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Thomas George Joyce

Served with Southend Borough Constabulary from Apr 1, 1914 and died on May 11, 1916.

Thomas George Joyce was born on December 10, 1893, in North Ockenden, Essex the son of Walter Arthur Joyce and his wife Eliza who had at least two other sons - John William and Ernest. By 1901, the family had moved to Mangrove Cottage, Great Warley, Essex and Walter was working as a stockman for Evelyn Heseltine. On leaving school in 1907 Thomas started employment in the gardens of Evelyn Heseltine at The Goldings, Great Warley. For four years he worked in the plant houses and assisted with the mowing of the lawns. He was described as a 'good, willing and hard working youth'.

From April 1910, till February 1912, he was employed as a gardener to Lord Foley at Ruxley Lodge Gardens, Claygate, Surrey before moving to Kirkby Lonsdale, Cumberland to take up a similar post with Lord Henry Cavendish Bentinck at Underley Hall.

On July 2, 1913, he was appointed as a Police Constable in the Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary and was stationed at Penrith. He was about five feet eleven inches tall and weighed just under thirteen stones. He lived at 97 Lowther Street, Penrith. In September 1914, responding to an advertisement in the Police Chronical he applied for a post with Southend-On-Sea Constabulary. Mr C de Courcy Parry, Chief Constable of Cumberland and Westmorland Constabulary supported the application and said 'His conduct has been very good and he is likely to become a most efficient constable'.

Thomas Joyce was appointed Constable 103 of the Southend-on-Sea Constabulary on October 1, 1914, and took up lodgings at Elm Cottages, Howards Chase, Southend.

We have no information as to how he enjoyed his transition to policing in Southend but after six months, on Saturday March 27, 1915, P C 103 Joyce was reported for parading late for duty by Inspector Gerrard:

'This constable should have paraded for duty at this station (Southend) at 5.50pm and as he had not turned up at 6.16pm I sent P S Drage to his lodgings at Prittlewell to see what was the reason, P S Drage found him in Victoria Avenue at 6.30pm working the Prittlewell beat, he told him to go to the station where I saw him and asked him why he had not paraded for duty at 5.50pm. He said, " I was working the Prittlewell beat this morning 10am to 2pm and I was under the impression I should have to work the same beat tonight 6 to 10, I paraded at the Blue Boar at 5.50pm". I asked him who instructed him to do that, he said, "No one". '
Before any decision could be made in relation to this disciplinary matter, Thomas Joyce took what may now seem fairly drastic action - on March 30, 1915, he resigned stating that he had already joined the Coldstream Guards. His resignation report was endorsed by the Chief Constable 'Joined without first obtaining permission'. According to army records Thomas enlisted on May 3, 1915.

It would appear that Thomas was not enamoured with his police service with the Borough force and was probably disgruntled with how he had been treated in relation to the disciplinary matter. On May 2, 1915, as Private 15945 of the 14th company of the Coldstream Guards he wrote to Mr Kerslake, the Chief Constable from 33 Hut, Tin Town, Caterham, Surrey explaining that he had made up his mind not to rejoin the force when he concluded his time in the army but intended returning to his trade. He asked that his pension contributions be reimbursed. This seems a strange course of action to take as it may well have resulted in the loss of the allowances that he would otherwise have received whilst he was a serving soldier.

On November 30 that year, Thomas, who was then stationed at Victoria Barracks, Windsor, wrote another letter to the Chief Constable. He informed Mr Kerslake that since leaving Southend Police he had married and enquired, in the knowledge that allowances for Southend policemen joining the Colours had been increased, whether he was entitled to any additional payment. It is not known what reply he received.

Thomas was married sometime between the end of March and the beginning of December 1915, he probably met his wife Ruth when he was living in the Lake District because she came from Keswick. She had been a teacher and was living at 37 Hellvellyn Street, Keswick.

The 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards had been part of the Expeditionary Force that had fought with great loss during the retreat from Mons in 1914. In August 1915, with the influx of volunteers, Lord Kitchener instigated the creation of a Guards Division. The 1st Coldstream Guards together with the 1st Scots Guards and the 2nd Irish Guards formed the 2nd Brigade of that Division. George Thomas Brenchley, another Southend policeman was also a member of the Guards Division but in the 3rd Brigade.

