STEETON soldier Tom Fitzsimons was a cheerful chap who was laughing until the moment of his death.

That was the claim of Lance Cpl Wallbank when he wrote to Private Fitzsimons’s mother Catherine Palfreyman after he was killed by the Germans.

The 23-year-old machine gunner from Station View was killed just over five months after landing in France to fight on the Western Front.

Lance Cpl Wallbank wrote: “I can assure you that his death was instantaneous, and that he died with a smile on his lips.

“He has been with my section ever since he joined the machine gun section and he kept us all alive and cheerful with his wit. He was always bright and cheerful, and whatever he did, he always did it with the same cheerful spirit.

“It is about six o’clock on Thursday, December 2 that is death occurred. We were mounting our gun, and he was struck in the neck by a bullet from the German lines.”

Thomas, who worked in a bobbin Miller before the First World War, a enlisted with the Duke of Wellingtons Regiment in 1914 and was sent to France in June the following year.

His death came from a day of British artillery bombardment on the German lines.