He appears on the 1901 census as a 19 year old wheelwright’s assistant living at North Common with his parents. Edward (an agricultural labourer) is recorded at the home of his uncle and aunt, Edward and Alice Simmons of Middleton Farm House, Chailey village.
December 1905, Thomas married Ellen Louisa Thompsett (a widow) at . Three children are recorded on his surviving
army service papers: Thomas John Funnell (born at Wildfields Farm, Chailey on 4th Chailey Parish Church October 1909),
Caroline Mary Funnell (born at Wildfields Farm on 7th January 1911) and Winifred May
(born on 10th
March 1913 at Compt Hill, Chailey).
Chailey Parish Magazine notes in January 1916 that he has attested and his name appears in an official list of the B reserve under Lord Derby’s Scheme. He was obviously employed by Jesse King on Chailey Green (probably as a carpenter or wheelwright as noted in the census return of 1901) as his army file contains a letter from Jesse King to the military authorities, releasing Thomas from his employment. The letter is dated
11th April 1916.
Thomas enlisted with the Royal Field Artillery at Woolwich on
14th April 1916
(although his service reckons form the previous day when he attested at the RFA
Depot number 4 and was postred to Woolwich).
He was given the army service number 124445. His Short Service Attestation Form gives the
information that he was married, 34 years old, five feet eleven and a half
inches tall and had a deformed fifth toe on his right foot. His home address is given as Wildfields Farm
and his next of kin as Ellen Louisa Funnell.
17th April 1916
a certificate of trade proficiency at Woolwich certified that Funnell had “been
tested in the workshops of RM Repository Ordnance College, Woolwich and proves
himself a Skilled Wheeler.” Ten days
later he was duly appointed Wheeler and posted to the 20th Reserve
Battery, Royal Field Artillery. Five
days later he was in . France
In June 1916, Chailey Parish Magazine reported that Thomas was with the Divisional Artillery Column (DAC) in
. On France 26th December 1916 his surviving army service
papers confirm that he was posted to number 4 section of the 6th
April 1917 however, Thomas was back in and would not return to England . From what Chailey resident Reg Philpott says,
it would appear that he had been gassed although this information does not
appear in his papers. He was posted to a
reserve brigade of the RFA (5/c) on the date of his return to France and
subsequently posted to the depot at Ripon (August 1917). From there, he was posted back to 5/c Reserve
Brigade (in October) and then to the 395th Ammunition Column (in
January 1918). On 18th April
1918 he was posted again, this time to Reserve Brigade 2/a and was finally
discharged from the RFA’s 8th Reserve Battery as physically unfit on
5th December 1918. England
On 6th December he was awarded a weekly pension of 8s/3d from
6th December 1918 which was to be reviewed
after 52 weeks.
Reg Philpott, born well after the First World War ended, clearly remembers that Tom Funnell had been gassed and told me, “My mother took me down the Common to walk to see him. We went upstairs and he was laying in bed with a little saucer with powder in it. He used to light this with a matchstick and sniff it. Was it called Ridleys? He had Winnie, Carrie and Jack. Jack was in the Airborne in this war, with the gliders. Mum went to see him because she knew his wife – Nellie Oden. Her father was a blacksmith / wheelwright I believe.”
Thomas Funnell may be related to the Edgar H Funnell or Henry Edgar Funnell who also appears on these pages. He was a cousin of George Thomas Simmons who also served his King and Country during the First World War.