b. 28/01/1895 Boldon Colliery, County Durham. d. 15/10/1966 Whickham, County Durham
Thomas Young (1895-1966) was born as Thomas Morrell on 28th January 1895 in Boldon, County Durham. His father, Thomas was killed in a mining accident when Thomas junior was young, and his mother remarried to Surtees Young. He left school early to become a miner prior to the outbreak of World War One. He joined up with the Gateshead Territorials at the age of 18 and was given the service number 203590. When he enlisted, he used the surname Young. He then transferred into the 9th Battalion, Durham Light Infantry in 1914.
At the time of his enlistment, he was working as a hewer at High Spen, near Blaydon, just one of thousands of Durham miners who served in their county’s regiment during the Great War. At the start of the War, the 9th Durham Light Infantry had been at camp in North Wales. The Battalion returned to Durham for training prior to being posted to the Western Front. The 9th finally disembarked at Boulogne on 20th April 1915 and was immediately thrown into the Second Battle of Ypres. In the ranks was stretcher bearer Thomas Young.
As part of the 151st Brigade of the 50th Division, the 9th served at Ypres, on the Somme, at Arras and at Passchendaele. On 16th September 1916 at High Wood, on the Somme, Thomas was wounded in the left thigh by a bullet and was evacuated to England, where he was out of action until May 1917.
During the period 25th – 31st March 1918 at Bucquoy, France, Private Young, a stretcher-bearer, worked unceasingly evacuating the wounded from seemingly impossible places. On nine different occasions he went out in front of British lines in broad daylight, under heavy rifle, machine-gun and shell fire and brought back wounded to safety. Those too badly wounded to be moved before dressing, he dressed under fire and then carried them back unaided. He saved nine lives in this manner.
He was presented with his VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 29th June 1918 and shortly afterwards returned to Gateshead for a spell of leave. However, much to his surprise, he was met by five coal minee officials who were waiting to take him to his home in a pony and trap. The pony took them along Scotswood Road in Blaydon, where it rested, and then on to High Spen. Tommy lived in a house in East Street and it was dressed with flags and bunting and the Earl of Durham gave him a watch, some War Bonds and a silver cigarette case. He was also given a civic reception in front of 15,000 people at Saltwell Park, Gateshead.
After the war Young went back to work in the mines but he was unable to keep his job as a hewer because of ill-health and took on a new job as a £9 a week baths attendant at the mine where he worked. In 1923, he appeared in court along with a companion, Samuel Cutter, on a charge of having stolen some chickens. He was placed on probation and Young’s solicitor stated that “Young was so drunk that he did not know what he was doing. Young slept on the kitchen floor that night and next morning woke to find hens beside him.”
In 1936, his VC was spotted by a former officer in the 9th Durham’s in a pawnbroker’s shop along with a gold watch that was inscribed to Young. The prices were £50 and £60 respectively, at a time when the going rate for a VC was about £40. The Regiment organised their purchase and the VC was placed on display at the Regimental Museum in Durham. Sadly, the Museum is now closed and the medal in storage. In 1939, Young rejoined his Regiment for a short period but his wife died, and he was discharged in order to look after his family. Unfortunately Young, turned to alcohol and was constantly in financial trouble.
Young’s health continued to decline due to his wounds and from being gassed in the Great War. He died at a council-run men’s hostel, The Hermitage, Whickham, County Durham on 15th October 1966. He was buried in St Patrick’s Churchyard, High Spen with full military honours. One of his sons was amongst the mourners.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: DURHAM LGT INFANTRY MUSEUM, DURHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: ST PATRICKS CEMETERY, HIGH SPEN, DURHAM.
Thomas Stewart – Images of the Young VC Medal when displayed at the Durham Light Infantry Museum, Durham, and Thomas Young VC grave.
Andrew Swan – Images of the Young VC Stone in Boldon Colliery, and of the stained glass window at Gibson Court Medical Centre, Boldon Colliery.