b. 21/01/1882 Stourbridge, Worcestershire. d. 13/10/1945 Doncaster, Yorkshire.
Thomas Bryan (1882-1945) was born at Bott Lane, Lye, near Stourbridge, Worcestershire on 31st January 1882. His father, also Thomas, was a coal hewer. His mother was Sarah nee Hoskins, and they married in Stourbridge in 1881. By 1891, the family had moved north to Castleford, Yorkshire. Thomas was educated at the Potteries Council School and attended the United Methodist Church Sunday School, both in Whitwood Mere, Castleford. He was employed as a miner around Castleford and just before the war was working for Henry Briggs & Co at Whitwood Colliery. He also played rugby league and was a member of the Castleford Northern Rugby Football Union team during the 1906-1907 season.
On Boxing Day 1903, Thomas married Sarah nee Smart at Whitwood Mere Parish Church, Castleford. They at 29 Hunt Street, then later at 11 Fairfield Villas in Castleford. They went on to have five children – Thomas Alfred, Fanny (died aged just 1), Albert, Sarah and Evelyn. Thomas enlisted in the Northumberland Fusiliers on 11th April 1915 and went to France after training on 22nd December with the 25th Battalion. He fractured his ankle and was evacuated back to England in April 1916, but following recovery, returned to France on 4th October. He was promoted to Lance Corporal on 26th March 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. Due to his wounds, he was evacuated to England and treated at Alnwick Military Convalescent Hospital. The VC was presented to him by King George V at St James’ Park Football Ground, Newcastle upon Tyne on 17th June 1917, in front of a crowd of 40,000. On 27th July, he and Private Ernest Sykes VC received a civic reception at the Empire Theatre, Newcastle. They were presented with war loans, a clock and a wallet of Treasury notes.
On 29th July 1918, while being treated at Norwich War Hospital, he rescued a three-year-old girl, Phyllis Richardson, from drowning in the river at Thorpe, Norwich and resuscitated her. Thomas was discharged on 16th September 1918 having been wounded three times. Post war he went back to mining at Castleford. From 1926 he was employed at Norton Colliery near Doncaster and from 1934 at Askern Colliery, Doncaster. He gave up mining 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.
Thomas died at 44 Askern Road, Bentley, near Doncaster, Yorkshire on 13th October 1945 and is buried in Arksey Cemetery, Doncaster. His grave was the first completed project of the Victoria Cross Trust in 2013. In addition to his VC, he was also awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19 and George VI Coronation Medal 1937. The medals were sold for £9,800 to an anonymous buyer at a Christie’s auction on 25th July 1989. On 28th June 2000 they were sold at Dix Noonan Webb auction to Michael Ashcroft for £60,000, and are displayed in the Imperial War Museum.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM.
BURIAL PLACE: ARKSEY CEMETERY, DONCASTER, YORKSHIRE. SECTION J, GRAVE 237
Thomas Bryan's medals including VC on display at Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (Aug 2014)
Thomas Bryan is buried in Section J, Grave 237.
War Illustrated. 30th June 1917
Thomas Bryan's VC Memorial Stone unveiled on April 9th 2017 in Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge (Alastair Kennedy-Rose)
Castleford Library (Alan Austin)
Castleford Library (Alan Austin)