Fred Potts

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Frederick William Owen Potts
Trooper Fred Potts 01.jpg
Born18 December 1892
Reading, Berkshire, England
Died2 November 1943 (aged 50)
Reading, Berkshire, England
Reading Crematorium
Allegiance United Kingdom
Service/branchFlag of the British Army.svg British Army
Unit1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry
Battles/warsWorld War I - Battle of Gallipoli
AwardsVictoria Cross
Potts' medal collection at Imperial War Museum.

Frederick William Owen Potts, VC, (18 December 1892 – 2 November 1943), more commonly known as Trooper Fred Potts, was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, the highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces.[1][2]

Life and career[edit]

Potts was born on 18 December 1892, and first came to public notice in 1913, when he saved a five-year-old boy named Charles Rex from drowning in the River Thames. By 1915, he was 22 years old, and a private in the 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry of the British Army. During the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.[1][2]

On 21 August 1915 in the attack on Hill 70, Potts (although wounded in the thigh) remained for over 48 hours under the Turkish trenches with another private from his regiment who was severely wounded, and unable to move. He finally fixed a shovel to the equipment of his wounded comrade and using this as a sledge, dragged the man back over 600 yards to safety, being under fire all the way.[3][4][5] He became known as The Hero with the Shovel.[6] He was feted his return from Gallipoli, the press articles of the time can be seen on the Potts Trust website.[7] In 1967 The Victor children's magazine told the story very graphically on the front and back covers, it used to feature a story of bravery every week. This article has been used by the Memorial Trust to explain the story at local schools as the graphical presentation, being very much "of its time" appealed to children.[8] The Berkshire Yeomanry Museum website explains the story.[9]

Potts was born and raised on Edgehill Street in the Katesgrove area of Reading. After the war, during which he eventually achieved the rank of lance-corporal, he kept a tailor's shop on the parallel Alpine Street. He was a Mason and in 1934 was Master of the Aldermaston Lodge. More about his later life can be found at reference.[10] Potts died on 2 November 1943 at the age of 50. His grave is at Reading Crematorium, whilst his medals are held by the Imperial War Museum.[2][11]

The man he saved at Gallipoli was a fellow Trooper of the Berkshire Yeomanry called Arthur Andrews who also came from Reading. Andrews lived until 1980, when he died at the age of 89. Charles Rex also survived until he was 87. In 2009, as the result of the production of a BBC Radio Berkshire documentary on Potts,[12] a reunion occurred between the relatives of the two men at the Imperial War Museum.[1][11] More about Arthur Andrews can be found on the Trust website.[13]

Memorial in Reading[edit]

During Prime Minister's Questions on 20 January 2010, Martin Salter, Member of Parliament for Reading West, indicated that there were plans to provide a permanent memorial to Trooper Potts.[14] It was announced in May 2014 that the memorial would be sited just outside Forbury Gardens, on the open paved area opposite the Crown Court / The Forbury Hotel.

Raising the Funds[edit]

The Trooper Potts VC Memorial Trust [15] was established to raise the necessary funds to build the memorial in 2010 gaining charitable status in 2012, Reg No 1147047.[16] Its Patrons are The Hon Mrs Bayliss CVO JP (former Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire), Chris Tarrant, the TV presenter who lives in the Reading area, and Michael Naxton, Curator of Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.[17][18] Haslams Estate Agents, a company which had been established in Reading in the late 1800s, became the Major Sponsor of the Trust in 2013. The Trust raised the £150,000 to cover the cost of the memorial at two fundraising Charity Balls (November 2013+2014), through a range of public fundraising events and from three major commercial donors. Many businesses from the Reading area donated as did descendants of both men. Grant bodies included; The Earley Charity,[19] The Englefield Trust [20], The Greenham Common Trust [21] and The Berkshire Masonic Charity.[22]

The Design[edit]

Liverpool Sculptor Tom Murphy was selected in 2012 to design the memorial, his proposal, which depicted the rescue on the battlefield in Gallipoli, was approved in 2012.[23] Tom was commissioned to produce the life size clay maquette in November 2014 and his final design was approved in March 2015. The cast bronze sculpture was installed on 2 October 2015. To quote Murphy, "the sculpture has a high degree of finish with details which will appeal to children, young people and the military historian. Items placed on the ground of the Gallipoli Battlefield include; Huntley and Palmer ration biscuits, a SMLE rifle, .303 bullets, Andrews' pipe and tobacco tin, a belt buckle and button from a Turkish Uniform and buttons from a Berkshire Yeomanry uniform, a water bottle struck by a bullet."

A Roll of Honour lists the names of 426 men of The Berkshire Yeomanry who gave their lives in the wars of the 20th Century. They are listed by War, by Rank and then alphabetically and at the centre is a quote from John F Kennedy.

Information Boards explain about; The Berkshire Yeomanry, Gallipoli, The Victoria Cross, the attack on Scimitar Hill (Hill 70) and this VC. Reading designer, Anne-Marie Carroll, developed these with the trust drawing contributions from; Michael Naxton, The Berkshire Yeomanry Museum, The Turkish Embassy and Reading Civic Society.

