Remembering the men from the Kingsdown and Creekside Cluster
who gave their lives in the First World War
On the centenary of their death, we remember
Thomas Warwick Kite (of Teynham)
d. 26th October 1917. Aged 34
Company Sergeant Major, G/8798
1st Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment)
[Attached to "Howe" Battalion, Royal Naval Division]
Remembered with Honour
The Arras Memorial in the Faubourg-D´Amiens Cemetery, Arras
Bay 2, Course "A", Stone No.5
Killed in Action
Thomas was the eighth of nine children raised by James and Maria Kite, of "Rose Cottage", Greenstreet, Teynham. His seven older siblings were John, Henry, Elizabeth Frances (Cassotti), Richard, George, Eliza, and Esther (who died at 5 years old); with one younger sister, Alice (Tumber). At the time of his death, Eliza (Tipler) was his sole legatee and it appears one of his four sisters had died, but it is not clear which one (Esther or Elizabeth). Employment was largely found in the brick fields.
Thomas became a career soldier, serving a total of twelve years until he was 28 years old. In the 1911 Census, he appears in the returns for 2nd Battalion, The Buffs. Serving in the India and Singapore theatre as a Sergeant, aged 27 and unmarried. One record for that time places Thomas at Tanglin Barracks Singapore.
His military records show Thomas was a "Store Keeper" in Greenstreet, Teynham before rejoining the colours. It would have been normal for Thomas to be held in "reserve" following service overseas. In 1914, now aged 30, he did not straightaway rejoin the colours at the Front because he experience was logically turned to training new soldiers.
The Faversham and North East Kent News of 24th November records: "C.S.M. KITE, THE BUFFS. Mrs Maria Kite, of Greenstreet, who has had five sons in the Forces, has recently suffered the loss of one of them, namely Company-Sergeant Major Thomas Warwick Kite, the Buffs, who was killed by a shell on October 26th. He was 32 years of age. Joining the Buffs when he was only 16, he served twelve years in different parts of the world, and came out when he was 28. When war broke out he immediately rejoined his old Regiment and after helping in the training of the new Army went to the front, where he had been in some of the thickest of the fighting. Another son of Mrs. Kite is also in the Buffs, while three others are petty officers in the Navy."
Looking at the War Gratuity of £15 10s., this indicates that Thomas enlisted in February 1915 - calculated on his substantive rank of Sergeant. His other effects amounted to £19 14s 5d. His medal records give his sole beneficiary as his sister Elizabeth A. Tipler.
His military records show Thomas employed as a "Store Keeper" with a home address that he gives as that for his sister, Eliza, and brother-in-law at 180 Shrewsbury Street, Forest Gate, Essex. It wasn't until 30th November 1915 that Thomas enlisted at Sittingbourne with The Buffs declaring his age as 32 years, 47 days. Other records suggest his real age was probably 31. Nothing needs be read into this detail as the upper age limit was 38. He was described as standing at 5’ 8½”, weighing 134 lbs and a chest measurement of 38½” (expansion of 2½”).
Thomas served at Home in the 3rd Battalion, The Buffs, for 1 year and 87 days taking him to 24th February 1917. Perhaps as an experienced soldier, his greater value was in this training battalion. It wasn't until 25th February 1917 that Thomas arrived in France.
He was nominally serving in 1st Battalion, The Buffs (East Kent Regiment) but on arrival in theatre he was attached to "Howe" Battalion, Royal Naval Division (this was one of eight naval battalions.). "Howe" Battalion formed part the 188th Brigade, 63rd (RN) Division in France from 19th July 1916 (having recently served in Salonika).
When Thomas returned to the colours on 30th November 1915, he held the rank of Sergeant. He was further promoted on 6th August 1917 to Company Sergeant Major and Colour Sergeant (Warrant Officer (Class 2) C.S.M.). When Thomas was killed in action, he had served overseas for 244 days - ending a long service for his country.
The “Howe” Battalion formed part of the 188th Brigade, in the 63rd Royal Naval Division. We have transcribed the diaries for the time of Thomas's death, below. We have added an official report on the attack of 26th October in which Thomas died.
From 10th to 17th September: GAVRELLE: The Battalion was holding the front line from September 10th – September 17th. During this period the enemy artillery were remarkably quiet. During the time the Battalion was in the line our casualties were very slight. One pineapple however dropped in the trench killing 4 men of ‘B’ Company. The Battalion was relieved by the DRAKE Battalion commencing at 4 p.m. on 17th inst. Relief was completed by 7.30 pm.
18th to 21st September: ROCLINCOURT: The Battalion went into rest at AUBREY CAMP where it re-organised and commenced training during this period it furnished two companies daily for work on RED LINE.
