Thursday, 14 July 2011

News - VC recognised 90 years later (Mexborough/Sheffield)

The name of a Swinton rail worker who was awarded the Victoria Cross after he died in action in the Great War will finally be recognised alongside his fallen comrades on a railway war memorial.

Lance Corporal Thomas Jackson was posthumously awarded the VC for Conspicuous Bravery after he was killed during an attack across the Canal du Nord near Graincourt, France in 1918.

His name is proudly mentioned on the plaque at Mexborough Railway Station, where he worked cleaning locomotives during peacetime.

But Cpl Jackson’s name was not added to the Great Central Railway War Memorial alongside thousands of fallen railway workers , when it was built in Sheffield in 1922.

Sheffield railway historian Ken Grainger, who has researched and documented every name on the Sheffield memorial, is campaigning to remedy the omission.

Ken told the Times: “ When I visited Mexborough Railway Station I had a look at the war memorial plaque and to my surprise I found the name of Thomas Jackson VC. His name is not on the memorial at Sheffield , it is as if he never existed. I thought , of all the people to forget, they left off a VC!”

Ken is the area representative of the Great Central Railway Society and secretary of the War Memorial Committee. The Great Central Railway war memorial was built in 1922 in memory of the 1,304 employees of the Great Central Railway Company who lost their lives in the Great War 1914-1918. The memorial was restored by The Great central Railway Society and unveiled on its former site on the forecourt of the Royal Victoria Holiday Inn, formerly the Sheffield Victoria Station Hotel. The historian has compiled a hardback book with the details of every name on the memorial culled from years of researching libraries and newspapers.

When he discovered Cpl Jackson on the Mexborough memorial he decided to investigate further and add him to the volume.

He said: “Cpl Jackson’s war grave is at Sanders Keep Military Cemetery at Graincourt-les-Havrincourt, France, it was quite easy to trace. Then I searched past issues of the South Yorkshire Times to piece together the details of his life.

“Thomas was the eldest son of Mr and Mrs Edwin Jackson of Market Street, Swinton and joined up in September 1916. He was aged 21 when he was killed.

“He joined the first Battalion of the Coldstream Guards and was a big strapping lad and very athletic.

“He died on September 27, 1918. The Guards Division were storming the Canal Du Nord which was part of the Hindenburg Line, a vast system of German defences in north eastern France during World War I. They were being held up by machine gun fire. The company commander Captain Frisby asked for volunteers to take the machine gun nest that was holding them up. Jackson was first to volunteer. He, captain Frisbee and two othes captured two machine guns and took 12 prisoners.

They were able to carry on and Thomas Jackson’s section was attacking a German trench and he shouted: “Come on boys!”

“He jumped into the trench and killed the first two soldiers he met. Then he was shot in the head. Captain Frisby recommended him for the VC.

“If I had not spotted his name on the memorial at Mexborough, I would never have known anything about his bravery. The Sheffield memorial was unveiled on August 9 , 1922 and the Great Central Railway ceased to exist in December of that year - without his name on it. Perhaps they intended for him to have a special memorial, but that is just supposition. If they missed off a VC, who is to say they have not missed others?

“The Imperial War Museum has a copy and the National Railway Museum. The book has taken four years to compile. If a man was killed in action you can find what happened that day, but if a man died of his wounds you don’t know how or when they were inflicted. The last person on the memorial died in 1920”.

Mr Grainger is hoping to have the name added in time for Armistice Day this November.

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