Hartas T H

Private 1946 Thomas Henry Hartas, 4th Battalion Yorkshire Regiment


Died of wounds 19th May, 1915

Thomas Henry Hartas was born in 1886 in Ampleforth, Yorkshire, the son of Thomas Hartas and Mary Pinder, who had married in Helmsley the previous year.

Thomas senior was a joiner and was born in Helmsley . Mary (nee North) had been married previously to James Pinder and had borne children to him. Robert Pinder, her youngest son was living with his mother and stepfather in 1891 in Ampleforth together with two children children born to his mother's second marriage, Thomas and Agnes (1888). The following year, 1892, Thomas and Mary had another son, Frederick (1892).

*NB Thomas’s grandfather, John Hartas, was born in Farndale and was in fact a brother of Robert Hartas who moved to Stokesley (See Johnson G.)

In 1901 Thomas Henry Hartas was about 15 years old and seems to have moved to Helmsley where he was working as a ploughboy. He married Ann Elizabeth Sewter in 1908 in the Pickering district. Ann’s father had been born in Peterborough and worked as an ironstone miner, and her mother came from Dublin.

The 1911 census records Thomas Henry and Ann Hartas as living in Rosedale West with their daughter Winifred Ellen Mary. Thomas like his father-in-law was now employed as an “underground ironstone miner”, but when war broke out Thomas enlisted in Stokesley - either late in 1914 or early 1915.

He joined the 4th Battalion of the Yorkshire Regiment (1st/4th Territorial) and would have undergone training in England before being sent abroad in April 1915.

Private Hartas’ regiment landed at Boulogne on 18th April 1915. According to information presented on the website www.1914–1918.net these troops arrived at the very time when the German army had attacked at nearby Ypres, using poison gas for the first time. The new arrivals were rushed straight to the Front to plug the gaps caused by the heavy casualties that had resulted.

The Book of Remembrance tells us that Thomas went into action on 23rd April 1915. The war diary of the 4th Yorkshire regiment records that on this day the battalion was in position alongside the Yser Canal, which they crossed the following day, coming under shell fire. The Battalion's first day in the line was extremely testing. Ordered forward to occupy trenches outside the Potidze Chateau, they arrived to find the trenches occupied and under heavy shelling, and had to lay down behind the trenches awaiting new orders. Orders to attack St Julien were received but cancelled and they were told to dig trenches near the Chateau. This order too was cancelled almost as soon as the work was begun and they were told to attack Fortuin in conjunction with the 4th East Yorks Regiment. Open to attack on both flanks, and seeing men retiring to their left, the Yorkshires turned towards the action in real danger of being cut off from their own lines. As the action continued, they were joined on their right by the Royal Inniskillin Fusiliers, and received orders to hang on till nightfall and then try to retire. This they accomplished, despite suffering heavy casualties. 5 officers and 10 other ranks had been killed, one officer and 76 other ranks wounded, 17 of these originally being posted as missing.

The War Diary proudly records the battalion's new nickname (given by the RIF): The Yorkshire Gurkhas.

According to the Book of Remembrance, Private Hartas was wounded, on 4th May 1915. Isolated from his comrades, he managed to crawl into a ruin for shelter. This was where he was found several days later.

The Battalion War diary seems to confirm this story but not, however, the date. The Battalion came out of the line on the night of 3rd/4th May, but the entry for 3rd May makes interesting reading. It records that the battalion had been in trenches astride the Fortuin Road since 28th April, and had been under attack particularly from gas on 1st May and again on the following day. Casualties were again heavy, with a captain, 4 lieutenants and 34 other ranks killed, and 74 wounded. It concludes:

'Perhaps the best thing done was … by Major H L de Legh who got out 15 wounded men from a burning cellar under heavy shellfire'

Private Hartas might well have been one of these men, but there was to be no happy ending for him. His wounds were serious, and he was shipped home to the military hospital in Cambridge, where he died of his wounds.

Thomas Henry Hartas was 28 years old when he fell. He was awarded the British War Medal and Victory Medal as well as the 1915 Star. He was buried with full military honours in Stokesley Cemetery on Whitsunday, 23rd May 1915. He left a widow and 3 children.

Thomas Henry Hartas is commemorated not only in Stokesley but on the Memorial in St Hilda’s church, Ampleforth:

“Greater love hath no man than this”.

Anne Elizabeth Hartas remarried in 1922 to Thomas Harrison.

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