William Beesley (5th October 1895 to 23rd September 1966)


William was just 22 years old when he was fighting with the 13th Battalion, The Rifle Brigade (Prince Consort's Own) during the First World War. On 8th May 1918 at Bucquoy in France William found himself in a deathly corner. At 2, o, clock in the afternoon three trench mortars were fired as a signal and William went over the top with his troop. About 500 yards ahead was a ridge they had to rush to but without any cover most of his comrades were shot.


William dropped into a shell hole they had all died except one private who was wounded. Without concern for his own safety he climbed out and charged at the Germans with this revolver blazing. He killed two Germans who were manning a machine gun. Another appeared from a dugout and ran to take over the machine gun but William shot him too. Three more Germans appeared and tried to rip up a map but William shot the man trying to shred the map.


Six Germans were taken prisoner however others were hidden and they tried cut William down with bullets. William’s Army-issue Lewis gun must have been white hot as he kept it shooting to maintain position (along with the wounded private). Four terrifying hours later the second private was wounded again. William remained shooting alone until about 10pm expecting they would be picked off by a sniper at any time. Oddly he survived hopeless odds and eventually used the dark of night to sneak back to the original line with the wounded private. This was some tough man who had already been wounded in 1915 and 1916 and been sent back home to be hospitalised (I gave him an extra-hearty salute.)


After the war he returned to Nuneaton and received a massive Ł700 in War Bonds by the local townsfolk. He was demobilised, married Mary Wilson and returned to coal mining.. In the Second World War he joined the Royal Artillery to train new cadets. Afterwards he worked for Coventry Gauge & Tool Company retiring in 1960 aged 65.


People like this deserve a long contented life but in 1966 he was on holiday with his wife in Abergavenny in South Wales and felt ill. He was taken to hospital where he died aged 70. A large congregation turned out for the funeral and The Rifle Bridge buglers played The Last Post. At some point he must have got re-married as he’s buried here in Coventry with second wife Elizabeth Beesley.


While I took these photographs a man was attending a grave about fifty feet away. He didn’t look up but his Alsatian never took its eyes off me and it trotted over for a sniff and a stroke.



Looking for William who is on the left…



Touching the “VC” and there it is on the far left…