Corporal THOMAS CAIRNS
Service Number 81395
Unit “Z” 61st T.M. Bty. Royal Field Artillery
Commemorated at ARRAS MEMORIAL
Thomas Cairns (1896-1917) was born in Chopwell, Tyne and Weir in 1896 and died on 13 October 1917 in France. The oldest son of Nancy and Thomas Snr, Cairns worked as a driver before joining Newcastle United Football Club. Cairns served in the British Army during the First World War, when he was killed on active service in 1917.
Cairns began his football career local amatuer side Chopwell Villa before spending one year at Newcastle City. In September 1914, Newcastle United paid £20 to take Cairns to St James’ Park, where he was used as backup to the club’s first choice inside-forwards. After failing to break into the first team during the 1914/15 season, Cairns finally made his debut in the final fixture of the campaign, replacing Curtis Booth in a 3-0 home victory over Aston Villa on 28 April 1915. It would prove to be his one and only game for the club.
Gunner 81395 Cairns enlisted in the Royal Field Artillery (RFA) in 1915 and underwent training before joining “Z” 61st Trench Mortar Battery, part of the 61st (2nd South Midland) Divisional artillery. The unit subsequently took part in operations at Fromelles in 1916 and were part of the forces that undertook a cautious pursuit of the enemy as they withdrew to the Hindenburg Line in March 1917.
They then saw action during the Third Battle of Ypres. By October 1917, “Z” 61st Trench Mortar Battery were in lines east of Arras as the British Army prepared for its upcoming offensive near Cambrai. On 13 October 1917, Cairns was killed in action. He has no known grave and is commemorated on the Arras Memorial to the Missing at the Faubourg-d’Amiens Cemetery.