William Harold Coltman
|Born||17 November 1891|
Tatenhill Common, Burton upon Trent
|Died||29 June 1974 (aged 82)|
Outwoods Hospital, Burton upon Trent
St Mark's, Winshill, Burton upon Trent
|Years of service||1915–1919|
|Service number||3585 (later 241028)|
|Unit||The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's)|
|Battles/wars||First World War|
Second World War
Distinguished Conduct Medal & Bar
Military Medal & Bar
Mentioned in Despatches
William Harold Coltman, Victoria Cross (VC), the highest award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that could be awarded to British and Commonwealth forces. He was the most decorated rank and file soldier of the First World War.(17 November 1891 – 29 June 1974) was an English recipient of the
Bill Coltman was born at Rangemore, a village on the outskirts of Burton upon Trent, Staffordshire, and baptised at All Saints, Rangemore on 27 December 1891. He worked as a market gardener. He became a member of the Plymouth Brethren, and taught in the Sunday School in the village of Winshill. He volunteered for the British Army in January 1915, during the opening months of the First World War. He served in The North Staffordshire Regiment (The Prince of Wales's), in the 1/6th Battalion.
For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty. During the operations at Mannequin Hill, north-east of Sequehart, on the 3rd and 4th of Oct. 1918, L.-Corp. Coltman, a stretcher bearer, hearing that wounded had been left behind during a retirement, went forward alone in the face of fierce enfilade fire, found the casualties, dressed them and on three successive occasions, carried comrades on his back to safety, thus saving their lives. This very gallant NCO tended the wounded unceasingly for 48 hours.
Distinguished Conduct Medal
Conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty in evacuating wounded from the front line at great personal risk under shell fire. His gallant conduct undoubtedly saved many lives, and he continued throughout the night to search for wounded under shell and machine gun fire, and brought several in. His absolute indifference to danger had a most inspiring effect upon the rest of his men.
Bar to the DCM
The second award of the DCM was made for conduct in September 1918, only a week before his actions that earned him the VC. The citation read:
On the 28th September, 1918, near the St. Quentin Canal, near Bellenglise, he dressed and carried many wounded men under heavy artillery fire. During the advance on the following day he still remained at his work without rest or sleep, attending the wounded, taking no heed of either shell or machine-gun fire, and never resting until he was positive that our sector was clear of wounded. He set the highest example of fearlessness and devotion to duty to those with him.
The Military Medal (MM) is gazetted when awarded but no citation is given. Coltman was still a private at the time of this award. The award was made for rescuing a wounded officer from no mans land in February 1917. The officer had been commanding a wiring party during a misty night. The mist cleared and the party found themselves under fire, the officer was wounded in the thigh and Coltman immediately went out to bring the man in.
Bar to the MM
The second award of the MM was gazetted in August 1917. This award was for conduct behind the front lines in June 1917 and covered three separate instances of gallantry in a short period in June 1917. On 6 June an ammunition dump was hit by mortar fire causing several casualties, Coltman took responsibility for removing Verey lights from the dump. The following day he took a leading role in tending men injured when the company headquarters was mortared. A little over a week later, a trench tunnel collapsed trapping a number of men. Coltman organised a rescue party to dig the trapped men out.
After the war, Coltman returned to Burton and took a job as a gardener with the town's Parks Department. During the Second World War he was commissioned in the Army Cadet Force in 1943 and commanded the Burton ACF; he resigned his commission in 1951. He retired in 1963 and died at Outwoods Hospital, Burton, in 1974 at the age of 82. He is buried in the churchyard of St Mark's parish church in Winshill with his wife Eleanor May (née Dolman).
His medals, including his Victoria Cross, are on display at the Staffordshire Regiment Museum, at Whittington Barracks, Lichfield, Staffordshire. At the museum there is a replica First World War trench named in honour of Coltman. Coltman House is the headquarters building of Defence Medical Services at Whittington Barracks. The Burton Army Cadet Force base and Army Reserve Centre is at Coltman House, Hawkins Lane, Burton.
There is a monument to Coltman at the Memorial Gardens, Lichfield Street, Burton. The Coltman VC Peace Wood is at Mill Hill Lane, Winshill. A road has been named in honour of Coltman in Tunstall, along with roads named after another Victoria Cross recipient, John Harold Rhodes, and R. J. Mitchell, the designer of the Supermarine Spitfire, all from Staffordshire.
The gardens that he tended have since been named in his honour, within the gardens are trees dedicated to himself and all the men who fought in both world wars from Winshill and the surrounding area.
- "Coltman, William Harold". Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (online ed.). Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/ref:odnb/93495. (Subscription or UK public library membership required.)
- "No. 31108". The London Gazette (Supplement). 3 January 1919. p. 308.
- "No. 30251". The London Gazette (Supplement). 24 August 1917. p. 8831.
- "No. 31668". The London Gazette (Supplement). 28 November 1919. p. 14812.
- "No. 30001". The London Gazette (Supplement). 23 March 1917. p. 2991.
- Giddon, Gerald (2014). VCs of the First World War: The Final Days 1918. The History Press. p. 140. ISBN 978-0-7509-5732-8.
- "No. 30234". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 August 1917. p. 8417.
- "No. 36018". The London Gazette (Supplement). 14 May 1943. p. 2214.
- "No. 39397". The London Gazette (Supplement). 27 November 1951. p. 6246.
- "The Coltman Trench". Staffordshire Regiment Museum. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "Our Locations". Army Cadets. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "Memorial to William Harold Coltman VC, DCM, MM". War Memorials Online. Retrieved 21 September 2017.
- "Coltman Wood: War hero celebrated". Birmingham Press. 18 November 2014. Retrieved 9 November 2018.