Newfoundland and Labrador: a Contribution Remembered (part 19)


Tommy Ricketts


^^^ Private Thomas Ricketts, a Boy Soldier who enlisted at the age of 15, became the youngest soldier in the British Army to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War.


 

On October 14th, 1918, while attacking enemy positions near Ledeghem (Belgium), Private

Ricketts’ platoon was subjected to heavy hostile fire and suffered severe casualties.



Ricketts, and two others, at once volunteered to go forward with a Lewis gun, in an attempt to outflank the enemy battery.



Three hundred yards away, and out of ammunition, Private Ricketts doubled back across no man’s land for more ammunition and then dashed back again to the Lewis gun.



With incredibly accurate fire, the enemy was driven off and their platoon was able to advance without more casualties.



They captured four field guns, four machine guns and eight prisoners.



By his presence of mind and his utter disregard for personal safety, the heroic actions of Private Ricketts directly resulted in these important captures and undoubtedly saved many lives.



Private Ricketts, a Boy Soldier who enlisted at the age of 15, became the youngest soldier in the British Army to be awarded the Victoria Cross during the Great War.



He was only seventeen at the time.



He was also awarded the French Croix de Geurre.



There was a poignant moment during his Investiture at Sandringham Palace on 21 January 1919. On the previous day, the King and Queen had suffered the sad death of their son, Prince John.



So, the King arranged for a private ceremony at York Cottage where King George warmly

welcomed the youthful Ricketts, like his own son saying, “This is the youngest VC in my Army.”



(In fairness, there was another Newfoundlander who won the VC in WW1. He was Private John Croak, who, interestingly, served with the Canadian Expeditionary Force – a foreign country at the time. He won the honour on August 8th,1918, during the Battle of Amiens.)



Also, by a twist of fate, on the same day that Ricketts earned his VC, another Private Thomas Ricketts was killed in action. It is believed that they were cousins.



After the war, Ricketts studied pharmacy and opened a drug store on Water Street in St.

John’s.



Sergeant Ricketts was given a State Funeral when he died in 1967 at the age of 65.



He is commemorated by a memorial on the former site of his pharmacy.


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In June 2022, we look forward to having Gerry back on the battlefields with us, escorting us on a special pilgrimage to Gallipoli Turkey, to see for the first time, the last of the six Caribou along the Newfoundland Caribou Trail in Europe. Click June 2022 >