Victoria Cross recipient visits Coseley

Credit: Memorials to Valour

One of the country’s only living Victoria Cross recipients paid his respects to a Coseley war hero at a special ceremony last week.

Dr Johnson Beharry VC joined other honoured guests including The Mayor of Dudley; High Sherriff of the West Midlands, John Hudson; Deputy Lord Lieutenant of West Midlands, Richard Boot and family members in a memorial service to commemorate the bravery of fellow Victoria Cross recipient, Private Thomas Barratt.

Thursday marked the exact date 100 years on when Coseley-born Barratt, a soldier in the South Staffords Regiment, was posthumously awarded the VC for action at Passchandaele.

Barratt’s patrol came under fire from German snipers and a number of these were killed by Barratt. The Germans then opened up from a strong position in some ruined houses, pinning down the patrol. It was then that the platoon commander used his Lewis gun and grenadier sections to cover the withdrawal of his two rifle sections. All the Lewis gunners were killed.

A large party of Germans were then trying to outflank the patrol's withdrawal. Barratt volunteered to cover the withdrawal and remained behind. Under heavy machine and rifle fire he single-handedly held off the German party, shooting at least six of them although there are reports that he shot a lot more. Once the platoon had reached the home trenches Barratt started to make his way back. He succeeded in reaching home lines to be then tragically killed by a stray shell at the age of just 22.

Now, 100 years later, a special stone was unveiled in his memory at Coseley Memorial in the presence of Beharry, one of only a handful of living Victoria Cross recipients in the country. Beharry was awarded his medal in 2005 for his ‘individual acts of great heroism by which he saved the lives of his comrades’ as a Lance Sergeant in Iraq on May 1, 2004. Beharry was driving an armoured vehicle, which was hit by a multiple rocket propelled grenades. 

A number of soldiers were injured and Beharry was forced to open his hatch to steer his vehicle and expose himself to enemy fire.  He drove the crippled vehicle through the ambush, taking his own crew and leading five other vehicles to safety. Councillor Dave Tyler, Mayor of Dudley, said:

“It was a great privilege and an honour to be part of a special service in memory of a true hero who gave his life whilst saving the lives of his comrades. The bravery of Private Thomas Barratt should never be forgotten and this local man will be forever remembered and the memorial stone is a fitting tribute.

“We were delighted to welcome Dr Johnson Beharry to the borough as part of this special event.”

The borough commemoration included a short service led by Reverend Emma Stanford from Christ Church, where there are two memorial plaques dedicated to Barratt.


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