Thomas, Frederick Abbott, 6619017, was one of the many ex-Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment regulars who provided the NCO backbone of the 16th DLI from its beginnings in July 1940.

Abbott was a pre-war regular in the Beds and Herts and was a veteran of the 1940 BEF Campaign, in which he served in the Auxliary Military Pioneer Corps from September 1939.

He served with 16 DLI from its formation, in Edinburgh, Scotland in July 1940 until mid-1943. He originally enlisted in the Territorial Army in 1923.

The photographs and service details listed below are all courtesy of his grandson, Andrew Cummings.

'Thomas Frederick Abbott was born in 1903 in Hackney, London. At the age of 19, he was working as a printer's assistant, when he joined the Territorial army, the 10th London Rifles (The Paddington Rifles) in 1923. He stayed with them till 1924 when he joined the Regular army, serving in the 1st Battalion, The Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire regiment. He served as a Private for seven years, during which time the Battalion served in Ireland, China, and India. He was trained as a machine gunner, then as a clerk. He also learned to drive. In 1932 He left the Army and returned to civilian life as an omnibus driver.

'Flash forward to September 1939, he was called up into the Auxiliary Military Pioneer Corps, from his home in Chingford, London E4. He was then promoted to L/Cpl and then A/Sgt after being sent out to France to join the BEF. He was evacuated from France in June 1940 and sent to Wembley.

'On 04/07/1940 he was transferred to the newly formed 16th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in Edinburgh, he was promoted back to Sergeant on 31/07/40. He stayed with the Battalion till 7/04/1941 when he was posted to HQ, 139 Infantry Brigade, before being posted back to the 16th DLI on 10/11/1941.

He embarked with the 16 DLI on 23/12/1942 to North Africa......’

Sgt Abbott served as a clerk in HQ Company and therefore most likely features on one or the other of the legendary lost 1942 group photographs of the 16 DLI HQ Company platoons. These photographs must be out there somewhere!

Andrew has kindly allowed me to study his Grandfather's service records, which he obtained from the Ministry of Defence, and these have allowed us to add the following extra details, see the next page.

Abbott, Sgt Thomas Frederick, 6619017, 16 DLI
Abbott, Sgt Thomas Frederick, 6619017, 16 DLI

The photograph above of Sgt Thomas Abbott, 16 DLI, is courtesy of his grandson Andrew Cummings. The photograph was most likely taken sometime in 1940-41. Note the absence of the ‘Oak Leaf’ 46 Division shoulder flash and also the distinctive ‘Durham Light Infantry’ shoulder titles, these both came later in 1941.

Also it’s significant that he is wearing pre-war service dress. Battle dress was the norm in 1940, but service dress was still being used until stocks were exhausted. And many soldiers highly prized the undoubted smarter appearance of the older uniform.

Compare this photograph to that of another Sgt Abbott in the Battalion, Sgt Arthur Abbott, here, which, taken later in the war, features battledress, DLI shoulder titles and Oak Leaf insignia.

The photographs on the following pages are all courtesy of Andrew:

Sgt T Abbott, in a group photograph of 27 Company AMPC NCOs, 1939

A group photograph of a 27 Company, AMPC Platoon, 1939.

Another early 16 DLI photograph of Sgt T Abbott in service dress.

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