Friends of the Somme - Mid Ulster Branch  
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11376   Private Thomas William Steele
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Dated added: 30/12/2015   Last updated: 24/05/2018
Personal Details
Regiment/Service: 1st Battalion, Royal Irish Fusiliers (British Army)
Date Of Birth: 29/10/1894
Died: 16/09/1914 (Killed in Action)
Age: 19
Summary      
Thomas Steele was the eldest son of Thomas and Catherine Steele. He was born on 29th October 1894 in the Cookstown area. He was the eldest of six children. The family lived at Toberlane, Orritor. His father was a farm labourer. His father died in 1909. His mother remarried. Thomas was a general labourer. Private Thomas William Steele was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers when he was killed in action in Belgium on Wednesday 16th September 1914. He had been in the army for little over a year.
Private Thomas William Steele
Further Information
Thomas Steele was the eldest son of Thomas and Catherine Steele. Thomas Steele and Catherine Coleman were married on 11th November 1893 in the district of Cookstown.
Thomas William Steele was born 29th October 1894 in the Cookstown area. He was the eldest of six children, five surviving
The 1901 census lists Thomas as age 6, living with the family at house 5 in Toberlane, Orritor, County Tyrone. His father was a farm labourer.
Family: Thomas Steele, Catherine Steele, Thomas William Steele (born 29th October 1894), Robert John Steele (born 15th September 1897), Joseph Alexander Steele (born 4th June 1900), Edward Steele (born 16th January 1903, died 23rd August 1904, age 1), Margaret Jane Steele (born 28th July 1905), Mary Lizzie Steele (born 1st December 1908)
Thomas’s father died on 12th September 1909 in the district of Cookstown. He was 42 years old.
Thomas mother remarried, to William John Martin. They went on to have at least three children.
Step-family: Robert Martin, Catherine Martin, William John Martin (born about 1904, County Antrim), Robert Martin (born about 1906, County Antrim), Arthur Martin (born about 1908, County Antrim).
The 1911 census lists Thomas William as 17 living with the family at house 77 in Church Street, Cookstown. Thomas was a general labourer.
When Thomas enlisted, he joined the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers under number 11376 but subsequently transferred to the Royal Irish Fusiliers. Much of his early training took place at Shorncliffe Camp on the south coast of England.
In September 1916, the British Army, having forced the Aisne, had seized the high ground to the north and was clinging on to the southern edges of these heights, whilst the French sixth army pivoted on their left. This was the commencement of a prolonged stalemate in trench warfare, for the British found the enemy strongly entrenched. The position held was precarious. Owing to the wide level plain which lay behind the British lines all movement of reinforcement by day was in full view of the enemy. The 1st Battalion Irish Fusiliers, now in support, suffered more from shellfire than troops actually in the line, protected by trenches and natural caves. This action bounded the southern side of Bucy-le-Long, a village which was almost obliterated during the battle.
Private Thomas William Steele was serving with the 1st Battalion of the Royal Irish Fusiliers when he was killed in action in Belgium on Wednesday 16th September 1914.
Private Thomas Steele was the only man to be killed on the 16th September, almost certainly by shellfire. He had been in the army for little over a year.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 24th October 1914:
STEELE – Killed in action at the front, Thomas Steele of Cookstown, Private in the Royal Irish Fusiliers.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated 24th October 1914:
Private Thomas Steele was scarcely twenty-one years of age, and had only been in the service a little over a year. He had been in Shorncliffe Camp for training, and his battalion was ordered to the front a few weeks after hostilities began. His mother, who remarried, is Mrs Robert Martin, of Church Street, Cookstown, and she has another son in the army, Private Robert J Steele, who joined the Inniskillings quite recently.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 23rd October 1915:
STEELE – In loving memory of No 11376, Private Thomas W Steele, 1st Royal Irish Fusiliers, who was killed in action in France 16 October 1914.
‘Days of sadness will come over me,
Tears in silence often flow,
For memory keeps that loved one near to me,
Though he died one year ago.
Away in a ?camalion? grave in France,
My loving son doth lie;
He gave his life for his country’s cause,
What nobler death could he die.'
Ever remembered by his loving mother, brothers and sisters, Church Street, Cookstown.
1916
Thomas’ brother, Robert, also served with the Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers. He survived the war.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 15th July 1916: Brother of Thomas Steele
Newspaper Report
Private R J Steele, 1st Inniskillings. His mother, Mrs Martin, Church Street, Cookstown, has received intimation that he is wounded.
From the Mid Ulster Mail dated Saturday 19th August 1916: Brother of Thomas Steele
Private R Steele, officially reported wounded, was a resident of Church Street, Cookstown. His mother heard from him lately from an English Red Cross hospital, that he had been wounded on 1st July but was making satisfactory progress. He was at the landings at Suvla Bay with the 1st Inniskillings where he was wounded, and on re-joining was again wounded in the Peninsula fighting. After being at home for a spell he was sent to France with the third battalion, where he was wounded for the third time.
Private Thomas William Steele has no known grave and is commemorated on La-Ferte-Sous-Jouarre Memorial in France.
Thomas Steele is commemorated locally on Cookstown Cenotaph and on St. Loran’s Church of Ireland Roll of Honour, Derryloran, Cookstown.
The CWGC record Private Thomas Steele as the son of Mrs Catherine Martin of Desertcreat, Tullyhogue, County Tyrone.
Read more
Relevant Cookstown Area Locations
No Location Region Location Notes Longtitude Latitude
1 Church Street, Cookstown Cookstown South Census listing in Church Street, Cookstown 54.638466 -6.743670
2 Toberlane, Orritor Orritor Census listing in Toberlane 54.658623 -6.786418
3 Desertcreat, Tullyhogue Tullyhogue CWGC lists mother at Tullyhogue 54.604851 -6.731488
References and Links
No Link Reference Map Doc
1 1901 Census lists 'Steel' family 1901 census lists Thomas W as age 6 living with the family at house 5 in Toberlane, Oritor, Tyrone
2 1911 Census lists Steele & Martin family 1911 census lists Thomas William as 17 living with the family at house 77 in Church Street, Cookstown
3 Derryloran Parish Church of Ireland Roll of Honour Published in the Mid-Ulster Mail on Saturday 2 January 1915
4 FindAGrave.com Photo of Private Thomas W Steele's inscription
5 National Archives UK Medal card can be purchased here
Cookstown District's War Dead Acknowledgements 2010-2018