Woodcock – Private Thomas

19 March 1988 – 27 March 1918:-

Thomas was born in Wigan, Greater Manchester. At the age of 14 he followed his father into the mines. He got his first job at the Hindley Green collieries of Messrs John Scrowcroft & Co, first as a pit boy; eventually working his way up to be a fully-fledged miner. In May 1915, he enlisted in the 2nd Battalion Irish Guards.

On 12th-13th September 1917 north of Broenbeek, Belgium, when an advanced post had held out for 96 hours and was finally forced to retire, the lance-sergeant (John Moyney) in charge of the party and Private Woodcock covered the retirement. After crossing the stream themselves, Private Woodcock heard cries for help behind him – he returned and waded into the stream amid a shower of bombs and rescued another member of the party whom he carried across open ground in daylight towards our front line, regardless of machine-gun fire.

He returned to Britain on leave in February 1918, and on his homecoming on 3 March, was presented with a marble clock, an illuminated address and more than £200 in cash. On the day he left to return to France, he said: “I am going back tonight to do a little bit more for the King.”

Thomas returned to France on 17 March 1918 and tragically was killed in action 10 days later at Bullecourt, France. He was buried in Douchy-Les-Ayette British Cemetery, and his wife received a parcel of his personal effects, including a bloodstained newspaper and a photo of him surrounded by family and civic dignitaries. The photo was less than a month old. 

His VC is held by The Irish Guards and is in The Guards Museum, Wellington Barracks, London.

Filed under: WW1