Memorial To Victoria Cross Hero Set To Be Unveiled In Stourbridge

A memorial plaque to commemorate a local war hero is set to be unveiled at a special ceremony in Mary Stevens Park.

Lance Corporal Thomas Bryan who received the Victoria Cross during the First World War will be honoured at the unveiling which will be attended by the Mayor of Dudley,  Deputy Lord Lieutenant of Worcestershire Richard Lockett, High Sheriff Dr Keith Bradshaw DL, Victoria Cross recipient Lance Sergeant Johnson Beharry and the family of Bryan.

Bryan was born in Bott Lane, Lye on 21 January 1882. His father was a coalminer and as young child the family moved to Whitwood Mere, a mining village near Castleford, Yorkshire. Bryan joined his father to work at Whitwood Colliery and in 1903 married Sarah Smart and later had five children.

On 22 December 1915 Bryan was sent to the Western Front with the 25th Battalion, Northumberland Fusiliers. The battalion moved to the Somme in April 1916 but Bryan was sent home to recover from a broken ankle, he returned to the front later that year and was promoted to lance corporal in March 1917.  

On the first day of the Battle of Arras, 9 April 1917, the Fusiliers began to advance well but were held up by a German machine-gun which halted all movement. Capt Huntley with L/Cpl Bryan set out to find it but the Capt Huntley was killed by a sniper when he raised his head to use his binoculars so L/Cpl Bryan went on alone.

The official citation states that he was awarded the Victoria Cross:

“For most conspicuous bravery during an attack.

“Although wounded, this Non-commissioned Officer went forward alone, with a view to silencing a machine gun which was inflicting much damage. He worked up most skilfully along a communication trench, approached the gun from behind, disabled it and killed two of the team as they were abandoning the gun.

“As this machine gun had been a serious obstacle in the advance to the second objective, the results obtained by Lance-Corporal Bryan’s gallant action were very far-reaching.”

In an interview with the St. George’s Gazette, June 1917, L/Cpl Bryan said: 

“Creeping over the top, I went from shell-hole to shell-hole. Whilst making my way along, I was spotted by one of the enemy, who, letting drive, caught me in the right arm. Following this bit of hard luck, I decided to try a bit of rapid fire on the place where I thought the machine gun was placed and, on this being carried out, the gun which had been spitting forth its fire of death barked no more.”

Bryan was presented the Victoria Cross by King George V in June 1917 in front of a crowd of 40,000 people at St James Park, Newcastle. His medals were acquired by the Lord Ashcroft collection in 2000 and are currently on display at the Imperial War Museum.

The borough commemoration which includes a short service led by Reverend Simon Falshaw, and the unveiling of the memorial stone dedicated to Bryan, will take place at 2pm on Sunday 9 April at the war memorial in Mary Stevens Park, Stourbridge.

Lance Corporal Bryan’s memorial will be the second of three to be installed across the borough, joining Second Lieutenant Baxter’s memorial also located in Mary Steven’s Park. The third memorial, to Private Thomas Barratt of Coseley, will be commemorated on 27 July. Each plaque is unveiled 100 years to the day of each man’s VC achievement.


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