John Thomas (10th May 1886 to 28th February 1954)

 

Here I am besides the brave bones of John Thomas. On 30th November 1917 the 31-year-old John was fighting at Fontaine in France. The troop had attacked Germans soldiers but, from his position, John saw they were preparing to counter-attack. With another soldier and on their own initiative they decided to take a closer look.

 

In full view of the enemy and under heavy fire they made their way unscathed to a building used by the enemy as a night post. From here they could see German troops were assembling for the attack. Over an hour they watched, sniping the enemy then returning with information so vital it meant they were fully prepared when the Germans attacked.

 

King George V presented him with a Victoria Cross in March 1918 at Buckingham Palace.

 

Recently a five-page letter John had written in the trenches was found. He told how he thought about deserting from the army. He was sick of the hell and horror of the Western Front and he considered walking off towards the German lines to be taken prisoner so he would not witness any more carnage. Later he told his siblings they had little idea of the sickening sights soldiers endured in the trenches. He was lucky to be alive as he penned the letter after a battle in which only 35 soldiers had survived out of 950.

 

He survived the war and died in Stockport in 1954 aged 67.

 

I had a wander around the cemetery looking for other wars graves. I read the names and age (not always there) then do a hatless salute. I’ve been doing this for a few years and for the second time ever occasioned upon the grave of a female soldier (died aged 22.)

 

Recently I passed this cemetery and went to do a salute for John. I had a stroll around the cemetery as it was a sunny day and found the headstone of Private Mark Fletcher who died aged 21 in the Falklands War. This war was the first Britain had been involved with in my lifetime and I can still remember my mum coming into my bedroom one morning (to wake me up for college) saying, “they’ve started!” (meaning the bombing.) Mark was killed during the night advance of Darwin Hill whilst attending to a Corporal’s wounds. He was found lying beside the Corporal with a shell dressing open in his hand.

 

Not by accident his headstone is back to back with another solider Lance Corporal Clinton Collins who died in a blast in the conflict in Northern Ireland aged 20. Poor kids. I wonder what would have become of them had they lived.

 

 

About to search for John…

 

Found him…

 

Touching the “VC” and there it is on John’s chest…

 

 

At the grave of Margaret Kitchen (who died aged 22)…

 

At the grave of Private Mark Fletcher who died in the Falklands conflict…

 

 

…and, heads almost touching, the grave of Clinton Collins who died in Northern Ireland from a blast…

 

 

With more war graves…