Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Who can help identify this brave Tommy from the trenches?

Can anyone shed light on the newspaper cutting to the right which has been discovered in an old bible? It was published in  newspaper that circulated in Bristol - an advert for a city tyre firm is printed on the back - but no more than that is known.

The verse was written as a tribute to a WW1 soldier called Private T Orr, who risked his life saving a wounded comrade, and the cutting was found in the bible of a woman who was related to a WW1 soldier - but she had no known link to Private Orr.

There are a couple of clues as to Orr's identity: he is described as 'a Glo'ster' (soldier of the Gloucestershire Regiment) and appears to have run a shop with his wife in the St Paul's area of Bristol. At the end of the poem is a line that explains that 'the verses were written and sent to Pte T Orr when he was in hospital'.

The poem's author is 'RW French' who, rather wittily, uses his name in a play on words in the last line, saying Orr had been 'mentioned in French's despatches.' (Sir John French was commander of the British Expeditionary Force in Europe from August 1914 until December 1915.)

The verse is transcribed below, do get in touch if you know who Private Orr - or RW French - were.

A St Paul's Hero

Said she, 'You go, I'll mind the shop.
Leave me to tend the 'biz;
You're needed the tyrant's game to stop,
Mid bullets and shells that fiz.'
But who can tell of the parting wrench?
Who count the tears it cost her,
As she thought of her soldier in bullet-drill'd trench,
Her own brave 'Tommy' - the Glo'ster?

The prayer she offered - was it in vain?
Her hubby - God bless him! A hero! -
Played his part as he lay in the cold numbing rain,
When the temperature stood about zero.
He bore with his fellows in the thickest of fight,
A Britisher true to the core!
As we hear of his daring it gives us delight.
We're proud to have known 'Tommy' Orr!

Men of great daring command our attention;
'Tis deeds of the brave that inspire:
Orr, be it known, has gained special mention
For saving a chum under fire!
The deed was full noted by officer, proud
Of his private who faced 'certain grave',
Whose courage by shell fire never was cowed
Who risked all - one wounded to save!

In hospital, kindly, he's now being nursed;
He's far from the battle that galls:
His dreams and thoughts will ever turn first
To his dearest one there in St Paul's.
We're waiting to greet him when homeward he hies:
His shop we will storm it in batches.
Oh! What a joy to e'er patronise 
Orr, mentioned in French's despatches!

'Her own brave 'Tommy!'


  1. I think you'll find this relates to 7640 Pte Thomas Henry Orr of the 1st Battalion Gloucestershire Regiment. He was born in c1886 in Easton, Bristol. He originally joined the Devon Royal Garrison Artillery Militia in March 1904. In June of the same year he joined the Gloucestershire Regt as a regular soldier. He went over to France with the 1st Bn in August 1914. In October 1914 he was mentioned in despatches. He was awarded the Distinguished conduct medal in December 1914. His citation states "For gallantry in going forward 100 yards, on 19th September, to pick up a wounded scout, and helping to bring him in under heavy fire". He was later transferred to the Royal Fusiliers and became Sergeant. A picture of Thomas appears in the Bristol Times and Mirror.

  2. Thankyou very much for this information Elliot - you and Sarah Spink have both identified him as 7640 Pte Thomas Henry Orr. Very interested to hear about his photo, can you tell me the date of the Times and Mirror it appears in?

  3. No problem, I shall send you a message with the details.