Cliff Chadderton's blog marks July 1ST by remembering NFLD Regiment VC winner



    OTTAWA, June 30 /CNW Telbec/ - War Amps CEO Cliff Chadderton is marking
July 1st by remembering a Newfoundland war hero.
    His blog, which focuses on some of the lesser-known stories of Canada's
military heritage, will feature a July 1st entry on the late Tommy Ricketts,
who, although having received his decoration in World War I, still holds the
title as Canada's youngest VC.
    The blog entry, which can be seen at www.cliffchadderton.ca, reads as
follows:
    July 1st has always been known in Canada as the day in which we celebrate
the birth of our nation. Originally, it was known as Dominion Day, and later
it was changed to Canada Day.
    Not so in Newfoundland.
    For the school children, and the population generally, in Newfoundland,
July 1st has been not a day to celebrate, but one to mourn and to remember the
sacrifices of the Great War of 1914 - 1918.
    Any Newfoundlander will tell you, July 1st, 1916 was the Battle of
Beaumont Hamel. Eight hundred and one of Newfoundland's finest sons climbed
out of their support trenches starting at 8:45 a.m. Only 68 answered the roll
call the next day. In 30 minutes, the Battalion had all but been eliminated.
Most of them never saw a German, never fired their rifles, and not one foot of
ground was gained. This was the horror and the carnage of World War I at its
very worst.
    In previous entries, I have focused on some of Canada's memorable
Victoria Cross winners. The Royal Newfoundland Regiment produced Canada's
youngest Victoria Cross winner.
    It was only two months after the horrific July 1st battle that Tommy
Ricketts, 15, of Middle Arm, White Bay, enlisted for service with the
Regiment.
    In October 1918, during the Battle for Courtrai, the Royal
Newfoundlanders were on the left of the advance, together with the Second
Royal Scots Fusiliers. The objective was Steenbeek, and then on to St.
Catherine Capelle to capture the railway line running north from Courtrai.
    Attempts were made by various small parties, which resulted only in more
casualties. Lieutenant Stanley Newman, of St. John's, with a handful of his
men, succeeded in reaching a small depression, but could get no closer to the
German guns.
    Something had to be done, and what transpired was undoubtedly the bravest
act of anyone in the Newfoundland Regiment in the entire war, and it was
carried out by the now 17 year-old Ricketts who, like many of his Newfoundland
buddies, had lied about his age on enlistment.
    He had already been wounded at Marcoing back in November of 1917, but had
rejoined the Battalion in time for the fighting at Bailleul. His citation
tells the story of his heroism in the battle of October 14, 1918.
    "During the advance from Ledgehem the attack was temporarily held up by
heavy hostile fire, and the platoon to which he belonged suffered severe
casualties from the fire of a battery at point blank range. Private Ricketts
at once volunteered to go forward with his Section Commander and a Lewis gun
to attempt to outflank the battery. They advanced by short rushes while
subject to severe fire from enemy machine guns.
    When 300 yards away, their ammunition gave out. The enemy, seeing an
opportunity to get their field guns away, began to bring up their gun teams.
Private Ricketts at once realized the situation. He doubled back 100 yards,
procured some ammunition and dashed back to the Lewis gun, and by very
accurate fire drove the enemy and their gun teams into a farm. His platoon
then advanced without casualties, and captured 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 for personal safety, Private Ricketts secured the
further supplies of ammunition which directly resulted in these important
captures and undoubtedly saved many lives."
    At the investiture, King George introduced the youthful Ricketts to
Princess Mary saying, "This is the youngest VC in my Army."
    Thomas Ricketts returned to St. John's and trained as a pharmacist. A
monument stands today on Water Street, which was the site of his drugstore.
Private Ricketts' family donated his Victoria Cross to the Canadian War Museum
in 2003.
    His story is told in The War Amps internationally award-winning
documentary The Blue Puttees.





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