VC hero’s brav­ery af­ter part of his leg was blown off

Kentish Express Ashford & District - - Great War Sto­ries - By Nick Lil­li­tos

His right leg blown off at the knee and wounded in both arms – the story of a Vic­to­ria Cross hero can now be told, sparked by a pre­vi­ous Great War Story ar­ti­cle.

Back in May we pub­lished a poignant photo, found aban­doned in a skip, show­ing sol­diers of the Buffs, the East Kent Reg­i­ment, in the First World War.

Af­ter the pic­ture ap­peared, mu­sic teacher Sue Cotter, 55, got in touch with us to say that the sol­dier we men­tioned – a re­cip­i­ent of the Vic­to­ria Cross for his gal­lantry in the First World War – was her great-un­cle.

Miss Cotter, who lives in Lon­don, said: “He was Wil­liam Richard Cotter, a Folke­stoneborn man who died in an Army field hospi­tal in France be­fore that bat­tal­ion pic­ture you pub­lished was taken.

“Wil­liam was my great un­cle and lived in Sandgate. My grand­fa­ther was his younger brother, and my mother still lives in Willes­bor­ough. All our fam­ily re­mem­ber with pride Wil­liam’s gal­lantry. He was 33 and sin­gle at the time, the el­dest of six broth­ers who were also in the Army.”

Act­ing Cor­po­ral Wil­liam Cotter was at­tached to the 6th Buffs Bat­tal­ion. He died of his wounds on March 14, 1916, and is buried at Lillers Com­mu­nal Ceme­tery, near Béthune, in north­ern France. The ac­tion he was in­volved in took place on March 6 to 7 near the Ho­hen­zollern Re­doubt at Loos.

An ex­tract from the of­fi­cial ci­ta­tion of his Vic­to­ria Cross award says: “When his right leg had been blown off at the knee and he had also been wounded in both arms, he made his way un­aided for 50 yards to a crater, stead­ied the men who were hold- ing it, con­trolled their fire, is­sued or­ders and al­tered the dis­po­si­tions of his men to meet a fresh counter-at­tack by the en­emy.

“For two hours he held his po­si­tion, and only al­lowed his wounds to be roughly dressed when the at­tack had qui­eted down. He could not be moved back for 14 hours and dur­ing all this time had a cheery word for all who passed him. There is no doubt that his mag­nif­i­cent courage helped greatly to save a crit­i­cal sit­u­a­tion.”

Wil­liam lived long enough in the hospi­tal to be told he would be rec­om­mended for the VC. Miss Cotter said his par­ents, Richard and Amy Cotter, went to Buck­ing­ham Palace to re­ceive his award from King George V, who also sent them a let­ter ex­press­ing his “sin­cere re­gret” that he had not been able to per­son­ally present the medal to the sol­dier.

An­other fam­ily’s Great War story will ap­pear in next week’s pa­per. A per­ma­nent memo­rial to Lance Cor­po­ral Cotter was un­veiled on the side wall of The Ship Inn in Sandgate, near Folke­stone, in August 2011.

The idea for the plaque to be erected in his home vil­lage came from lo­cal artist Ken Fisher.

There is also a memo­rial to L/Cpl Cotter in the Chich­ester Memo­rial Hall, op­po­site the pub.

Mr Fisher used a pho­to­graph of L/Cpl Cotter to pro­duce an im­age of him and asked Folke­stone artist Johnny Cotter (no re­la­tion) to com­plete the de­sign.

Mr Cotter in­cluded an in­scrip­tion de­tail­ing why L/Cpl Cotter earned the Vic­to­ria Cross.

L/Cpl Wil­liam Cot­ter awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross in the First World War – he was with the Buffs bat­tal­ion

Sue Cot­ter lay­ing flow­ers at the grave of her great un­cle in France – VC hero Wil­liam Cot­ter

Sad words from King Ge­orge VI

Wil­liam Cot­ter was awarded the Vic­to­ria Cross

The un­veil­ing of the art­work ded­i­cated to L/Cpl Cot­ter at The Ship Inn

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