Bill Thomas born 1880 - British Army miner
William (Bill) Thomas comes from a family of miners who worked underground at Frog Lane Pit. His grandfather, his father and two of his brothers are also employed in the pit. Bill is married to Sarah, they have two sons, two daughters and the family live in a cottage in Frampton End.
Bill did well at Yate school, leaving at 13 to start working above ground at the pit, going on to work underground a few years later, in the family tradition. He had seen the effect of the long hours and hard work on his family, and had the motivation to do something different with his life. His opportunity came at the outbreak of war in 1914. Seeing an arduous future in the mine ahead of him, Bill joined the army, as the hours and pay were considerably better.
By July 1915 Bill and the rest of the 8th Battalion The Gloucestershire Regiment had reached the Western Front. Hearing about the new tunnelling companies being formed, using men with knowledge and experience of mining, in October 1915 Bill transferred to the 179th Tunnelling Company of the Royal Engineers. At 36 he was not the oldest miner to join the Company, as the need for experience meant that the average age was older than most recruits.
In June 1916 Bill’s Tunnelling Company had moved to La Boisselle in the Somme area. In particular, Bill was working on the Lochnagar mine. Their responsibility was digging tunnels under the German lines in order to set large quantities of explosives that will be exploded ahead of the main battle charge on 1 July 1 1916.
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