1915-2015: Abergele & District Commemorations: Thomas William (Tom) Furnish

Private 2701 Thomas William (Tom) Furnish. 1/5th Battalion, Royal Welsh Fusiliers, 158th Brigade, 53rd (Welsh) Division. Killed in action, 10 August 1915, Suvla Bay, Gallipoli, aged 25. No known grave. Commemorated panel 77 to 80, Helles Memorial, Gallipoli Peninsula, Turkey. Also commemorated on the Abergele War Memorial and Abergele Town Memorial.

Known as Tom he was the son of Thomas and Sarah Ann Furnish, of 8, New York Terrace, Abergele, and a nephew of Canon T. Jesse Jones, Gellygaer Rectory and formerly of Abergele. He was employed as the caretaker and Sexton of St. Michael’s Church, Abergele, and was also a jobbing Gardener. Born Llanddulas, enlisted Rhyl, January 1915, lived 8, New York Terrace, Abergele, with his parents. He had a younger brother, Ernest, who, in the language employed by the 1911 Census, was an ‘invalid’.

At first, following the events of 10 August, what had happened to Tom was not clear (for background details to the events of 10 August 1915 see here).  An Abergele comrade, David Evan Parry [1], wrote home in late August that he had not seen Tom since the assault but thought that he had been wounded. Tom was officially reported as thus in the third week of September 1915 but this was later corrected as missing in action. The confusion as to his welfare was commented upon by the Abergele & Pensarn Visitor in November 1915:

“Mr. Lewis Vaughan, Peel Street and Mr Thomas Furnish, New York Terrace, are still without news about their own sons – Privates John Vaughan and Tom Furnish – who are reported as missing since the beginning of August in the Dardanelles. Letters and parcels which these anxious parents have from time to time sent to their loved ones are being sent back stamped ‘missing’. A few days ago Mr. Furnish chanced upon a copy of a letter which a gentleman from the Midlands recently wrote to the press and the document gives good reason why relatives of missing men at the Dardanelles should cherish the hope that they are still living. ‘I think you will like to make the following news as widely known as possible, as there might be many in the town and country who, like myself, are anxious about relatives reported missing from the Gallipoli peninsula. A letter arrived in England last week from an Officer who was reported missing between 6th and 10th August and was a prisoner, in which he says, ‘Tell everyone who has friends missing to go on hoping and hoping because there are hundreds of prisoners in Turkey, and very few translators so, as letters must be censored before leaving the country, they pitch them into the Bosphorus instead’.’

As the months slipped by without further news any optimism that this story generated was to prove cruelly misplaced. In mid-July 1916, Tom’s father received a letter from Captain E. G. W. Vaughan on behalf of the army records office:

“It is my painful duty to inform you that no further news having been received relative to No. 2701 Pte. Thomas William Furnish, 1/5 Royal Welsh Fusiliers, who has been missing since 10th August 1915, the Army Council have been regretfully constrained to conclude that he is dead, and that his death took place on the 10th August. I am to express the sympathy of the Army Council with you in your loss.”

Tom Furnish

[1] David Evan Parry: Son of Edward and Margaret Parry, 21, Peel Street. Appeared to have three jobs: bus driver for the Harp Hotel, a shop assistant and a painter. 5′ 4″ tall. 2 July 1915 confined to barracks for 3 days for talking on parade by Lt. David Jenkins of Abergele. Taken ill in Gallipoli and hospitalised 23 September 1915 to 8 October 1915 with scabies. Evacuated to a hospital ship 27 December 1915 with frostbite and dysentry. 18 January 1916 contracted paratyphoid and to UK to a hospital in Warrington. Home in Abergele April 1916 following discharge from hospital and returned to the 1/5th RWF in Palestine. Wounded 3 April 1918 in the head, arm and hip by splinters from a shell but thankfully all the wounds were superficial. Demobilised 10 April 1919 with an address of 4, Mount Pleasant, Abergele.


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