Thomas John Akehurst
Died : 11 October 1918
Grave of Thomas Akehurst, St. Aubert British Cemetery, eight miles north-east of Cambrai, France.
Thomas John Akehurst was born at Chiddingly and became a carter at Norlington Farm where he lived with his parents Thomas and Rose. He joined the Army at Eastbourne some time after 23rd March 1917 following an appeal for exemption by his employer, Samuel Holford, which evidently failed. After training he was posted to 'A' Company, 8th Battalion of The Queen's (Royal West Surrey) Regiment for service in France with the 24th Division.
Private Akehurst, number G/29380, was killed on 11th October 1918 at the age of nineteen, just one month before the Armistice, which signalled the end of the War. Thomas was entitled to the British War & Victory Medals, both of which were sent to his next of kin. He was indeed the last Ringmer man to be killed in the First World War; although three others died after that date as a result of earlier injuries or disease.
Soon after 05.00 on the morning of 11th October the 8th Queen's moved into position to the south-west edge of Rieux, a small village five miles north-east of Cambrai. They were to support an attack of the German line by the 1st Royal Fusiliers and the 3rd Rifle Brigade; the Germans at that time holding ground midway between Rieux and the next village of St. Aubert, some two miles away. The attack was made without the benefit of a creeping barrage. It met obstinate resistance from the enemy in St. Aubert village and the adjacent high ground in their possession. After 500 yards the British attack came grinding to a halt.
'A' Company had been assigned to guard the left flank of the main attacking force with the other companies of the 8th Queen's being either dug in or in reserve. Unfortunately it became heavily involved in the main assault by an error of navigation. Two German tanks, as well as very heavy machine gun and rifle fire, held up the 1st Royal Fusiliers advance and no headway could be made. 'A' Company of the 8th Queen's also tried to advance but suffered heavy casualties from exploding shells and machine gun fire. Much bravery and determination was shown by men of this Company in the attempt to put enemy machine guns out of action. As no further progress was possible the attack was abandoned for the day in order that the units involved could re-group for a renewed attempt the following morning.
St.Aubert British Cemetery
In common with many of the casualties of that Operation, Private Thomas Akehurst lies buried in St. Aubert British Cemetery. His comrades began the construction of the cemetery on the day after he died. It is located at the approximate position of the previous day's front line.
Adapted from Valiant Hearts of Ringmer by Geoff Bridger: Ammonite Press, 1993