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First Name: James Grant Brandon Last Name: THOMAS
Date of Death: 17/11/1914 Lived/Born In: Brompton
Rank: Second Lieutenant Unit: Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers2
Memorial Site: St Pancras Church window Memorial

Current Information:


Brompton Cemetery, London


On 30th October, because of the desperate nature of the fighting around Ypres, all available reserves of 4th Division were ordered to move north of the Lys to assist the Cavalry Corps. The 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers and 2nd Lancashire Fusiliers battalions, both 12 Brigade, made this move. At 4.30 am on the following day, 31st October, 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers were in the process of relieving 57th Rifles and taking over the line from the Douve to Messines when the Germans attacked Messines and the sectors north and south of it.  Reinforcements moved up whilst 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers countered with a flank attack.  When daylight arrived the enemy fell back in the face of British fire but at 8 am they began a heavy bombardment of Messines followed an hour later by an infantry attack with their machine guns firing from nearby brickfields.  It became evident that the twelve weak squadrons defending Messines could not hold on against twelve German battalions at odds of 6-1 or more and soon the Germans broke in north of the village as well as exploiting a gap to the south-east. At 10 am the Germans renewed their attack and 1 Cavalry Brigade was forced back from house to house.  By noon the British line of defence had withdrawn to the main street, well within the western half of the village.  At 1 pm there was an effective counter attack by 2nd Yorkshire Light Infantry and 2nd Scottish Borderers, both of 13 Brigade, 5th Division who had been sent up from Kemmel.  At the same time 2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers counter attacked on their right whilst 14th London (London Scottish) pushed forward north of Messines.  2nd Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers regained the trenches lost by 57th Rifles but too many German machine guns prevented 2nd Scottish Borderers from regaining any more than a few houses and the convent in the village. The heavy fighting continued all day but the line held, despite the German artillery setting the British part ablaze.  The Germans suffered many casualties and they did not manage to establish a continuous line through the village until the evening. The battle raged into the night and the casualties mounted up. James Thomas was wounded during the heavy fighting that took place on 31st October and died from these wounds on 17th November in a hospital in Boulogne. Unusually his body was brought back to England for burial.

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