b. 09/04/1891 Huby, Yorkshire. d. 09/04/1982 Middlesbrough, Cleveland.
Tom Dresser (1892-1982) was born at Laund House Farm, Huby, near Sutton-on-the-Forest, Easingwold, Yorkshire on 9th April 1891. His father, Thomas James Dresser married Clara Ward in 1887 in Easingwold, Yorkshire. His father was a groom at a stud farm, but in later life became a tobacconist and newsagent. Tom had two siblings: Annie (born in 1887) and Joe (born in 1896). Tragically Joe was killed in action on 2nd October 1916 during the Battle of the Somme. His body was never found and he is commemorated on the Thiepval Memorial.
Tom was educated at St John’s and Hugh Bell Schools in Middlesbrough. He was employed at Dorman, Long’s Dock Street Foundries, Middlesbrough before assisting his father as a newsagent. He was a member of the Cleveland Sketching Club and supplied artwork for the local Sports Gazette. Tom enlisted at Richmond, Yorkshire on 28th February 1916 and carried out basic training at Rugeley Camp, Cannock Chase, Staffordshire probably with 11th Reserve Battalion. He went to France on 2nd September 1916 and joined his battalion on 21st September.
He served with 1/5th and 6th Battalions and was wounded in the foot on 10th November,
evacuated to England on the 19th and was treated at Birkenhead 21st November – 19th December, probably in one of the four section hospitals that were part of 1st Western General Hospital based at Fazakerley, Liverpool on the other side of the Mersey. He returned to France on 4th March 1917, joined 37th Infantry Base Depot on 20th March and 7th Battalion the next day.
On 12th May 1917 near Roeux, France, Private Dresser, in spite of having been twice wounded on the way and suffering great pain, succeeded in conveying an important message from battalion headquarters to the front line trenches, which he eventually reached in an exhausted condition. His fearlessness and determination to deliver this message at all costs proved of the greatest value to his battalion at a critical period. He was wounded during the action, and was evacuated to England on 19th May, and treated at Roseneath Auxiliary Hospital, Wrexham and at Ripon, Yorkshire until 23rd November. Tom had no idea he had been recommended for the VC until a nurse brought him the Daily Mail on 30th June. The VC was presented to him by King George V outside Buckingham Palace on 21st July 1917. He was presented with a gold watch and 100 guineas by the people of Middlesbrough after being invested. He was also presented with a silver watch and chain by the Hull Soldier’s Club.
On 6th April 1918 he was appointed unpaid Lance Corporal on transfer to the Machine Gun Corps. He transferred from 3rd (Reserve) Battalion MGC at Grantham on 21st June to Clipstone and remained there until 25th September. He reverted to Private on returning to France on 26th September and reported to MGC Base Depot at Camiers the following day. He joined 74th Battalion MGC on 3rd October. He was discharged on 27th April 1919 with a 20% disability.
In 1925, he took over his father’s newsagent business at 65 Marton Road, Middlesbrough. While running the shop, he kept his VC in a tobacco tin behind the counter and willingly produced it when asked. He married Teresa Josephine Landers in 1925 and they lived above the shop. They had four sons: Joseph, twins Peter and Thomas, and Brian.
Tom served in G Company, 8th North Riding (Middlesbrough) Battalion Home Guard in the Second World War and was awarded a certificate of merit by GOC-in-C Home Forces in 1943. He was given the Freedom of Middlesbrough on 13th May 1944, the same day as Edward Cooper VC. Tom ran the shop until June 1979, when the council purchased it for a redevelopment project. He received compensation and moved to 63 Erroll Street. Tom died there on 9th April 1982 and was buried in Thorntree Cemetery, Middlesbrough with his wife. Due to fears that the gravestone might be desecrated, his name was not added until 2015. In addition to the VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937, Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 and Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977. The VC was owned by the family but since May 1983 has been on loan to the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM, RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE.
THORNTREE CEMETERY, MIDDLESBROUGH, CLEVELAND. RC SECTION GRAVE 1901
Tom Dresser's medals including VC on display at the Green Howards Museum, Richmond. (Picture - Thomas Stewart).
War Illustrated, 11th August 1917
The Tom Dresser VC statue and stone at the Dorman Museum in Middlesbrough (Steve Lee)