The photograph shows one of the Isle of Wight ARP Rescue Squad's of the period, believed to have been in Ryde.

ARP Rescue Squad Driver Thomas Gull was killed alongside his wife Edith as a result of enemy action on 16 January 1943.

 

Thomas was born on 20 August 1875 in Ardleigh near Colchester. The 1891 Census located Thomas and his family living in a cottage at Whitehall Farm, Old Heath, Colchester. His father Walter worked as a domestic coachman and his mother Julia looked after Thomas and his five siblings.

The 1901 Census proved elusive but by 1911 Thomas was located living in Chichester and was also earning a living as a coachman. He'd married Edith who came from the area where they lived and fathered four children, Thomas junior (8), John (5), James(4) and Edith junior (3). 

Between then and the beginning of the Second World War nothing is known of their lives or how they came to the Isle of Wight. What is known is that the 1939 Register details Thomas and Edith living at 111a High Street Ventnor with their daughter Edith, by now married with the surname Batchelor. She was not listed as a widow so it may be assumed that Edith's husband had been mobilised with the armed forces.

At some point Thomas, aged 64, volunteered his driving skills to be a driver for a Ventnor based ARP Rescue Squad. The role of the Rescue Squads was to emerge in the wake of enemy aerial bombardment and attempt rescue's of persons from collapsed buildings. Their training was rudimentary and the efficiency of the squads was more dependent on the trade skills of the men recruited than what they were taught in preparation. Accordingly builders, plumbers, electricians and gas fitters were much sought after and in order to mobilise with their widely varying collections of equipment, skilled and dependable drivers were required.

According to national records Thomas and Edith were the only fatalities of an attack that occurred on Saturday 16 January. There was a second attack on Ventnor the next day that claimed more lives. The County Press considered both attacks to have been on the same day; whichever is correct, the facts of the outcome remain the same and extracts are given below to allow some understanding of how they died.

An Island coast town had its fifth and most serious air attack on Sunday. There were seven fatal casualties. One bomb fell on the lawn of a residential house, wrecking it and killing two of the occupants... The other bomb demolished four or five residential and business premises. In flats above four people were killed, viz., Mr and Mrs T. Gull. Their bodies were extricated with much difficulty... Mr Gull was a driver for ARP services and a great favourite with his colleagues. His body was not extricated until the following day.

 

Rest in peace ARP Driver Gull and his wife Edith.