CWG: Private Thomas Cornall

Private Thomas Cornall

Thomas Cornall was born in Kingsteignton, Devon, early in 1879 and was the oldest of seven children to Thomas and Elizabeth Cornall. Thomas Sr was a clay cutter and, while the family were all raised in Kingsteignton, Thomas Jr appears to have been more wayward, and was farmed out to local relatives over time.

The 1881 census shows Thomas living with his parents; ten years later he was living with his maternal grandmother; in 1901 he was boarding with Elizabeth’s brother, John Withycombe, in Devonport; the 1911 census recorded him living with his sister and her family in the village of Chudleigh.

Thomas took on labouring jobs. He worked as a dockworker in Devonport, and a haulier in Chudleigh. War was coming to Europe, however, and Thomas was pulled in a different direction.

Full details of his military career are not available, but it is clear that he enlisted in the Somerset Light Infantry early on in the conflict. Whether Private Cornall saw active service overseas is lost to time, but he soon transferred over to the 696th Agricultural Company of the Labour Corps.

Thomas’ maternal uncle – John Withycombe – who had had lived with in 1901, had become manager of the Lion Hotel in Chudleigh and when he died in 1913, he left his wife, Bertha, with a son to raise and a business to run. At the end of 1916, Thomas and Bertha married in nearby Newton Abbot and took on the running of the Lion Hotel together.

Private Cornall was still serving at this point, and continued his work in the Labour Corps through until the end of the war. His trail at this point goes cold; all that is known is that he died at home on 8th January 1919, at the age of 40 years old.

Thomas Cornall was laid to rest in Chudleigh Cemetery. The family plot included John and Bertha, when she passed away in 1954.


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