We have recently been contacted by the grandson of Sergeant Thomas Renshaw, who served with both the Royal Irish Fusiliers and the London Irish Rifles during the Second World War.
In his note to us, Darren Russell explained that his grandfather had served with the 2nd Battalion London Irish Rifles throughout the Tunisian campaign but had completely lost his eyesight after a grenade explosion while the battalion was training in Algeria during June 1943.
“Thomas Albert Renshaw was born in 1916 and when war broke out in 1939 he was working as a tobacco worker at John Player and Sons in Nottingham.
Thomas married my grandmother Grace shortly before being conscripted and he joined the Royal Irish Fusiliers on 24th June 1940, at Newtown, Wales. His Army Number was 6982485 and he would be stationed in Wales for much of the period of his home service. Thomas seems to have thrived in the military environment, progressing to the rank of Sergeant.
At the end of 1942, Sergeant Renshaw would join the North African campaign and it is believed that it must have been around the same time that he transferred to the 2nd Battalion, London Irish Rifles. He didn’t speak a lot about his time in Africa, but among occasional stories that came out, it was clear that he had been involved in close combat fighting in the battles in Tunisia.
Thomas took part in the Victory Parade in Tunis in May 1943 and then travelled back with the Irish Brigade to Algeria. I understand at this time that he was an acting Warrant Officer and was part of a group inspecting some previously detonated grenades when there was a secondary explosion. He suffered serious injuries including the loss of his sight, which was never to be regained.
After time in hospital and being repatriated, he was formally discharged from the Army on 9th December 1943. His service conduct was described as ‘exemplary’.
After a period of recuperation, Thomas was able to return to his previous employment at John Players and he gradually learned to overcome his disability and he would work there until his retirement in the 1970s.
Tom and Grace would be married for more than 65 years, their two children being born in 1941 and 1944.”
A fantastic story indeed. We will truly remember Thomas Renshaw.