War of­fice de­clared wrong Tom was dead

Rel­a­tive keen to trace fam­ily

Lennox Herald - - NEWS - Bill Heaney

It was one of those ter­ri­ble but thank­fully few mis­takes that sadly hap­pen in wartime…

An of­fi­cial let­ter telling a lo­cal fam­ily that their son had been trag­i­cally killed in ac­tion was de­liv­ered to the house.

But, although the au­thor­i­ties had the cor­rect name, they had misiden­ti­fied the per­son who was killed and had the wrong ad­dress.

The no­tice of death from the UK War Of­fice had been de­liv­ered in er­ror.

It had been sent to the fam­ily of sol­dier Tom King from Cly­de­bank.

But his com­rade Tom King from Dum­bar­ton was, in fact, the one who per­ished at the Bat­tle of Me­de­nine, in Tu­nisia, on March 23, 1943.

De­tails of this ter­ri­ble mis­take have been re­vealed on so­cial me­dia by a for­mer pupil of St Pa­trick’s High School in Dum­bar­ton.

Mr King, also called Tom - the nephew of the Cly­de­bank sol­dier Tom King - asked any­one with a pho­to­graph of Tom King, the Dum­bar­ton sol­dier who did ac­tu­ally die, to con­tact him.

The dead sol­dier’s fam­ily only found out of­fi­cially months af­ter the ini­tial let­ter had been de­liv­ered to the wrong fam­ily.

The 71-year-old said: “As a pupil in St Pa­trick’s dur­ing the late 1950s and early 1960s I would glance pe­ri­od­i­cally at the school war me­mo­rial as I had a name­sake T. King listed with the Sec­ond World War dead.

“This co­in­ci­dence was al­ways at the back of my mind, but it was not un­til some 40 years later that my un­cle, also Thomas (Tommy) King, dis­cussed our mu­tual name­sake listed on the me­mo­rial.

“He ad­vised me that not only had they served to­gether in the Cameron High­landers as lance cor­po­rals, but that they were friends and been given al­most iden­ti­cal army num­bers.

“Tommy King from Dum­bar­ton was 2934143 while Tommy King from Cly­de­bank was 293443.

“They both took part in the bat­tle of El Alamein and both men sub­se­quently fought with their reg­i­ment across North Africa to out­side Tu­nis.

“My un­cle was re­ported killed as per the at­tached let­ter from the War Of­fice.

“The fam­ily of Tommy from Dum­bar­ton hav­ing heard of my un­cle’s death trav­elled from Dum­bar­ton to Dal­muir to com­mis­er­ate with my grand­par­ents, Jessie and Patsy.

“Ap­prox­i­mately a month af­ter my un­cle was re­ported killed in ac­tion, the War Of­fice re­alised that an er­ror had been made, and that it was in fact Tommy King from Dum­bar­ton who had been killed on March 23 while fight­ing be­side my un­cle.

“This hap­pened dur­ing the as­sault by the 51st High­land Di­vi­sion on the Mareth Line at Me­de­nine, an ac­tion that had started in

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