b. 19/04/1863 Brill, Buckinghamshire. d. 27/03/1953 Woodford Bridge, London.
Thomas Edwards (1863-1953) was born on 19th April 1863 in Brill, near Aylesbury, Buckinghamshire. In 1880, aged 17, Thomas Edwards decided to join the Army and attested for service at York, joining the 6th Brigade for his training and general service. However, in August 1881 he was transferred to the 1st Battalion, The Royal Highlanders (The Black Watch ). The majority of his military service, which totalled about 12 years, was spent with this regiment, the first six or seven years spent in Egypt and the Sudan.
Edwards was soon involved in the Egyptian campaigns that were to take place from 1882-89. These various campaigns revolved around a particular individual known as the Mahdi who saw himself as the living reincarnation of the Prophet Mohammed. His rebellion which sought to remove the Sudan from Egyptian rule had already resulted in the defeat and massacre of at least three Egyptian expeditionary forces as they sought to advance up the Nile to capture the Mahdi and put down the rebellion.
The Battle of Tamaai involved both units of the British Army and the Navy who were attempting to move in support of the Egyptians. This battle again saw the enormous fanaticism of the Mahdi’s Dervishes pitched against the disciplined but heavily out-numbered British and Egyptian troops.
Edwards was part of a naval gun team responsible for carrying the gun’s ammunition on mules and defending the team. As the battle developed the Dervishes threatened to overrun some of the guns and Edwards’ gun in particular became seperated from the main part of the British force. Several of his gun team were killed, including the naval officer in charge – but Edwards took charge of events, succeeded in saving the gun, the mules and the ammunition, whilst returning what remained of the naval gun team to safety despite bing wounded several times. His conspicuous gallantry was registered by the award of the Victoria Cross two months later on 21 May 1884.
It is not known when or where Thomas received his medal so it is possible he received it by post. continued to serve in Egypt for two more years and then moved with The Black Watch back to Malta and then to the United Kingdom, where he was transferred to the reserve in 1892 as being of ‘good’ character. He remained a private throughout his service career.
After leaving the Army, Edwards married and had two children, a son and daughter. He moved from York to Essex late in life and lived in the village of Woodford Bridge. He died on the 27th March 1952, aged 91, and is registered has having been buried in the churchyard of St. Mary’s at Chigwell, since the church at Woodford Bridge had no graveyard. Why he should have been buried in an unmarked grave is a mystery. In 2001, a new headstone was placed at the entrance to the churchyard. His medals are held by the Black Watch Museum, Perth, Scotland.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: BLACK WATCH MUSEUM, PERTH, SCOTLAND.
BURIAL PLACE: ST MARY’S CHURCHYARD, CHIGWELL, ESSEX.
HEADSTONE SAYS “BURIED IN THIS CHURCHYARD”
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Edwards’ VC Medal Group and reverse of his VC medal at the Black Watch Museum, Perth, Scotland.