Thomas Hanwright was the third of the four sons and two daughters of Joseph and Minnie Hanwright of West Ham, Essex (today situated in London). His older brother, Joseph, served in the Royal West Kent Regiment, 1st Battalion from 1902 and survived the First World War. Thomas was born in Stratford, London on October 25, 1880 and by 1898 had worked as a zinc worker with his father and joined the 5th – 13th Royal Fusiliers (City of London Regiment). Extensive military records have survived which document Thomas Hanwright’s military career and life. His personal folder accessed at the National Archives in London showed that he joined the Duke of Cornwall’s
Light Infantry, 2nd Battalion as Private 5470 on May 25, 1898. The above photo (found in Cornwall’s Regimental Museum) is believed to have been taken shortly after Hanwright enlisted in Bodmin. He is described as a man of good character, with a fresh complexion and bearing a tattoo of a flower on his right forearm.
Before the start of WWI, Thomas Hanwright was stationed in countless locations around the world. These include Gibraltar in 1906, where he was initiated into the United Grand Lodge of Freemasons (England), Bermuda in 1908, where medical records show that his wife, Alice Storey Bryant, who regularly joined her husband abroad, had been treated for depression, and South Africa in 1912, where his second daughter, Marjorie Rose died aged just five months. Thomas’ first daughter, Kathleen Alice (born 1904) survived both her parents. As Company Sergeant Major, Thomas was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for his actions near St. Eloi, France on March 14, 1915, when he remained with two other men defending the Mound after his officer and all the men of the detachment had been killed or wounded. By the end of October of that year he had received a commission with the DCLI and he had risen to the rank of 2nd Lieutenant. A year later on October 3, 1916, when stationed in Salonika, Macedonia, Thomas was Killed in Action when attempting to transport supplies to the front line having recently been appointed Acting Transport Officer. He was aged 35 at the time of his death and was originally buried in Mekes Military Cemetery,
Salonika, before being exhumed to Kilo 71 Military Cemetery three years later in 1919. His widow, Alice Hanwright, was last recorded through a letter asking for her husband’s war medals to be returned to her.