CATCHPOLE, Thomas John

Captain, Thomas John CATCHPOLE
Aged 29

1st/5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment
Died of his Wounds on Saturday, 3rd November 1917

Thomas John Catchpole was born in Lidgate in 1888,(Newmarket Q3-1888 3B:508), baptised in Lidgate on 19th October 1888, son of Arthur Robert and Catharine Mary CATCHPOLE (née PEARL).

1891 census...Aged 2, he was "near The Blacksmith's", Lidgate with his father Arthur R. CATCHPOLE [34] a farmer born in Stanningfield, Suffolk; his mother Catherine M. [33] born Withersfield; sisters Isabel [12] and Catherine E. [9] both born at Hawstead, Suffolk, Annie F [7] and Bertha A[5] both born in Lidgate, and brother Stanley E [4 months] born in Lidgate.

1901 census...Aged 12, he was a pupil at Framlingham College (1900-1904). His parents were at Lidgate Hall with his sisters Isabel, Annie, Bertha and new sister Dorothy M. [8] born Lidgate

1911 census...Aged 22, farmer's son working on farm, he was at "near Street, Lidgate, with his parents, sisters Bertha and Dorothy and brother Stanley (a chemist's assistant). One of the nine children had died.

Interestingly the recording of the location of Lidgate Hall varies with each census.

1st/5th Battalion, Suffolk Regiment was a Territorial unit.
Thomas was promoted to Lieutenant on 22nd December 1915 and to Captain (temp)on 30th November 1916 and confirmed Captain on 3rd May 1917.

Newmarket Journal 17/11/1917:-
Deaths - Catchpole - November 3, in Egypt, from wounds received in action, Capt. Thomas John Catchpole (Suffolk Regt), second son of Mr and Mrs A.R. Catchpole, Lidgate Hall, aged 29 years.

Lidgate - Death of Capt. T.J. Catchpole. - We learn with sincere regret that Capt. Thomas John Catchpole, Suffolk Regt., succumbed, on Nov. 3rd; to wounds received in action in Egypt. Capt. Catchpole was the second son of Mr and Mrs A.R. Catchpole, of Lidgate Hall, Lidgate, and was only 29 years of age. For some time he was an articled pupil in the office of Mr J.W. Metcalf, then Surveyor to the Newmarket Urban District Council; and subsequently he was engaged in farming. Previous to the outbreak of the war he had taken a commission in our local Territorial Battalion, and, when the Territorial Force was mobilised, went up with his unit. Since then he had seen much service, and had gained promotion to the rank of Captain. A good officer, popular among both his fellow officers and the men serving under him, his death will be regretted by all who knew him; and Mr and Mrs Catchpole have the sympathy of everyone in the district in their bereavement. The deceased officer had for a considerable time been serving with the Egyptian Expeditionary Force.'

The 1st/5th Suffolks were involved in the 3rd Battle of Gaza( Nov 1st- 7th). Beersheba was captured on 31st October and the assault on Gaza was scheduled for November 2nd. The main objectives were the enemy works from Umbrella Hill to Sheikh Hassan by the sea, a front of about 6,000 yards, the furthest point being 3,000 yards ahead. They moved forward at 1 am into No Man's Land and at 3 am moved off under cover of an artillery barrage. As this lifted they rushed into the 1st line trenches of El 'Arish redoubt, 'B' and 'D' Companies leading with 'A' and 'C' in support.
Small parties of the enemy held out but the first line was soon cleared, likewise the second and third lines. With their flank now exposed they withdrew to the second line and consolidated. Casualties sustained in the battle were over 150, 34 dying on 2nd November and 5 on the 3rd November.

The Bury Free Press of 22nd December 1917 reported:-

Capt. Thomas John Catchpole, Suffolk Regiment, who died of wounds on November 3rd, was the second son of Mr. A.R.Catchpole, of Lydgate Hall, Suffolk. He was born in1888 and educated at Framlingham College. He obtained his commission in December, 1912 in the Territorial Force. A good officer, popular among both his fellow officers and the men of his regiment, his death will be regretted by all who knew him. His Colonel, writing of his death says:" He died at the head of his men and showed a very fine example to all his company, and was only killed by weight of numbers against him. His loss will be greatly felt, as he was so liked by the whole Battalion."
Another brother officer, in writing of his noble death, wrote:-"Captain Catchpole died as heroically as any man after being wounded several times with both bayonet and bomb. He was trying to join up with an isolated party, and fought like a tiger."

Memorial plaque in St. Mary's Church, Lidgate

photo: Commonwealth War Graves Commission

Thomas Catchpole is buried in Deir el Belah War Cemetery, Palestine, grave B:40

click here to go to the Commonwealth War Graves Commission website for full cemetery/memorial details