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Young, T., V.C., 1914-18, (1966)
Photo : James Pasby

Photo: Imperial War Museum

Photo : James Pasby

Thomas Young family Headstone

Thomas Young with his Medals

Medal Index Card

Newcastle Journal Wednesday 26/06/1918

In St.Patrick's Cemetery is the family grave of Thomas [Morrell] Young, V.C., who died in 1966.

Thomas Murrell was born on the 28th January 1895, at Boldon Colliery, Durham the son of Thomas [born 1857], and Mary Murrell, [born 1873, nee Walker]. They had married in 1890.

In 1891, they were residing at 84 Marsden Street, Westoe, South Shields. Thomas Murrell their first child, was born there in March 1891, but he died in infancy. Also in the same household was Thomas senior's mother, Jane Murrell, born in 1827 in Deptford, Sunderland then called Jane Parker, who died in 1895.

Thomas senior was a Coal Trimmer. Their second child also named Thomas was born in 1893, he also died in infancy. The third Thomas was born in 1895. The family had moved from South Shields to Boldon Colliery by 1895.

In 1896, between July and September, Thomas senior died at the age of 39. His wife Mary was 12 years younger than Thomas and was a widow at 27.

On the 29th June 1899, Mary married Surtees Young, [born 1874, Whitburn], a mason, in South Shields.

By 1901, then aged 6, Thomas was residing with his stepfather, Surtees Young at Cliff Terrace, Ryhope. This was about this time that Thomas started to use the surname Young. Here, his parents had a new baby Surtees Young born in 1900. There were nine other children, with Thomas being the eldest.

In the Census, Mary gave an incorrect age, in 1901 she claims to be 25, yet in the 1891 census she was recorded as 22 years of age.

Thomas was educated at the Boldon Village School, then Ryhope, and afterwards Bewicke School, Rosehill.

In 1911, the family were residing at 'The Square', Willington.

By 1912, the family had moved to 25 Towneley Terrace, High Spen. Tommy Young, of East Street, was a well-known figure in the village. [Being a happy-go-lucky fellow, he quite happily pawned his medals to buy ale for himself and his friends]. He commenced work as a driver lad at the Eccles Pit, Backworth, and at the outbreak of war was employed as a motorman at the Towneley Drift, High Spen, where his stepfather was employed as a stonemason.

Thomas was a Territorial, being a member of the Chopwell 'F' Company with the service number 1975. Tall and well built, he enlisted in 1913.

Thomas later went into the 1/9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry in 1914, when his battalion was sent to France on the 20th April 1915.

His service number was changed to 203590 [which was a 1/5th Battalion regiment number], in 1917.

1/9th Battalion in August 1914 were at Gateshead 50th Northumbrian Division. 12th February 1918, were converted into a Pioneer Battalion and transferred to the 62nd (2nd West Riding) Division.

He was wounded near High Wood on the Somme on the 16th September by a bullet in his left thigh, and he was sent to the UK to recover. He returned to France in May 1917 and in his capacity as a stretcher bearer, he won the Victoria Cross, for bravery in the field.

Victoria Cross Citation for 203590 Private Thomas Young, 9th Battalion DLI, London Gazette, 4 June 1918: For most conspicuous bravery in face of the enemy when acting as a stretcher bearer. He showed throughout the whole course of the operations a most magnificent example of courage and devotion to duty. On nine different occasions he went out in front of our line in broad daylight under heavy rifle, machine-gun and shell fire which was directed on him, and brought back wounded to safety, those too badly wounded to be moved before dressing he dressed under this harassing fire and carried them unaided to our lines and safety; he rescued and saved nine lives in this manner. His untiring energy, coupled with an absolute disregard of personal danger, and the great skill he showed in dealing with casualties is beyond praise. For five days Pte. Young worked unceasingly, evacuating wounded from seemingly impossible places.

Private Young was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace in the Quadrangle on the afternoon of the 29th June 1918.

Morpeth Herald Friday, 07/06/1918.

Private Thomas Young, D.L.I. of High Spen, who has been awarded the Victoria Cross, is the eldest of twelve. Before joining up he was employed as motorman at the Towneley Drift, High Spen, where his stepfather is also employed. Private Young, V.C., was born at Boldon, and commenced work as a driver lad at Eccles Pit, Backworth.

