Oldham Council is appealing for the family of a Victoria Cross recipient from the First World War to come forward as it prepares to honour his outstanding acts of bravery.
Sergeant Thomas Steele was honoured for his role in attempting to lift the Turkish siege at Ku-al-Amara in the Middle East in 1917. At a critical moment, Sgt Steele used a machine gun to beat off an enemy attack and risked his life to rally a party of Indian soldiers who had lost all their officers. He was also severely injured and suffered 12 wounds in further conflict.
In honour of his outstanding bravery, and to commemorate 100 years since the events, Oldham Council is holding a ceremony at 11am, February 22, at St Annes Church, Lydgate. At the ceremony a commemorative paving stone will be unveiled in honour of Sergeant Steele by Councillor Derek Heffernan, the Mayor of Oldham.
The council wants to get in touch with Sgt Steele’s family so they can take part in the ceremony and share their stories. Councillor Barbara Brownridge, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods and Cooperatives, said: “Sergeant Thomas Steele was born in Oldham and we are proud to remember him. We have an obligation to preserve his memory and bravery for generations to come – something we hope the paving stone will do. We would like to collect stories and images of Thomas Steele so if you have any, or you are a relative, or friend, of the Steele family, please get in touch.”
The commemoration is part of the on-going national campaign to lay lasting reminders in the birth places of Members of Sgt Steele’s family, dignitaries and representatives of local community groups and schools will be in attendance.
If you’re relative – or just a friend – of Thomas Steele please come forward and contact firstname.lastname@example.org or call 0161 770 4012. We’re looking to collect stories and images to display on an online gallery at www.oldhamremembers.org.uk in his honour.
Only 1,356 of the Victoria Cross medals — the highest honour bestowed on members of the UK armed forces — have ever been awarded. Two other borough residents received the Victoria Cross for their heroic deeds in World War One. Sergeant Hogan was in battlefield in Festubert, France on October 29, 1914, when his trench had been taken by the Germans. After attempts at recapturing it failed Sgt Hogan and fellow soldiers took actions into their own hands and re-claimed it. Private Walter Mills was caught in a gas attack on the Western Front on December 10, 1917. He stayed at his post alone and threw bombs until the enemy retreated. He died of gas poisoning as he was carried away.
A service will take place on Monday 11 December to honour Oldham’s third, and final, Victoria Cross recipient, Private Walter Mills.
To get involved in Oldham’s commemorations, mark 100 years since the start of World War One, read stories about local people and their experience in the war or research stories, visit www.oldhamremembers.org.uk
For more information email email@example.com or call 0161 770 3297.