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200872 Lance Corporal Thomas Park MM DCM 1Thomas Park was born on the 4th February 1889 in Appleby Street in Preston. His birth name was actually Thomas Kew Richardson and he was the son of a single lady Sarah Richardson. In 1891 Sarah and young Thomas lived at 136 Victoria Street where Sarah was employed in a local mill as a cotton rover. Possibly in an effort to help her financial situation Sarah had also taken in two lodgers; Jane Metcalfe a general servant who was aged 67 years and Mary Knowles from Swanick in Derbyshire who was aged 60.

In the December quarter of 1896 Sarah Richardson who was 32 years old at the time married James Park a man twenty seven years older than her at the age of 59. Two years after their marriage a son James (1898) was born. By 1901 the family had moved to live at number 69 Selborne Street in Preston and James Park worked as an `engine tenter` in a mill and Sarah was a frame tenter.

The 1901 Census also shows that Thomas who was 12 years old by now was recorded under his birth name of Thomas Kew Richardson and his relationship to the head of the household James Park was described as `stepson`. On the 18th January 1904 Thomas` stepfather James Park passed away at 255 Selborne Street in Preston. His probate record notes that his estate was valued at £475 2s 2d.

In the Census recorded in 1911 Thomas was still using his birth name of Richardson and he was still resident at 255 Selborne Street with his mother Sarah and his 12 year old half-brother James. Also in the household was a 15 year old girl named as Sarah Emma Richardson, a servant originally from Blackburn. Thomas`s mother Sarah confirmed that she had been married for 15 years and had two children but was now a widow.

Unfortunately Thomas` service papers have been lost but later information states that he enlisted into the 4th Battalion of the Loyal North Lancashire Regiment in either September or October 1914. When he signed up it would also appear that he did so not under his birth name of Richardson but under his mother`s married name of Park. Pre-war Thomas had been working in the spinning room at the Walton Mill not far from his home in Selborne Street. He was allotted his original service number of 2877 which in January 1917 would become 200872.

Thomas sailed to France as part of “D” Company 1/4th Battalion LNL on the 4th May 1915. Later information states that he was wounded in the forearm at some point during the Battalion actions at Festubert on the 15/16th June 1915.

On the 31st July 1917 the 3rd Battle of Ypres began (Passchendaele) and it was during the third phase known as the Battle of Menin Road Ridge (20-25th September) that Thomas was wounded again. Despite his wounds and the fact that he was under heavy shell fire at the time he continued to help bring in other wounded men from the battlefield, his bravery later being recognised by the award of a Military Medal. This was later reported on by the Preston Guardian newspaper;

200872 Lance Corporal Thomas Park MM DCM 2

The article incorrectly states August 21st for his MM award, it should read September 21st.

The lack of service papers makes it impossible to know whether Thomas ever had to return to England for treatment for any of his wounds.

On the 9th April 1918 the German army launched the second phase of its Spring Offensive. This offensive became known as the Battle of the Lys and the 1/4th Battalion in the 164th Brigade of the 55th (Western) Division were heavily involved.

The action on the 9th April was on the Festubert-Givenchy line, where early in the morning the Germans were found to be heavily bombarding the whole of the Divisional front. Unfortunately this weakened the Portuguese troops that were on the left of the Division causing them to retire, which completely exposed the 55ths flank.

The German infantry now attacked, and owing to the thick fog that morning, they were allowed to get so close to the British that they could not be engaged until they were within 20 – 30 yards. The Germans succeeded in their objective and breached the 164th Brigades front, even managing to overrun their headquarters, and several other key areas.

Eventually a counter-attack was organised which forced the German`s back. By the end of the day the Brigade had won back every inch of the ground they had temporarily lost. Casualties numbered 44 killed, 100 wounded and 50 soldiers were missing.

After the action the Division received a number of complimentary telegrams praising the bravery of the men on their `fine victory` of the 9/10th April 1918. Various newspapers published articles on the events, a Times correspondent on the 11th April 1918 wrote;

55TH DIVISIONS FINE FIGHTING – “The breach made by the Portuguese retirement threw an enormous strain on the British 55th Division on the extreme right, which held the positions about GIVENCHY. The Lancashire men threw back their left to make a flank on that side, and then began the defence of GIVENCHY, which will be remembered as one of the brilliant incidents of this war. The ground here was of some importance, as being almost the only exception to the general flatness of the battle area. Three times, it is said, at least, the German masses succeeded in breaking a way into GIVENCHY, once during the course of the day, and twice during the evening and night, only to be thrown out again by the most dashing counter-attacks. This morning GIVENCHY and all of our original line remained in our hands, and I believe it still remains, and, out of the prisoners taken, over 700 were captured by the Lancashire men”. Note; of these, 560 were taken by the 1/4th North Lancashire Regiment.

A number of men received gallantry awards for their part in the action and Private Thomas Park was awarded a Distinguished Conduct Medal for his conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty, the citation reading as follows:

200872 Lance Corporal Thomas Park MM DCM 3

At some point after his DCM was awarded Thomas was promoted to Lance Corporal. Thomas survived the war having served with the 1/4th Battalion LNL from September/October 1914 until he was finally disembodied in February 1919.

On the 15th February 1919 the Lancashire Evening Post reported on the presentation of both his Military Medal and his Distinguished Conduct Medal. They were presented by the Mayor of Preston, Alderman H. Cartmell on the steps of the Town Hall in the presence of hundreds of people, the paper reporting;

“Private Park, Selborne Street, Preston joined the 1/4th L.N.L. Regiment in October 1914, and went to France in May following. He was engaged among other operations at Festubert, the Somme battle, Ypres, Cambrai – at Cambrai, said the Mayor, the Battalion lost Col. Hindle, its brave Commander, and many Officers. He was granted the Military Medal at Ypres, for in September 1917, carrying in and rendering first aid to the wounded under heavy shell fire. He had also gained the DCM for conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. The record of the deed was as follows; “This man, acting as stretcher bearer during a heavy bombardment, worked unceasingly dressing wounded in the open and carrying them in. In the afternoon he went out with a bombing patrol to a post strongly held by the enemy, five of whom were captured. The same night, he again went out and assisted in capturing a machine-gun and team, he was untiring in carrying ammunition and bombs”.

A very creditable record, his Worship the Mayor commented, and one that Private Park and his family would highly treasure. Cheers at the call of the Mayor were then given for the decorated soldier, and the proceedings terminated.

In 1939 Thomas was still resident in Selborne Street, living at number 253 with his wife Alice (maiden name unknown) and he was also using his birth name Thomas Kew Richardson. Thomas was employed as a hospital porter and Alice`s occupation was described as `unpaid domestic`. There is one redacted record underneath the names of Thomas and Alice which may indicate there was also a child living in the household.

Thomas passed away in Preston in 1964 aged 75 years.

Janet Davis
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