The Newfoundland regiment had a very proud history by that time. They had almost been whipped out at Beaumont Hamel in July 1916. In the slaughter of that one day 780 Newfoundlanders men went into battle. The next day only 68 showed up for roll call. But that didn't destroy their guts to keep going. They would rebuild and continue to show the world what they were made of. And to show off their taste for fashion to boot! Pardon the pun. When the unit first was raised, many of the normal military supplies were not available in Newfoundland. One of the clothing items needed was khaki puttees. These were long strips of material that were tightly wrapped around the leg, boot up to almost knee. This provided support and protection from critters like snakes. Since none were available the unit made their own... and soon they were famous for those as well.
Thomas has so little education that one reference suggested that he had to sign the enlistment papers with just an X. But sign it he did after traveling clear across the province (then a colony of Britain) to St John's and soon he was boarding the SS Florizel for the Atlantic crossing.
The ship was also used as a troop carrier and in fact sailed the first 540 volunteers of the Newfoundland Regiment to Europe.
Thomas must have taken some training in Newfoundland after his enlistment in September of 1916 and boarded the Florizel for her crossing on 30 Jan 1917. It is believed the ship first travelled to Nava Scotia before heading into the crossing.
By November of 1918 Ricketts' luck had run out and, after fighting in six battles he finally became wounded with a rifle shot to the right leg in the battle at Cambrai, the very site were his brother George went Missing in Action and presumably dead on an earlier date. Thomas' battle wound was far less serious but it took him out of battle and required treatment at various centers ending up with him back in England and out of the war for a short period.
His unit and others were advancing on a railway establishment which is an important military target for whoever holds it. His Newfoundlanders were with a couple of other units on the advance when they came across some no-man's land on 14 October 1918. The area was covered with barbed wire entanglements which slowed them down. While attempting to cross these they also found that they were very much under the eye of the Germans with several artillery guns and many machine gun nests only a few hundreds yards to their front.
His unit was pinned down and unable to go forward or back without taking many more hits. He volunteered with his section commander to carry a Lewis Machinegun on a flanking tactic ... and off they went firing the weapon from their hip on the run. Soon the had used up all their ammo. Ricketts immediately dropped the gun and ran back to friendly lines to get two more boxes of clips and returned but under a low fog his commander had disappeared. He loaded up and continued his advance and by some miracle was not hit by the enemy. In fact he was pouring so much lead into one of the farmhouses that the enemy fled. he kept going forward onto the 2nd farmhouse and soon heard the yells.... Komrade Komrade... he stopped shooting and an officer and seven men surrendered to him. Four artillery guns were behind the farms and all of these were captured. Ricketts also chased off some Germans who were trying to hook up some horses to a fifth gun and when his fellow troops came along side they hauled all the guns off. His efforts turned the tide of the battle at that point, but not before the Newfoundlanders lost 23 men, 6 being from his own company.
Shown above on the left is Ricketts after his promotion ten days after the investiture, and now wearing the VC on the left and the Croix de Guerre on the right. (looking at picture) The picture to the right shows him wearing just the ribbons, but note the strip on his left sleeve (at his finger tip) . This indicates that he received a war wound.
Ricketts went back to school and got an education that he had not mastered before the war. He became a druggist and had a business for many years and died at his office in 1962... 43 years to the day from when he first arrived back home after the war.
Ricketts was born 112 years ago today, on 15 April 1901.