Tom Dresser VC statue unveiled

The newest statue to a local Victoria Cross (VC) winner has been unveiled outside the Dorman Museum.  The statue was commissioned to mark 100 years since Private Tom Dresser was awarded a VC for his heroic actions in a battlefield in France, and was created by sculptor Brian Alabaster, who also created the amazing Stanley Hollis VC statue which stands opposite the Dorman Museum.

Tom Dresser was born in Yorkshire, around the beginning of the 1890s.  There are conflicting accounts of where, specifically, he was born, and in which year – it varies between 1891 and 1892.  According to the Beck Isle Museum in Pickering, which claims to have a copy of Dresser’s birth certificate, he was born near Easingwold on 9th April 1891, so hopefully this is a reliable record!

We do know that Tom was educated at Hugh Bell school here in Middlesbrough. He worked for Dorman Long, both before and after the war, before taking over his father’s newsagents, which stood at 65 Marton Road.  Many older residents of Middlesbrough still remember him, and the fact that he kept his VC in a tobacco tin behind the counter!

Tom Dresser’s VC was awarded for his actions on a battlefield near Roeux, France, on 12 May 1917, when he was aged just 24 years old and a Private with the 7th Yorkshire Howards Regiment.

His official VC citation gives more information:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty. Private Dresser, in spite of being twice wounded on the way, and suffering great pain, succeeded in conveying an important message from Battalion Headquarters to the front line of trenches, which he eventually reached in an exhausted condition. His fearlessness and determination to deliver this message at any cost, proved of the greatest value to his Battalion at a critical period.

Private Dresser was presented with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 21st July 1917.

A fun fact for you: Tom Dresser VC is distantly related to Christopher Dresser, the visionary Victorian designer, to whom a fantastic (and extensive) gallery in the Dorman Museum is dedicated.

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On This Day.. Stan Hollis VC

It was 72 years ago to this day that Stan Hollis of Archibald Street, Middlesbrough became the only person awarded the Victoria Cross for gallantry on D Day.

stan hollis 1On 6 June 1944 Company Sergeant-Major Hollis landed at Gold Beach on D Day, he went to investigate two German pill-boxes as the company moved inland from the beaches.

stan hollis tall“Hollis instantly rushed straight at the pillbox, firing his Sten gun into the first pill-box, He jumped on top of the pillbox, re-charged his magazine, threw a grenade in through the door and fired his Sten gun into it, killing two Germans and taking the remainder prisoners.”

“Later the same day C.S.M. Hollis pushed right forward to engage the [field] gun with a PIAT [anti-tank weapon] from a house at 50 yards range… He later found that two of his men had stayed behind in the house…In full view of, the enemy who were continually firing at him, he went forward alone… distract their attention from the other men. Under cover of his diversion, the two men were able to get back.

Wherever the fighting was heaviest… [he].. .appeared, displaying the utmost gallantry… It was largely through his heroism and resource that the Company’s objectives were gained and casualties were not heavier. ….he saved the lives of many of his men.”

You can read about Stan’s bravery as well as a potted history of his own life and that of his regiment the Green Howards at the magnificent monument unveiled last year outside the Dorman Museum and close to the cenotaph in Middlesbrough. There are also plaques to the other members of the historic North Yorkshire regiment whose bravery has been rewarded by this highest accolade; these names include another Middlesbrough man, Tom Dresser.

I would urge everyone to spend a few minutes by the memorial and have a read of the information.

I thank historian Ian Stubbs for bringing this historic date to my attention and spreading the word through facebook.

stan hollis 2

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