If the saying that “war is hell” is true, then the Battle of the Somme in World War I was the perfect example of this hell. On the first day of the battle, 1 July 1916, there were 57,000 casualties, and the battle would drag on until 18 November 1916. Within a week, the battle was at a standstill with Germans, French and British forces grinding it out in a maze of trench warfare.
It was at the end of the first week that the Monmouthshire Regiment was thrown into action as a pioneer regiment, which meant that they were to create the trenches and defensive positions used by the fighting force. Monmouthshire, Wales was a mining region, and the engineering skills of the miners-turned-soldiers made them well suited for the task. In this regiment was Thomas Foy, a 37-year old sergeant who had been called to serve.
Thomas was the brother of my great great grandmother, Bridget Foy Groucutt. While Bridget and several siblings immigrated to the United States, Thomas remained in England. On 5 June 1915, with the war well underway, he embarked to France with the 3rd Battalion, Monmouthshire Regiment.
They found themselves at the Somme in July 1916 under withering artillery fire. On 7 July 1916, on the front lines, Sergeant Foy found himself just a few feet from his company’s commanding officer, Captain J. Merton Jones, who wrote in the casualty report:
I believe [Thomas Foy] was killed as I saw a shell (believed to be a 5.9) pitch, as it appeared to me in the night, full upon him. I was about 2 to 3 yards from him and a minute previously had been [?] to him. Sever others pitched in the same spot afterwards and then getting away the wounded, I could not find Foy then, nor afterwards, neither did any man or stretcher-bearer help him to any Dressing Station. I therefore believe he was killed.
My third-great-uncle Thomas Foy was killed at the Battle of the Somme on 7 July 1916, one of over 95,000 British soldiers to die on this French battlefield. He is buried at the Mill Road Cemetery in Thiepval, France.
“British Army WWI Service Records, 1914-1920,” images, Fold3 (https://www.fold3.com/image/510132225 : accessed 13 Nov 2016), record for Thomas Foy, 3rd Monmouthshire Regiment, page 325; National Archives of the UK, London, England.