b. 21/10/1893 Salisbury, Wiltshire. d. 28/05/1975 Hayling Island, Hampshire.
Tom Edwin Adlam (1893-1975) was born at Waterloo Gardens, Milford, Salisbury, Wiltshire on 21st October 1893. His father, John, was a wheelwright, and his mother was Evangeline nee Phillips, a tailoress. They married in 1882 in Alderbury. Tom had five siblings – Gertude Elsie (born 1884), Ewart John (born 1886), Evelyn Violet (born 1887), Edward Percy Wilfred (born 1890) and Dorothy Ethel (born 1900).
Tom was educated at St Martin’s Infants School, Bishop Wordsworth’s School and the Pupil Teachers Centre, all in Salisbury. He then attended Winchester Training College from 1912-14. He was a keen sportsman and regularly turned out for Salisbury City FC with his brother Edward in the Southern League Second Division 1906-11. He became a teacher at Brook Street Council School, Basingstoke.
Tom enlisted in 4th Hampshire Territorial Force in September 1912 and served with 2/4th Hampshire early in the Great War. 1/4th and 2/4th Hampshire served in India from late 1914 and early 1915 respectively. 2/4th Hampshire sailed from Southampton on 13th December 1914, arriving at Karachi on 11th January 1915. He returned to Britain late in 1915, and was commissioned into the Bedfordshire Regiment on 16th November, and was posted to 9th (Reserve) Battalion, part of 6th Reserve Brigade stationed at Dovercourt, Essex.
On 21st June 1916, Tom married Ivy Annette nee Mace, at St Mark’s Church, South Farnborough, Hampshire. The couple went on to have four children – Josephine (born in 1918), Stephanie (born in 1923), Roger (born in 1924), and Clive (born in 1929). Tom was posted to 7th Battalion, joining C Company at Maricourt, France on 18th July 1916.
On 27th September 1916 at Thiepval, France, a portion of a village which had defied capture had to be taken at all costs and Second Lieutenant Adlam rushed from shell-hole to shell-hole under very heavy fire collecting men for a sudden rush. At this stage he was wounded in the leg but in spite of his wound he led the rush, captured the position and killed the occupants. Throughout the day he continued to lead his men and on the following day, although wounded again he still led and encouraged them. His magnificent example and behaviour produced far-reaching results.
The VC was presented to Tom by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 2nd December 1916. On 16th December he was presented with a gold watch by the Mayor of Salisbury, on behalf of the people of the city. He was also awarded the Italian Silver Medal for Military Valour on 26th May 1917. Tom was not fit to return to active duty and became an instructor at No 2 Officer Cadet Battalion, Cambridge. He was appointed Temporary Lieutenant on 19th April 1917 and became Lieutenant on 1st July. He was acting Captain for the latter stages of the war, and relinquished his commission.
He returned to the military though, being commissioned as Lieutenant in the Army Educational Corps on 11th December 1920, and served in Ireland during the Troubles. He was confirmed as Lieutenant in December 1921 and in February 1922 he unveiled the war memorial outside Salisbury Guildhall. The service was conducted by the Reverend WRF Addison VC. Tom transferred to the Regular Army Reserve of Officers on 20th February 1923 as a Captain. Tom was then employed as an Assistant Master at Sandy Church of England School in Bedfordshire and was the first Chairman of the Sandy British Legion 1922-1926. While there he was a Scoutmaster and a member of Biggleswade Football Club. In 1926, he became Headmaster of Blackmoor Church of England School, Liss, Hampshire.
On 24th August 1939 Tom was recalled as Captain and served with the Royal Engineers as a Staff Captain with the Movement Control Section at Avonmouth Docks. In February 1940 he was appointed Deputy Assistant Quartermaster General at Glasgow until August 1943. He later was Commandant at Dover, Kent and Tilbury, Essex from 1943-1946, including involvement in the Normandy invasion.
He returned to Blackmoor Church of England School after the war, and remained in post until 1952, when it closed and he retired. He bought the school and converted it into a family home. He became Clerk to Whitehill Parish Council and Secretary of the Blackmoor Flower Show Club. Tom attended every VC/GC Reunion between 1920 and 1974. In 1933 he led the Remembrance Day Parade at the Cenotaph with Christopher Cox VC, also formerly of 7th Bedfordshire. In July 1966, he was one of 12 VCs invited to take part in the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Somme. On 6th April 1970, he was one of the “10 VCs on a VC10” inaugural flight from London to Nairobi.
Tom died whilst on holiday at Hayling Island, Hampshire on 28th May 1975 and was buried with his wife in St Matthew’s Churchyard, Blackmoor, Liss, Hampshire. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and the Italian Silver Medal for Military Valour. The VC was held on loan by the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire Regiment Museum, Luton from 1990. On 27th September 2003 the medals were presented to Salisbury Guildhall by his grandson, Sergeant Martin Adlam RAF, on loan from the family.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SALISBURY GUILD HALL (ON LOAN FROM FAMILY).
BURIAL PLACE: ST MATTHEW’S CHURCHYARD, BLACKMOOR, HAMPSHIRE
Steve Lee www.memorialstovalour.co.uk – Images of the VC stone in Salisbury and the medal image of Salisbury Guild Hall
Hazel and Clive Adlam – images of Tom Adlam VC