June 17th, 2016

A campaign to erect a statue of a true Teesside hero has been given a cash boost by local businesses.

Tom Dresser was just 24 and serving as a private in the 7th Battalion, The Green Howards, during the First World War when he became Middlesbrough’s first Victoria Cross recipient.

On May 12, 1917 near Roeux in France, the soldier fearlessly conveyed an important message from battalion headquarters to the front line trenches, despite being wounded twice and in great pain.

To mark the centenary of his actions, next year the Tom Dresser VC Fund aims to erect a statue in his honour – at a cost of £50,000. Brian Alabaster – whose sculpture of Teesside’s other VC hero, World War II Green Howard Stan Hollis, stands near the Middlesbrough Cenotaph – has been commissioned to do the work.

The fund received a significant boost when representatives of Middlesbrough and Teesside Philanthropic Foundation visited a recent fundraising event to present a cheque for £2,500.

The cheque was presented by Lisa Preston of Foundation patrons Hunters Estate Agents and fellow patron Jayne Stephenson of Marton Electrical.

Lisa said: “The Philanthropic Foundation is proud to present our own Teesside Hero awards to unsung community champions each month, but Tom Dresser was a hero in the truest sense of the word.

I’m sure I can speak for the many businesses and individuals who support the Foundation when I say how proud we are in making a contribution towards a statue that will recognise his bravery 100 years on. Hunters are proud to be part of the Teesside community and firmly believe in doing whatever we can to support brilliant projects like this one.”

The presentation took place at a gala cabaret featuring jazz and swing singer Paul Skerritt which raised £2,700, taking the fund’s total beyond £17,000, thanks to the support of several local businesses.

Brian Dresser, of Tollesby, one of Tom’s grandsons, said: “We’re very proud as a family for what my grandfather achieved because he was Middlesbrough’s first true hero. I think a statue is the ideal way to remember him. Hopefully we can reach agreement to have it erected near the cenotaph and Dorman Museum where children could be educated about such wonderful history.

It’s very humbling to know there are people around who are willing to underpin projects such as ours with actions and money. It’s a cynical world we live in so to see the spontaneous reaction by so many people who are willing to help us reach our goal is uplifting.

The support and advice of the Philanthropic Foundation and its chairman Andy Preston has been invaluable from the very start.”

Talks are ongoing with Middlesbrough Council to agree a suitable location for it.

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