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Thomas Storr

by Robert Barltrop

OMRS September 2013 Journal.

Thomas Storr was born in Boston Lincolnshire around October 1881, one of eight sons and two daughters of Charles and Elizabeth Storr. Whilst still a young boy, Thomas, moved with his family to Salford where his father had a job in the docks. On 28 March 1899, Thomas Storr attested for six years of service in the Lancashire Militia3 and was assigned as 6722 Private Thomas Storr to the 4th (Militia) Battalion Manchester Regiment.

However Pte Storr’s initial period with the Manchester Regiment was very short lived as he failed to report for duty three weeks later on 19 April 1899 and was deemed to have deserted.

Why Thomas Storr “deserted” is not known but he re-appeared in Liverpool, possibly working in the docks there as he is shown as employed by the Manchester Ship Canal Company when he joined the local Lancashire Volunteer Artillery on 26th March 1901. He was given the number 8611. He is shown as a gunner at the Seaforth Barracks, Liverpool in the 1901 census.

The Seaforth Barracks opened in 1882 and closed 1958, originally being constructed as a cavalry barracks. The barracks also became a Royal Artillery Depot with the Royal Garrison Artillery and Royal Field Artillery of the regular army being based there. It was also the headquarters of the Lancashire Artillery Militia; the militia being equivalent to the present day artillery wing of the Territorial Army. Artillery men from the barracks manned the Seaforth Battery sited at the present day Gladstone Dock. It formed part of the Mersey defences – No.1 Sub-Depot; Seaforth Barracks, Southern Division.

Following the outbreak of the Boer War in 1899, Army Order 50 of March 1900 announced the increase of six regiments of infantry by two line battalions to be numbered the 3rd and 4th battalions respectively. The Manchester Regiment was one of those Regiments selected and, as a consequence, the existing 3rd and 4th (Militia) Battalions were renumbered as the 5th and 6th battalions. Both battalions volunteered for service in South Africa.

The 5th Battalion was embodied on 3 May 1900 and sent to Aldershot where it remained until 19 October when it returned to Ashton under Lyne and was disembodied. However from the commencement of the war drafts were sent to both the 1st and 2nd Battalions in South Africa. In May 1901 the 5th Battalion was again mobilised and returned to Aldershot where it was soon under orders to proceed to South Africa and arrived in Cape Town on 10th July 1901.

After disembarkation the battalion proceeded to Winburg, Orange River Colony where it was employed on the defence of the town and the railway towards Smaldeel. By this time in the war the fighting had developed into mainly guerrilla warfare and the chief object of the defence was to prevent parties of the Boers from breaking through whilst flying columns tried to round them up. Attempts were made to break through the defences but were repulsed with the loss by the battalion of one man killed, one died from wounds and four others wounded.

The battalion remained in the Smaldeel area until peace was declared on 31 May 1902 and on 9th July the battalion embarked from Capetown on the SS Briton for England. They arrived back at the depot in Ashton under Lyne on 31st July 1902 and disembodied that same day.

It would appear that Thomas Storr returned to Manchester as he is recorded as re-joining the 6th Militia Battalion Manchester Regiment on 6th January 1902. He appears to have been immediately arrested (not surprising as he had been absent for almost 3 years) but he was released by the military on 15 January without trial. This could possibly be because he had been serving with the Lancashire Artillery Militia in Liverpool and also possibly because he volunteered to serve with the 6th Battalion in South Africa. He was embodied back into the 6th (Militia) Battalion which arrived in South Africa in March 1902 and took over the blockhouse line between Jagersfontein and Achterlong, later extending to Tweedale. The battalion returned to England on 4th September 1902 when the battalion was immediately disembodied.

For his time in South Africa Pte Storr was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with three clasps – “Cape Colony”, “Orange Free State” and “South Africa 1902” together with a war gratuity of £5.

Pte Storr remained in the militia and on 16 July 1904 he was promoted to lance corporal but reverted to private, at his own request, on 22 July 1907.

In 1906 the two recently formed Regular Army (3rd and 4th) Battalions were disbanded and the two Militia Battalions reverted to become once again the 3rd and 4th Battalions, but were now described as Special Reserve Battalions.

Pte Thomas Storr was discharged as “time expired” on 5 January 1908 having served his six years after returning to his regiment in 1902. Thomas appears to have married a 25 year old local girl called Frances around 1908.

Notes:
  1. Birth registered in last quarter of 1881.
  2. The Manchester Ship Canal was built between 1887 and 1894 with the main docks being in Salford.
  3. Militia, from the Latin 'Miles', a soldier, was the organisation of a local defence force, with a semblance of military training. It originated in England with the Anglo Saxon Fyrd, a tribal arrangement that demanded military service from every able and freeborn male. This was expanded by King Alfred who, after the Danes overran the country, sought to prevent a repetition of this tragedy by determining that all males between 16 and 60 should serve for their own Shire. The Lancashire Militia originated in 1689 when King William III directed the Lord Lieutenants of counties throughout England to call out and train the Militia forces of the Kingdom under powers of certain Acts of Parliament which had been passed during the reign of Charles II. In 1881 the 6th Royal Lancashire Militia became the 3rd (Reserve) and 4th (Extra Reserve) Battalions of the Manchester Regiment with their headquarters at the depot in Ashton-under-Lyne.
  4. No confirmed record has been found of this Thomas Storr serving in WWI.
  5. 1911 Census shows Thomas as a Ship Canal worker, living in Salford with Frances and two children.

Sources:

  1. 2 X WO96 Militia Attestation Papers for Manchester Regiment and Lancashire Volunteer Artillery.
  2. WO100/198 QSA Medal Roll
  3. Census 1891 (Salford) 1901(Liverpool) & 1911 (Salford) plus birth registration.