Lieutenant Thomas Alfred Packman (Tom) was born in Strood in 18th May 1895 and was killed in action at Vermelles, near Lens, in France on 9th September 1916, aged 21.
Tom’s parents were Alfred Charles Augustus Packman, originally from Sheffield, and his wife, Eliza, who was born in India. Alfred senior was a medical doctor and a Justice of the Peace for the City of Rochester. His wife was a Poor Law Guardian and keen, active supporter of women’s suffrage. In 1901 the family lived at 105 London Road, Strood, and Tom, who was born in Strood, had one older and one younger brother. By 1911 they had moved to 54 Maidstone Road, Rochester, but the eldest son, Arthur, had died. At both addresses the family had two live-in servants, a housemaid and a cook. The family undoubtedly were well-known in the area: Alfred’s medical practice and civic work brought him into close contact with the poor of Rochester and Strood while his wife campaigned for better poor relief for widows as well as agitating for votes for women.
Tom attended Sir Joseph Williamson’s Mathematical School in Rochester and is on the School’s Roll of Honour. Later, he studied engineering in London. According to an obituary in the Kent Messenger, he was on a motoring holiday in France when war broke out in 1914. He immediately returned to England and took a commission in the Royal Horse Artillery and began active service in early November 1914 at the age of 19. The newspaper reported that he had ‘latterly been engaged with trench mortars, and had been in the thickest of the fighting’. He was attached to the 7th/8th Trench Mortar Battery of the Royal Field Artillery. According to the University of London Officer Training Corps ‘Roll of the Fallen’, he was killed by a sniper while he was on observation work in command of a battery.
The Kent Messenger said that Tom was ‘well known in Rochester and the sympathy of all classes goes out to Dr and Mrs Packman’. Probate was granted to Tom’s father in 1919 on an estate worth £633 14s 6d and Tom is buried in the Vermelles Commonwealth Cemetery in France. His page on ‘Every Man Remembered’ can be viewed here.
England & Wales, Civil Registration Birth Index, 1837-1915 [database on-line], 2006.
1901 England Census [database on-line] Class: RG13; Piece: 721; Folio: 13; Page: 17
1911 England Census [database on-line] Class: RG14; Piece: 3887; Schedule Number: 37
England & Wales, National Probate Calendar (Index of Wills and Administrations), 1858-1966, 1973-1995 [database on-line].
University of London Officers Training Corps Roll of War Service 1914–1919. London: Military Education Committee of the University of London, 1921. UK, Memorial Books WWI and WWII, 1914-1945 [database on-line].
Kent Messenger, 16 September 1916, p. 6.
National Union of Women’s Suffrage Societies Kentish Federation First Annual Report, 1913 (Women’s Library).
South East Gazette. 1 March 1910, p. 2.