PRIVATE THOMAS LEONARD MICHAEL QUINLAN
ROYAL WARWICKSHIRE REGIMENT
9TH APRIL 1915 AGE 19
BURIED: RATION FARM (LA PLUS DOUVE) ANNEXE, HAINAUT, BELGIUM
There's no disguising the bitterness of this inscription, nineteen-year-old Thomas Quinlan, 'a bursting bud on a slender stem broken and wasted'. This is an interesting inscription, it sounds like a quotation but I don't think it is. The end of the inscription refers to 'our boy' but I have a feeling that Thomas Quinlan's parents were dead, either that or they were no longer in the country as they both disappear from the census record after 1901.
Thomas Quinlan, however, appears in the 1911 census as a boarder at St Nicholas Industrial School for Roman Catholic Boys, Manor Park East Ham. Many industrial schools were for juveniles who had never been convicted of an actual offence, but whose habits indicated that they might lapse into crime if not "taken in hand in time". It sounds ominous and indeed the regime was usually quite strict and there was often little to distinguish these industrial schools from reformatories. One of the other boys at the school in 1911 was only 5 so there's a possibility that St Nicholas was an orphanage too.
We have no idea why Thomas Quinlan was at the school, nor where he went afterwards but we can assume that he joined the army since he was serving in the 1st Battalion the Royal Warwickshire Regiment when he was killed near Ypres on 9 April 1915, which would indicate that he was a regular soldier. And if he wasn't a regular soldier he was certainly a volunteer.
Who chose his inscription? The War Graves Commission's register states that he was the 'son of Michael John Quinlan' but gives no address. The person who confirmed his inscription was Mr H Quinlan, 16 de Walden Buildings, Henry Street, St John's Wood - a brother? 'A bursting bud on a slender stem broken and wasted'; Thomas Quinlan doesn't sound like a former reformatory boy - it would be good to know more.