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AS Thomas Henry  Ford DCM.png

Although unidentified in any way, with a bit of research and through a process of elimination I believe this holder of the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) is No. 795 Armourer Staff  Sergeant Thomas Henry Ford of the Army Ordnance Corps.

After comparing this image to a list of members of the Ordnance Corps awarded the DCM during the Anglo-Boer War, the man’s rank, the number of clasps on his Queen’s South Africa Medal as well as the post-war location of the photograph, Thomas Henry Ford seems to be the only man whose military records match up to all of these various criteria.

Thomas Henry Ford was born at Kamptee, India on 1 February 1875, the son of Armourer Sergeant William Owen Ford of the 44th Regiment of Foot and Rebecca Temperance. He had two brothers who would also serve in the army – Frank in the Essex Regiment and Fred in an undetermined unit. Two younger brothers – Bert and William – as well as a sister Edith, were still living with their parents.

Ford was sent to England to live with his gunsmith paternal grandfather Thomas Ford and took up the family trade and found employment with the noted gun maker W. W. Greener. It would appear obvious why he chose the Ordnance Corps when at the age of 21, he attested as a private on 25 April 1894 at Birmingham.

Very early on in his enlistment, Private Thomas Henry Ford was the subject of a court of inquiry after being injured while working in the armourer’s shop at the Royal Small Arms Factory at Birmingham. A turn screw penetrated the palm of his left hand. Initial medical treatment failed and he was admitted into the hospital on 1 August 1894. The injury eventually healed and Ford returned to duty.

Ford was quickly promoted 2nd class armourer sergeant on 1 January 1895 at which time he was assigned to the Ordnance Store Corps. On 1 April 1896, he was assigned to the Armourer’s Section of the Army Ordnance Corps. On 25 August 1898, he was posted to the 1st Battalion, the Royal Dublin Fusiliers. He was promoted to 1st class armourer sergeant on 23 May 1901. Promoted again on 1 June 1904 to armourer staff sergeant. His final promotion came on 20 September 1911 when he was named armourer quartermaster sergeant. Ford was discharged after 22 years with the colours on 24 April 1916.

During the Anglo-Boer War while still attached to the Royal Dublin Fusiliers Ford would see extensive action in the field earning the following clasps for his Queen’s South Africa Medal: “Orange Free State”, “Transvaal”, “Relief of Ladysmith”, and “Laing’s Nek”. He would also earn the “1901” and “1902" clasps for his King’s South Africa Medal. He received two Mention in Despatches – the first on 8 February 1901 and the second on 10 September 1901. On 1 October 1901 Ford was gazetted for the Distinguished Conduct Medal.  

With the end of the war in South Africa, Ford – still attached to the 1/Royal Dublin Fusiliers – moved on to garrison duty at Malta, Crete, Malta again, and then Egypt before returning home in 1906. The dates of Ford’s deployments were as follows:

Home: 25 April 1894 – 26 May 1895
Mauritius: 26 May 1895 – 18 April 1898
Home: 19 April 1898 – 9 November 1899
South Africa: 10 November 1899 – 2 November 1902
Malta: 3 November 1902 – 26 February 1903
Crete: 27 February 1903 – 3 March 1904
Malta: 4 March 1904 – 5 November 1905
Egypt: 16 November 1905 – 20 October 1906
Home: 21 November 1906 – 14 August 1914
France: 15 August 1914 – 11 April 1916
Home: 12 April 1916- 24 April 1916

During his long career with the colours – 22 years to be exact – Ford was reprimanded once for being drunk in barracks between 3 and 5 pm on 4 June 1903 at Candia, Crete. This single entry in the regimental conduct book did not count against Ford’s permanent record as he was awarded the Long Service & Good Conduct Medal on 1 October 1912.

With the outbreak of the Great War, Ford deployed to France with the British Expeditionary Force and served there until April 1916 when his second term of enlistment expired. As was permitted old long service soldiers, Ford took his discharge at the Army Ordnance Corps depot at Woolwich on 24 April 1916 even though the war was still raging. Upon his discharge, he was presented with the silver war badge (No. 65782). With a chest full of medals from his previous long years of service, including the DCM, he had little to prove in this war. Regardless, with the Armistice of 1918 Ford would find himself additionally in possession of the 1914 Star with the “5th Aug – 22nd November 1914” clasp along with the British War and Victory Medals. Armourer Sergeant Ford was a textbook example of an “Old Contemptible”.

Ford had married Ada Milner or Wilmer on 10 October 1904 in Malta. The couple had a daughter Audrey Ada (b. 1908) who died in infancy and a son William Henry (b. 1910). Ford
disappears from the records after the final entries in his service records.

Cabinet Photograph
The Grand Studio - Photographer
268 Sda Reale, Valletta, Malta
c. 1905

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