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