Families’ pride at war heroes

Sgt Maj Thomas McCarthy DCM

Sgt Maj Thomas McCarthy DCM

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WIGAN families have spoken of their pride for the actions of heroic relatives to mark the 100 year anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

Two recipients of a prestigious bravery medal - Sergeant John Pennington and Company Sergeant-Major Thomas McCarthy - will be forever remembered, their granddaughters have told the Evening Post.

Sgt Pennington, of Herbert Street, Wigan, received the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in 1917 for single-handedly defending his company from an enemy assault.

A newspaper extract from the time stated: “When his company was held up by machine-gun fire he went forward on his own, shot the gunner, and rushing the trench bombed what was left of the team.

“The remainder of the team who were firing at him as he rushed up threw their hands above their heads when he entered the trench so that single-handed Sgt Pennington captured the gun and team.

“This splendid achievement greatly facilitated the advance and the company went forward capturing and consolidating all objectives.”

Sgt Pennington’s granddaughter Betty Fairhurst, of Sheldon Avenue, Standish, said: “As I have got older, I have started to recognise the significance of his actions and it makes me very proud.

“To think that he did all that as a 23-year-old lad makes me very emotional, I have a frame with the medals and a letter written from the King after my grandfather’s death on the wall in my front room.

“The acts of sacrifice our soldiers made should never be forgotten.”

Sgt Pennington, who served in the York and Lancaster Regiment, died in France on May 4, 1918.

A further extract from the Observer reads: “Mrs Pennington of Wilcock Street, has received official news that her husband has been killed.

“His lieutenant, in a letter of sympathy to the widow, says her husband was a splendid fellow and absolutely his right-hand man.

“His place, adds the officer, will never be filled again, at least, no one will ever be so capable a man.”

Sergeant-Major Thomas McCarthy - also known as Thomas McCarty - was a well-known Wigan wrestler before enlisting in the Manchester battalion. He received the DCM for “conspicuous good work during operations also during heavy bombardments by the enemy” during conflict in Gallipoli, according to a contemporary newspaper extract.

During the war, Sgt Maj McCarthy was stationed in Egypt and due to his wrestling pedigree, offered up a challenge to anyone who was willing to take him on.

After the war, he returned to Wigan and continued to wrestle competitively.

His granddaughter Marilyn McCarthy and relatives have been compiling details of their ancestor’s career and said they were “immensely proud” of his brave actions.

Marilyn said: “His achievement in being awarded the DCM fills us with pride as does his illustrious career in the world of sport following his army career.

“Of Irish decent and a Wigan resident all his life, he died at the age of 71, his resting place is in Gidlow Cemetery.

“May he rest in peace and be afforded the due respect he deserves, and let’s face it, one can say that he never, ever gave up.”