THOMAS WILLIAM EXLEY

Private 27567, 12th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment (The Green Howards)

Died 12th July 1916 aged 19

No Known Grave Commemorated Arras Memorial, France

Son of John France and Rosetta Exley

Lived 103, High Street, Heckmondwike


Thomas was born in Heckmondwike in 1897 he was one of the four children of John France Exley and his wife Rosetta (formerly Ramsden).

Thomas was a member of the Methodist Free Church in Heckmondwike, his parents were married there and it is where all their children were baptised.  Thomas himself was the first of the Church’s scholars to fall in the war.  Before the war he was a Cabinet Maker like his father and he and his father and brother Harry ran a successful business from premises in High Street they also had a warehouse on Chapel Lane.  Harry served during the war and survived to carry on the family business.

Thomas joined the Green Howards under the Derby Scheme which was introduced in the autumn 1915 by Kitchener's new Director General of Recruiting, Edward Stanley 17th Earl of Derby.   By spring 1915 the flow of volunteer recruits was dwindling.  The government was torn when it came to the question of compulsory military service and so tried this half-way house scheme.  The Derby Scheme required each eligible man aged 18 to 41 who was not in an essential occupation to make a public declaration.  Men aged 18 to 40 were informed that under the scheme they could continue to enlist voluntarily or attest with an obligation to come if called up later on.  Men who attested under the Derby Scheme, who were accepted for service and chose to defer it were classified as being in "Class A". Those who agreed to immediate service were "Class B".  The Class A men were paid a day's army pay for the day they attested; were given a grey armband with a red crown as a sign that they had so volunteered; were officially transferred into Section B Army Reserve and were then sent back to their homes and jobs until they were called up.  215,000 men enlisted while the scheme was running and another 2,185,000 attested for deferred enlistment.

Thomas had only been in France for a month when he was killed at the age of twenty.  His father, brother and sister all died in the 1920s, his mother Rosetta, the last surviving member of the family, died in 1933.
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