Tom Garrard was from Ripon, a tenant farmer's son. When his father had been evicted for being three days late with the rent, he joined the army to save his parent's from another mouth to feed. He always said he'd return to Ripon and give the landlord a beating one day. After Garrard's death, Sharpe said he'd have to take that duty on.

He began as a private soldier serving in the light company of the 33rd foot regiment in India with Private Richard Sharpe. He remembered when Sharpe had been broken down from corporal for farting on church parade. When Sharpe became bored and contemplated deserting he wondered if Tom would run with him (Sharpe's Tiger).

Private Garrard was with Ensign Richard Sharpe at the siege of Gawilghur in 1803. During the Peninsula Campaign, however, British soldiers who transferred to the Portuguese Army saw rapid advancement and he was next seen at the rank of Lieutenant in the Portuguese army in Sharpe's Gold.

Sharpe met him for the last time in Sharpe's Battle at San Isidro Fort when his unit was sent to keep an eye on things because the Real Compania Irlandesa (Spanish Royal Guard) whom Sharpe was training were not trusted and were suspected of sowing dissension. When General Loup attacked the fort, the Portuguese troops were decimated, and it appeared that the entire garrison would be slaughtered until the two wagon loads of ammunition were blown up, and the French, badly damaged and stunned withdrew, allowing Sharpe and the rest of the garrison to survive.

Sharpe found Garrard's body, burnt past recognition, face down in the center of the scorch where the ammo wagons had been. He recognized his friend only from the distinctive tin Indian tinder box in the body's hand. "Tom Garrard saved our lives last night, Pat....He blew up the ammunition on purpose and killed himself doing it." (Sharpe's Battle)