SWANN, Thomas Humphrey [of Farndon]

L/Cpl, 8th Btn. Sherwood Foresters

By George Harper

Born 1897, Died 1918

Another addition to the Farndon War Memorial?

It’s odd how things happen unexpectedly out of the blue. I thought I had produced the definitive version of the Farndon War memorial for the dead of World War I a year or two ago. And then the other night Christine Clarke drew my attention to a drama which had been produced based on the letters of a soldier who might have been from Farndon. His name was Thomas Swann. Was he a Farndon man or not?

Well, with the aid of the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website, parish records, and reference to census details for 1901 and 1911 as well as the official war history of the 8th Battalion of the Sherwood Foresters it transpires he was.

He was Lance Corporal Thomas Humphrey Swann. He was a member of our local battalion of the Sherwood Foresters. He was born on April 19 1897 in Farndon and his parents were Thomas William Swann and Mary Pizer nee Humphrey from Pleasley Hill near Mansfield. He was baptised in St. Peter’s Church on May 27th 1897 and appears on the census records of 1901 and 1911 as a resident of this village. At this stage personal details are scanty and will have to be researched further, but that certainly establishes his right to be commemorated on our War Memorials.

He took part in the final major battle of the Great War in which the 8th Battalion of the Foresters was engaged – the Battle of Bellenglise. The Germans had launched a big push earlier in 1918 which looked as if it might bring them victory until it ran out of steam in the face of the dogged resistance of the allies and the entry of fresh American troops into the war. The tide of battle turned and the Germans were steadily pushed back and the Battle of Bellenglise was one of the final decisive blows leading to the Armistice. The role of the Foresters in this battle was intended to be a relatively minor supporting role. In fact the Foresters exceeded all expectations in the amount of enemy ground they captured. However the victory was won at the cost of 14 dead and 80 wounded and one of the men who was killed was Lance Corporal Swann. He was killed on September 29th 1918 aged 21 years and lies buried in the military cemetery at Bellicourt.

How his name came to be omitted from the War Memorial is not known and clearly a lot of work remains to be done. Is there anyone in the village who has any connection, however distant, with descendants of the family? If so, please get in touch with George Harper to fill out the story further.

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