Saturday 24 September 2011

T Penhorwood

Thomas Penhorwood
Born 1888 at Egloskerry  Killed in Action 10 May 1915 at Aubers Ridge
Pte 1970 25th Field Ambulance, Royal Army Medical Corps
Enlisted at Newquay

Thomas Penhorwood was the eldest son of  Lewis Penhorwood and Marthwas a Lundrey/Laundry.  He was born in 1888 at Reddown, Egloskerry which is near Launceston.  The Penhorwoods had two more sons; James Henry born in 1892 and Samuel born around 1902.  

Lewis Penhorwood was born on 22 May 1858 near Saltash, the son of Lewis and Jane Penhorwood. Lewis Junior moved to the Launceston area around 1880, working as an indoor servant on a farm at Egloskerry.  For a number of years he was an agricultural labourer, both before and after his marriage to Martha.  By 1911 Lewis had moved up in the world and was farming on his own account.

Martha was from North Hill near Redruth.  Her father Thomas was a gamekeeper.  By the 1880s Martha was working as a servant for a draper in Launceston and marrying Lewis on 7 April 1887.  Martha died in October 1907, Lewis remarrying three years later.

Thomas must have moved to the Newquay area sometime before 1911, (only the youngest son, Samuel, was living at home with Lewis and stepmother Jane and James was an apprentice carpenter in Broadwoodwidger). Thomas by this time was a police constable, living at the County Police Station in Newquay. .  He joined up fairly swiftly; his medal index card showkng that he arrived in France on 5 November 1914.

Thomas joined the Royal Army Medical Corps and was posted to the 25th Field Ambulance, designated 2nd Wessex and attached to 8th Division.  In May 1915 8th Division were part of the Battle of Aubers Ridge and it would appear that this is where Thomas met his death.  I can't better this summary of the Battle by J Rickard, so here is it:

The battle of Aubers Ridge was a British contribution to the Allied spring offensive of 1915. It was fought over the same ground as the battle of Neuve Chapelle, 10-13 March 1915, but failed to achieve even the temporary successes of that battle.

The British attack was to be launched by General Sir Douglas Haig’s First Army. It was intended to send in two attacks, to the north and south of Neuve Chapelle, with the hope that the two attacking forces could meet up behind the German front lines. Haig had requested extra artillery to increase the strength of the 40 minute bombardment planned for the morning of 9 May, but all available artillery reserves had been sucked into the fighting at the second battle of Ypres, still raging just to the north.

The British attack on 9 May was a total failure. The Germans had greatly strengthened their lines around Neuve Chapelle after they had been overrun during Neuve Chapelle, and the British artillery bombardment was simply not heavy enough to destroy the new German lines. 

The battle of Aubers Ridge fits the popular image of a First World War battle better than most. The British troops went over the top early on the morning of 9 May and were cut down by German machine gun fire. The survivors were pinned down in no mans land. No significant progress was made, and early on 10 May Haig ended the offensive. The British suffered 11,000 casualties in one day of fighting on a narrow front.

Rickard, J (26 August 2007), Battle of Aubers Ridge, 9-10 May 1915 ,

I have also read elsewhere that casualties were moving through the field ambulances up the chain of evacuation for three days.  Perhaps we can speculate that Thomas was killed whilst trying to help comrades stuck out in no man's land and fell under the machine gun fire himself.  His medal index card shows that he was awarded a clasp to one of his medals.

Thomas is buried in the Canadian Cemetery at Sailly-Sur-La-Lys.

Both Thomas' brothers survived the war and married.  James (known as Henry) died in 1967 whilst Samuel died in 1955.


  1. Thomas is in the 1911 census boarding with the Police Sergeant and his family in Newquay and is listed as being a Police Constable. He probably joined 2nd Wessex Field Ambulance earlier than 1914 as those who embarked in Nov 14 were pretty much all TA "regs" of the unit, but I can't find his service records to confirm this. I am unit historian for 243 (Wessex) Field Hospital (V) and we are the modern day antecedent of 2nd Wessex FA, together with the other Wessex Ambulances of the South West area. IF he was a bearer, then he would most likely have been killed by shellfire as the FA bearers assisted Regimental bearers who collected from out in No Man's Land.. I am currently transcribing the war diary of 25th FA so may have more information soon.

  2. Hello Snapesoul, thank you so much for your information. It's a shame so few of the service records have survived.

    If you find any further information, it will be gratefully received.

    Thanks again.