During the winter of 1915/1916, the Guards Division took over the front line in the vicinity of Neuve Chapelle. It would have been during this time that Thomas Joyce joined his battalion in France. Headquarters of the 2nd Guards Brigade was located at Pont du Hem. The front line defences, which were located on marshy ground, had been neglected and were in bad condition and attempts were made to improve the defences over the winter period. The Germans, on the other hand, were located on the Aubers Ridge in a much more comfortable position and probably because of this took little offensive action during that winter period.

Each Guards brigade spent six out of every eighteen days in divisional reserve in good billets, and during a brigade's period in the front line only two of the battalions were deployed in the front line trenches with the remainder kept in reserve a little distance from the line in tolerably comfortable billets in ruined farms and cottages.

Some good baths were installed for the use of those in reserve at a brewery in La Gorgue and at Pont du Hem. A cinema was purchased out of divisional funds and a small hall at La Gorgue was then converted into a theatre where the latest films from England were regularly 'released'. Despite the discomfort and dampness of this low lying sector the morale of the Guards Division throughout the winter remained high. Much of the time spent in reserve involved training with regular inspections.

In February 1916, The Guards Division moved north to the fields of Flanders arriving, after some trying marching on the slippery and snow covered roads, on February 19. They took over the front line in the Ypres Salient on March 16. When not deployed on trench duties the brigades were held in reserve in and around Poperinghe, Cassel or Calais. The weather at this time was very wet and cold and a good deal of snow fell, so that much training in the open was not possible. The sector of the line on which the Guards found themselves was described as incomparably the most unpleasant part of the whole British front. The trench system was in a state of dilapidation and ruin.

During the latter part of March and early April, considerable effort was made to improve trench defences but this was hindered by continued shelling. There was also difficulty with the provision of supplies with the only road from Poperinghe to Ypres being within range of enemy shells.

During the evening of April 19, the enemy made a raid north of Wieltje and successfully penetrated the Guards front, the raid was quickly repulsed but not without heavy losses. In March and April 1916, the Guards Division lost nearly 750 men many of whom were killed by shell fire whilst in the trenches.

On May 4, the 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards were relieved in the line by 2nd Battalion Grenadier Guards and arrived about 10.30pm that night at what was described as good billets in Poperinghe - unfortunately from time to time the town was shelled by the enemy.

An extract from the War Diary of 1st Battalion Coldstream Guards reads:

11 05 16
CO inspects clothing of No 2 and 3 Coy's; Helmet drill 11.00 interrupted by shelling. One shell fell among a platoon of No 2 Coy. Killing 11 men and wounding 9 more. Very Unlucky.
Thomas Joyce aged just twenty-three years was one of those 'very unlucky' Coldstream Guards. Since leaving Southend Police he had spent a relatively short time in the frontline trenches yet despite continuous shelling he had come away unscathed only to be killed in the comparative safety of reserve duties. He is buried alongside those colleagues who died the same day at Poperinghe New Military Cemetery located on a busy road leading into the town.

Ruth Joyce had been denied the opportunity to spend much time with her husband and became a young war widow. On June 6, 1919, she remarried and became Mrs Cartmel. She spent much of her remaining lifetime with her second husband in Dedworth near Windsor

It is very sad to record that, when the memorial to the Southend policemen who died in the First World War was erected in 1946, a decision was taken not to include Thomas Joyce on the memorial because of his stated intention not to return to policing at the end of the war. It is to the credit of Fred Feather, a former Southend policeman himself, that this injustice was rectified in June 2002 and an additional bronze plate bearing the name of Thomas Joyce was fixed alongside the original memorial that is displayed on the wall opposite the entrance to Southend Police station.

Thomas was not the only member of his family to be a casualty of the war, his younger brother Private 1918 John William Joyce A Company, 1st/4th Battalion Royal Sussex Regiment was killed at Gallipoli on August 29, 1915; he is buried at Green Hill Cemetery on the Anzac- Suvla Road in Turkey. Another brother, Ernest, was wounded in March 1918, whilst serving with the Gloucestershire Regiment.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
Major John McCrae. Died Wimereaux 1918.

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