.
James Mortimer Waller (born 1883), 1919 living Hazelbank, Ewhurst.
Sarah Jane Waller (born c1886), married John Frederick Scammell 1908, 1919 living Ewhurst Green. Pte J F Scammell was killed in action during the Battle of the Somme on 18/11/1916 whilst serving with 7th Bn RWSR. He is commemorated on the Ewhurst War Memorial.
Ellen Waller (born c1888), 1919 living Ivy Cottage, Rudgwick.
Fanny Waller (born c1890), (died 1896)
Mark Waller (born 1893), Rifleman S/28472, 9/Rifle Brigade, Killed in Action 21/03/1917
Edwin Waller (born c 1895), Private SR/1340, 2/RSR. Died of Wounds 28/09/1915.
Thomas Waller (born c 1898), 3584 2/4th Bn RSR (became 260069) enlisted 25/08/1915, overseas 11/10/1916-17/01/1918, discharged from 7th Bn RSR 30/04/1918 no longer fit for military service. Died of illness 29/10/1919.
Arthur Waller, (born c1900). 1919 serving as D/35311, 1st Troop, ‘C’ Squardron, 6th R.R.C, Tidworth, Wiltshire.
The Commonwealth War Graves Commission
Soldiers Died in the Great War
Soldier’s Medal Record Cards
Soldier’s Personal Records (Pension)