Thomas Bedford MITCHELL was employed as a Bank Clerk , when he enlisted at Claremont WA, for service in the Great War, on 19th December 1914. He had been raised in a priviledged family position , whilst residing at ” The Willows ” in Bunbury.
He joined the 10th Light Horse Regiment for training at Rockingham WA Camp, with occasional rides to Claremont Camp for musketry practice. In early February 1915, the Regiment re-located to Claremont, where they remained, until embarking from Fremantle on 17th February 1915. Drill training continued on the troopship ” Surada ” throughout their voyage to Alexandria Egypt , where Thomas disembarked on 13th March 1915.
The 10th Light Horse were immediately based at Mena Camp Cairo, with further training exercises and drill marches occupying their days. Due to the poor water quality, which caused many soldiers to become ill, the Regiment left Mena Camp for transfer to the Heliopolis Racecourse, near Cairo, on 29th April 1915.
On 16th May 1915, Thomas Mitchell and his mates embarked from Alexandria Egypt, being part of the Mediterranean Expeditionary Forces, bound for the Gallipoli Peninsula. He survived the hazards of war and harsh conditions on Gallipoli, until falling ill with Influenza at Anzac, on 11th July 1915. Thomas was evacuated by Hospital Ship to Lemnos Island for treatment, and after recovery, was discharged, and returned to duty at Lemnos on 24th July 1915. In mid-August 1915 , he suffered a bout of Gastritis, before returning for duty at Gallipoli on 24th August 1915.
Thomas survived occupation on Gallipoli until the evacuation, then disembarked at Alexandria Egypt on 26th December 1915. Within 7 days he was admitted to Abbassia Hospital with an attack of the Mumps. In mid-February 1916, Thomas was again admitted to Hospital. He had developed weakness in his abdominal wall at a hernia scar, and was treated at the Heliopolis Racecourse Camp Hospital. The Medical Report stated ” Unfit for any heavy work and especially work on horseback “.
On 28th February 1916, he was transferred to duty at the AIF Headquarters at Cairo Egypt, where he remained, until transfer for attachment to the Australian Army Pay Corps in London England, on 10th August 1916. On 1st September 1916, Thomas was appointed as a Temporary Corporal with the Pay Corps.
Thomas had obviously raised some concerns about his Army Service, in letters to his Mother in Bunbury, as on 3rd January 1917, his sister Amy wrote to the then Premier of WA, Lord John Forrest:- ” Dear Sir John, I am writing for Mother, who feels very reluctant in asking you another favour. She wishes to know if you will kindly use your influence in getting her son Tom sent back from Egypt ( where he is in the Australian Army Pay Office Cairo ) to some embarkation job in England at one of the South Coast Ports. He thinks it the only way he can get a Commission which he is trying hard for. His address is No. 512, Sergeant T.B.MITCHELL, Australian Army Pay Corps Cairo. We all felt very much for you over the Referndum. You must have felt very exhausted after your hard work. We all thought your speech in Bunbury splendid. With kindest regards to Lady Forrest and yourself and wishing you both a Happy New Year from my Mother . Yours sincerely Amy MITCHELL “.
Sir John Forrest then wrote a letter dated 9th January 1917 to The Honourable Minister for Defence:- ‘ My Dear Minister for Defence, Herewith I forward, for your consideration, a letter I have just received from Miss Amy Mitchell, of Bunbury Western Australia , who writes on behalf of her Mother , requesting that Sergeant T.B.Mitchell , Australian Army Pay Corps , Cairo sent back to some embarkation job in England at one of the south coast ports , and I shall be glad if you will favour me with an early reply to send to Miss Mitchell. Yours faithfully, JOHN FORREST. P. S. Mrs. MITCHELL is the Mother of the Honourable James MITCHELL, C.M.G, whom, no doubt, you know “.
On 31st March 1917 , Thomas Mitchell was attached to the Australian Army Headquarters Cairo for Administrative purposes, on transfer from England. He was posted to the Australian Army Pay Corps Moascar Egypt and promoted to the rank of Corporal on 31st August 1917.
On 29th April 1918, a letter was written by the Lieut-Col. Commandant Australian Headquarters, Staff Pay Office Cairo to the Secretary of Defence, Dept. of Defence Melbourne:- ” Re. Sgt. T.B.MITCHELL- A.A.P.C- Your memo of 22nd January last regarding the application by the Mother of this N.C.O. for transfer of her son to England for embarkation work at a South Coast Port has been forwarded to these Headquarters and has had my consideration. Other than the possibility that this N.C.O. might obtain more rapid promotion in another sphere of work , which in itself is problematical, I can see no valid reason for the transfer and in view of the great difficulty of obtaining qualified clerks in Egypt , am unable to recommend that Sgt. Mitchell be transferred to Administration Headquarters “.
On 1st July 1918, the Department of Defence replied to Lord John Forrest, stating that :- ” The Army is unable to comply with the request , and under the circumstances it is regretted that no action can be taken by this Department “.
On 1st August 1918, Thomas Mitchell was promoted to the rank of Extra Regimental Staff Sergeanmt with the Australian Army Pay Corps in Egypt.
On 27th September 1918, Sgt. Thomas Mitchell wrote a letter to the Staff Paymaster A.I.F. in Egypt , Australian Headquarters Cairo:- ” Application for Return to Australia- I hereby make Application for return to Western Australia on duty or leave on the following grounds:- ( 1 )- I have received news by the last mail that my Mother died on the 9th Ult.. I am an Executor under her will and my presence in Australia is essential to the proper administration of the Estate which consists of real property and investments totalling approximately 10,000 Pounds. My advice and assistance would be of the greatest value in strightening out the estate and attending to urgent business affairs on behalf of my sisters whose knowledge of business matters is very slight and who are wholly dependent on me for advice. ( 2 )- I enlisted in 1914 and embarked from Australia on 8/02/1915. I have seen service on Gallipoli whence I was invalided as unfit for General Service . I have no record upon my conduct sheet . Should my application be favourably considered I am willing to perform such pay or other duties aboard the Transport as may be required , and am desirous of returning to service as soon as business matters are adjusted which I anticipate could be effected within a month after my arrival in Perth “. This application was supported and strongly recommended for approval by Major J.H. HAMMOND, Staff Paymaster, A.I.F.
Thomas Mitchell embarked Suez on the ” Port Sydney ” on 20th October 1918, bound for Australia, and acted as the Canteen Sergeant on board. On arrival in Australia he was granted One Month Leave, and although returning to service in Australia with the 10th Light Horse as Staff Sergeant after his leave, he was eventually Discharged from Service on 22nd February 1919.
Thomas was awarded a Mention in Despatches for ‘ Conspicuous Services Rendered ” which was published in the London Gazette and Commonwealth of Australia Gazette in January 1919 and May 1919, respectively.