|Theatre of War first served in||(1) France|
|Date of entry therein||13/02/1915|
|Age at Death||29|
|Date of Death||08/05/1915|
|Burial/Memorial||Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial|
|CWGC Family Details||Son of Harry Counsell, of 19, Walsall St., Newport; husband of Eliza Jasper Counsell, of 6, Canal St., Barrack Hill, Newport, Mon.|
|How Died||Killed in action|
|Theatre of War||Western European Theatre|
|Medal Entitlement||1914-15 Star|
British War Medal
Thomas was born in 1886 in Caldicot, the son of Henry Counsell and Sarah Elizabeth Pembridge. Henry and Sarah had nine children and in 1901 were still living in Caldicot. Thomas was 15 and working as a farm labourer and Henry was working as a general labourer. By 1911 they are both working in the Orb Works. On the Census, it also records that Sarah had died and James had moved the family to 13, Magor Street.
In 1909 Thomas married Eliza Jasper Harding and they went to live with Eliza’s father William at 6 Canal Street, Barrack Hill. The couple went on to have two children.
Thomas and his brother Frank joined the 1st Monmouthshire Regiment almost immediately and became Corporal Thomas Henry Counsell 20265 and Private Frank G Counsell 2458. On 13th February 1915, the 1st Monmouths docked at Boulogne and by late April the battalion were sent to Belgium to defend Ypres and it was in this area that Thomas lost his life.
On 8th May during the Battle of Frezenberg Ridge the 1st battalion Monmouthshire regiment was decimated. When he addressed the Brigade, Sir John French described the German bombardment prior to the attack as “probably the heaviest to which troops had ever been subjected to”. It began at 6.30am and as the morning wore on there were many casualties. The Germans managed to break the line meaning the Monmouths had to defend themselves from the front as well as the right flank. Heavy machine gun fire from the right flank was directed at these trenches and they began to collapse in places.
Later in the morning all communication by wire was cut forcing the commanding officer, Colonel Robinson, to enter the trenches himself where ordered the battalion to fall back to a new position. At 11am while the men were attempting to file out through the shallow and narrow communication trenches Colonel Robinson was killed. When the men eventually reached their new position, they found themselves once more under heavy machine gun fire. The Northumberland Fusiliers fell back towards the trenches now occupied by the Monmouths with the Germans following them. The Monmouths managed to gather enough fire power to stop the Germans in their tracks. Another heavy bombardment followed at dusk resulting in yet more casualties. Towards the end of the evening the Dublin Fusiliers took over the positions of the Monmouths.
The following day 2 officers and 10 men were all that was left of the regiment in the firing line, casualties were reported as:
- 5 Killed
- 5 Wounded
- 1 Missing
- 1 Taken Prisoner
- 33 Killed
- 319 Missing
- 82 Missing & Wounded
We will never know when Thomas met his fate on that terrible day, but he along with John Robinson and George Harry Hyde all in the 1st Monmouths died on that day. The three men are remembered at Ypres in Belgium on the Menin Gate and in Newport on the Orb War memorial.
Eliza his wife received his back pay and War gratuity of £4.00. Thomas was a Corporal when he died so that entitled Eliza to received £15-/ per week widows pension. For her first child, she received 5/- and for her second child she received 4/-2d
Thomas’ brother Frank survived the war.