22 October 2003

( select to enlarge )
Medal entitlement of Sergeant Thomas Ricketts,
1st Bn, Royal Newfoundland Regiment

  • Victoria Cross
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 ) ( not shown )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 ) ( not shown )
  • Croix de Guerre ( France )
The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Sergeant Thomas Ricketts, 1st Bn, Royal Newfoundland Regiment, were donated to the Canadian War Museum, Ottawa, on the 22nd October 2003 by his widow, Mrs. Edna Ricketts in the presence of their descendants. Thomas Ricketts was awarded the VC for his action in the closing stages of the Great War in October 1918.

Thomas Ricketts was born on the 15 April 1901 at Middle Arm, White Bay, Newfoundland, son of John Ricketts, a fisherman, and Amelia Ricketts. In September 1916, when only 15, he travelled to St. John's and enlisted in the Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

[ London Gazette, 6 January 1919 ], Ledeghem, Belgium, 14 October 1918, No 3102, Private Thomas Ricketts, 1st Bn, Royal Newfoundland Regiment.

"For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on the 14th October 1918, during the advance from Ledeghem, when the attack was temporarily held up by heavy hostile fire and the platoon to which he belonged suffered severe casualties from the fire of an enemy battery at point-blank range.

He volunteered to go with his section commander and a Lewis gun to attempt to outflank the battery. Advancing by short rushes under heavy fire from enemy machine-guns, their ammunition was exhausted when still 300 yards from the battery. The enemy, seeing an opportunity to get their field guns away began to bring up their gun teams. Private Ricketts at once realising the situation, doubled back 100 yards under the heaviest machine-gun fire, procured further ammunition, dashed back again to the Lewis gun, and by very accurate fire drove the enemy and the gun teams into a farm. His platoon then advanced without casualties and captured the four field guns, four machine-guns and eight prisoners. A fifth field gun was subsequently intercepted by fire and captured

By his presence of mind in anticipating the enemy intention and his utter disregard of personal safety, Private Ricketts secured the further supply of ammunition which directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtably saved many lives."

On the 18th January 1919 Thomas Ricketts received a message informing him that he was to be invested with the Victoria Cross by King George V on the following day, Sunday, 19th January 1919. As he was shortly due to return home to Newfoundland, the King instructed that Ricketts should proceed by train to Sandringham, the sovereign's country estate in Norfolk, where he would be invested with his Victoria Cross. The ceremony took place in the estate's York Cottage where the King, accompanied by Princess Mary and Prince George, chatted with Ricketts for ten minutes before pinning the VC on his uniform coat. He was then the youngest living recipient of the Victoria Cross.

Ricketts returned home to Newfoundland in February 1919 and was demobilised on the 1st of July. After running his own pharmacy in St. John's for many years he passed away on the 10th February 1967 and was given a state funeral by the Provincial Government. He is buried in the Anglican Cemetery, Forest Road, St. John's.

Today a memorial marks the former site of his pharmacy. This year, on the 29th June 2003, as part of the ceremonies commemorating the Battle of Beaumont Hamel ( part of the Somme Offensive - 1st July 1916 ), a wreath was laid at Ricketts memorial, his VC citation read out, and the Last Post played by a Trumpeter ( Master Corporal Jim Prowse ) of the Royal Newfoundland Regiment Band.

With Thomas Ricketts' VC and other medals on display in the Canadian War Museum, hopefully more Newfoundlanders and Canadians will learn more about this quiet hero of the First World War.


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Iain Stewart, 22 October 2003