Sir Thomas Bradford was one of the ‘Bradford Boys’ – four siblings who became the most decorated but tragic family of the Great War
The moving plight of a First World War ‘Band of Brothers’ can be revealed today after the bravery medals of the only surviving sibling sold for almost £10,000.
Sir Thomas Bradford was one of the ‘Bradford Boys’ – who became the most decorated but tragic family of the Great War.
Tragically three of the four siblings from County Durham were killed in action just 11 months apart including one George, who was killed months before the war ended on November 11 1918.
Between them the brave quartet won two Victoria Crosses, two Military Crosses, one Distinguished Service Order and were Mentioned in Dispatches several times.
Sir Thomas, the eldest brother, had been the captain of Durham Cricket Club before war broke and had to give up playing to join the army full time.
He became a captain in the Durham Light Infantry (DLI) and received the DSO for rallying his men in the trenches in the face of a devastating onslaught by the German guns during the Second Battle of Ypres in April 1915.
His brother, Lieutenant James Barker Bradford, also of the DLI, was the first Bradford sibling killed in the war in May 1917 after he was shot in the shoulder and thigh at the Battle of Arras. He was 27.
Two months earlier he had won the Military Cross for leading his men into a German trench where he captured numerous prisoners and took two machine guns.
Five months later Sir Thomas received the devastating news of the death of a second brother, Lieutenant Colonel Roland Bradford, 25.
He had won the Victoria Cross just a month earlier for taking command of two battalions of the DLI that had been raked with machine-gun fire during an attack and were pinned down in shell holes.
The Bradford boys – Roland, Thomas, George and James (left to right) who would all serve their country with distinction but only one, Thomas, would survive the Great War
His ignored the bombs and bullets and go from hole to hole to rally his men, ensuring they went on to capture and defend their objective.
On November 30, 1917, the senior officer was killed by a stray German shell that landed near the brigade headquarters at Cambrai, France.
Then in April 1918 Sir Thomas’ other brother, Lieutenant Commander George Bradford, 31, was killed.
While the other three had joined the army, George served in the Royal Navy.
During the naval raid on Zeebrugge, Belgium, the boat he was on struggled to moor up on the pontoon.
George bravely jumped out to try and secure the ship. In doing so he was riddled with bullets fired by the waiting enemy.
In recognition that George would have known he was facing certain death, he was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross.
He and Roland were the only pair of brothers to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War.
The poignant bravery medals of the only surviving member of a ‘Band of Brothers’ from the First World War have sold for £8,000
Sir Thomas survived the war and went on to spend a lifetime in public service in County Durham, ending up as High Sheriff of Durham and honourary treasurer of Durham University.
His medals, that include the Distinguished Service Order, British War and Victory Medals, with M.I.D. oak leaves, Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Coronation Medal 1953, have now sold at auction in London for £9,600.
A spokesman for the auctioneers, Dix Noonan Webb, said: ‘Thomas Bradford was a member of the most highly decorated family of the First World War and the only one to survive the conflict.
‘The pain and devastation the loss of the three siblings had on both him and his parents is quite unimaginable.
‘A hero who won the Distinguished Service Order on the Western Front and a fine cricketer who captained Durham, he was a truly remarkable man.
‘Collectors were keen to own his medals and so they sold for well above the pre-sale estimate.’
Sir Thomas was the eldest son of five to George and Amy Bradford.
He was commissioned as second lieutenant in the Durham Light Infantry in 1906 but combined soldiering with cricket, playing for Durham between 1909-1914. In that time he averaged 39.97 with the bat.