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Centenary has put Burton man's high courage in spotlight

By Burton Mail  |  Posted: August 04, 2014

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ONE of the major benefits of the centenary of the First World War has been that it has brought attention to the state of some of the graves of the heroes of the conflict.

That includes William Coltman, a courageous VC winner, whose story is all the more remarkable because he never fired a shot in anger.

Lance Corporal William Coltman was a stretcher bearer who became the most decorated non commissioned officer of the war. The pacifist's story is just one of many that defined the war.

A member of the 1st/6th North Staffordshire Regiment, he was just 26 when he won the highest military honour for valour in the face of the enemy, the Victoria Cross.

It was also the fact that he demonstrated continuing acts of bravery and "his absolute indifference to danger" that had a "most inspiring effect" on other men during the First World War.

Burton-born Coltman also won other awards for bravery, including the Distinguished Conduct Medal and Bar, the Military Medal and Bar.

He deserves to be remembered but, like a lot of heroes of the time, his grave had become neglected with the passing years.

Recently a £100,000 grant to the Victoria Cross Trust has allowed soldiers like the Burton hero to be remembered in a manner that Burton MP Andrew Griffiths has described as 'properly and with respect'.

Lance Corporal Coltman's grave, at St Mark's Church in Winshill, was improved following a campaign by the Victoria Cross Trust, which was backed by the Mail's Honour our Heroes campaign.

A new footplate, kerbstones and memorial inscribed with Coltman's status as the most decorated non-commissioned officer in the First World War have been installed on the grave.

The work went ahead after the Victoria Cross Trust raised £3,000 through public donations with the help of the Mail-led campaign.

Chairman of the trust Gary Stapleton said LCpl Coltman's decorations made him 'the most important soldier' in the war.

He said: "Coltman is a Burton hero. We are pleased the people of the town can visit his final resting place and find it in a state befitting of a man of his status."

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