Ceremony to honour Burnley VC heroes

Pte Thomas Whitham
Pte Thomas Whitham

Proud relatives of two heroic Burnley soldiers who received this country’s highest military honour for their bravery in the First World War will travel to the town for a ceremony to commemorate them.

The ceremony this Saturday to honour Thomas Whitham and Hugh Colvin, who both received the Victoria Cross for their actions, will be held in the town’s Peace Garden, outside the Central Library, from 11am.

Second Lieutenant Hugh Colvin

Second Lieutenant Hugh Colvin

It will include a guard of honour from the Coldstream Guards who will parade in their ceremonial tunics.

The event will have a particular poignancy for a number of those attending.

Relatives of both men are expected to attend, with some travelling from Northern Ireland and Wales to take part in the ceremony which will see the unveiling of two commemorative stones in honour of the two soldiers.

An excerpt of a play about Thomas Whitham will be performed at the event by young people who are students at the sixth form college named after him.

The Royal British Legion and veterans from the Duke of Lancaster’s Regimental Association will also be taking part.

On July 31st 1917, when Thomas Whitham was 29 years old, and a private in the Coldstream Guards, he and his comrades came under attack near Ypres, Belgium.

An enemy machine-gun was firing volleys at the British battalion. Pte Whitham on his own initiative immediately worked his way from shell-hole to shell-hole, reached the machine-gun and captured it, saving many lives.

Hugh Colvin was a second lieutenant in the Cheshire Regiment. In a battle east of Ypres, when all the other officers of his company had become casualties, Colvin took command of both companies and led them forward under heavy fire with great success.

The borough has held a number of events to mark important milestones as part of the 100th anniversary of the First World War.

Coun. Lian Pate, who is the council’s Armed Forces Champion and chairman of the local Armed Forces Community Covenant, said: “It’s important that Burnley remembers and commemorates the contribution of soldiers from our borough who served in the First World War. All are welcome at this event.”