Thomas Whitham

Last updated
Thomas Whitham
Thomas Whitham VC IWM Q 80662.jpg
Born11 May 1888
Worsthorne (near Burnley), Lancashire
Died22 October 1924 (aged 36)
Oldham Infirmary, Lancashire
Buried
Inghamite Burial Ground, Wheatley Lane
AllegianceFlag of the United Kingdom.svg  United Kingdom
Service/branch Flag of the British Army.svg British Army
Years of service1915-1919
RankPrivate
Unit1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards
Battles/wars World War I - Battle of Passchendaele
Awards Victoria Cross
Relations Jack Whitham (grandson)
Other work Bricklayer

Thomas Whitham VC (11 May 1888 – 22 October 1924) was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

Victoria Cross Highest military decoration awarded for valour in armed forces of various Commonwealth countries

The Victoria Cross (VC) is the highest and most prestigious award of the British honours system. It is awarded for valour "in the presence of the enemy" to members of the British Armed Forces. It may be awarded posthumously. It was previously awarded to Commonwealth countries, most of which have established their own honours systems and no longer recommend British honours. It may be awarded to a person of any military rank in any service and to civilians under military command although no civilian has received the award since 1879. Since the first awards were presented by Queen Victoria in 1857, two-thirds of all awards have been personally presented by the British monarch. These investitures are usually held at Buckingham Palace.

England Country in north-west Europe, part of the United Kingdom

England is a country that is part of the United Kingdom. It shares land borders with Wales to the west and Scotland to the north. The Irish Sea lies west of England and the Celtic Sea to the southwest. England is separated from continental Europe by the North Sea to the east and the English Channel to the south. The country covers five-eighths of the island of Great Britain, which lies in the North Atlantic, and includes over 100 smaller islands, such as the Isles of Scilly and the Isle of Wight.

United Kingdom Country in Europe

The United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland, commonly known as the United Kingdom (UK) or Britain, is a sovereign country located off the north-western coast of the European mainland. The United Kingdom includes the island of Great Britain, the north-eastern part of the island of Ireland, and many smaller islands. Northern Ireland is the only part of the United Kingdom that shares a land border with another sovereign state, the Republic of Ireland. Apart from this land border, the United Kingdom is surrounded by the Atlantic Ocean, with the North Sea to the east, the English Channel to the south and the Celtic Sea to the south-west, giving it the 12th-longest coastline in the world. The Irish Sea separates Great Britain and Ireland. The United Kingdom's 242,500 square kilometres (93,600 sq mi) were home to an estimated 66.0 million inhabitants in 2017.

Contents

War service

On 25 January 1915, Whitham enlisted in the British Army. He was 29 years old, and a private in the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards, during the First World War when the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.

A private is a soldier of the lowest military rank.

Coldstream Guards Unit of the British Army

The Coldstream Guards is a part of the Guards Division, Foot Guards regiments of the British Army.

World War I 1914–1918 global war starting in Europe

World War I, also known as the First World War or the Great War, was a global war originating in Europe that lasted from 28 July 1914 to 11 November 1918. Contemporaneously described as "the war to end all wars", it led to the mobilisation of more than 70 million military personnel, including 60 million Europeans, making it one of the largest wars in history. It is also one of the deadliest conflicts in history, with an estimated nine million combatants and seven million civilian deaths as a direct result of the war, while resulting genocides and the resulting 1918 influenza pandemic caused another 50 to 100 million deaths worldwide.

On 31 July 1917 at Pilckem near Ypres, Belgium, during an attack an enemy machine-gun was seen to be enfilading the battalion on the right. Private Whitham on his own initiative immediately worked his way from shell-hole to shell-hole through our own barrage, reached the machine-gun and, although under very heavy fire captured it, together with an officer and two other ranks. This bold action was of great assistance to the battalion and undoubtedly saved many lives. [1]

Battle of Pilckem Ridge

The Battle of Pilckem Ridge was the opening attack of the Third Battle of Ypres in the First World War. The British Fifth Army, supported by the Second Army on the southern flank and the French 1reArmée on the northern flank, attacked the German 4th Army, which defended the Western Front from Lille northwards to the Ypres Salient in Belgium and on to the North Sea coast. On 31 July, the Anglo-French armies captured Pilckem Ridge and areas on either side, the French attack being a great success. After several weeks of changeable weather, heavy rain fell during the afternoon of 31 July.

Ypres Municipality in Flemish Community, Belgium

Ypres is a Belgian municipality in the province of West Flanders. Though the Dutch Ieper is the official name, the city's French name Ypres is most commonly used in English. The municipality comprises the city of Ypres and the villages of Boezinge, Brielen, Dikkebus, Elverdinge, Hollebeke, Sint-Jan, Vlamertinge, Voormezele, Zillebeke, and Zuidschote. Together, they are home to about 34,900 inhabitants.

Post war

After the war he became a bricklayer but he struggled to find work. He was forced to sell his VC and a gold watch that had been presented to him by Burnley council in recognition of his bravery. Both ended up in a pawn shop but were rescued by the council and remain on display in the Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museums in Burnley. Thomas died in poverty aged 36. He was buried on 27 October 1924 at Wheatley Lane Inghamite Church. [2] In 1952 a grave memorial was erected for him by the Coldstream Guards association. [3]

Burnley market town in Lancashire, England

Burnley is a town in Lancashire, England, with a 2001 population of 73,021. It is 21 miles (34 km) north of Manchester and 20 miles (32 km) east of Preston, at the confluence of the River Calder and River Brun.

In 2008, it was announced that Burnley Schools' Sixth Form would be renamed Thomas Whitham Sixth Form. [4]

Thomas Whitham Sixth Form is a mixed 16 to 20 sixth form centre in Burnley, Lancashire.

A grandson was professional footballer Jack Whitham.

Jack Whitham is an English former professional footballer who played for Sheffield Wednesday, Liverpool, Cardiff City and Reading. He was a Centre Forward who only started 111 league games in a nine-year career between 1967 and 1976, scoring 40 goals. He made one appearance for the England under 23 team against Wales in 1968.

Additional awards

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References

  1. "No. 30272". The London Gazette (Supplement). 4 September 1917. p. 9261.
  2. Entry in Parish Register
  3. Burnley Borough Council - Thomas Whitham – Not Forgotten Archived 2006-09-26 at the Wayback Machine Dead link
  4. "Thomas Whitham 6th Form". Archived from the original on March 12, 2012. Retrieved March 19, 2013.