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Thomas Archie Challis MC (1893 to 3rd Nov 1918), 2nd Lieutenant 13th Tank Corps, A Coy

Thomas Archie Challis was born in Walworth in 1893 to parents Charles and Rosa. He had two elder brothers - William and Charles, a younger brother Harold and sister Isabel. Charles, Thomas' father worked as a general labourer and then as a sewerman or flusher for London County Council.
Thomas is recorded as living at 8 Larcom Street, Walworth (1901 census), 201 Franciscan Road, Tooting (1911 census) and 26 Merritt Road, Crofton Park (1918 probate calendar). Thomas was recorded as Archie on the 1901 census so that may have been the name by which his family called him.

Thomas was working as an office boy at 1911. He is recorded on his medal roll as having served as a Lt Sergeant in the ACC (Army no 13443), a Sergeant in the MGC (Army no 114414) and a 2nd Lieutenant in the 13th Tank Corps, A Coy. Thomas was awarded the Victory and British War Medals and the Military Cross. He was awarded the MC for his actions on 8th August when in action with the Australian infantry advancing between Warfusee and Harbonieres. At 8.20 that morning his tank, Mouswald, was fired on by German field guns and was hit four times and put out of action. Challis continued on foot with machine guns and the remainder of his crew.

Supplement to the London Gazette 1 February 1919
T./2nd Lt. Thomas Archie Challis, 13th Btn., Tank Corps
For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty near Bayonvillers on 8 August
1918. He attacked three batteries of field guns and received three direct hits on his Tank which wounded some of the crew. In spite of this he continued to advance and endeavoured to silence the batteries with his guns. His Tank having received a fourth hit, which entirely disabled it, he got out of it and in the face of heavy artillery and machine- gun fire went forward with his machine guns and remainder of his crew and engaged the enemy. The resistance of the batteries was finally overcome, and the Tanks were enabled to continue their advance.

Thomas was wounded on the 23 August 1918 and returned to England to convalesce in Ashton Court Military Hospital in Long Ashton, Bristol. Thomas died of pneumonia and influenza at Ashton Court Hospital. The informant was M L Bryant, Commandant, Ashton Court Hospital. (information from a family tree on Ancestry.com). He is buried in Ladywell Cemetery (Plot C1884)
Photo courtesy of Find a Grave

The following is a letter written by T A Challis written whilst convalescing in Ashton Court Hospital, Bristol and printed in Dumfries and Galloway Standard 14 September 1918. (scanned in by Jackie13 on Ancestry.com). Mouswald is south of Dumfries just off the A75

‘Mouswald’ Tank in Action - Commander’s Interesting letter
The following letter has been received by the clerk of Mouswald Parish Council. The tank referred to and an aeroplane were acquired as the result of the War Loan Week in Mouswald last April:-
Ashton Court Hopsital, Bristol, 8 September, 1918
To the inhabitants of Mouswald, -
I am writing to let you know that in France I was commanding a tank named ‘Mouswald’ after your Parish, and thought therefore you would be pleased to know what good work it has done. During June and July of this year, with other tanks my tank was in reserve and in case of necessity at Heilly, just behind Morlancourt, north of the Somme river. Towards the end of July we were relieved, and did some practising with the Australian troops behind the line. These practices were to everybody’s advantage, as it was later proved in action. During one of these practices, Sir Douglas Haig witnessed my tank at work and complimented my section commander on my work. He seemed extremely delighted at the ability of my tank to turn quickly, and was also surprised at its speed. The tank was one of the latest large fighting type. We afterward were pleased to be sent into the line again, and were in action on August 8th with the Australian Infantry. We advanced between Warfusee and Harbonieres on that day, and I went forward at about 8.20a.m. We had not gone far (about 600-800 yards) when we fell among the German Field guns, who fired at us at a distance of about 50 yards. He fired 6 shots, and the tank was hit 4 times, being unfortunately put out of action with the last shot. We felt very downhearted at being put out of action so early in the show, but I knew that I had drawn fire on my tank, and so kept it off the infantry. We were certainly by no means done, however, and I took my crew forward with my machine guns. The tank was only temporarily out of action, and. If not already, soon it will be on the fighting list again. I would like to be with it as it was certainly a good tank, and I had it looked after very carefully. Unfortunately, however, I shall not be going out again just yet, as I was wounded on August 23rd when in action with another tank.
While resting here in convalescence I thought I would write to you, as I felt sure you would want to know what work the tank did that was named after your parish. 

Believe me, yours very sincerely,

T A Challis, 2nd Lt, Tank Corps


Information researched, written and provided by Anne Williams, a friend of Bob Swiniarski who often walks in this cemetery.