|Date of Birth||May 23, 1890|
|Place of Birth||Castleton, Yorkshire|
|Next of Kin||Sarah Petty (mother), Marske-by-the-Sea, Yorkshire, England|
|Trade / Calling||Student|
|Service Record||Link to Service Record|
|Battalion||3rd Canadian Divisional Train|
|Force||Canadian Expeditionary Force|
|Branch||Canadian Army Service Corps|
|Enlisted / Conscripted||Enlisted|
|Place of Enlistment||Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Address at Enlistment||Wesley College, Winnipeg, Manitoba|
|Date of Enlistment||December 6, 1915|
|Age at Enlistment||25|
|Theatre of Service||Europe|
|Prisoner of War||No|
|Date of Death||1968|
|Age at Death||78|
|Buried At||Indian Head Cemetery, Indian Head, Saskatchewan|
Private Thomas Petty enlisted in December 1915 and served overseas for more than three years. After the war he lived in England for a year before returning to Canada.
Thomas was the son of Thomas Harker Petty and Sarah Pybus of Marske-by-the-Sea, Yorkshire, England. Thomas Harker and Sarah were both born in Yorkshire. They were married in 1879 in Stockton-on-Tees, Durham and they had at least five children: John Thomas (1881, died as an infant), Eveline (1886), John (Jack) (1888), Thomas (1890) and Catherine Mary (Kate) (1894). Thomas was born on 23 May 1890 in Castleton, Yorkshire. When the 1901 census was taken his family was living in Marske-by-the-Sea and his father was recorded as being blind. He died in 1904, at age 51.
Thomas was at home with his widowed mother for the 1911 census, with his occupation listed as blacksmith. He immigrated to Canada that fall, sailing on the Lake Champlain and arriving in Quebec on 25 September. His destination was Winnipeg and his intended occupation was minister. The following year Thomas was accepted at Wesley College, a Methodist college affiliated with the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg. He was a student there for the next three years. In June 1915 he was assigned to the ministry in Keewatin, Ontario and he likely served at the Keewatin Methodist Church for about six months.
The war entered its second year in August 1915 and Thomas enlisted later that same year, signing up in Winnipeg on 6 December. He was a student, his address was Wesley College and next of kin was his mother in Marske-by-the-Sea, Yorkshire. He joined the No. 1 Field Ambulance Depot but in January 1916 he was transferred to No. 10 Field Ambulance. He embarked for Great Britain with his unit on 2 March on the SS Scandinavian, sailing from St. John, New Brunswick. After just a few weeks in England No. 10 Field Ambulance was sent to France. They arrived at Le Havre on 8 April and served with the 3rd Canadian Division.
Field ambulances operated advanced and main dressing stations, which were located just behind the front lines. They provided short term medical care, collecting casualties, treating them and evacuating them to the clearing stations and hospitals as needed. They also operated rest stations and provided stretcher bearers for moving the wounded. The Somme Offensive started on 1 July 1916 and the Canadian Corps began moving to the Somme area in August. Thomas’ brother John Petty had joined the 9th Battalion, Yorkshire Regiment in the British army and he was killed at the Somme on 7 October. He has no known grave and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial in France.
The Somme Offensive ended in November and on 8 December Thomas was transferred to the 3rd Divisional Train in the Canadian Army Service Corps. He served with them in France and Belgium for the next seventeen months. On 5 May 1918 he was assigned to the Canadian Army Service Corps Pool. The Armistice ended hostilities on the Western Front in November and Thomas returned to England in February 1919. He decided to take his discharge in England and he was demobilized on 31 July. His intended residence was Marske-by-the-Sea where his mother was living.
Although he was still in England at the time, Thomas was honoured at a ceremony in Keewatin, Ontario on 4 August 1919, when badges and medals were presented to returned veterans and the families of fallen soldiers. The local newspaper carried a long article about the event and Thomas’ name was on the list of medal recipients. He spent more than a year in England and returned to Canada in April 1920 on the SS Carmania. He completed his degree at the University of Manitoba, graduating in 1922 and becoming a school teacher. For several years he was the principal and a teacher at Springfield School in Transcona (now part of the city of Winnipeg).
Thomas was married in Winnipeg on 12 August 1925. He and his wife, Grace Freedy, were both living in Transcona at the time. Grace was born in Manitoba in 1905, the daughter of James Freedy and Serenda Flanagan. Her family farmed in the Lisgar area and she was one of at least ten children. Thomas and Grace had one son, Jack. In 1926, when he was about six weeks old, the family moved west to Indian Head, Saskatchewan and Thomas taught at the collegiate. Their daughter Constance Evelynne was born in Indian Head in 1928. Thomas taught for about a year at Central Collegiate in Regina before returning to Indian Head. He served as the principal of the public school there from 1927 until he retired in 1952.
Thomas coached children’s hockey and soccer and during the Second World War he worked with cadets. After finishing high school his son Jack joined the Fleet Air Arm and trained in England. Thomas was very involved with the local library and researching the history of the area, working with both the provincial government and the Glenbow Foundation in Calgary. In 1952 he was instrumental in finding the original location of Fort Qu’Appelle. He wrote a book called “Echoes of the Qu’Appelle Lakes District,” which was published in 1955, as well as an unpublished history of the Trans-Canada Highway.
Thomas passed away in the summer 1968, at age 78. His funeral was held on 4 July and he’s buried in Indian Head Cemetery. He was survived by his wife, their son Jack and their daughter Connie (Mrs. Walter Alfred Wallenberg). Grace was remarried in 1972 in Florida to Leslie Bernice Booker. She was widowed again in 1988 and she passed away in 1997. She’s buried next to Thomas in Indian Head Cemetery. Connie died in 2017 and she’s interred in Courtenay Civic Cemetery in Courtenay, British Columbia.
Thomas is commemorated on the University of Manitoba Roll of Service 1914-1918.
By Becky Johnson
Photos of Thomas are from: Brown and Gold Being the Year Book of the University of Manitoba Students’ Union Vol. 3 1922. Accessed on the University of Manitoba website (Digital Collections). Thomas’ grave marker photo courtesy of Find a Grave.