Private Thomas Barratt

Born: 05/05/1895

Died: 27/07/1917

Unit: 7th Bn South Staffordshire Regiment

Location of VC action: Boezinge, Belgium

Date of VC action: 27/07/1917

Citation: For most conspicuous bravery when as Scout to a patrol he worked his way towards the enemy line with the greatest gallantry and determination, in spite of continuous fire from hostile snipers at close range. These snipers he stalked and killed. Later his patrol was similarly held up, and again he disposed of the snipers. When during the subsequent withdrawal of the patrol it was observed that a party of the enemy were endeavouring to outflank them, Pte. Barratt at once volunteered to cover the retirement, and this he succeeded in accomplishing. His accurate shooting caused many casualties to the enemy and prevented their advance. Throughout the enterprise he was under heavy machine gun and rifle fire, and his splendid example of coolness and daring was beyond all praise. After safely regaining our lines, this very gallant soldier was killed by a shell.

Thomas Barratt was the youngest of three children born to James and Sarah Barratt in Coseley. Sarah died when Thomas was three years old and both he and his father were forced to move into the Dudley Workhouse as James was unable to work due to health reasons. Thomas lived at the workhouse for nine years, during which time he ran away on multiple occasions to family members who kept sending him back to the workhouse. When Thomas was 12, he ran away to his grandmother, who then legally adopted him.

When war broke out, Barratt was working at the boilermakers Thompson Brothers in Bilston. He was a well known character due to his physical stature. He was very well built from his work in the factory and was 6feet 4 inches tall. Barratt enlisted in January 1915 and served at Suvla Bay during the Gallipoli campaign with his unit before being moved to the Western Front.

Unfortunately, the action for which Barratt was awarded the VC also killed him. He is buried at Essex Farm Cemetery near Ypres, the site of an Advanced Dressing Station. As his VC was posthumous, it was awarded to his family on 20th October 1917. Sadly, the VC was presented by the King to Barratt’s brother, one of the family members who kept turning him back to the workhouse, and not his grandmother who had taken him in. Barratt is commemorated in many ways in his local area. He is listed on the Coseley War Memorial, Coseley Parish Church and Darkhouse Baptist Chapel Memorials. When the latter was demolished, the memorial was moved to the chapel at Whittington Barracks. He was also listed on the memorial at Thompson Brothers, which was offered to the Staffordshire Regiment Museum when the factory closed in the 60s. He also has a set of flats named after him in Tipton. Barratt’s medals are kept on display at the Staffordshire Regiment Museum.

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