Thomas Edward Pollitt was born in in Bradford, Yorkshire, UK on February 4, 1890 and emigrated with his family to Canada arriving in Halifax, NS on April 4, 1909. The family subsequently moved to the Calgary AB area residing in Leslieville and Alhambra.
Thomas was twenty years of age and working as a carpenter when he attested into the 56th Battalion (Calgary) on August 13, 1915 and posted to A Company. The battalion departed Canada on March 23, 1916 onboard the SS Baltic arriving in the UK on April 9, 1916.
He was initially assigned to a reinforcement draft for the 10th Battalion (Alberta) on May 24, 1916 but on arrival in France was almost immediately transferred to the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders) on May 26, 1915 where he was posted to No. 3 Company. By March 1917, and likely because of his civilian trade as a carpenter, he had been moved to the QMS of BHQ in the position of Battalion carpenter.
During his time with the 15th Battalion from May 1916 to the Armistice in November 1918, and except for periods when on leave, Thomas Pollitt took part in all the battalion’s trench tours as well as all the major battles in which the battalion was engaged, to include: Mount Sorrel/Observatory ridge June 1916; the Somme – Pozieres, Courcelette, Thiepval ridge Sept-Oct 1916; Vimy ridge April 1917, Hill 70 August 1917 and Passchendaele Nov 1917; and the 1918 100 Days battles of Amiens in August ; and the Drocourt-Queant Line and the Canal du Nord in September. Following the Armistice, he was with the battalion as part of the Occupation force in Germany in December 1918 –January 1919.
Thomas Pollitt suffered a SW to the left knee at Thiepval ridge on September 26, 1918 and was evacuated to No. 5 Canadian Field Ambulance subsequently rejoining the battalion on October 12, 1916. He contracted severe bronchitis and was evacuated to the 2nd General Hospital, Le Havre on November 14, 1916 and subsequently to the 4th Convalescent Hospital before being RTU on December 1,1916.
He was given the CO’s permission to marry (Isabella Selkirk, Edinburgh, UK) in September 1918 and was married in Scotland likely when on 10 days leave Oct 20, 1918 which was extended 5 days from 3 Nov 1918 following which he was RTU November 10, 1918.
Pollitt was transferred to the UK for repatriation to Canada on January 22, 1919 and following arrival in Canada, he was discharged from the CEF on April 24, 1919 in St. John, NB. He returned to Alberta and at the time of his death on March 21, 1949 was residing at Ghost Pine No. 308, Bow River, AB. He was predeceased by his wife in 1943 and had two children, daughter Jessie and son Edward. Thomas Pollitt is buried in Three Hills Strathmore Census Division Cemetery, Kneehill AB.
The identity of the individual who constructed the battalion’s Vimy cross that was erected at mass burial location CA35 on April 9, 1917 had been unknown. The regimental history of the 48th Highlanders of Canada only noted that it was constructed by the battalion carpenter and research into period battalion documents at both the Regimental Museum in Toronto and Library and Archives Canada in Ottawa failed to uncover any record of the carpenter’s name. In the course of reviewing digital scans of a March 1917 handwritten 15th Battalion Nominal Roll he had scanned at LAC in 2018, 15th Battalion CEF Memorial Project Chairman Brigadier General (ret) Greg Young found that occupations of a number of men in the Quarter Master Section of Battalion HQ had been faintly annotated in pencil next to their names.
Thomas Pollitt was identified as the battalion carpenter and this information was consistent with the information on his 15th Battalion Record of Services card which stated his civilian occupation as a carpenter. Subsequently, BGen Young was able to locate and establish contact with his descendants through an Ancestry.ca search. The Pollitt Family Tree manager subsequently provided two period photographs of Thomas Pollitt in the uniform of the 15th Battalion (48th Highlanders).
The story of the original cross erected in the days after the assault on Vimy Ridge and how it came to Canada.
The Cross returns to France on the occasion of the 100th anniversary of the battle of Vimy Ridge.
Details of the ceremony on the occasion of its return to the Regimental Museum
The erection of a granite replica by the 15th Battalion Memorial Project team.
The story of the man and how he was finally identified.