b. 10/02/1894 Carluke, Scotland. d. 06/06/1969 Adelaide, Australia.
Thomas Caldwell (1894-1969) was born on 10th February 1894 at Carluke, Lanarkshire, Scotland. He was the son of George Caldwell, a carter, and his wife Mary Maggie (nee Craig). He had a younger brother, Joseph, and two younger sisters in Janet and Helen. On leaving his local school in Carluke at 13, he got work as a farm servant, and later became a carter like his father.
On the outbreak of the Great War, Thomas enlisted with the 12th (Ayr and Lanark Yeomanry) Battalion, Royal Scots Fusiliers, and served in Gallipoli from the 11th October 1915, before he was re-deployed to the Western Front in June 1918, and rose to the rank of Sergeant before the action which would lead to the award of the VC.
In the attack on Audenarde, Belgium on the 31st October 1918 near Audenarde, Belgium, when in command of a Lewis gun section engaged in clearing a farmhouse. When his section came under intense fire at close range from another farm, Sjt. Caldwell rushed towards the farm, and, in spite of very heavy fire, reached the enemy position, which he captured single-handed, together with 18 prisoners. This gallant and determined exploit removed a serious obstacle from the line of advance, saved many casualties, and led to the capture by his section of about 70 prisoners, eight machine guns and one trench mortar.
Thomas was invested with his VC by King George V in the Quadrangle at Buckingham Palace on 8th May 1919. Earlier that year, on the 1st February, at a reception in Carluke Town Hall, he was presented with a clock by Lord Newlands, the Lord Lieutenant of Lanarkshire. A public subscription had also raised £1,000. Two months later, on 5th April 1919, he was “initiated” into his local fraternity in Carluke, Lodge St John No 187, then passed on 24th April 1919 and raised on 22nd May 1919.
In 1920, he attended the VC Garden Party and the Cenotaph Memorial Parade, and was in the VC Guard of Honour the same day at Westminster Abbey for the internment of the Unknown Warrior.
Thomas later reached the rank of Company Sergeant Major and on 14th January 1921, he married Jeanie McLaren Kerr at the Templar Institute in Carluke. They had a daughter, Margaret Craig Caldwell on 17th June 1924. He and his family emigrated to Australia and he settled in Adelaide. He was employed by the Electricity Trust of South Australia. He became a line foreman until his retirement in 1959 at the age of 65.
In 1968 he made his last visit to Britain for the VCGCA Reunion in London. He died in Adelaide on 6th June 1969 and was cremated at Centennial Park Crematorium and his ashes were interred. He was survived by his wife and three daughters. His medals were donated in his will to the Royal Highland Fusiliers Museum, Glasgow, Scotland. The Regiment arranged for his widow to travel to Glasgow in person in 1972 to formally hand over the medals to fulfil her husband’s wishes.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL HIGHLAND FUSILIERS MUSEUM, GLASGOW.
BURIAL PLACE: CENTENNIAL PARK CEMETERY, ADELAIDE, AUSTRALIA.
Thomas Caldwell's medals on display at the Royal Highlanders Museum, Glasgow, Scotland.
(Picture - Thomas Stewart)
ASHES INTERRED WALL 104, ROW E, NICHE 12
Carluke, Scotland (Thomas Stewart)
Caldwell VC (left) with William Angus VC and Donald Cameron VC
Carluke, Lanarkshire (Lynsey Hamilton)