Webb, Thomas Harry Basil
He was the only son of Lieutenant-Colonel Sir Harry Webb, MP of Llwynarthau, Castletown, Cardiff and Ellen Webb, daughter of William Williams of Cardiff. Webb came to Kingsgate House from Sandroyd School, was an all-round athlete and played in Commoner VI in 1915. He was a good soccer and cricket player as well, being well up to 2nd XI standards.
Shortly after leaving Winchester he was gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant of the Welch Guards. He left for France on 9th August 1917, accompanied by a fellow Beloeite, 2nd Lieutenant George C S Tennant (K 1911-1916), killed in action 3rd September 1917 (see individual entry). They reached a reinforcement camp (Petworth Camp, Proven, in Flanders) on 17th August and had their first encounter with the war when German aeroplanes flew over them, and they heard their bombs being dropped about a mile away. Both Webb and Tennant were told they could go on leave to Paris on 4th September but on the night of 31st August the Battalion was moved to the line. Tennant was killed by shell fire as he came out of the line in the early hours of 3rd September 1917 and Webb wrote two letters of sympathy to Tennant’s mother.
The Battalion moved to Cambrai, eventually going into reserve. On 1st December the 3rd Guards Brigade were ordered to attack through Gauche Wood, south of Gouzeaucourt, towards the village of Gonnelieu. Orders were vague, the attack was to be made over unfamiliar ground at very short notice and the commanders of the battalions involved were not happy. The Commanding Officers of 4th Grenadiers and 1st Welch (Webb’s battalion) held a consultation. “The situation was a difficult one. Lord Gort, commanding 4th Grenadiers, had been in the sunken road all afternoon, had seen the ground, but no one in the Welch Guards had, and he said bluntly that he did not think the attack would succeed, as he had watched an abortive attempt by some scratch formations of troops in the evening and had never seen such a machine-gun barrage as the enemy put up. He also said, waving his arm vaguely in the direction of the ridge, that there was some wire somewhere which would have to be located. A Major of the Tank Corps was present at the conference, and said he could not produce eleven tanks, but he did not say there would be none, or throw any doubt on their being ready by zero hour.” No tanks came to support them although the order was given to advance. The assaulting companies moved uphill. The Germans had held their fire until the Guardsmen broke the skyline, at which point they opened intense machine gun fire. Webb fell at this point, along with hundreds of others. Of 370 men in the leading companies, 248 had been killed or wounded within three minutes.
He was buried in Gouzeaucourt New British Cemetery.
In the collection of the National Museum of Wales there is a bronze sculpture by Sir William Goscombe John entitled “The Boy Scout” (NMW A126). It is a portrait of Webb, done in 1910 and was presented to the Museum by his mother in 1952. http://www.museumwales.ac.uk/en/art/online/?action=show_item&item=1115
- Surname: Webb
- Forenames or initials: Thomas Harry Basil
- House: K
- Years in School: 1912-1916
- Rank: 2nd Lieutenant
- Regiment: Welsh Guards
- Date of Birth: 12th August 1898
- Date of Death: 1st December 1917
- How Died: Killed in Action
- Location in War Cloister: Outer G5
- Decoration: NA
- Burial Site: GOUZEAUCOURT NEW BRITISH CEMETERY: Grave VI.G.19