Newcastle Journal Monday 01/07/1918.

Interesting Function At Gateshead.

"An assembly numbering upwards of 10.000, it was generally estimated, witnessed in Saltwell Park, Gateshead, yesterday afternoon, [30/06/1918] presentations to Private Thomas Young, V.C., Durham Light Infantry, the Earl of Durham, as Lord-Lieutenant of the county, taking the principal part in the interesting proceedings. A guard of honour was provided by the 1st Battalion Durham County Volunteer Regiment (Gateshead) by permission of Major G.L. Hunter, there being also in attendance Boy Scouts, members of the Church Lads Brigade, Birtley Belgian Troop, members of the W.A.A.C., the Tyneside Fife Band, and many others. The band of the Northumberland Fusiliers, by permission of Colonel Dashwood, provided the music.

The Mayor of the Borough (Mr John Maccoy), who presided, said they were assembled to honour one of the most gallant men they had sent from the north. The Durhams had done nobly from the commencement of the war, and Private Young was a worthy example. The Earl of Durham handed over to Private Young the following: A wristlet Watch and War Bonds from the Gateshead War Honours Recognition Committee: a silver cigarette case, suitably inscribed (the personal gift of the Mayor), and War Bonds, value 20, from the Officer Commanding (Lieut-Colonel Crouch) and the officers of the Durham Light Infantry on active service, per Captain J. A. C. Scott M.C. (home on leave).

His Lordship having shaken Private Young by the hand, said the people of Gateshead had done well to come in such vast numbers to do honour to Private Young, who had rendered services for which the King on Saturday pinned to his breast the Victoria Cross.. His was magnificent record of courage, endurance and humanity.

His Lordship passed on to say that he would be failing in his duty if we did not express the appreciation and delight of the county of Durham. They were justly proud of the Durhams, and he would appeal for those who were prisoners. There were nearly 2,000, and he was convinced that they would never allow these men to suffer. They would be provided with food and clothing."

Thomas Young in response replied I am not much of a speaker. There's not a man of the Durham's who wouldn't have done what I did, it was just what any one of them would have done if he could. The thing happened to come my way and I did it. That's all.

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 26/11/1918.

Mr and Mrs Thomas Moralee, Clyde Street, Chopwell, have received a telegram from the War Office announcing the death from broncho-pneumonia of their son, Lance-Corporal Thomas Moralee, which occurred in Basra Hospital. He was 31 years of age, and had been in the Army ten years. First he joined the Hussars, afterwards being in the Flying and Tank Corps, and finally being transferred to the Machine Gun Corps. He was awarded the Mons Star. He was the grandson of the late Mr Thomas Murrell, of Boldon Colliery, and cousin of the Spen V.C., Private Thomas Young.

Newcastle Journal Tuesday 26/11/1918.

Private Thomas Young, V.C., welcomed at Gateshead.

Thomas Young was given two weeks leave at the end of June 1918.

Thomas married Rachel Welch, from Rowlands Gill in May 1920. They had one child called Marion Young. He added Morrell. [not Murrell] to his name as his certificate was signed as Thomas Morrell Young, so did his wife.

He returned to his job at the High Spen Colliery. In July 1920, he re-enlisted in the 1/9th Battalion Durham Light Infantry for about a year as a Sergeant, then was discharged.

Thomas was known as the 'Cornfield VC' because he got drunk one night and lost his medals in a cornfield. He had the whole village out looking for them.

His wife Rachel died in 1940, aged 45.

Thomas joined a National Defence Company in 1939, and was in the 13th (Home Defence) Battalion until 1941, then in the 1st (Blaydon) Battalion Home Guard 1942 to 1945. 'D' Company.

