Private Thomas Young VC. 1895 - 1966

Pte Thomas Young VC

The 9th Battalion DLI was a Territorial unit with its headquarters at Burt Terrace in Gateshead. At the beginning of August 1914, this battalion, along with the four other DLI Territorial battalions, had been at camp in North Wales. Ordered at once to return home to Durham, the battalion soon settled to months of hard training to prepare for war. 9 DLI finally landed at Boulogne on 20th April 1915 and was immediately thrown into the deadly confusion of the Second Battle of Ypres. In the ranks as a stretcher bearer was 9-1975 (later 203590) Private Thomas Young.

"for conspicuous gallant conduct in the face of the enemy"

9 DLI, as part of the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division, served at Ypres, on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele. On 16th September 1916 near High Wood on the Somme, Thomas Young was wounded in the left thigh by a bullet and was evacuated to England He did not return to the Western Front until May 1917. On 21st March 1918, the German Army launched a massive offensive on the Somme, breaking through the British defences. At dawn on 26th March, 9 DLI, now the Pioneer battalion of the 62nd Division, was ordered into a support trench south of Bucquoy, near Arras. Within hours, the Germans attacked there and overran the front line. 9 DLI's position then became the front line. For the next five days, until the battalion was finally relieved on the night of 31st March, 9 DLI, with the 2/5th Duke of Wellington's Regiment, held up the German advance at Bucquoy.

Pte Thomas Young VC - Statue Town Hall South Shields

During all that time, soldiers, wounded in the initial attacks, lay in no-man's-land, without food or water, waiting for somebody to help them. Nine of these men were saved by the bravery of just one man, Thomas Young. On nine separate occasions, this young stretcher bearer climbed out of his trench to search the shell holes for the wounded. Ignoring heavy rifle and machine gun fire and even shell fire from the German lines, he carried back the fortunate men he found. Some, who were very badly injured, first had their wounds cleaned and dressed by Private Young before he carried them alone back to safety.

The London Gazette announced the award of the Victoria Cross to Private Thomas Young on 4th June 1918 "for conspicuous gallant conduct in the face of the enemy". This citation, based on the eye witness reports of three officers of 9 DLI noted that "he showed throughout the whole course of the operations a most magnificent example Pte Thomas Young VC of courage and devotion to duty.... His untiring energy, coupled with an absolute disregard of personal danger, and the great skill he showed in dealing with casualties, is beyond all praise." [Citation] He was the sixth, and last, soldier of The Durham Light Infantry to be awarded this highest of honours during the Great War.

With the end of the war, Thomas Young VC returned to his work as a hewer underground at High Spen. In 1920, he rejoined 9 DLI, as a Sergeant, when the Territorial battalion reformed but was discharged in 1921. In 1939, he re-enlisted in a National Defence Company. The following year his wife, Rachel, died aged just 45 years. He continued to work as a miner, finally as pithead baths' attendant, until ill health forced him to retire. He then moved from his home in East Street, High Spen to Chopwell, and then in July 1966, to an old people's home - The Hermitage - at Whickham. He died there on 15th October 1966, aged seventy-one years, and was buried in St Patrick's Churchyard, High Spen, four days later.

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