I WOULD like to make the folk of Castleford and Pontefract aware of a forgotten hero of Whitwood and Castleford, L Cpl Thomas Bryan VC.
Thomas received this unique medal for a deed he accomplished in Arras, France in April 1917.
This month is the 95th anniversary of his heroic deed and it will be commemorated at Arksey Cemetery in Doncaster on Sunday June 24. Further details can be found on a website set up by a Doncaster man called Gary Stapleton. He has arranged the day as well as setting up the VC Trust.
I found out about Thomas in 1999 and since then I have written a book about him and also carried on with my research. To say such a hero has been left in the dark for so long is an understatement!
On his arrival back at Castleford railway station in 1917, it was a definite town gathering. There were bands playing, children cheering, the streets were decorated, open landaus and a civic reception set for him. He was the hero of the day.
With all the changes taking place in Castleford, I would have thought this man would have somewhere dedicated to him, to show his memory will be carried on.
There are three memorials to him: Bryan Close, the oak memorial in the inner doors to Castleford Library and also a small plaque on the left hand side of the entrance to the Civic Centre. I think a more up-to-date memorial would be very fitting.
Mr Stapleton has arranged a wonderful day to commemorate Thomas, who for the best part of his life, lived and worked in Castleford. He also played rugby for Castleford for a full season before the war, so surely Castleford can do something as well?
Mr Stapleton has asked various local dignitaries to this occasion, including contacting Castleford Tigers, with unfortunately, very little response. I too contacted Castleford RLFC while working on my research for the book, and had the same response.
Come on Castleford. Let’s get something a little special sorted out in the centre of Cas for a real hero, the new library for instance? So in future years other people can see that his memory hasn’t faded and that he will no longer be a forgotten hero.
Mr Stapleton’s site, for anyone interested, is www.victoriacrosstrust.org. I can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.