Conduct ‘regular, good, temperate’ until desertion

WHILE researching men from the area who enlisted in the First World War, we came across Thomas Fish, who tried to enlist in 1917, at the age of 49, and was turned down.

Thomas Fish was known to have lived in Small Dole, pictured, before moving to Henfield

Thomas was baptised at Beeding Church on June 7, 1868, the son of Thomas Fish and Jane Luff.

On the 1871 census, they were living in Small Dole, but by the time of the 1881 census, they had moved to Coggars, Henfield, where his father was an agricultural labourer.

Thomas was now 12 years old and a scholar with five younger siblings.

In December, 1886, he enlisted in the Royal Artillery Corps in Brighton, aged 18 years and eight months, giving his previous occupation as labourer.

His medical examination recorded a tattooed bracelet on his right wrist, J.P. on his left forearm, and a cross on the back of the third finger of his right hand.

At first, he was stationed at Dover Castle and then at Devonport, and his conduct was said to be ‘regular, good and temperate’.

However, on September 21, 1887, he embarked on H.M.S. Himalaya, a troop-ship, arriving in Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, on October 13, 1887.

In March, 1888, he deserted and nothing is known about him until he attempted to re-enlist in 1917, and was not accepted.

He probably spent those missing years in Canada, though he cannot be found on censuses there or in this country.

We do not know if he received any punishment for his desertion.

Perhaps he had hoped to make amends by returning and enlisting.