Names Familiar To All

The stories of the East Ilsley War Memorial

203781 Pte RALPH THORN, 4th Royal Berkshire Regt, d. 7 Apr 1917

Ralph Thorn

Photo courtesy of Helen Pearce

Ralph Ernest Thorn was born in Newbury in 1884.Like his father Thomas, he was a monumental mason, and their advertisement appeared regularly beneath the “Births, Marriages and Deaths” column in the Newbury Weekly News.

T. THORN & SONS

MONUMENTAL MASONS, NEWTOWN RD., NEWBURY

Are now showing Marble and Granite Memorials of the new and most up-to-date designs.
An inspection cordially invited.
Old Memorials renovated and inscriptions cut. Building masonry promptly supplied.

In 1909 Ralph married Ethel East, daughter of the racehorse trainer James East, at St Mary’s Church, East Ilsley, and two years later their daughter Marguerite was christened there, although they were living in Newbury close to Ralph’s family business.

The battalion war diary for 7 April 1917, the day of Ralph’s death, has the sting in its tail:

No troops could move over the ridges by day.
We moved back to billets in HAMEL, the last platoon being in by 1.25am. (8th)
Hot meals were ready on arrival, —hot water for washing the feet, and dry socks.
All were very pleased to be back in billets after the hard work of the last few days.

Weather:- a wet day, fine evening.

Remarks
Casualties: 1 OR killed and 4 OR wounded.

And the Newbury Weekly News had a fuller account on 26 April:

Amongst others who will never come back from the “Great Adventure” is Private Ralph Ernest Thorn, son of Mr T. Thorn of Newtown Road, who was killed on April 7th in France. He served in the Berks Yeomanry and in the Fire Brigade, and joined up in September last, going abroad in December, taking part in some hard fighting with the Royal Berks Regiment. He was in the recent great attacks, but unfortunately was killed while resting behind the lines. A letter which Mrs Thorn has received from his officer states that “He was a good fellow, always did his best for his officers, and was well liked by his comrades. He suffered no pain whatever, being instantly killed in his sleep. A shell fell into his tent door and the shock killed him instantaneously. He was not mutilated and received a proper burial.” The letter concluded with sympathy for Mrs Thorn and family.

Many soldiers were moved from their original graves after the war, but Ralph was one of the first to be buried in Templeux-le-Guerard Cemetery, and he rests there still.

Ralph Thorn's grave

Photo courtesy of Terry Munson