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Pte Thomas Clift CARTWRIGHT 1895-1916
ILLUSTRATED SECTION (1916, September 22). Western Mail (Perth, WA : 1885 - 1954), p. 23. Retrieved April 19, 2022, from

Thomas Clift CARTWRIGHT

Regimental Number
1235
Rank
Private
Known As
Cliff
War Service
Egypt and Western Front
Prior Military Service
Yes, senior cadets
Enlistment
19 Jul 1915 at Perth, WA
Embarkation
18 Nov 1915 from Adelaide, SA, on the HMAT A2 Geelong
Next of Kin
Mrs Emmie Cartwright, 32 Rose Street, South Fremantle, WA
Date & Place of Birth
1895, Richmond, NSW
Parents
Emma (nee SALMON) and Thomas (deceased) CARTWRIGHT
Marital Status
Single
Siblings
7th of 9 children. Brother, 7345 Pte Samuel CARTWRIGHT served with 4th Battalion.
Occupation
Stableman
Physical Description
5 feet 4 1/2 inches, 115 pounds (163.8cm, 52.2kg)
Eyes blue, Hair fair, Complexion light
Religion
Church of England
Fate
Killed in Action, 20 Jul 1916, Fromelles, France – aged 21
Place of Burial
No known grave
Commemorated
V.C. Corner (Panel 5), Australian Cemetery Memorial, Fromelles, France
Positively Identified
No

Cliff’s family

Thomas 1856-1911 and Emma Cartwright (nee Salmon) 1857-1917 married in Crewe, Cheshire in 1878. The young couple migrated to Sydney, New South Wales with their eldest daughter, Harriet, who was born in Cheshire in 1878. Sadly, Harriet died at sea in 1879.

After arriving in New South Wales, seven children were added to the family and after a move to Western Australia the youngest, James, was born in 1900. Our soldier, Cliff, was the third youngest of the family and appears to have been named for his father (also Thomas Clift Cartwright) and his paternal grandmother (Catherine Clift). Thomas, senior, was an engine driver with the railways and became involved in Labor politics and the union movement. He died in June 1911 at just 54 leaving Emma with five of their children still under the age of 20. Cliff was 16 and his youngest brother, James, just 11.

In total, Thomas and Emma had six girls and three boys but only seven grew to adulthood:

  • Catherine Elizabeth Cartwright 1880-1922 – married Harry Pidcock, 5 children
  • Samuel Cartwright 1882-1948 – married Harriet J. Head, 2 children
  • Frances Emily Cartwright 1892-1982 – married William Jenkins, 3 children
  • Marjorie Lillian Cartwright 1893-1965 – married Murray Wheeldon, 1 child
  • Thomas Clift Cartwright 1895-1916 – killed in action, Fromelles, France
  • Adelaide Cartwright 1898-1964 – married Harry Bennett, 1 child
  • James Salmon Cartwright 1900-1960 – married Louisa Johns.

The family mainly remained in Western Australia though Samuel returned to settle in New South Wales while James worked for many years as a seaman whose work took him to many places; later in life, he worked as a signalman and remained based in Fremantle.

It is from these family connections that we have been seeking suitable DNA connections to help identify Cliff as he may be one of the unidentified soldiers buried in the mass grave at Fromelles. To date, we have been unable to find any related male Cartwright lines in Australia, or indeed in the two prior generations back in Shropshire. Cliff really needs assistance to identify him. See further family details at the end of the story as we would love to hear from you if you can assist.

Enlistment

With the outbreak of war, young Cliff was keen to sign up and did so in July 1915 adding a year to his age claiming to be 21. He was assigned to the 32nd Battalion and began training at the Blackboy Hill camp before his unit left for Adelaide to join the South Australian companies.

The Battalion embarked from Adelaide in November 1915 and arrived in Egypt just prior to Christmas. They served six months in the desert sands before proceeding to France for the trenches of the Western Front.

