Tom’s final resting place

The war memorial cenotaph at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough
The war memorial cenotaph at Oliver's Mount, Scarborough

Scarborough son Thomas Pottage was one of the thousands of men who died on the Front from the effects of mustard gas.

He died aged 22 from secondary complications – pneumonia – in France in 1918.

His relative Gordon Pottage, of Eastfield, researched this terrible fate and forwarded his findings to The Scarborough News.

Tom was born at 6 Wrea Lane, Scarborough, in 1895, baptised at St Mary’s Church, on October 17 that year, and was the eldest of seven children to Clara and John Pottage, a well known Scarborough cab driver.

By 1918 the couple were living at 59 Seaton Terrace, Hibernia Street.

A former pupil of St Mary’s Parish and Friarage Board Schools, at the outbreak of war in 1914 Tom was working in the Gladstone Lane warehouse of drapers John Tonks and Sons.

He was also a part-time gunner in the Scarborough-based Territorial 2nd Northumbrian Brigade of Royal Field Artillery.

With the remainder of Britain’s Armed Forces, Tom was mobilised for war during August 1914. However, being aged only 18 at the time Tom was considered too young for foreign service.

He was transferred to the newly formed 2nd/3rd Northumbrian Brigade of artillery, which had been attached for coastal defence duties.

Tom remained with the unit, serving in the north east of England, until 1916 when the division’s four artillery batteries had been transferred to the newly-designated 63rd Royal Naval Division, which by this time had seen bitter fighting in Gallipoli.

By now a veteran of the Royal Naval Division’s operations since his baptism of fire during the operations on the Ancre during the winter of 1916, Tom and hundreds of other gas casualties were evacuated to allied hospitals in Rouen.

While the exact nature of Tom’s suffering can only be imagined, an account by a nurse serving in France helps to understand the nature of gas victims’ injuries.

“Gas cases are terrible. They cannot breathe, their lungs are gone – literally burnt out. They cannot be bandaged or touched. We cover them with a tent of propped-up sheets.”

She goes on to describe the terrible burns to the body and pain beyond endurance, where death is a blessed release.

Tom died of complications on Tuesday March 19, 1918. The news of her son’s death reached his mother Clara by Saturday March 23. His father Sergeant John Pottage was also serving in France at the time of his son’s death.

The tidings featured in a casualty list in the Scarborough Mercury of Friday March 28.

Tom was buried at St Sever Cemetery Extension, south of Rouen. His final resting place is located in Section 4, D, Grave 25.

A year after Tom’s death an epitaph to a fallen son appeared in the Scarborough Mercury of Friday March 21, 1919.

It read: “In loving memory of our dear lad, Corporal Thomas Pottage, who was killed in France, March 19, 1918.
“A devoted son, a faithful brother, one of God’s best towards his mother. He bravely answered duty’s call. He did his best for one and all ... From his loving mother, dad, sisters and brothers.”

Apart from the Oliver’s Mount memorial Tom is one of a handful of World War One casualties to be commemorated in Scarborough’s Woodlands Cemetery which also bears the name of his father John Pottage, the eldest son of Tom and Esther Pottage. John had passed “peacefully away following a long illness” at his home at 31 Oak Road, aged 75, on Monday October 13, 1941.

Tom’s mother Clara died at 31 Oak Road on Tuesday January 17, 1950, at the age of 77.