|Above: Gunner Thomas William Prior of No. 13 Field Battery, Royal Horse Artillery poses for the photographer in his freshly starched and press uniform either during a lull in the
fighting during the siege of Ladysmith or perhaps just after the arrival of the relief force under Lord Dundonald on 1 March, 1900.
Cabinet Photograph (Trimmed)
Treadway - Photographer
Ladysmith, Natal Colony, South Africa
“Old Sweat” or “Old Contemptable” where both titles well earned by Thomas William Prior of the Royal Horse Artillery who after Initially enlisting in 1897 would go own to serve in
Thomas William Prior was born at Guildford, Surrey in January 1879 the son of James Prior, a locomotive engineer and his wife Jane. In one of the curious quirks of history Thomas
William was baptized on what is possibly one of the most ill-omened day in British military history – 22 January, 1879. At the same time little Thomas was being initiated into the
Church of England, Lord Chelmsford’s holding force left at his camp at the foot of Isandlwana was being wiped out by an overwhelming force of Zulu warriors. Given that Prior’s
military career would take him to Natal during the Anglo-Boer War one wonders if he had the opportunity to visit the battlefield and if he was even aware of his connection to the
horrific events there.
Prior enlisted as No. 18313 with 38th Field Battery, Royal Artillery on 26 January, 1897 at Guildford and posted as gunner. During his 22-plus years with the colours Prior retained the
rank of gunner and was never promoted except for a brief period in 1904 when he held the rank of corporal. His service records show his with the Royal Artillery, the Royal Field
Artillery and the Royal Horse Artillery although these changes seem more due to reorganizations within his branch of service than to transfers on his part.
Gunner Prior was serving with 13 Field Battery, Royal Field Artillery when he deployed to South Africa in May 1899. He saw some of the fiercest fight of the war and took part in the
defense of Ladysmith. For his service in South Africa Gunner Thomas William Prior was awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with the clasps “Laing’s Neck”, “Transvaal”,
“Orange Free State”, “Defense of Ladysmith” and “Talana”. He returned home February, 1901.
Prior remained in England performing home service duties until the outbreak of the Great War when he deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force on 16 August, 1914.
At time he appears to have been attached to “J” Battery, Royal Horse Artillery. During the war Prior would be awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal with gratuity (12
May, 1917). For his service during the war Prior would qualify for the 1914 Star along with the British War and Victory Medals. He was discharged after 22 years, 28 days service on
22 February, 1919. The medal roll for the British War and Victory Medal show Prior serving as an Acting Corporal (No. 706744) with the Labor Corps during the qualifying date for
these two medals. The roll also states that No. 706744 is indeed our No. 18313 William Prior, R.H.A.
Prior married Miss Sarah Annie Boxall in 27 October, 1907 at Southhampton. The couple had a least two children Lillian Evelyn Prior born at Surrey on 23 January, 1908 and Stanley
Thomas James Prior also born at Surrey on 2 August, 1911.
Since census records after 1911 are not available I have no way of determining what occupation (if any) Thomas William Prior may have taken up after leaving the service in 1919.
Probate records state that he passed away on 27 July, 1959 leaving his estate to daughter Annie Evelyn Lillian Green.
|Above: The period ink inscription on the photograph's reverse side identifying Thomas William Prior of the Royal Horse Artillery.