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Thomas Andrews Bradford (1886-1966)

Only surviving 'Fighting Bradford' of Witton Park

Thomas Andrews Bradford – one of the ‘Fighting Bradfords’ of Witton Park and the only one to survive the First World War – was born at Carrwood House, Witton Park, Bishop Auckland in 1886, the eldest son of George and Amy Bradford.

Thomas, with his three brothers and one sister, lived with his parents in Witton Park until 1894, when the family moved to Darlington. After attending Queen Elizabeth’s Grammar School in Darlington, Thomas was sent with his brother, George, as boarders to Eltham Naval College in Kent. Thomas, however, did not settle for a life in the Royal Navy and, after leaving school, trained as a land agent. Thomas also joined the 4th Volunteer Battalion The Durham Light Infantry (DLI) with its headquarters in Gilesgate, Durham City, and was commissioned in 1906 as a second lieutenant. In 1908, this Volunteer battalion became the 8th (Territorial Force) Battalion DLI. By 1910, Captain Thomas Bradford was commanding 8 DLI’s ‘D’ Company. As well as his military interests, Thomas was a great sportsman and played both rugby and cricket for County Durham before 1914.

In August 1914, when war broke out, Captain Bradford was at summer camp in North Wales. The battalion was then mobilised for home defence duties in the Sunderland area. On 18 April 1915, 8 DLI left for France and a week later was fighting in the Second Battle of Ypres. There Captain Bradford’s company was relieving Canadian troops that had suffered a poison gas attack, when it came under heavy attack from the Germans and by the end of the month, Bradford’s company of 200 officers and men had been reduced to just 20. Thomas himself was wounded and was twice mentioned in dispatches.

In January 1916, Thomas Bradford was awarded the Distinguished Service Order and promoted, firstly to Staff Captain and then to Brigade Major. In the summer of 1916, while on leave, he married Honore Rebe Blackett, the only daughter of Colonel William Blackett, a pre-war commanding officer of 8 DLI. Major Bradford remained on the Western Front for another year but in 1917 was given a permanent commission, transferred to the Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment, and sent to Fermoy in Ireland, as an instructor with a Young Officers Training Battalion.

During 1917, two of Thomas’s brothers were killed in action, with James being awarded the Military Cross and Roland the Victoria and Military Crosses. In April 1918, Thomas’s remaining brother, George, was killed at Zeebrugge. He too was awarded the Victoria Cross. Roland and George Bradford were the only brothers during the First World War to win the Victoria Cross.

Thomas Bradford resigned his commission in April 1919. In 1920, he and Rebe had a son, who they named George James Roland Bradford in honour of the three dead brothers. After leaving the army, Thomas took up farming in Northumberland. Later he lived in Aden Cottage just outside Durham City. He was also a director of a colliery near Sacriston.

In his spare time, Thomas devoted his life to public service, for which he received a Knighthood in 1939. He was appointed Honorary Colonel of the DLI; Deputy Lieutenant of the County; received an Honorary Doctorate from Durham University where he was Honorary Treasurer; and was High Sheriff of Durham in 1942. Thomas was also chairman of the local Conservative Association and twice stood unsuccessfully in parliamentary elections.

Rebe Bradford died in 1945 and Thomas later married Kathleen (Kitty) Percy, the widow of Brigadier Jocelyn Percy, who had commanded 151 Brigade at the Battle of El Alamein in 1942.

Colonel Sir Thomas Bradford DSO died in Durham in 1966, aged 80 years.

Where to find more about this person:
The Bradford Brothers Website:

The Northern Echo, 11 November 2013:

Civil Parish: Escomb

Birth date: 1886

Death date: 1966

Armed force/civilian: Army

Residence: Carrwood House, Witton Park, Durham
Morton Palms Farm, Darlington
Millbanke, Millbank Road, Darlington
9 Cook Close, Sacriston
Aden Cottage, Long Garth, Durham

Education: Royal Naval School, Mottingham, Kent (1901 Census)

Organisation membership: Honorary Doctor of Civil Law – Durham University

Employment: Land Agent (1911 Census)

Family: Father: George Bradford
Mother: Amy Marian Bradford (nee Andrews)
Siblings: George Nicholson, James Barker, Roland Boys & Amy Isabella Bradford
Wives: Honor Rebe Bradford (nee Blackett, died 1945) & Kathleen Mernie Vernon Bradford (formerly Percy, nee Ross)
Son: George James Roland Bradford

Military service:

8th Battalion Durham Light Infantry
Captain & Honorary Colonel
Yorkshire & Lancashire Regiment

Medal(s): Knighthood, Distinguished Service Order, 1914-1915 Star, British War Medal, Victory Medal (Mentioned in Dispatches), Defence Medal, War Medal, Coronation Medal 1953.

Memorial(s): Gateshead War Honours Scrapbook

Gender: Male

Contributed by John Edwards