Date of birth: 21.1.1882
Date of death: 13.10.1945
Regiment: Northumberland Fusiliers
Rank: Lance Corporal
Service number: 22040
Thomas was thirty-three years old when he enlisted at Castleford and joined the 25th Battalion of the Northumberland Fusiliers. After training he was sent to France where he saw action on the frontline. He broke a leg in the summer of 1916 and was sent home but was back in France on sticks before the autumn. He was given duties back down country. The Battle of Arras was fought in April 1917 and this is where he showed his bravery and loyalty to his comrades. Part of the Battalion was under heavy gun fire and were being attacked by the German machine gun point and were suffering heavy losses, until Thomas took some action. It was at this time that he gained the Victoria Cross, the highest decoration for gallantry to a member of the British and Commonwealth Armed Forces.
The award ceremony was held in St James Park Football Ground, Newcastle, in front of more than forty thousand people and the medal was presented by King George V. The citation reads “Lance Corporal Bryan, although wounded in the arm, went forward alone to attack a machine gun post. The ferocity of the attack resulted in the enemy abandoning their post after Bryan shot two of their number.” He was also awarded a gold watch by Castleford Borough Council.
Thomas Bryan was born on 21st October 1882 in Stourbridge near Dudley on 21st January 1882. When he was very young his family moved to Whitwood, looking for work in the local coal field. His father found work at Whitwood Colliery and Thomas went to the local school. When he left school he also went to work at the colliery.
At the end of the War Thomas suffered from poor breathing due to a gas attack, but he returned to working in the pit, but this time at Askern near Doncaster. He came out of the pit due to ill health and ran a grocer’s shop in Bentley for many years.
He died on 13th October 1945 and is buried in Arksey Cemetery near Doncaster in a war grave. A small street was named after him off Leeds Road, Whitwood Mere – “Bryan Close”. In July 2017 he was honoured when a Blue Plaque was unveiled on the wall of Castleford Library.
The descendants of Thomas Bryan still live in the Doncaster and Bentley area. The Victoria Cross and the gold watch are now the property of his grandson and they are both on permanent loan and are on display at Alnwick Castle, Northumberland, the regimental museum of the Northumberland Fusiliers.