9 November (1914)…

Private Thomas Cordner 9 November 1914 Strand Military Cemetery (P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Private Thomas Cordner
9 November 1914
Strand Military Cemetery
(P. Ferguson image, September 2016)

Private Thomas Cordner
Royal Irish Fusiliers

We return to Strand Military Cemetery this day with the story of Thomas Cordner, a soldier who lost his life in attempting to save the life of his friend, Private William Hanvey. This is the tale of three Portadown men and sister Thomas’ sister Christina.

Private Cordner’s story appears thanks to the online records of the Seagoe Parish Archives whose magazine of January 1915 provides details and published letters. One letter was written by Private Edward Burns who witnessed Thomas Cordner’s attempt to save the life of William Hanvey. Burns wrote, You ask me to let you know how poor Thomas Cordner met his death. Well it was in trying to save W. Hanvey. After Hanvey got wounded Thomas went out to try to bring him into the trenches, when he also met the same fate. Both died shortly after. He was my best chum. He and I used to lie awake at night and talk how we would spend Christmas in Portadown. Little did he think he was so near his end.

Thomas Cordner arrived on the Western Front with the 1st Battalion Royal Irish Fusiliers 23 August 1914, taking part in the Battles of Le Cateau, the Marne, Aisne and the First Battle of Messines. During these early Great War days, the Race to the Sea (17 September – 19 October 1914) led to the rapid development of trench systems on the Western Front. Thomas Cordner lost his life 9 November 1914 one day short of his 19th birthday…his memory forever treasured by his sister Christina.

Thomas Cordner Shorncliffe Camp (Seagoe Parish Magazine via The Evening Telegraph)

Thomas Cordner
Shorncliffe Camp
(Seagoe Parish Magazine via The Evening Telegraph)

Often when visiting Great War cemeteries one will see evidence of friends, families, and those unknown who have left reminders – perhaps additional markers, pictures, wreaths, flags, poppy crosses and visitation stones at the fallen’s grave. Thomas Cordner rests at Strand Military Cemetery grave IX.9.4 and it was there that I saw the additional marker recording Christina’s treasured memories of Thomas. Within the same pages of the parish magazine are published letters to Thomas’ mother and his concern for the others including sister Christine (sic). One letter provides his thoughts of home…You are putting yourself about sending me so many things, but I would give you anything for a piece of home-made bread.

Like many communities across Allied nations the Seagoe Parish organized an emergency committee, the Soldier’s Helpers whose work was also published in the same January parish magazine having provided…88 pairs Socks, 25 Shirts, 1 pair Pyjamas, 11 Body Belts, 2 Kit Bags, 14 Mufflers, 5 helmets, 2 full Kit Bags, 1 pair Bed Socks, 9 pairs Mits, 1 pair Cuffs, 8 Petticoats (for Belgians) as well as additional items such as Lint [purpose unknown], Cigarettes, Boracic (sic) Ointment (for the treatment of injuries), per. of Potash [use unknown].

Private William Hanvey, age 21 is buried at grave II.I.32 Trois Arbres Cemetery, Steenwerck, France – 7.4 Km away from the grave of his friend Private Thomas Cordner. Christina Cordner died in 1993.

This Day
9 November 1914
240 Fatalities
Source: Commonwealth War Graves Commission


About The Author

Paul has worked with the Paradigm Motion Picture Company since 2009 as producer, historian and research specialist. Paul first met Casey and Ian WIlliams of Paradigm in April 2007 at Ieper (Ypres), Belgium when ceremonies were being held for the re-dedication of the Vimy Memorial, France. Paul's sensitivity to film was developed at an early age seeing his first films at RCAF Zweibrucken, Germany and Sardinia. Paul returned to Canada in 1967 and was captivated by David Lean's "Lawrence of Arabia" and "Bridge on the River Kwai". Over time Paul became increasingly interested in storytelling, content development, character, direction, cinematography, narration and soundtracks. At the University of Victoria, Paul studied and compared Japanese and Australian film and became interested in Australian film maker Peter Weir and his film "Gallipoli" (1981). Paul was inspired when he learned Weir visited the beaches, ridges and ravines of the peninsula. "Gallipoli", the film, led Paul on many journeys to sites of conflict in England, France, Belgium, Holland, Germany, Malta, Hawaii, Gallipoli, North Macedonia and Salonika. When Paul first watched documentary filmmaker Ken Burns, "The Civil War", Paul understood how his own experience and insight could be effective and perhaps influential in film-making. Combining his knowledge of Museums and Archives, exhibitions and idea strategies with his film interests was a natural progression. Paul thinks like a film-maker. His passion for history and storytelling brings to Paradigm an eye (and ear) to the keen and sensitive interests of; content development, the understanding of successful and relational use of collections, imagery and voice. Like Paul's favorite actor, Peter O'Toole, Paul believes in the adage “To deepen not broaden.” While on this path Paul always remembers his grandmother whose father did not return from the Great War and how his loss shaped her life and how her experience continues to guide him.


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