Bryan – Lance Corporal Thomas

21 January 1882 – 13 October 1945:-

Thomas was born in Lye, Stourbridge but his family moved to Castleford, Yorkshire when he was a child. He followed his father into the mines and, before the war, worked at Whitwood Colliery in Castleford. He was a keen rugby player and was a member of the Castleford Northern Rugby Football Union team during the 1906-1907 season. He enlisted into the 25th Battalion Northumberland Fusiliers in 1915 and was promoted to Lance Corporal in 1917.

On 9th April 1917 near Arras, France, during an attack Lance-Corporal Bryan although wounded, went forward alone in order to silence a machine-gun which was inflicting much damage. He worked his way along the communication trench, approached the gun from behind, disabled it and killed two of the team. The results obtained by Lance-Corporal Bryan’s action were very far-reaching.

Thomas was evacuated to England due to his wounds, and the VC was presented to him by King George V at St James’ Park football ground, Newcastle upon Tyne on 17 June 1917, in front of a crowd of 40,000 people. He was also given war loans, a clock and a wallet of Treasury notes. In 1918, while being treated at Norfolk War Hospital, he rescued a three-year-old girl from drowning in the river at Thorpe, Norwich and resuscitated her.

Following his discharge from the Army, he returned to mining. From 1926 he was employed at Norton Colliery near Doncaster and from 1934 at Askern Colliery, Doncaster. He retired from the mines in 1935 due to ill health caused by war wounds and the effects of gas poisoning, and opened a greengrocer’s shop at Bentley with Arksey, Doncaster.

His medal is held at the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum London.

Filed under: WW1