Bill Speakman

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Bill Speakman
Bill Speakman VC.JPG
Private Bill Speakman in Korea
Born (1927-09-21)21 September 1927
Altrincham, Cheshire, England
Died 20 June 2018(2018-06-20) (aged 90)
London, England
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branch British Army
Years of service 1945–1967
Rank Sergeant
Unit Black Watch
King's Own Scottish Borderers (att'h)
Special Air Service
Battles/wars Korean War
Malayan Emergency
Indonesian Confrontation
Aden Emergency
Awards Victoria Cross
Taegeuk Cordon of the Order of Military Merit (South Korea)[1]

William Speakman-Pitt, VC (21 September 1927 – 20 June 2018), known as Bill Speakman, was a British Army soldier and a recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the first person to receive an honour from Queen Elizabeth II.[2]

Military career[edit]

He was born and brought up in Altrincham, Cheshire, and educated at Wellington School. He was 24 years old and a private in the Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment), British Army, attached to the 1st Battalion, King's Own Scottish Borderers during the Korean War when the following deed took place at United Hill, for which he was awarded the VC.

On 4 November 1951 in Korea, when the section holding the left shoulder of the company's position had been seriously depleted by casualties and was being overrun by the enemy, Speakman, on his own initiative, collected six men and a pile of grenades and led a series of charges. He broke up several enemy attacks, causing heavy casualties and in spite of being wounded in the leg continued to lead charge after charge. He kept the enemy at bay long enough to enable his company to withdraw safely.[3] Although his award was made by King George VI, Speakman was the first VC invested by Queen Elizabeth II. He later achieved the rank of sergeant and served in Malaya (with the Special Air Service), Borneo and Radfan.[4]

Later life[edit]

Due to financial hardship, Speakman sold his original VC, using the money to put a new roof on his cottage, but later got a genuine replacement.[5] His Victoria Cross is displayed in the National War Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh Castle. He was interviewed for the 2006 television docudrama Victoria Cross Heroes, which also included archive footage and dramatisations of his actions.[6]

In a ceremony held in Seoul on 21 April 2015 for visiting veterans of the Korean War, Speakman gave a replica of his Victoria Cross and other medals to the people and government of South Korea.[7] Speakman became a uniformed in-pensioner of the Royal Hospital Chelsea.[2] Speakman died on 20 June 2018.[8]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "William "Bill" Speakman VC". The Comprehensive Guide to the Victoria and George Cross. Retrieved 23 July 2016. 
  2. ^ a b Our Queen at Ninety. ITV, 28 March 2016
  3. ^ "No. 39418". The London Gazette (Supplement). 25 December 1951. p. 6731. 
  4. ^ Ministry of Defence Archived 1 April 2011 at the Wayback Machine.
  5. ^ "Korean War Hero From U.K. Donates Medals, Asks South Korea to 'Remember Me'". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  6. ^ "Interviews". Victoria Cross Heroes. Retrieved 6 July 2008. [permanent dead link]
  7. ^ "The Telegraph". Retrieved 22 April 2015. 
  8. ^ "Bill Speakman, Altrincham's great war hero and the first person to receive a Victoria Cross from Queen Elizabeth, dies aged 90". Altrincham Today. 21 June 2018. Retrieved 21 June 2018. 

Further reading[edit]

  • The Last Eleven? (Mark Adkin, 1991)
  • Monuments to Courage (David Harvey, 1999)
  • The Register of the Victoria Cross (This England, 1997)
  • Symbol of Courage:A History of the Victoria Cross (Max Arthur, 2004)
  • Beyond the Legend: Bill Speakman VC (Derek Hunt & John Mulholland, The History Press, 2013)