Private Thomas Totton

 

Thomas Totton was from Belfast. (It has not been possible to determine his date of birth or family background, as a number of men of this name lived in Belfast at the time.)

Totton enlisted in the 6th (Inniskilling) Dragoons Service Squadron between 9 and 12 April 1915 (No. UD/247). He embarked for France with his squadron on 6 October 1915. At the time they were 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. The Regimental diary for 5 July 1916 stated:

    Orders were received from Assistant Provost Marshall 36th Division at 9am for the two troops dismounted to report to Captain O'Neill at Lancashire Dump for salvage duty. They carried out this duty, bringing in equipment, rifles etc till 1pm. The men had dinner and were just turning out again when Lieutenant Seymour received orders from 36th Division to return to Regimental Headquarters. The men had just started to saddle up when a heavy bombardment of both high explosive, shrapnel and machine guns was concentrated on the Wood. The intensity of the fire necessitated Lieutenant Seymour giving orders for the men to take shelter in some old dugouts and trenches close by. The bombardment lasted for three-quarters of an hour and then slackened but did not entirely stop. Up to now one horse was killed and four wounded. The men were then ordered to saddle up and lead their horses through 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. Lieutenant Seymour moved off up the road leaving 2nd Lieutenant Matthews and Sergeant McIlvoy to round up the stragglers in the wood, as by this time horses were very restive and almost unmanageable. Lieutenant Seymour with his party had reached about one mile along the road and turned down a lane leaving the horses in charge of Sergeant Quinn. Almost immediately a heavy fire was brought to bear on the horses and Sergeant Quinn was wounded. The horses stampeded in every direction, some back to Aveluy Wood. Eventually Lieutenant Seymour was able to round up most of this party and got to Senlis. [2nd] Lieutenant Matthews and Sergeant McIlroy remained behind. Our losses numbered sixteen horses killed or wounded and two missing. 2nd Lieutenant Matthews was wounded severely in the knee from high explosives and Privates Downes, Nicholl, Gourley wounded (hospital) and Privates Buchanan, 195 Campbell, Totton, 105 Craig, Corporal Dickson, 209 Robinson slightly wounded (duty).

Totton recovered from his wound and returned to his squadron.

In August 1917 orders came that the 2nd North Irish Horse Regiment would be dismounted and the men transferred to the infantry. A number of them 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 Battalion, South Lancashire Regiment (No.63881).

Totton was transferred to Class Z, Army Reserve, on 24 February 1919.