Thomas Tunnadine was born in Hough on the Hill in about 1869, the son of William (a brickmaker) and Ann. By 1881 William had died and Ann was working as a charwoman. Thomas started work as a farm servant and also served in the Territorial Army (4th Battalion, Lincolnshire Regiment).
In 1887 (age 18) he volunteered at Grantham for general service in the cavalry and joined 7th Dragoon Guards. His service record describes him as having blue eyes and light brown hair. In 1894 he extended his service ‘with the colours’ to 12 years. On 13 Sep 1898 he married Lucy Katherine Dent in Norwich. The following year he signed on for another 9 years in the Army.
He served in South Africa during the Boer War (Feb 1900 to Jan 1902) before being invalided home and granted a month’s sick furlough. A daughter, Louise Alberta Alexander Tunnadine, was born at Canterbury in 1908. Thomas was permitted to extend his service beyond 21 years before being discharged (still a private) in 1913 with an exemplary record. He moved to East Molesey, Surrey.