Saturday, 25 October 2014

The face of our 'St Paul's Hero' is revealed!

The gallant Private Thomas Orr
More information has come to light - as well as a photograph (right) - about Private Thomas Orr, the gallant soldier I wrote about on September 30 and October 3, who featured in a poem called 'A St Paul's Hero' that was published in a local Bristol paper early in the war.

After reading my posts, Elliot Metcalfe got in touch to say that his research had revealed the following about Private Orr:

'He originally joined the Devon Royal Garrison Artillery Militia in March 1904. In June of the same year he joined the Gloucestershire Regiment as a regular soldier. He went over to France with the 1st Battalion 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.'

Western Daily Press
10 December, 1914
Had fortune smiled on Thomas Orr in 1914, he would have lined up in France to receive his medal from none other than King George V himself, according to a report in the Western Daily Press from December 1914, left, that was sent to me by Robert Bickers:

'The battalion was drawn up in single file on both sides of the road near their billets in a pretty French village. Bright sunny weather favoured the Royal visit. His Majesty remarked upon the fine appearance of the men and took the opportunity of presenting the distinguished conduct medal to Private George Law, of the Battalion.'

Private Law had been involved in the same act of bravery as Orr, but sadly Orr had since been wounded and was now laid up in hospital (as described in 'A St Paul's Hero'). He must have been kicking himself!

The newspaper goes on to give more details about the battlefield rescue:

'An outpost sentry was wounded and a second sentry came in to report the casualty. As the report was being made the wounded man was seen crawling towards the trench. Private Law, accompanied by Private Orr, immediately went out to his aid, and succeeded carrying him to a place of safety under heavy fire. Private Orr has since been wounded but has been awarded a similar medal.'

My thanks to Elliot Metcalfe and Robert Bickers for their research and the photograph, which was published in the January 1915 edition of Bristol and the War.

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