22nd September: The Battalion moved to MONCHY-LE-BRETON moving in motor lorries where it went into billets.
23rd September: Church parade in the morning.
24th to 30th September: Commenced training by Platoons especially as regards attaching strong points and “Pill Boxes”. During this period a Battalion Sports meeting was held at which the Band of the R.M.A. attended.
1st October: MONCHY LE BRETON: Orders having been received for the Battalion to move, preparations were made accordingly.
3rd October: Battalion entrained at TINCQUES at 4.30 a.m. for HOPOUTRE arriving at 2 p.m. from whence it marched to DIRTY BUCKET CAMP 1¾ miles S.S.W. of ELVERDINGHE.
4th October: DIRTY BUCKET CAMP: Carried out training.
5th October: The Battalion entrained for HERZEELE at 12.30 p.m. arriving at destination at 5.30 p.m.
6th to 10th October: HERZEELE: Battalion engaged in training Platoons in new formation of the attack. Lieut Commander T.L. PRICE to HOSPITAL, Lieut ALAN CAMPBELL, M.C., joined from 188th STOKES Battalion as 2nd in Command.
11th October: Company training in the attack.
12th October: Battalion training in the attack. 2 Companies Baths.
13th October: Companies in the attack.
14th October: Church Parade – 2 Companies Baths.
15th October: Companies parade in battle order. Attack carried out on training ground. Night operations.
16th October: Practised attack on strong points. Intensive digging practice.
17th to 20th October: Battalion in the attack.
21st October: Church Parade.
22nd October: Night Operations with gas masks. – STORES for the attack drawn from Quarter-Master’s STORES.
23rd October: 11 a.m. Companies embussed for REIGERSBURG AREA.
24th October: REIGERSBURG: 1.30 a.m. moved to IRISH FARM Camp. Battalion Resting before attack.
25th October: IRISH FARM: 6.30 p.m. Battalion moved up to line. Headquarters at ALBATROSS FARM.
26th October: 188th Infantry Brigade attacked with the 8th Brigade, 3rd Canadian Division on the RIGHT and the 58th Division on the left. ZERO 5.40 a.m. ANSON 13th to take 1st objective on RIGHT sub-sector. HOWE Battalion to take 2nd Objective on 1st Objective being taken and consolidated. ANSON gained part of their objective but got held up in the centre and HOWE Battalion could not get forward. Officer Casualties – Lieut JACKSON, Sub-Lieuts DYSON, WITHNELL, TRENHOLM wounded.
NIGHT of 26th/27th Battalion relieved from advanced posts and took up a position as counter-attack battalion near ADLER FARM.
28th October: IRISH CAMP: NIGHT of 27th/28th Battalion withdrew to IRISH FARM, arriving about 8.30 p.m.
29th October: DAMBRE CAMP: Battalion moved at 10.30 a.m. to DAMBRE CAMP. Cleaning up and indenting for stores, clothing, etc.
The broader perspective is given by the Brigade Diary.
24th October: CHEDDAR VILLA: Weather dull. Brigade relieved the 27th Infantry Brigade in the Line. Right Sector XVIII Corps. Relief went off without hitch. Brigade H.Q. established at CHEDDAR VILLA.
25th October: HUBNER FARM: Weather fin, strong wind. Brigade Order No. 151 issued. Brigade H.Q. moved from CHEDDAR VILLA to advanced H.Q. at HUBNER FARM.
26th October: Weather overcast. Heavy rain early morning. Attack started at 5.40 a.m. Going was very bad. Almost all of first objectives gained and held. Took about 125 prisoners and 3 Machine Guns. Report by Brigadier General is attached. Anson Battalion was relieved by the Hood Battalion in the right (Southern) Sub-sector and moved to IRISH FARM.
27th October: HUBNER FARM: Weather dull showery. Heavy.
Headquarters, 63rd (R.N.) Division.
After consultation with the Commanding Officers of this Brigade, I submit the following points in connection with the Operations of 26th inst. for consideration.
1. The locations chose for the assembly of both Front and Support Battalions were satisfactory. The enemy’s barrage came down about 3 minutes after Zero but feel behind the assembly lines for the most part. All Battalions got well away at zero.
In the case of the Support Battalion fixed red lights were put out by the reconnaissance party to mark the Battalion flanks with satisfactory results.
Telegraph wire was run out on “X/Y” night to mark the forming up line, checked on “Y” day, and taped on “Y/Z” night, and proved a success.
One Support Battalion dug in at their assembly positions while waiting for Zero and the C.O. reports casualties from shelling were slight in consequence.
The fact that the probable position of the enemy’s barrage had been noted before the operations – viz. 150 to 200 yards behind our front line – enabled the best position for the assembly lines to be satisfactorily located.
