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  • Family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard.  Photograph Rachel Farrand (March 2016)
Person Details
Thurgaton Nottinghamshire
Richard was born in 1896 (Oct/Nov/Dec), the son of Richard Thornton and Emma Jane Thornton (nee Hart) who were married in 1888 (Oct/Nov/Dec). Richard senior was born in Loughborough, Leicestershire (abt. 1857) and was the son of William and Sarah Thornton, both of Thurgarton. William was the inn keeper of the Red Lion, Thurgarton, and additionally farmed 21 acres. Richard was later described on census returns as a farmer. Emma was the daughter of a local farmer, William Hart, and his wife, Clementina. It was recorded on the 1911 census that Richard and Emma Jane had been married for 22 years and had had nine children born alive of whom seven were still living at the time of the census. Seven children were named on the census between 1891 and 1911; Arthur Henry, Clementina, Margaret, Kathleen, Richard Lacey, Noel William and John. All the children were born in Thurgarton. The family home was at Old Farm, Thurgarton. In 1891 Richard and Emma were living in Thurgarton with their two children, Arthur (1) and Clementina (6 months). Also in the household was Emma's unmarried sister, Lucy Hart (34). Richard employed a farm servant, George Armstrong (16), and a domestic servant, Rose Nicholson (15). By 1901 Richard and Emma had seven children; Arthur, Clementina, Margaret (9), Kathleen (7), Richard (4), Noel William (2) and John (11 months). Also in the household were two sisters who had been born in Caythorpe; Stella Foster (16), a general domestic servant, and Clara (15), who was employed as a nurse, and a young farm servant, William Jones (16). The family was still living together in 1911 and Arthur, who was now 21, was working with his father on the family farm. Richard's three daughters were unmarried and his three younger sons were still at school, Richard and Noel at the Magnus Grammar School and John at the local elementary school. Richard's mother, Emma Jane, died on 20 February 1931 aged 71 and his father on 26 December 1934 aged 77. Of Richard's brothers, Arthur and John became farmers and Noel a bank clerk.
He attended Magnus Grammar School, Newark.
07 Jun 1917
20
1626439 - CWGC Website
49325
He enlisted in Derby.
Private
11th Bn Sherwood Foresters (Notts & Derby Regiment)
11th Bn Sherwood Foresters formed part of 2nd Army's attack on Messines Ridge, the highly successful operation to clear enemy forces off high ground to the south of Ypres as a prelude to the 3rd Battle of Ypres (Passchendaele) launched on 31st July. In early June the unit moved from St Lawrence camp to Halfway House, then Ritz Street support trenches before assembling ready to attack. A series of huge mines were detonated at 20 second intervals causing panic and many casualties amongst Germans defending the area. According to 11th Sherwood Foresters' War Diary (TNA WO95/2187/3), they formed 'the left hand bn of the whole attack. Zero hour was at 3.10am at which hour the mines were exploded. The battalion occupied their objective with four casualties.' However 66 men, including Bingley, lost their lives on June 7th (CWGC Debt of Honour Register). 'The majority,' the War Diary reports,' took place from sniping and shell fire after the position was carried.' Battalion orders had insisted 'All ranks are to be warned that there is no such word as "RETIRE" and that anyone using such a word is in all probability a German.' The unit's response was impressive; Major CE Hudson MC was awarded the DSO for his part in the action. Three officers won the MC and 40 men from the ranks were decorated - 4 with DCMs and 36 with MMs. John Cotterill reflects: ‘It (7/6/1917) was really a day of mixed fortunes for the battalion. As their main responsibility was forming a flank they did not have to advance as far as everyone else but they hit the only really uncut wire. The very left of their objective was the only part of the British objective not to fall although you would not know that from the battalion history or war diary. Despite that, they did pretty well and advanced about 1,000 yards. The confusion and delay when their left hand company hit the uncut wire, unseen in a small hollow, was only sorted out by the energetic intervention of Edward Hudson, a remarkable man with an MC on the Somme, a DSO at Messines , a bar to his DSO at Passchendaele and a VC on the Asiago plateau (Italy). I think the 4 casualties recorded in the war diary just reflect an initial report. The battalion history records 41 x KIA, 169 x WIA and 15 x MIA on 7 June. If one adds KIA to MIA one is only a few short of final CWGC figure of 62. 70 Bde , of which 11th Foresters comprised one quarter , suffered 183 x KIA , 768 x WIA and over 400 x MIA as few British became PW on 7 Jun one must assume most of the MIA were actually KIA. This gives the brigade nearly 600 dead so 11th Foresters casualties were proportionally the lowest in the brigade, presumably reflecting their flank holding role. The level of gallantry awards reflects more or less what one expects from a successful battalion attack. The DSO which would normally go to the CO, if he did a good job, obviously went to Hudson as second in command. The CO, Watson, had only come out of hospital on the day of the attack so it seems that Hudson was effectively in command. 3 x MCs is slightly less than the average of one per company, which would have given 4. Only 3 of the DCMs were actually for 7 Jun 1917, as the 4th (Sgt Legate) was for a raid on Hill 60 on 9 Apr 1917. Sgt Ellis was right up there with Hudson in terms of bravery with an MM in Sanctuary Wood in Oct 16, a DCM at Messines in Jun 17, a bar to his MM at 3rd Ypres in Sept 17 and a bar to his DCM on the Asiago plateau in Jun 1918. Although the battalion attacked in the first wave at 0310 hrs, it is clear that they did not start taking heavy casualties until German counter attacks began at 10.30 hrs and that , after that , they took a lot of punishment from both counter attacks and heavy and sustained German artillery fire . It seems remarkable that, with a total of 225 casualties, which is over 1 in 3 of the attacking infantry men , the 11th Foresters still had the lowest butcher’s bill in their brigade.’ Military research by David Nunn and John Cotterill
The following is an extract from the Magnus School, Newark , diary of the Great War: Thursday 7 June 1917: Former Magnusian Richard Lacey Thornton, only 19, was killed in action with the 11th Battalion Sherwood Foresters. The son of Richard and Emma Thornton of Thurgarton, he lived in Newark but enlisted in Derby. Private 49325 Thornton is remembered on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial. Inscription on family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard: 'To the dear memory of Richard Lacey Thornton fondly loved son of Richard and Emma Jane Thornton, killed in France at the Battle of Messines on June 7th 1917 aged 20 years. Father keep him in thy home of light.' Probate: ‘Thornton Richard Lacey of Old Farm Thurgarton Nottinghamshire private in HM Army died on or since 7 June 1917 in France Administration (with Will) Nottingham 26 September [1919] to Richard Thornton farmer. Effects £289 4s. 1d.’ Probate: ‘Thornton Emma Jane of Thurgarton Nottinghamshire (wife of Richard Thornton) died 20 February 1931 Probate Nottingham 20 August [1931] to the said Richard Thornton and Arthur Henry Thornton farmers and Noel William Thornton bank clerk. Effects £4962 9s. 10d.’ Probate: ‘Thornton Richard of Thurgarton Nottinghamshire died 26 December 1934 Probate Nottingham 13 March [1935] to Arthur Henry Thornton farmer Noel William Thornton bank clerk and John Thornton farmer. Effects 10172 12s. 6d.’
Remembered on

Photos

  • Family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard.  Photograph Rachel Farrand (March 2016)
    Richard L Thornton - Family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard. Photograph Rachel Farrand (March 2016)
  • Location of family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard.  Photograph Rachel Farrand (March 2016)
    Richard L Thornton - Location of family gravestone, Thurgarton (St Peter) churchyard. Photograph Rachel Farrand (March 2016)