The war hero who was forced to sell his Victoria Cross...

London Gazette September 6 1917
London Gazette September 6 1917
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After scramling across the muddy and bloody fields of Ypres, the Private returned to poverty.

In the book and film Born on the Fourth of July, Ron Kovic was paralysed in the Vietnam War and became an anti-war and pro-human rights political activist after feeling betrayed by the country he fought for.

HERO: Thomas Whitham VC

HERO: Thomas Whitham VC

The biography graphically showcased the personal milieu of the returning soldiers after war is over.

For one Lancashire lad, the experience of his war was very different to his life in peacetime - and he was forced to sell the ultimate tribute to his courage.

Thomas Whitham VC (May 11 1888– October 22 1924)was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.

He enlisted in the Army on January 25 1915 at 29, becoming a private in the 1st Battalion, Coldstream Guards.

Two years later, on July 31 1917 at Pilckem near Ypres, Belgium, he scrambled through muddy shellholes on the battlefield to seize a machine gun that had been scything down his comrades.

After the war he became a bricklayer but struggled to find work.

He was forced to sell his VC and a gold watch that had been presented to him by Burnley Council in recognition of his bravery.

Both ended up in a pawn shop but were rescued by the council and are on display in the Towneley Hall Art Gallery & Museums in Burnley along with the painting on the right.

Thomas died in poverty aged 36. He was buried on October 27 1924 at Wheatley Lane Inghamite Church.

In 1952 a grave memorial was erected for him by the Coldstream Guards Association.

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