LANCE CORPORAL THOMAS NORMAN JACKSON VC
27TH SEPTEMBER 1918 AGE 21
BURIED: SANDERS KEEP MILITARY CEMETERY, GRAINCOURT-LES-HAVRINCOURT, FRANCE
Citation for Award of Victoria Cross
London Gazette 26 November 1918
"For most conspicuous bravery and self-sacrifice in the attack across the Canal du Nord, near Graincourt. On the morning of the 27th September, 1918, Lce Cpl. Jackson was the first to volunteer to follow Capt. C.H. Frisby, Coldstream Guards, across the Canal du Nord in his rush against an enemy machine-gun post, with two comrades he followed his officer across the Canal, rushed the post, captured the two machine-guns, and so enabled the companies to advance. Later in the morning, Lce. Cpl. Jackson was the first to jump into a German trench which his platoon had to clear, and after doing further excellent work he was unfortunately killed. Throughout the whole day until he was killed this young N.C.O. showed the greatest valour and devotion to duty and set an inspiring example to all."
Two days later, the Sheffield Evening Telegraph elaborated on the story:
"Lce. Cpl. Thomas Norman Jackson ... was the elder son of Mr and Mrs Edward Jackson 3, Market Street, Swinton, near Mexborough ... he enlisted voluntarily in 1916. He went to France in October 1917, and in a few days took part in the great Tank drive to Cambrai ... Up to September 27 last he had come through some of the severest fighting imaginable without receiving a scratch. The only hint he conveyed to his parents of the nature of his work was a passage in one of his letters which ran: 'Fancy such as me standing up to the Germans and bayoneting them without turning a hair!' He was a leading member of the Primitive Methodist church and Bible class at Swinton, and possibly he had that in mind."
"A leading member of the Primitive Methodist church", this comment is probably the clue to Jackson's inscription: "Father, forgive them; for they know not what they do". These, the words Christ used to ask God to forgive the men who had just nailed him to the cross, are the words Mr Thomas Jackson chose for his son's inscription. Was he asking forgiveness for his son's killers? Perhaps, but if he too, like his son, was a Primitive Methodist, he was asking forgiveness for the whole of mankind for indulging in the war. Two days before the outbreak in 1914, Arthur Guttery, the President of the Primitive Methodists, had given an impassioned anti-war speech:
"A wave of madness has swept over Europe and Britain is invited to plunge into a fury that is insane ... It is the policy of bedlam and it is the statecraft of hell."
Never mind that a week later Guttery had changed his mind and was prepared to encourage his followers to fight for liberty against tyranny, some of his followers never changed their minds. Lance Corporal Jackson's father was possibly one of these. That is how I read the inscription: Mr Thomas Jackson is criticising the madness and insanity that has gripped the world. A world that not only killed his son but had him glorying in the bayonetting of Germans. Would it have been any consolation to have learnt from his son's lieutenant that, "Your son was magnificent - his example altered the course of the whole battle".