[The Durham Group of National Defence Companies was formed early in 1939. These companies, based at Gateshead, Sunderland, Durham, Bishop Auckland and Stockton-on-Tees, were set up to guard certain Vulnerable Points. A number of men from the Rowlands Gill and High Spen areas served in the Gateshead Company, but unfortunately their names are not known. In charge were Lieutenant-Colonel J.E. Stafford and Major R. Boyes-Stone, and their total strength was 18 officers and 500 men, mostly first world war veterans, with an average age of 45 to 50 years. They were mobilised on August 22nd 1939, when the code word ALLENBY was issued, and were immediately renamed 41 Group, National Defence Companies with headquarters at the offices of Messrs. Liddell and Stafford in the Royal Exchange Buildings, Hood Street, Newcastle (above Mawson, Swan and Morgan).They were immediately enlisted, armed and provided with uniforms, and on August 24th they were ordered to occupy the 17 airfields, docks, ammunition depots and other Vulnerable Points assigned to them. They suffered their first casualty before war was declared; Private G.R. Milburn was killed on August 29th by a train on Croxdale Viaduct. In December 1939, 41 Group, National Defence Companies was renamed the 13th (Home Defence) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry. The Battalion also performed a useful function in training young soldiers until the Young Soldier battalions were formed. Officers and men trained by the 13th Battalion provided a nucleus of personnel for both the 70th (Young Soldier) Battalion, Durham Light Infantry and the 70th (Young Soldier) Battalion, Royal Northumberland Fusiliers. (Most Young Soldier battalions disappeared early in 1942 when the conscription age was lowered to 18 years, but the 70th D.L.I. became a demonstration battalion at the newly formed G.H.Q. Battle School at Barnard Castle and survived until September 1943).

With thanks to the late Brian Pears for the above information on the National Defence Companies.

Thomas Morrell Young, [as his signature shows on the Home Guard Enlistment form], was promoted Corporal on the 3rd March 1943, then Sergeant on the 4th July 1944. He resided at 7 East Street, High Spen, which is shown on his 1942 Home Guard Enrolment Form, at Whickham, Gateshead. His service in the Home Guard started from the 30th November 1942. He was discharged the 31st December 1945, on the disbandment of the Home Guard.

He continued to work as a miner, finally as a pithead bath's attendant. Due to ill-health he eventually retired.

Thomas moved from East Street, High Spen, to Chopwell, and in July 1966 into a old people's home, Council Men Hostel, The Hermitage, Front Street, Whickham. He died on the 15th October 1966, age 71. He was buried four days later at St Patrick's Churchyard, High Spen.

Thomas Young was a keen member of the Victoria Cross and George Cross Association.

On the 26th June 1920, Thomas Young was among the list of guests who attended King George V's afternoon party held at Buckingham Palace for recipients of the Victoria Cross.

In the DLI Regimental journal of October 1966, one of Thomas Young VC's old 9 DLI officers wrote: Tommy to all who knew him died suddenly...With his fair share of normal human frailties, he was a modest and kind man with an intense love of his Regiment... Whilst his gallantry was certainly in the heat of battle, that heat was around him and not in him. He did not capture any machine gun post lone handed, he did not kill any of the enemy, he had in fact no lethal weapon, just his quiet determination to bring in the wounded, his stretcher, and nine times he went calmly out, unarmed, to what ought to have been certain death... We must always be proud of any VC, but perhaps extra proud of selflessness like this.

There was a VC Memorial stone [of York Stone Scoutmoor of a standard approved design featuring a circle inside which is engraved the Victoria Cross and the inscription. It weighs nearly a hundredweight], laid to his memory on the 27th March 2018. This is part of the Government led initiative to remember all the VC's from WW1.

His story is told in:

Beyond Praise - The Durham Light Infantrymen who were awarded the Victoria Cross ; Shannon, Durham Books C.C. Arts, Libraries & Museums Dept., 1998, ISBN 1 897585 44 6.

Durham Town and Country Issue 54 Spring 2006 tells his story along with those of other winners of the V.C.

The Complete Victoria Cross: A full chronological record of all holders of Britain's highest award for gallantry: Kevin Brazier; Pen and Sword; 2010; ISBN 1 84884150-7 p.263 tells the story but states that Thomas Young's real name was Morrell.

Acknowledgements: John Young, relative

Thomas [Morrell] Young is remembered at Boldon on B148.04, in Durham on D47.071, at High Spen on H106.04 and South Shields on S86.164

Home Guard
Durham Light Infantry Thomas Young story
Brian Pears Home Guard relating to the North East

Home Guard Enrolment Papers Crown Copyright

If you know more about this person, please send the details to janet@newmp.org.uk