March, Thomas Arthur

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Thomas Arthur March

796531, Sapper, 5th Canadian Railway Troops
Died of illness, 17 October 1917, aged 47
Buried at the Great Orme’s Head Cemetery, Llandudno

CWGC registered (Contact: Mrs FE March, “The Cottage”, Craig-y-don, Llandudno, Wales)

Thomas Arthur March is not remembered on the Llandudno memorials and is included in these pages because:

  1. he was buried within the parish; and
  2. his mother lived in Craig-y-don from circa 1910. Although Thomas Arthur March had emigrated to Canada in 1904, he remained single and his parents (mother from 1910) remained his next of kin. From the time he returned to the UK in 1916, he would have considered “home” to have been Craig-y-don and could reasonably be considered as one of Llandudno’s war-dead. 

Thomas Arthur March was born at Long Buckby, Northamptonshire on 4 January 1870, the son of Thomas March, a chemist, and Fanny Elizabeth March (née Ringrose). The census for the following year records the family living at Market Square, Long Buckby though Thomas Arthur was residing with his grandparents. The Census of 1881 records the family living at 24 Sheep Street, Long Buckby; Thomas (senior) now being described as a hardwareman (employing three men) and Thomas Arthur (11), a scholar. In 1891, the family lived at 2 Lea’s Villas, Northampton: Thomas (senior) a general merchant and Thomas Arthur, a commercial traveller. On 17 August 1893, Thomas Arthur married Florence Annie Jackson at College Street Chapel in Northampton. They lived at 24 Sheep Street and 61 Bostock Avenue Northampton. The couple had a child, Charles Ringrose March, who was born on 28 November 1894. The Census for 1901 notes that Thomas, a hardwareman’s assistant, was living at the home of his parents, 13 East Park Parade, Northampton. In the same census, Florence was residing with her parents in Northampton as Florence A Jackson and Charles attended a private school at Northampton. The reason for the apparent separation is explained by the couple’s subsequent divorce in 1904 – Florence citing her husband’s adultery and cruelty. Thomas was ordered to pay maintenance for his son of £1 pound per week until his 14th birthday. Florence forsook her alimony because she married Harry Alfred Coales (b 1872 Newport Pagnell) later that year. After his divorce, Thomas Arthur March emigrated to Canada and settled at Simcoe, Ontario.

No Canadian census record for Thomas Arthur March in 1911 has been found though in England, his ex-wife and Harry Coales were living in Abington, Northamptonshire whilst Charles Ringrose (17) was a drapery assistant in Finsbury. At the same time, Thomas’ widowed mother (Thomas March had died in April 1910 leaving his wife over £10000) and his sister, Nellie Louise Abbott, were recorded at “Roumania”, Carmen Sylva Road, Craig-y-don, Llandudno.

A curious entry in the baptismal register for St. Giles in the Hill, Camden records the baptism of Charles Ringrose March on 8 December 1911; Charles was described as the son of Arthur (deceased farm merchant) and Florence Annie of 134 Birchfield Road, Northampton.

Thomas March returned to England at least twice, arriving back in Canada in March 1912 and February 1913. His son, Charles also emigrated to Canada, arriving in January 1913 with a destination of Montréal and described as a warehouseman.

Charles was the first of the two expatriates to enlist into the Canadian Expeditionary Force. He attested in March 1915, declaring his mother, Florence Coales, as his next of kin. Thomas Arthur volunteered eight months later on 28 December 1915; he gave his address as Simcoe (Ontario), his mother as Mrs Fanny Elizabeth March of Craig-y-don, Llandudno, his trade as a farmer and his date of birth as 4 January 1871 – making him 44 and 10 months of age; he was in fact a year older and overage. He claimed to have served in the Active Militia, the 39th Regiment. This regiment, also known as The Norfolk Rifles, had formed at Simcoe in 1866. His service number was 796531 and his unit was the newly-formed 133rd Battalion. On 1 May 1916 he was promoted to corporal. The Battalion sailed from Canada on 30 October 1916 on the SS Lapland, disembarking in England on 11 November. Appointed as acting sergeant, he was absorbed with the rest of the 133rd into the 23rd Battalion at Dibgate the following day. He was also on the strength of both the 12th and 3rd Battalions at West Sandling before being transferred to the Canadian Railway Troops depot at Purfleet on 6 February 1917. On that day he reverted to the rank of sapper at his own request. On the following day he was posted to the newly-forming 5th Battalion CRT which disembarked in France on 27 February 1917.

An index card in Thomas’ record gives three contact addresses: his sister Mrs Nellie Abbott of Sylva Gardens, Craig-y-don; his son Charles Ringrose March, c/o Mrs Coles [sic], Birchfield Road, Northampton; and his mother Mrs Fanny E March, “The Cottage”, Craig-y-don, Llandudno.

On 8 May 1917 Thomas reported sick and was diagnosed with albuminuria. He was evacuated to England on 18 May 1917 and was admitted to the 2nd Western General Hospital at Manchester the following day. He was transferred to the military convalescent hospital at Epsom on 10 August where he complained of chest and shoulder pain. Certified free from vermin and from venereal and infectious diseases, he was available for discharge on 19 September and was slated to spend leave at Craig-y-don. In the event, he was discharged on 1 October 1917 with a medical category of Ciii being only suitable for sedentary work. Clearly the discharge was premature for on 8 October he was seriously ill in the Balmoral Auxiliary Hospital, Llandudno and dangerously ill the following day. He died on 17 October 1917 aged 47. Though the medical records indicated a diagnosis of albuminuria on admission to the Balmoral (even though tests at Epsom had recorded zero albumin in his urine), the certified cause of his death was pulmonary tuberculosis and exhaustion. The death was registered by his mother F E March of “The Cottage”, Sylva Gardens, Llandudno and he was buried at the Great Orme’s Head Cemetery. When the Imperial War Graves Commission surveyed the cemetery after the war, it reported the grave’s condition: “Grass edge, earth, little attention.” It was later marked with a standard marker with a cross and Canadian Forces maple leaf. Thomas Arthur March wrote a Will and left his estate to his sister, Nellie Abbott.

Mrs Fanny March still lived in Craig-y-don in the early 1920s; she died in 1928 at Colwyn Bay. Thomas March’s ex-wife Florence Coales died at Northampton in 1924. Charles Ringrose March served with the 4th Canadian General Hospital in Salonika and Basingstoke; he married in 1918 and was discharged in England in 1919; he had two daughters and a son who died in infancy.

Known memorials:

  • Canadian Book of Remembrance
  • Clarillion Tower, Simcoe, Ontario (as Arthur Thomas March)


Thomas March was not the only ex-patriot Canadian soldier to die of tuberculosis at Llandudno. Second Lieutenant Lionel Graves (qv) succumbed to the illness in December 1918 having contracted the illness in the trenches.

1 comment to March, Thomas Arthur

  • Ed Jones

    I leave a poppy cross near his headstone every remembrance day.
    He is one of a number of Military graves in the Cematary that do not appear to be visited.
    Sapper March is a long way from home.

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