THE sound of the Last Post rang out in a Burton churchyard as the town honoured its most decorated war hero.
On an overcast and blustery morning, Winshill’s St Mark’s Church was packed to the rafters for the rededication of William Coltman’s grave.
Veterans, church leaders, politicians and members of the public observed a two-minute silence and laid wreaths at his burial spot in the churchyard.
Rangemore-born Coltman earned five medals for bravery as a stretcher bearer in the North Staffordshire Regiment during the Great War.
His great grandson Phil Coltman told the congregation he had known about his great grandfather’s exploits all of his life.
He said: “His bravery, commitment and unwavering faith meant he was prepared to make the ultimate sacrifice to save others.
“Hopefully, none of us will have to go through what he went through.”
The service went ahead after the Victoria Cross Trust raised £3,000 from public donations to restore the run-down grave with the help of the Mail-backed Honour Our Heroes campaign.
Coltman’s plot now has a new footplate, kerbstone and memorial inscribed with his status as the most decorated non-commissioned officer in the conflict.
Coltman received the Military Medal and Distinguished Conduct Medal twice, as well as the Victoria Cross – the highest award for gallantry.
He survived the war and died in Burton in 1974.
During the service, the Bishop of Derby Alastair Redfern said Coltman’s bravery and compassion made him a role model for today’s generation.
He said: “He was a lifesaver because of his compassion. William Coltman allowed compassion to be a driving force in his life.”
Burton’s MP and patron of the Victoria Cross Trust Andrew Griffiths, who was at the forefront of the campaign, hailed the generosity of the people of Burton, whose donations allowed the project to go ahead.
He said: “We have now got a fitting memorial that Burton can be proud of for its bravest son.”
Labour’s parliamentary candidate for Burton, Jon Wheale, a member of the Staffordshire Regiment Association, said: “This has been a fitting tribute to one of Burton’s true heroes.”
Mayor of East Staffordshire Michael Rodgers said the strong turnout showed the public’s appreciation for those who fought in the Great War.
He said: “We can only take our hats off to our servicemen.”