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Tom Hessay

Tom Hessay (often recorded as Hessey) was born about March 1881 in Old Malton, and his birth registered at Malton.  He was the third son of Charles and Elizabeth (nee Harding) who were married  in the Driffield area in the last quarter of 1869.

In 1881 Charles and Elizabeth and their six children were living in Town Street, Old Malton.  Tom was a new baby and so Elizabeth’s sister was also resident presumably to lend a helping hand.

1881 Census – resident in Town Street, Old Malton
HESSAY, Charles, Head, Married, M, 35, Farm Lab, New Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Elizabeth, Wife, Married, F, 33, , Wetwang Yorkshire,
HESSAY, John, Son, Single, M, 11, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Hannah M, Daughter, Single, F, 9, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Ada, Daughter, Single, F, 7, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Absolam, Son, Single, M, 4, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Marian, Daughter, Single, F, 2, , Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Tom, Son, Single, M, under 1 month, , Old Malton Yorkshire,  
HARDING, Anne, Wifes Sister, Single, F, 27, , Wetwang Yorkshire,

By 1891 most of the older children had left home but another three children had been born so there were still six children at home.

HESSAY, Charles, Head, Married, M, 45, Farm Labourer, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Elizabeth, Wife, Married, F, 44, , Wetwang Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Harriet, Daughter, Single, F, 23, Domestic Servant, Wetwang Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Marian, Daughter, , F, 12, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Tom, Son, , M, 10, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Annie, Daughter, , F, 7, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Violet, Daughter, , F, 5, Scholar, Old Malton Yorkshire,
HESSAY, Absolom, Son, , M, 2, , Old Malton Yorkshire,

1901 sees Tom, having well and truly left home working as a footman (one of fourteen servants!) for a retired army officer and his wife, at Woodcote Hall, Woodcote, Shropshire.

1901 Census – resident at Woodcote Hall, Woodcote, Shropshire
HESSAY, Thomas, Servant, Single, M, 21, Footman Domestic, Old Malton Yorkshire

In the last quarter of 1909 he married Bessie Fullick in Fulham. A year later they had a son, Charles Percy born in the Chester area and by 1911 he was employed as a butler in Kelsall, Cheshire.

1911 Census – resident at Longly Cottage Kelsall, Cheshire
HESSAY, Tom, Head, Married, M, 31, Butler Domestic, Old Malton Yorks,
HESSAY, Bessie, Wife, Married 1 years, F, 26, , Old Brompton London,
HESSAY, Charles Percy, Son, , M, 7 months, , Cheshire Kelsall,

However by the time that he enlisted in the Royal Fusiliers, he had moved across England again and was now the manager of the Bell Hotel in Norwich which was where he enlisted. While he later served in the 9th (Service) Battalion, his regimental number (SPTS/4827) indicates that he originally enlisted in the 23rd or 24th Bns (Sportsmen's) Royal Fusiliers.

The 9th Battalion was formed of volunteers  and attached to 36th Brigade, 12th (Eastern) Division and landed in France in May 1915.  On 23 June 1915 the Division took over a sector of the front line for the first time, at Ploegsteert Wood, relieving 46th (North MIdland) Division. 6th Queen's, 6th Buffs and 11th Middlesex were the units that first entered the trenches. By 15 July the Divisional front had extended south to reach east of Armentieres; the 12th was now holding 7000 yards. In just holding this relatively quiet sector, in July alone the Division suffered the loss of 7 officers and 64 men killed, 18 officers and 413 men wounded.  During September the Division was involved in the battle of Loos and 117 officers and 3237 men were killed or wounded. By the end of 21 October the Division had been relieved and moved to Fouquieres-les-Bethune.

On 9th December, 9th Royal Fusiliers was given the unusual task of assisting in a round-up of spies and other uncertain characters in the streets of Bethune. Next day the Division moved up and relieved 33rd Division in the front line north of the La Bassee canal at Givenchy. Between 12 December 1915 and 18 January 1916 in a quiet period of trench-holding, the Division nonetheless suffered the loss of 102 officers and 670 men killed, wounded or missing. Relieved on 19 January and moved to Busnes, the Division had a spell of training in open warfare. Units moved back into the Loos trenches at the Quarries on 12-13 February 1916 and by 15 February held the line from there to the Hohenzollern Redoubt suffering more than 4000 casualties until being finally relieved on 26 April.
The Division moved to the Somme and engaged in the Battle of Albert. After short spells at Bus-les-Artois and in the front line at Beaumont Hamel, the Division moved back to the Ovillers area for an operation north and

northwest of Pozieres designed to destroy the enemy garrison holding Thiepval. On 3 August, an attack aimed at capturing 4th Avenue Trench was successful and pushed on to Ration Trench next day. German counter attacks including flamethrowers were beaten off over the next few days. An attack on 8 August to finally capture the stubborn enemy Point 77 failed with heavy casualties to 7th Sussex. Severe local fighting continued for five more days, when the Division was relieved and moved to the area of Doullens. Casualties since 28 July amounted to 126 officers and 2739 men.

Tom seems to have died on 6th August 1916  defending the recently captured ration trench during the Battle of Pozieres. His body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Thiepval memorial as well as on the memorials in Old Malton Church and Memorial Hall.

Tom’s son Charles married Alice M. Williams in Fulham in the second quarter of 1945.  Their daughter visited Old Malton church and signed the visitor book in January 2012 just as this research was getting under way!