Thomas James Perks was born in 1893 and his birth registered at Wolstanton. His father, John, was from south Staffordshire and had moved to the area as a very young child. John’s father was a puddler, who had moved from south Staffordshire to Brindley Ford to work in Heath’s iron works. John had married Sarah, a local girl who had been born at Brindley Ford and together they had seven children. According to the census only four of those children had survived by 1911.
In 1901 Thomas and his family lived at 15, Albert Street, Brindley Ford. Ten years later the family still lived at the same address. In this census Thomas and his two brothers were all ironworkers, however, their father John was now employed by the Urban District Council as a stone breaker.
Before enlisting in November 1916 he was employed by Messrs. R. Heath & Sons. He enlisted at Tunstall and joined the South Staffordshire Regiment. Two regimental numbers have been found 32350 and 32396. However no battalion has come to light so his early service is difficult to follow. In March 1918 it is believed Thomas transferred to the Machine Gun Corps (Infantry), serving in the newly formed 25th Battalion, who became part of the divisional troops of the 25th Division.
No service records are available and the date of entry into a theatre of war is not stated on the medal card of Thomas.It can only be assumed that he joined his unit in France early 1918. When the German Spring Offensive started on March 21st 1918, the 25th Division were in the St. Quentin and Bapaume areas serving in a fighting withdrawal, causing the infantry to fall back 30 miles in three days. The division suffered losses of over 3000 men, killed, wounded or taken prisoner, depleting their strength.
On April 9th 1918 they were to entrain to Caestre near Bailleul where fresh recruits joined the division, soon to return to the fight to slow the enemy advance. The Battle of Lys found the Machine Gun Corps bravely fighting in a bitter assault at Estaires and Messines. The MGC had a particularly horrendous time in counter attacks near Ploegstreert Wood and these actions may well have been the time when Thomas was seriously wounded.
He would have been taken to a back area for treatment, but sadly on April 12th 1918 Private Thomas James Perks died from his wounds. He was 25 years old. Thomas is at rest in the Godewaersvelde British Cemetery which is south of Poperinge. There were three Casualty Clearing Stations near this cemetery where Thomas may have been taken after receiving his wounds.
Thomas is also remembered on Brindley Ford memorial.
Michael Turnock and Elaine Heathcote.