Pte. T.W. Sunley


FIRST NAMES: Thomas William

UNIT: 5th Yorkshire Regiment


STATUS: Died of Wounds

DATE OF DEATH: 14th September 1916

CEMETERY OR MEMORIAL: Contalmaison Chateau Cemetery, France

AGE: 19

Thomas Sunley was born in Yafforth on 22nd March 1897 and his parents were called Alfred and Catherine. They then moved to Gladstone Street in Northallerton, where they were living when he decided to join up with two of his friends who also worked in the North Eastern Railway engine sheds, where he was employed as a fireman.

He was educated at the Northallerton National School on East Road and was a keen member of the Romanby Junior Football Club, with whom he won medals in the Allertonshire League. He was also a keen woodcarver and made several small items which are still treasured by his family today.

Private Sunley died as a result of wounds received on the Somme, six months after his 19th birthday. He is buried in Contalmaison Chateau Cemetery in the village of Contalmaison. The cemetery stands in the grounds of the former chateau which was completely destroyed during the War, but it's cellars were used by both the Germans and the Allies to shelter and treat their wounded. The cemetery was begun by fighting units on 14th July 1916 and it continued to be used by Field Ambulances from September 1916 to March 1917.

It is fairly safe to assume therefore, that Private Sunley died while he was receiving treatment at the chateau and he was buried in the cemetery nearby. Contalmaison, like most of the Somme villages, is now a quiet, sleepy place, which gives few clues as to its violent history to the casual observer. The cemetery is reached by a short grass path which passes the few remaining traces of the chateau still to be seen.

Thomas' parents must have moved house again after his death as the CWGC records their address as Malpas Villa, Malpas Road, Northallerton.

Thomas is also commemorated on the LNER Railway Memorial in York, which lists the names of all the staff of the LNER Company who lost their lives in World War One.