Lance Corporal Coltman VC DCM MM
Lance Corporal William Harold Coltman, 1 / 6th Bn, North Staffordshire Regiment, was the most decorated serviceman of the First World War ( 1914-1918 ). In the last two years of the war he was awarded the Victoria Cross, Distinguished Conduct Medal twice, and Military Medal twice, acting as a stretcher-bearer.
His actions leading to the award of the Victoria Cross took place on Oct 3 - 4, 1918 at Mannequin Hill, France. His citation read:
"For most conspicuous bravery, initiative and devotion to duty. During the operations at Mannequin Hill, N.E. of Sequehart, on the 3rd and 4th October 1918, Lance Corporal Coltman, a stretcher-bearer, hearing that wounded had been left behind during a retirement, on his own initiative, went forward alone in the face of fierce enfilade fire, found the wounded, dressed them, and on three successive occasions carried comrades on his back to safety, thus saving their lives.
This very gallant N.C.O. tended the wounded unceasingly for forty-eight hours"
His first Military Medal award was as a result of actions at Monchy on Feb 17th 1917. The citation read:
"Near Monchy on 17th February 1917, during misty weather, an officer took out a party to repair the wire in front of the trenches. The mist suddenly cleared and the enemy opened fire. The officer sent the party in, and was himself the last to withdraw.
When getting through our wire he was shot through the thigh and fell. Private Coltman, with conspicuous gallantry, in full view of the enemy, without hesitation went out from the trenches to this officer, and with difficulty succeeded in bringing him in through the wire, and while doing so he displayed great courage in keeping himself between his officer and the enemy although being only 85 yards from the hostile trenches and under rifle fire the whole time.
Private Coltman has previously shown great gallantry as a Stretcher-Bearer, particularly on 1st July 1916"
The bar to his MM came as a result of several actions. The citation read:
"In the trenches near Lens, Lance Corporal ( Stretcher-Bearer ) Coltman has shown great gallantry, devotion to duty and disregard for personal danger on three occasions:
6th June 1917. A mortar bomb set fire to the Company dump wherein bombs and rockets were stored. Lance Corporal Coltman immediately removed the bombs and Very-lights.
7th June 1917. The Company HQ was set on fire by a trench mortar bomb causing several casualties. Lance Corporal Coltman tended the wounded and amongst others bound up one with both legs broken.
14th June 1917. A tunnel through an embankment was blown in and 12 men buried. He immediately organised a party to dig out the buried men and supervised the removal of the wounded and was undoubtedly responsible for saving the lives of several men."
The Distinguished Conduct Medal citation read:
"For most conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during operations south-west of Lens between 28th June and 2nd July 1917. Lance Corporal Coltman's conduct was magnificent.
He assisted in evacuating several badly wounded men from the front line and working untiringly until every wounded man had been taken out; undoubtedly saving the lives of several of these men, as otherwise they would have had to lie up in the front line without proper attention.
During the night he searched the ground between and in front of the captured trenches and under shell and machine-gun fire brought in any men who had been wounded.
Lance Corporal Coltman's absolute indifference to danger and his gallant conduct had an insipiring effect on the rest of the men and was a splendid example to all. I cannot speak too highly of this NCO's gallantry on this and many previous occasions."
He also got a bar to the DCM:
"On 28th September 1918 near Bellinglise this Lance Corporal dressed and carried many wounded men under heavy artillery fire. The following day, during our advance, he remained at his work without rest or sleep, attending the wounded, headless of shell and machine-gun fire and never resting till he was positive that our sector was clear of wounded. In addition he was a most valuable means of communication, bringing back with his wounded accurate information of the advance.
In spite of very thick smoke and fog he always found his way and so far as his work allowed; served as a guide. He set the very highest example of fearlessness and devotion to duty."
His full medal entitlement for both wars are:
Medal entitlement of Lance Corporal William Harold Coltman,
1 / 6th Bn, North Staffordshire Regiment
Distinguished Conduct Medal ( DCM ) & Bar
Military Medal ( MM ) & Bar
1914 - 15 Star
British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
Victory Medal ( 1914-19 ) + MiD Oakleaf
Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal ( 1953 )
Special Constabulary Long Service Medal
Croix de Guerre ( France )
William Coltman died at his home on Burton-on-Trent on the 29th June 1974, aged 82, and was buried in St Mark's Churchyard, Winshil near Burton-on-Trent.