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William Coltman VC, DCM & Bar, MM & Bar, Croix de Guerre

Discussion in 'Military History' started by GRW, Feb 11, 2020.

  1. GRW

    GRW Pillboxologist WW2|ORG Editor

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    One of the most amazing stories I've read in a while-
    "There was nothing they could do.
    Wounded soldiers cried out for help as they lay scattered beneath Mannequin Hill. But with enemy machine gun and shell fire raining down from above, their pals in the 1st/6th North Staffordshire Regiment had no choice but to abandon them – or face annihilation.
    Reluctantly, prompted by their officers, the unharmed soldiers and walking wounded withdrew from the ferocity of the enemy attack, leaving a handful of their mates behind. These were men who were too badly wounded to walk or even crawl away from the enemy guns. But the German fire raining from above meant that any rescue attempt would sacrifice more lives.
    It was just a few days after the North Staffords' glorious victory at the St. Quentin canal In comparison, the follow up assault on the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, known as the Battle of Ramicourt, was expected to be easy.
    It was anything but. German infantry put up a surprisingly stubborn line of resistance. Machine gunners had fired at the advancing North Staffords from a series of sunken lanes and individually dug rifle pits, or from well constructed concrete shelters.
    Yet, the North Staffords had reached the Beaurevoir-Fonsomme Line, which was effectively a support trench for the Hindenburg Line, and their bayonets had been bloodied in the charge. They had captured all their objectives.
    But heavy fire was poured on the North Staffords by enemy soldiers above them on Mannequin Hill. At risk of being cut-off and surrounded by an enemy counter-attack, officers had no option but to order the men to retreat – and the weight of enemy fire meant there was no choice but to leave a few scattered wounded behind.
    There was surely no hope of survival for these unlucky men, bleeding out without medical attention beneath the might of the German army.
    But then a pacifist heard there were still wounded out in the valley beneath the hill and ventured out alone to try to save as many as he possibly could.
    His name was Lance Corporal William Harold Coltman, a deeply religious man who became the most decorated soldier in the British Army, during the Great War, without firing his rifle.
    His Christian faith meant he would not kill – and there were many men who shared his pacifist beliefs languishing in prison cells and even facing the threat of execution.
    But Coltman, from Winshill, near Burton, had joined the army as a 23-year-old rifleman with the 1st/6th North Staffords in January, 1915. However, he vowed never again to shoulder a rifle, after spending a night trapped under heavy fire in a foxhole listening to the cries of wounded soldiers. The next morning, he submitted a request to retrain as a stretcher bearer.
    If any of his comrades mocked his decision to set aside his rifle, they were soon silenced by his quiet bravery. Coltman was fearless and determined under fire when tasked with rescuing the wounded.
    He had already been mentioned in dispatches and awarded the Croix de Guerre by the French Army when he won the Military Medal (MM), in February 1917, for rescuing an officer who had been wounded in the thigh, from no man’s land, while under fire."
    www.stokesentinel.co.uk/news/history/pacifist-who-became-britains-most-2069325
     
  2. Sheldrake

    Sheldrake Member

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    About ten years ago I had the privilege of acting as the battlefield historian for a battlefield study for A Company 3rd Battalion the Mercian Regiment - the old Staffordshire Regiment. We followed the story of the unit's VC actions on the Western Front. The unit had just returned from Afghanistan and converting to a new role. The OC thought that the exercise would be a reminder that they weren't the only Staffordshires to have had a tough time. We ended the tour at the CWC near Mannequin hill. The OC is now a full colonel on his way to being a General.
     
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