The Men from Hyde – William Thomas Munt

Thomas William Munt was one of a large family born late to a gardener, also Thomas W., working at Northlands Lodge and his wife, Louisa. Unusually for those times his parents were from different areas. Thomas Senior was from Seaview, the Isle of Wight and Louisa from Halstead, Essex.  When ‘our’ Thomas was born in 1894 his parents were 53 years and 38 years of age. His elder 7 siblings from a first marriage had already left home except for the youngest, George  and his father had remarried following  his first wife Emma’s death. Emma was born 1844 or 5 and also from the Isle of Wight. The second marriage also produced a number of children – George born 1883, Thomas born 1894 and Cyril born 1899 when his father was 58 years old. They would have been brought up in a crowded house but presumably the stockbroker’s wife for whom Thomas Senior worked kept him well paid enough to secure food and clothing for this large family. One mystery is that a sister to Thomas, May Louisa was born in 1893 but is not mentioned. on the census of 1901.  She would have been 8 years old and hard to miss even in this large family so perhaps was living with other relatives. She does reappear on the census of 1911 as a millener’s  assistant so we  can be reassured of her survival.

By 1911 Thomas William was a printer’s compositor with the Hampshire Chronicle and 17 years of age. Also in this year Thomas joined the Territorials and by then was probably lodging at 13 King Alfred Terrace which is given as his home address. His regimental number was 4/1686 ( he was incorrectly renumbered in 1917 as 200116).  Originally he signed up for the Royal Engineers and was posted to India.

He entered a theatre of war on 18th March 1915 at Mesopotamia where he was in the 1/4th Battalion of the Hampshire Regiment. He transferred to the Royal Engineers and was promoted to Signaller.  He was alongside Ernest Loveland and Cecil Offer.  He would probably have taken part in the disastrous Battle at Umm el Hanna on 21st January 1916. Following this, the regiment were involved in  rearguard actions under increasing attacks from the Turkish troops. The Hampshires were split, either being in Kut and besieged,  or occupied in failed rescue missions while trying to keep out of the way of Turkish attacks.  He appears to be one of those who besieged  in Kut. Starvation soon ensued.  As the men and population weakened, so the sick-rate rose. Dysentery affected most and the death rate grew in the increasing heat. Communication with the outside world was kept up by radio, but attempts to relieve the siege and drop supplies by plane failed. The end of the siege came on 26th April when he was taken prisoner. At first, his captors were quite friendly handing out handfuls of cigarettes to each man as they left Kut. The officers were well treated and given a splendid meal. Things were to change quickly and brutally. The best that can be said is that the Turkish captors were unprepared to deal with such numbers of prisoners.

Munt was one such prisoner of war  who suffered inhuman conditions as they were marched to Baghdad.  He survived 5 long, immensely arduous months before succumbing on 30th September to illness, starvation or overwork in a prison camp at Afion-Kaira-Hissan.

A report of his death in the Hampshire Chronicle (CHECK DATE)  is here quoted at length:

‘Pte. T.W. Munt, Hampshire Regiment, who was taken prisoner at Kut, has died at Afion Kaira Hissar, Turkey, of intestinal inflammation. He was a son of Mr. and Mrs. Munt of Salcot Lodge, Worthy Road, Winchester, and prior to joining up, was at the Hampshire Chronicle Office. While serving in Mesopotamia he was attached to the Signalling Company. He was taken prisoner on April 29th last and died on September 20th. Pte. Munt  was always of a very cheerful and willing disposition, and his death – reported unofficially about four months ago – will be regretted by many friends. The deepest sympathy has also been expressed with his parents in their great sorrow. In addition to the official notification which has been received of his death, Mr. and Mrs. Munt have received a letter through the Comite Internationale de la Croix-Rouge, in which the writer states:’ It is difficult for us to offer you much comfort by any words of ours at this sad time, but we wish, nevertheless, to point out to you that from all accounts, the Turks are good to their prisoners, and therefore that we hope that Pte. Munt received as much care and attention as was possible under the circumstances during his illness; also that he was among comrades who had shared, at least, a short part of his captivity with him, so that his last moments could not have been utterly lonely. We beg to offer our sincere sympathy with you in your sad loss’.

Thomas was buried at Baghdad (North Gate) Cemetery and is named is on the memorial at St Batholomew’s Church Winchester. He was entitled to the 1914/15 Star, British War Medal and Victory Medal.

His brother Cyril served in Egypt, Palestine and Syria in the Hampshire Yeomanry, the Hussars and the Staffordshire Yeomanry. He survived the war.

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