Service number: 285063
Regiment / Service: Hertfordshire Regiment
Thomas Alexander joined the army prior to or in the very early stages of the war and was posted to the 1st Battalion of the Hertfordshire Regiment - Service No 2597.
All units in this regiment were of the Territorial Force. August 1914 was in Hertford as part of the East Midland Brigade in East Anglian Division.
Up to 1908, Britain had a tradition of organising local part-time military units known as the Militia and the Volunteers. These had often been created during times of national crisis but with the exception of service during the Boer War in South Africa (1899- 1902) had generally remained at home as part-time, local defence, units. The 1908 army reforms carried out by Minister of War Richard Burdon Haldane, hotly debated and not universally agreed, essentially did away with these old units and replaced them with the Territorial Force. It remained a part-time form of soldiering (hence the nickname "Saturday Night Soldiers"), whose stated role was home defence. Men were not obliged to serve overseas, although they could agree to do so.
The recruitment of men into TF units was very localised and remained so well into 1916.
The TF was mobilised for full-time war service immediately war was declared The Regiment moved on mobilisation to Bury St Edmunds. Then on the 6 November 1914 they left the Division and landed in France. Came under command of 4th (Guards) Brigade in 2nd Division. Thomas’s entitlement to the 1914 or “Mons” Star is due to him being in the ‘theatre of war” from 6/11/14.
Furthermore, the award of the clasp- a narrow horizontal bronze clasp sewn onto the ribbon, bearing the dates '5th AUG. - 22nd NOV. 1914' shows that the recipient had actually served under fire of the enemy during that period.
One of the first British formations to move to France, the 2nd Division remained on the Western Front throughout the war. Thomas will have been involved in many of the following major actions, including:
- Winter Operations 1914-15
- The Battle of Festubert
- The Battle of Loos
On the 19 August 1915 they transferred to 6th Brigade in same Division.
In early 1916 Thomas must have been back in England for on or about February of that year he married Alice Lavinia Tidy in Paddington, London.
At some stage Thomas was transferred to the Notts and Derby Regiment- commonly known as The Sherwood Foresters - and given a new Service No - 260176. This was most probably sometime in 1917 as six figure service numbers were not issued until 1 April that year. There is no indication of which battalion he joined or how long he remained with them but he transferred back to the Hertfordshire Regiment with a new Service No - 285063.
It is possible he remained at ‘home during his time with the ‘Foresters” because his daughter Sheila J, was born mid 1918. The move must, however, have taken place prior to March 1918 because on the 11th March Thomas was involved in an incident that won him an award for “conspicuous gallantry”.
By this date the 1st Herts were with 116th Brigade in same Division, having been transferred in February. During this incident Thomas was wounded. There is no indication of how badly he was hurt and it is not known if he returned to active duty after that date.
Thomas Alexander was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal. The D.C.M. was the first official medal award to recognise an act of gallantry in the field by a member of the armed forces who was below the rank of officer. It was the other ranks' equivalent of the Distinguished Service Order.
The D.C.M. was awarded for gallantry in the field in the face of the enemy. Other ranks in the British Army and also non-commissioned ranks in Commonwealth Forces were eligible for this award.
The reverse of the medal bears the inscription “For Distinguished Conduct in the Field”. A bar carrying the date of a subsequent deed could be added to the ribbon until 1916 when the bar was changed to a laurel wreath. A recipient of the award is entitled to use the letters D.C.M. after their name.
Once the war had finished there is little record of what happened to Thomas. He did, however, outlive many of his siblings and died in 1976 about 83 years of age. His death was recorded in Chiltern and Beaconsfield in Bucks. Beaconsfield is situated about halfway between Amersham and Eton where many of his family were also to be found after the war.