Sam Hanna Bell Samuel Beckett John Hewitt Bernard (Barney) Hughes James Joseph Magennis VC Frances Elizabeth Clarke Stewart Parker William Carleton Rosamond Praegar

Thomas Phillips (1880 - 1914):
Military doctor

Thomas Phillips was one of the first doctors to volunteer for front service on the outbreak of war in 1914. 

Thomas McCann Phillips was the son of Rev John Gillis Phillips, a Missionary of the Presbyterian Church of Ireland; Thomas was born in Damascus, Syria as were most of his brothers. The family returned to Ulster in time for his enrolment at the Royal Belfast Academical Institution in September 1891. The family resided at various times in Botanic Avenue and Stranmillis Road in south Belfast. 

Phillips spent five years at RBAI before moving to Campbell College in east Belfast for two years until 1898 and where he apparently was part of the First XV team (rugby) which won the Ulster Schools’ Cup in 1898. 

The same year he entered Queen’s University, Belfast, to study Medicine and qualified in 1905, working at the Royal Victoria Hospital in Belfast before taking a commission in the Royal Army Medical Corps, serving in India. He was promoted Captain in 1911. He kept an address in Belfast, 48 Mount Charles, off Botanic Avenue, and was home on leave when the First World War broke out on 4 August 1914. He immediately volunteered for service on the Western Front, joining the 21st Field Hospital, 7th Division, reaching France on 7 October. 

During an action, part of the battle of Nonne Bosschen near Ypres, Belgium, on 3 November, he was seriously injured by shellfire. Transported to Number 4 Casualty Clearing Station near Poperinghe, west of Ypres, he died of his wounds the following day. He was posthumously Mentioned in Dispatches for his all too brief frontline services, this was “gazetted” in February 1915. 

Phillips’ name appears on the Commonwealth War Graves site, (though his age was entered wrongly). His name also appears on the War Memorial at Campbell, though not the similar Memorial at RBAI. Though this oversight is not unique, the reason for it is not clear.

Born: 1 March 1880
Died: 4 November 1914
David Armstrong

Additional research: Richard Froggatt


David Armstrong: article in The Seahorse (Newsletter of the Belfast Old Instonians Association, number 58, Summer 2020)