Researched and written by Anne Wright
Pte T Cutler
1st King Edward’s Horse, Household Cavalry & Cavalry of the Line
(inc. Yeomanry & Imperial Camel Corps)
Killed in action, 9.4.1918
Thomas Cutler’s birth was registered in Guildford in 1896. His parents, Annie (nee Eagle) and Alfred had married at the Parish Church in Farncombe, near Godalming, on 28 February 1886. By 1901 the family lived in Farnham, Thomas had two older brothers and one older sister, a third brother was born in 1903. Alfred Cutler, the son of a shepherd, was a domestic gardener. In 1911, at just 14 years old Thomas was a lodger in the home of Frank and Emily Bishop at 21, Addison Road in Guildford. He was employed as an assistant in the grocery trade. At some point after this he moved to Weybridge (2, Yew Tree Cottages) which is recorded as his place of residence in the list of UK Soldiers Died in the Great War.
He enlisted at Whitehall joining ‘B’ Squadron of the 1st King Edward’s Horse (KEH) which moved to France in April 1915 and became part of the 48th (S. Midland) Division and then joined IV Corps in June 1916. All three squadrons of KEH transferred to XVIII Corps a year later and moved to Italy. They returned to France with XI Corps in March 1918 just in time to face Operation Georgette, the second phase of the German Spring Offensive. Phase One had been directed against the Somme but in April the Germans opened the next phase against French Flanders and the Ypres Salient, hoping to break through to the Channel ports. Thomas was caught up in the Battle of Estaires, the first of seven battles which made up the Battle of the Lys (also known as the Fourth Battle of Ypres).
The Germans preceded their attack on 9 April with a high explosives and gas barrage lasting 36 hours. Fourteen divisions then attacked along a ten mile front. Four of these divisions were sent against a single Portuguese unit which was sent reeling, opening a gap in the British line. The 1st KEH suffered 150 casualties in forming a new front where the Portuguese line had been broken. Thomas was one of those killed in the ferocious German onslaught of 9 April. He and his comrades were fighting on foot. Their resistance was valiant as was recognised by Lord Horne, Commander of the First Army:
I wish to offer Lt-Col James and all ranks of 1st King Edward’s Horse my very high appreciation of the skill, gallantry and determination with which the defence of Vieille Chapelle, Huit Maisons and Fosse Bridgeheads was conducted. …..the fact that the Regiment held on to these important positions for so long a period had a most important effect upon the result of the Battle…..
A Company and part of B Squadron of KEH had the unenviable task of holding the bridgehead at Vielle Chapelle which they did until they were surrounded and had no option but to surrender. The Battle of Estaires concluded on 11 April. Thomas was buried in Cabaret-Rouge British Cemetery (XVII.A.28) in Souchez, a small village 3.5 km north of Arras on the main road to Bethune. His mother moved to Dover and Thomas’ death is recorded by the Dover War Memorial Project, as is that of his older brother, Bryant Alfred, who was killed on 23 October 1918. This Project also preserves a poignant ‘In Memoriam’ from their mother, dated 1950:
In loving memory of my two sons, Thomas and Bryant who died through enemy action, 9 April – 23 October 1918.
Until we meet again – Mother.
ed. Lieut-Colonel Lionel James, DSO, London, 1921, The History of King Edward’s Horse
The British Army in the Great War of 1914-1918, The Long Long Trail – The 1st and 2nd King Edward’s Horse, www.longlongtrail.www.co.uk
The Dover War Memorial Project, www.doverwarmemorialproject.org.uk
Thomas, Ronan, Endgame in Flanders 1918, www.militaryhistoryonline.com
UK, Soldiers Died in the Great War, 1914-1918, www.ancestry.co.uk