Unit: 7th Battalion
Service Number: 13430
Date of Death: 2 March 1916 – Killed in action
Age: 24 years
Cemetery / Memorial: Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial
Grave / Panel Ref.: Panel 21
Tom was born in North Kyme, nr. Sleaford, Lincolnshire, in about February 1891, the son of Tom (Farm Labourer) and Ellen (née Davidson) Coupland, born in Billinghay. Tom, Jnr., had an older sister, Rose E., an older brother, John, and 5 younger brothers, Sam, Jim, Frank, George and Arthur.
Tom (Snr.) was born in Ruskington. In 1881 (Census RG 11/3222), as yet unmarried, he was living with his widowed mother, Mary, on High Street, Ruskington.
In the June quarter 1886 Tom married Ellen Davidson and the 1891 Census (RG 12/2577) shows the family living at Kyme Pit, North Kyme. At that time, April 1891, Tom is just 2 months old.
In 1901 (Census RG 13/3047) the family were living at Walcot Dales, nr. Billinghay, and appear to have moved there from North Kyme about 1899. Ten years later (1911 Census RG 14/19607) the family had moved to Tattershall Bridge, Billinghay, but Tom, Jnr. had left the family home and was employed as “3rd Waggoner” and lodging on the farm of Thomas Mayfield at Dogdyke, Billinghay (The Census spelling this time is “Copeland“). His older brother, John, was also employed on the same farm (Census RG 14/19607).
After Tom’s death, on 16 June 1916, the ‘Register of Soldiers’ Effects‘ shows that his father, Tom Snr., received the sum of £7 0s. 4d. [£7.02 – a relative value of about £780 today (2023)]. In 1919 when he also received a War Gratuity of £5 [about £330 today]. With effect from 6 November 1916 he was granted a Pension of 5 shillings per week [i.e. about £28 today. At that time Tom and Ellen were living in “Cranwell Village”, Lincolnshire.
Tom’s CWGC entry simply states he was the son of Helen (sic) Coupland of Cranwell Village, Sleaford, but there is no reference to his father, who died in the December quarter 1923, aged 60. His widow, Ellen, continued to live in the Sleaford area until her death, aged 84, in the June quarter 1945.
When Tom enlisted in the 7th (Service) Battalion at Lincoln he was a resident of Cranwell, so presumably his mother had already moved there – see above. Tom’s Service Papers have been lost but his Service Number indicates he joined the Battalion at the beginning of November 1914.
The 7th (Service) Battalion was formed at Lincoln in September 1914 as part of K2 (Kitchener’s Second New Army) and came under the command of the 51st Brigade in 17th (Northern) Division. After training the Battalion left for France and landed at Boulogne on 14 July 1915.
Tom would have enlisted for “Duration of War” and his training took place in a number of locations starting at Lulworth, Dorset, where he remained until the 6 December. The next day he was posted to Bovington, where he remained until the April 1915, before a further 9 days at Lulworth. Tom’s final posting was to Hawes Down, Winchester, on 30 May 1915, before, as confirmed by his Medal Index Card, he embarked for France on the 14 July with the rest of the 7th Battalion. (N.B. Some of Tom’s Service Records name him as ‘Thomas‘ and also as ‘Coupeland‘.)
The Division spent its first period in trench familiarisation and then holding the front lines in the southern area of the Ypres salient.
The Ypres-Comines canal, running south east from the town, cut through the front lines about 3 miles (5 kms.) from the Cloth Hall, Ypres. The 17th (Northern) Division had moved to relieve the 3rd Division in the canal sector between 5 and 8 February 1916, and placed 51st Brigade on a 1300 yard (1189 m.) front at the position known as The Bluff.
Enemy shellfire began to fall on the Brigade front in the morning of 14 February, intensifying on the Bluff from mid afternoon. Shortly afterwards, German infantry attacked between the canal bank and the Ravine.
They entered and captured the front line trenches but were driven out of the support lines behind the front.
After four days of fighting the enemy captured the British trenches around the Bluff. Counter attacks failed to dislodge them.
CWGC Records show that Tom’s 7th Battalion had 29 Officers and men killed on the 15th, with several more dying of wounds in the following days.
76th and 51st Brigades began an intensive exercise in training to prepare for a frontal assault, planned to take place at dusk on 29 February 1916. All troops were equipped with the new steel helmets.
At 2.15 a.m. on 2 March the leading infantry (right to left, the 2/Suffolk, 8/King’s Own and 1/Gordon Highlanders) began to move and at 4.15 a.m. and the assault was launched fifteen minutes later. The British barrage fire began two minutes after that. The attack achieved complete surprise.
The Official History records that casualties of the 7th Lincolnshire were very heavy: Lt. Cecil Hammersley Waldron and 33 other ranks killed, 5 Officers and 178 other ranks wounded, and 16 other ranks missing, a total of 233 of all ranks. Immediate awards of 4 M.C.’s and 8 D.C.M.’s followed and praise from General Plumer (Lord Plumer) when he inspected the Battalion later in the month near Bailleul.
CWGC Records show that the 7th Battalion had 1 Officer and 58 other ranks, including Pt. Tom Coupland, killed in action on 2 March 1916, virtually all have no known grave and are commemorated, with Tom, on the Ypres (Menin Gate) Memorial.
Another Ruskington man commemorated in this site, Pt. 11520 Morley Frederick Wilson, also of the 7th Battalion, died two days later of his wounds received in this action.
After Tom’s death, on 16 June 1916, the ‘Register of Soldiers’ Effects’ shows that his father received the sum of £7 0s. 4d.
Tom does not seem to have lived in Ruskington but the link to the village is through his father. For this reason his name does not appear on any of Ruskington’s ‘official’ War Memorials. Tom is, however, commemorated on the Cranwell Memorial, at St Andrew’s Church, and the Lincolnshire Regiment Roll of Honour.
- ‘ The Long, Long Trail ‘ ( The actions of Spring 1916 )
- “History of the Lincolnshire Regiment 1914-1918” (Paperback – 11 Jul 2002) – Major General C.R. Simpson, C.B. [ISBN-13: 978-1843423553] p. 131