Sculpture of Trooper Potts VC (to the left) and Trooper Andrews. Against the railings the Roll of Honour to the 426 men of the Berkshire Yeomanry.

The Unveiling.[edit]

The memorials were unveiled on 4 October 2015 by Chris Tarrant and the Lord-Lieutenant of Berkshire, Mr J Puxley. The Trust commissioned "Third Lens Films" to produce a film of the unveiling ceremony. This is in two versions; short, 8 minutes [24] and the full service,55 mins,[25]

Other events[edit]

Trooper Potts was commemorated in September 2013 in the name of a new road, Trooper Potts Way, created during construction of the Reading Station North Entrance.[26] It was unveiled on 5 April 2014.

The Government's Commemorative VC Paving Stone was set in the eastern corner of the 1920s War Memorial. It was unveiled in a small ceremony by Trooper Potts' Granddaughter - Anne Ames - at 17:00 on 21 August 2015, the exact centenary of the Berkshire Yeomanry's attack on Scimitar Hill.[27][28][29][30]

On 21 March 2016 Greene King opened a new Pub/ Restaurant along the Basingstoke Road, to the south of Reading, called The Trooper Potts. It features two very large displays which tell the story of the rescue and Fred and Arthur's lives and several smaller ones, including a snakes and ladders board of the cartoon characters "Pip,Squeak and Wilfred". [31]

Educational Outreach[edit]

In 2011 the Trust started to work with the History department of Reading College. Their students have helped the Trust by fundraising, joining the committee and teaching to local primary schools about; The First World War, Gallipoli and this local story. In 2013 the Trooper Potts prize for History was introduced at the college.

The Trust delivered Trooper Potts mornings at Katesgrove Primary School, Fred Potts old school,[32] Southcote Primary School and St Edwards School. The curators of the Berkshire Yeomanry Museum brought along kit of the period for the children to see / try on. Shorter events were run at other schools.[33][34][35]

The Victoria Cross[edit]

The Trust commissioned a film of David Callaghan, a former director of Hancocks & Co, the London Jewellers which has supplied the VC since it was instituted on 29 January 1856, explaining the history of The Victoria Cross. This is being used in its educational work.[36]


  1. ^ a b c "Trooper Fred Potts VC". The Western Front Association. 2009-11-07. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  2. ^ a b c "Berkshire". Burial location of VC holders. Archived from the original on 18 August 2010. Retrieved 9 November 2009.
  3. ^ Buzzell, Nora (1997). The Register of the Victoria Cross.
  4. ^ Snelling, Stephen (1995). VCs of the First World War - Gallipoli.
  5. ^ "No. 29312". The London Gazette. 1 October 1915. pp. 9641–9642.
  6. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  7. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  8. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  9. ^ "Berkshire Yeomanry Museum". Berkshire Yeomanry Museum.
  10. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  11. ^ a b "The hero round the corner – the story of Reading's only Victoria Cross". BBC. 2009-10-29. Retrieved 2009-11-09.
  12. ^ "BBC - Berkshire - What the Potts story means to me".
  13. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  14. ^ "Engagements: 20 Jan 2010: House of Commons debates". Retrieved 2010-10-21.
  15. ^ Potts VC Trust. "Potts VC Memorial Site".
  16. ^ "Charity overview".
  17. ^ "Interview With Michael Naxton, Curator Of Lord Ashcroft's Medal Collection". JustCollecting.
  18. ^ "Victoria Cross Heroes".
  19. ^ "The Earley Charity : Home".
  20. ^ http://www./[permanent dead link]
  21. ^ "Home".
  22. ^ "Berkshire Masonic Charity".
  23. ^ "Welcome to Liverpool Sculptures".
  24. ^ Trooper Potts VC - The Unveiling. Vimeo.
  25. ^ Trooper Potts VC - The Unveiling (Full Service). Vimeo.
  26. ^ Natasha Adkins (30 September 2013). "New road to be named after VC hero Trooper Fred Potts". getreading.
  27. ^ Linda Fort (24 August 2015). "Trooper Fred Potts: marking his bravery exactly 100 years later". getreading.
  28. ^ "Honour for Trooper Potts marks 1 year of VC paving stone ceremonies".
  29. ^ Shorthand - DCLG. "Victoria Cross paving stones". Shorthand. Archived from the original on 9 April 2016.
  30. ^ "Frederick W O Potts VC - victoriacross".
  31. ^ "The Trooper Potts in Reading - Hungry Horse". Hungry Horse.
  32. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 22 September 2015. Retrieved 14 February 2016.CS1 maint: Archived copy as title (link)
  33. ^ "Remembering a local hero". Archived from the original on 8 April 2016.
  34. ^ "A leading independent girls' day school in Berkshire - The Abbey School".
  35. ^ "Kendrick School Reading". Kendrick School.
  36. ^ The Victoria Cross - David Callaghan. Vimeo.


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