The Story of Tom
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Tom is the story based on the life of my Grandfather who was a postman and a piano player living in Kilburn, West London. The music style for the less well off in the early part of the 20th century was Music Hall, a mixture of music, comedy and acrobats. He would have liked to have been a professional musician and played in a big band called the Post Office Minstrels. He also took part with the Post Office Rifles which were an early form of the Territorial Army except many companies had a division. The Kaiser in Germany at the time was building up his armies.

Tom and his band in a promo photo from 1936

The Great War (as it was known then) put a hold on Toms plans for music stardom and he joined the regular army eventually but didn’t go to the Front until 1917. I cannot be sure when he went but according to his scrapbook it would have been between January and April 1917. Although in the story he was in the Post Office Rifles, he was actually transferred to the Hackney Rifles when at the Front, but it doesn’t make much difference to the story as both Rifle Divisions fought in the same area of Ypres, it’s just that I wanted to include in the story the real story of Sergeant Knight (shown left) who was the only Post Office Rifle soldier to receive the Victoria Cross for his brave action.

Tom took part in the campaign to get Passchendaele off the Germans and although he wasn’t there for the final assault, it was the Canadians who finally took the village. Again I have no idea how Tom was gassed, he may have been in the trench or while going over the top but it’s almost certain that the Germans used Mustard Gas against him. I never realised when I was young that My Granddad had any problems but my Auntie told me that my Grandfather suffered greatly but would never complain, like many soldiers from World War One.

map of the battlesite in 1917 with Springfield Farm where Tom was stationed


Tom at the Nelson Arms

Once the war had finished it wasn’t the end of the nation’s problems. Soldiers coming back from the Front brought back with them a virulent form of flu known as Spanish Flu that caused a pandemic, however the virus seemed to attack the immune system and so it was healthy people who were mainly affected. I believe it was his war injuries that saved my Grandfather however his first wife died of pneumonia in 1923. I don’t know if it was the Spanish Flu that caused the death of Ellen but it may have contributed to it.

Tom’s war injuries caused such distress that he was unable to even stand up on some days. I know from his Post Office records that he took many days off that inevitably he lost his job. Stories from my Auntie said that he got a job with a greengrocer however one thing he never would give up was playing the piano down the pub. Coming from the States was the new music like the Charleston and jazz, now it’s almost certain that he would have played anything but I feel that his music career was not going to be.

Tom continued to play in the pubs but much to his distaste war started again, this time the Second World War. My Grandfather would have been too old to join up and stayed at home. My Auntie told me that Tom volunteered to be a warden, also my Mum and Auntie were not evacuated until quite late in the war.

This story came about because of my research into my family history and listening to the stories from my Mum and Auntie. I first started in 1986 but had to stop because dates didn’t match up, and it wasn’t until came about that I was able to find the information I needed.

‘Tom’ available from Authorhouse


Royal letter of approval from Prince Philip

to complement the book 'Tom', I have uploaded some videos on YouTube describing how I found out key events in the story, just click on the links below:

Tom (1) - Family History      
Tom (2) -People & Places    
Tom (3) -Build Up to War    
Tom (4) -to the Front           
Tom (5) -at the Front           
Tom (6) -Home Front          
Tom (7) -After the War        
Tom (8) -WW2                   
Tom (9) -Up to the Present 


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