7 September 2006

Reproduced below are the emails that began and concluded with the care and maintenance of the grave of Private Thomas Turrall VC in the Robin Hood Cemetery, Solihull, Warwickshire.

Dear Sir,
I would like to bring to the attention of the VC & GC Association the grave of T.G. Turrall VC. It is in need of some maintenance. I have done some work on it, cleaned the headstone, but not as well as I would like, as I am 77 years old and slightly disabled so can only do a little at a time. If the association could help tidy up his grave I would be very pleased. His citation for his award tells me what a remarkably brave man he was. Hoping you will be able to help.
Yours sincerely,
Len Copsey.
Having previously experienced the excellent relationship between the Worcestershire Regiment and their Victoria Cross holders, I forwarded Len Copsey's email to the Regimental Headquarters and below was their response.
Dear Mr. Copsey,
Your email to Mr. Stewart has been passed to me at RHQ. Our Museum Attendant visited Thomas Turrall's grave yesterday and has continued the excellent work which you started. We will endeavour to keep an eye on the grave in the future as I believe Private Turrall has no living relatives. I am grateful to you for cleaning the grave and for bringing its state to my attention.
Bob Prophet,
Major ( Retired ), Regimental Secretary.

On the 2nd July 1916 the 58th Brigade attacked the strongly fortified village of La Boisselle and secured a position on the southern face. As the German machine guns were very active it was decided to continue the attack in the night. The troops formed up opposite the village and the order to advance was given at 3am with the 10th Bn, Worcestershire Regiment, crossing open ground and into the German defensive positions.

When it grew lighter a small group, including Turrall under the command of Lieutenant Jennings, was suddenly fired upon from a hidden German position where Jennings was severely wounded and had one of his legs shattered by bullets. Turrall took charge of the situation and dragged his officer into the safety of a nearby shell hole and began to dress Jennings' wounds, using part of an entrenching tool as a splint and one of his own puttees for a bandage. While he worked several bombs were thrown at him as the enemy had seen movement in the shell hole. The bombers were concealed behind a hedge and Turrall managed to kill at least one of them with rifle fire before the enemy withdrew.

However, Turrall could see that there was a mass of Germans attempting to re-take the village in a strong counter-attack. His officer had fainted and there was no point in shooting and so he feigned death, being prodded with bayonets but survived. The enemy counter-attack against the British defences failed. Turrall had to remain until dark in his shell hole and then hoisting up his wounded officer he dragged him back towards the British lines. Jennings was a very tall man and his arms were around Turrall's neck and his feet dragged along behind him. The two men were challenged by British sentries but Turrall's English voice was recognised and the two men were allowed back into their lines.

Jennings was able to give a full report on Turrall's bravery but unfortunately his wounds were to prove mortal and he died a few hours later at Denancourt field dressing station.

For the award of the Victoria Cross.

[ London Gazette, 9 September 1916 ], La Boisselle, France, 3 July 1916, Private Thomas George Turrall, 10th Bn, Worcestershire Regiment.

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty ( La Boisselle, France ). During a bombing attack by a small party against the enemy the officer in charge was badly wounded, and the party having penetrated the position to a great depth was compelled eventually to retire. Private Turrall remained with the wounded officer for three hours, under continuous and vary heavy fire from machine guns and bombs, and, notwithstanding that both himself and the officer were at one time completely cut off from our troops, he held to his ground with determination, and finally carried the officer into our lines after our counter-attacks had made this possible.

Thomas Turrall was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 31st December 1916.

Following his discharge from the Army, Thomas Turrall attended many regimental functions and was often the guest of honour. He also attended many of the VC and GC Reunions and became a well known and respected figure in Worcestershire and the Midlands. On the 19th February 1964 two days before Turrall died he received a visit from two Lieutenant Colonels from the Regiment who found him in 'very good cheer'. Turrall died in Selly Oak Hospital, Birmingham at the age of 78 and was given a full military funeral at the Robin Hood Cemetery, Solihull, Warwickshire.

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Private Thomas Turrall,
10th Bn, Worcestershire Regiment
  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • King George V Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )


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Iain Stewart, 7 September 2006