2. The previous 48 hours bombardment of the area to be covered by the attack undoubtedly contributed to the heavy state of the ground under the weather condition. After covering 300 or 400 yards the effect of this preliminary bombardment was very apparent.
It is suggested that known Strong Points only should be subjected to this preliminary bombardment, and not the whole area.
Our shrapnel barrage was bursting very high. Consequently it was difficult for the troops to mark the barrage line. They were therefore inclined to go in under the barrage of shrapnel to where the heavier barrage was falling – and casualties were suffered in some cases. It is suggested a large proportion of the front barrage line should consist of H.E. [High Explosive]
Our Machine Gun barrage is reported to have been entirely satisfactory.
Counter Battery work appeared to have no effect on the enemy shelling of localities and duck-board tracks. This shelling of the tracks was especially severe during the whole of the 26th inst.
3. The rate of advance laid down for the barrage was too quick for the state of the ground – 100 in 10 would have, it is thought, been better.
It is also suggested that, after every three lifts of the yards, there should be a pause of double the time laid down. This would ensure that the Infantry are well up; otherwise a temporary delay in the advance will invariably cause the troops concerned to lose the barrage.
4. The maintenance of direction is reported to have been most difficult. The features as shown on the map were scarcely recognizable. It is considered that some special form of Artillery fire should be put down during the advance on certain fixed points ahead of the troops, to enable them to locate such points. Smoke shells, tracer shells, or shells which burst into a bright coloured flame would be invaluable.
5. Commanding Officers state that quite a number of location maps were received back from the front but owing to weather conditions they were undecipherable. The officers who sent them state that they were scarcely able, owing to the mud and wet, to place any information on them. The maps themselves were not at all accurate as regards the hedgerows and trenches shown thereon.
PILL BOXES & STRONG POINTS
6. The “Pill Boxes” met with gave trouble except in cases where the troops were in a position to reach them the moment the barrage lifted.
The heavy state of the ground made this impossible in some cases. The same applies to snipers who were in trees and hedgerows. A proportion of smoke shells in the barrage line might counteract this.
FORMATION & METHOD OF ATTACK
7. Under present conditions of ground the allotment of localities beforehand to individual units is too complicated, and is I consider overdone. It has the disadvantages that:-
(a) If any part of the attack fails it breaks up the system of defence.
(b) It has not enough flexibility. The tendency is for each section or platoon, having reached the spot where its leader thinks is his position, to take no further part in the fight, which might be done by his moving forward or to the flanks to assist other units which may be held up.
(c) Owing to the maps not being accurate it was found certain hedgerows and Pill Boxes did not exist while others, not shewn, held snipers or Machine Guns. In fact it was the exception to find normal conditions as shewn in the map an as practised in training beforehand; unexpected positions were the rule.
The advantages of consolidating in depth are obvious, but it is suggested that a greater proportion of the attacking troops should be allotted in the first instance to the further limits of the objective. The large interval between the consolidating units on the forward limit of the objective tends to create lack of confidence in the men as they think their section or platoon, as the case may be, is the only one who has reached the forward limit and that therefore they are “in the air”. It is suggested that the whole of the troops, with the exception of those allotted to well defined Strong Points (i.e. in our case:- “VARLET FARM” – “SOURCE TRENCH” – etc.) should go forward to the furthest limit of the objective; and then, if necessary, Company leaders can send back Sections to consolidate in definite localities in Support.
It was found impracticable under the conditions of the ground to maintain any sort of extended line in the leading wave. Lines of half platoons with scouts ahead it is thought would give more cohesion in the attack – and ensure better control by the leaders.
DRESS AND EQUIPMENT
8. Great-coats were not carried, leather jerkins were worn and were invaluable. Everything taken up was carried in the pack and reports are satisfactory.
Bombs and Rifle Grenades were of little use under the muddy conditions.
Rifles and Lewis Gun were clogged with mud and rendered useless.
The use of protective covers which can be quickly slipped off and rags tied over the muzzles are an absolute necessity up to the last minute before using the rifle.
9. One report states that the enemy’s snipers were observed to fire rockets which burst into two red lights. This was followed by heavy shelling between our jumping off line and the positions indicated by the rockets.
10. To sum up I am of opinion that the method of attack as at present practised, is too definite as regards the allotment of minor objectives to the platoon units, and has not sufficient elasticity to meet unexpected situations.
Brigadier General, Commanding, 188th Infantry Brigade.
31st October 1917 [B.M. 1677]
Serving overseas from 1917, Thomas Warwick Kite was posthumously awarded the British War and Victory Medals:-
British War Medal
Click on image for larger version