Private Thomas Totton


Thomas Totton was born on 3 October 1870 at Deerpark, Aghalee, County Antrim, the first of seven children of ploughman William John Totton and his wife Rose (née Mulholland). The family later moved to Belfast, where William worked as a carter until his death in 1902. On 28 November 1903 Thomas married Mary McBride in the Church of Ireland's Trinity Church, Belfast. At the time he was living at 118 Hemsworth Street and working as a carter. The couple had nine children over the next sixteen years. At the time of the 1911 Census they were living at 2.3 Christopher Street, Thomas working as a labourer.

Totton enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron on 10 April 1915 (No. UD/247). On 6 October 1915 he embarked for France with his squadron, which at the time was serving as divisional cavalry to the 36th (Ulster) Division.

In June 1916 the Inniskilling squadron came together with C and F Squadrons of the North Irish Horse to form the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment, serving as corps cavalry to X Corps. Totton was wounded the following month in the early days of the Battle of the Somme. According to the regimental diary of 5 July 1916:

Orders were received from A.P.M. 36th Division at 9 am for the two troops dismounted to report to Capt O'Neill at Lancashire Dump for salvage duty. They carried out this duty bringing in equipment, rifles etc till 1 pm. The men had dinner and were just turning out again when Lieut Seymour received orders from 36th Division to return to Regtl Head Quarters. The men had just started to saddle up when a heavy bombardment of both high explosive, shrapnel & machine guns was concentrated on the Wood. The intensity of the fire necessitated Lt Seymour giving orders for the men to take shelter in some old dugouts & trenches close by. The bombardment lasted for 3/4 of an hour & then slackened but did not entirely stop. Up to now one horse was killed & four wounded. The men were then ordered to saddle up & lead their horses thro' Wood out on to the road and were waiting for the others to join up when the bombardment opened much heavier than previously especially on that part of the road where the men were waiting. Lt Seymour moved off up the road leaving 2/Lt Matthews & Sergt McIlvoy to round up the stragglers in the wood, as by this time horses were very restive and almost unmanagable. Lt Seymour with his party had reached about 1 mile along the road & turned down a lane leaving the horses in charge of Sergt Quinn. Almost immediately a heavy fire was brought to bear on the horses and Sergt Quinn was wounded. The horses stampeded in every direction, some back to Aveluy Wood. Eventually Lt Seymour was able to round up most of this party & got to Senlis. Lieut Matthews & Sergt McIlroy remained behind. Our losses numbered 16 horses killed or wounded and 2 missing. 2/Lt Matthews was wounded severely in the knee from high explosive and Pte Downes, Nicholl, Gourley wounded (hosp) and Ptes Buchanan, 195 Campbell, Totton, 105 Craig, Cpl Dickson, 209 Robinson slightly wounded (duty).

Totton returned to duty with his squadron, the injury being slight.

In August-September 1917 the 2nd NIH Regiment was dismounted and its men were transferred to the infantry. A number, however, were found not fit for front-line service and transferred to other duties. Totton was one of these. On 10 October 1917 he was transferred to the 47th Labour Company, Labour Corps (No.380384). On 16 April the following year he was transferred to the 15th (Transport Workers) Battalion, Prince of Wales's Volunteers (South Lancashire Regiment) (No.63881).

On 24 February 1919 Totton was demobilised and transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve. For a short time he received a part-pension due to rheumatism, which was attributed to his military service.

After the war he lived with his family at 43 Hanover Street, Belfast, and worked as a labourer. He died there on 8 February 1935.


This page last updated 29 June 2023.