The Battalion fought its first major battle at Fromelles on 19 July 1916, having only entered the front-line trenches 3 days previously. According to the AWM, the attack was disastrous with the Battalion suffering “718 casualties, almost 75 per cent of the battalion's total strength, but closer to 90 per cent of its actual fighting strength.”

Private Cliff Cartwright was one of the hundreds of casualties listed as missing in action.

His name was included in a list of deceased allied soldiers that was provided by German authorities through Red Cross channels and his paybook handed back. His death was confirmed by authorities in December 1916 and his identity disc was returned and sent on to Cliff’s widowed mother, Emma Cartwright, as next of kin, in early 1917.

Attempts to return other personal effects (wallet, notebook, photos, letters) in 1920 were delayed as Emma herself had died in August 1917, leaving the three youngest siblings (Marjorie 24, Adelaide 18 and James 17) to fend for themselves.

After various enquiries, Cliff’s personal effects were eventually handed over to his younger brother, James, as he claimed to be the eldest surviving brother – ignoring his older brother, Sam.

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James’ letter to authorities claiming to be Cliff’s only surviving brother, failing to mention Samuel.
source NAA: B2455, CARTWRIGHT, Thomas Cliff – First AIF Personnel Dossiers 1914-1920, page 24

This may have been a ‘convenient oversight’ or the family may have lost touch with Sam who appeared to have moved back to New South Wales. He was living in Sydney when he enlisted in March 1917, aged 34. He gave his mother’s address as next of kin and he is listed in her death notice, so it is likely the family were in contact at that stage. Private 7345 Samuel Cartwright embarked overseas in April 1917 and served with the 4th Battalion. He was wounded in action, eventually being invalided home in September 1918 suffering the ill-effects of gassing. He married in 1919 remaining in New South Wales to raise his family of two daughters.

Not forgotten, searching for Cliff

While the family has never had closure knowing where Cliff is buried, he is commemorated at:

  • VC Corner Australian Cemetery and Memorial, Fromelles, France – panel 5
  • Australian War Memorial, Canberra, ACT – panel 120
  • St John’s Anglican Church, Fremantle, WA – choir vestry
  • Fallen Sailors and Soldiers Memorial, Fremantle, WA
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Fallen Sailors and Soldiers Memorial, Fremantle, WA

Family members are also involved in research seeking likely DNA donors who may assist in identifying Cliff’s final resting place.

You Can Help – Y strain DNA is urgently needed from males named Cartwright who have family links to any of the named family originating from Shropshire, Cheshire or possibly living in WA or NSW

SoldierCliff (Thomas Clift) Cartwright 1900-1916
ParentsThomas Clift CARTWRIGHT (Shropshire) 1856-1911
and Emma SALMON (Cheshire) 1857-1917.Both died Fremantle
SiblingsCatherine (Pidcock), Frances (Jenkins), Marjorie (Wheeldon), Adelaide (Bennett), Samuel, James - no male line from this family
Grandparents
PaternalSamuel CARTWRIGHT 1814-1878 and Catherine CLIFT 1821-1878, both died in Cheshire
MaternalLouisa AUSTIN 1832-1880 and Thomas SALMON 1819-1894. Both of Nantwich, Cheshire

Earliest known Ancestors Thomas Cartwright and Harriet Lee of Shropshire - 18th Century. His parents, Edward Cartwright and Elizabeth Jones, married in 1762 in Montford Shropshire

Seeking DNA Donors

Fromelles Association of Australia

Contacts

The Fromelles Association welcomes all contact regarding this soldier.
(Contact: royce@fromelles.info or geoffrey@fromelles.info).
We also urge any family members to contact and register with the Australian Army
(Contact: army.uwc@defence.gov.au or phone 1800 019 090).

Donations

The Fromelles Association maintains this web site, purely by donations received.
If you are able, please contribute to the upkeep of this resource.
(Contact: bill@fromelles.info ).