08:00 Wednesday 22 January 2014

Bells peal to start the war tribute

Written byROB SMYTH

THE bells will ring out this weekend to mark the start of Burton’s efforts to commemorate the beginning of the First World War – and honour the town’s most decorated war hero.

The St Mark’s church bell ringers will sound a half-muffled quarter peal at 10am on Sunday as part of a ceremony to mark the rededication of the grave of William Coltman, above, at the Winshill burial site.

The quarter peal will also be the first rung in the area to commemorate the start of the First World War 100 years ago in 1914.

Barry Gooding, on behalf of the church, said: “The St Mark’s church bell ringers, led by tower captain David Mitchell, will ring a half- muffled quarter peal prior to the start of the 11 am William Coltman grave rededication service to be held at St Mark’s church Winshill on Sunday.

“The ringing will commence at approximately 10 am and last up until the start of the service.”

Politicians, church leaders, veterans, and community leaders will attend the rededication of Victoria Cross recipient Lance Corporal Coltman’s grave at 11am.

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

The Rev Michael Mookerji, of St Mark’s Church, said the service would signify the start of the centenary of the First World War.

He said: “It’s important that we remember these men and women who fought in the war for our freedom.”

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

LCpl Coltman, a pacifist who lived in Winshill, also twice received the Military Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal while serving as a stretcher bearer in the North Staffordshire Regiment.

Burton MP Andrew Griffiths, who is a patron of the Victoria Cross Trust and led the fund-raising, said: “Given William Coltman’s pacifism and beliefs, the bravery he showed in service to his county makes him one of the most important in the war.

“As a result, his grave is of national significance. It’s fitting that such a hero in Britain’s history has a grave that we can all be proud of.”

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