December 24, 1917 – Soldier dies days before seeing his baby for the first time


Lance Corporal Thomas Tack was looking forward to Christmas 1917. He had been promised his first Blighty leave since March and it would be a chance to see his seven-month-old son – for the very first time.

But just days before coming home to his wife and baby in King’s Road, Market Harborough, Tack was killed in action.

His sad story is told in the December 24, 1917, edition of the Market Harborough Advertiser. Tack, who had ‘took part in some severe fighting and was twice wounded’, had been home on leave earlier in the year to see his heavily pregnant wife.

She had given birth while he was fighting in France and this Christmas would have been the first time he would have been able to hold his baby.

In a letter to his wife, his company officer says: “Your husband was doing splendid work with the company in action when he was struck down and died instantly. I am sure I make no mistake when I say the whole platoon will miss him. He set a splendid example to the men in his section and he died fighting for his country.”

Sadly there are many other individual tragedies from the trenches.


PRIVATE TOM BUSWELL had only been in France for five months before he died of his wounds. Buswell, 25, of Goward Street, Market Harborough, had previously worked for his uncle Mr H H Garlick, a builder of Mowsley.

TROOPER ARTHUR JAMES SPEAK of Carleton Road, Kibworth, was killed in Egypt. The story says: “He joined up when war broke out and was sent to Egypt, was invalided home suffering from dysentery and sunstroke but returned when he was well enough.” Another of his brothers Trooper Calvin Speak, has been wounded and is being treated in Romford Hospital.

PRIVATE W HOLMES of High Street, Kibworth, who leaves behind a widow, died from his wounds after being in France for only eight weeks. Holmes, who was one of the older soldiers in uniform at the age of 37, had been well known in the village as he ran his own draper’s business.

GUNNER HARRY WESTAWAY was killed in action only seven days after arriving in France. Westaway, 23, of Prince Rupert’s Farm, Sibbertoft, died when shell exploded on his shelter, near to the gun to which he was attached.

SERGEANT C E WILLIAMS of Nelson Street, Market Harborough, is being treated in a French hospital suffering from the effects of gas.

There are also photographs of young men whose deaths were reported in last week’s Advertiser: Private W Marshall of Marston Trussell and Gunner W Allen of Waterfield Place, Market Harborough.


And there is a remarkable photograph of Private W Margetts of Northampton Road, Market Harborough, who has been a prisoner of war in Germany for over three years. He is pictured in the centre of this ‘reproduction’.

  • This column is published every Monday by John Dilley on the Newspapers and the Great War website and will continue until the 100th anniversary of the final armistice in November 2018.
  • My fellow researcher and De Montfort University lecturer David Penman is conducting a similar real-time project with the Ashbourne Telegraph. Check out his Great War Reports.
  • Check out this week’s Harborough Mail for current news from the Market Harborough area.