b. 05/03/1881 Birmingham. d. 28/05/1940 Leamington Spa, Warwickshire
William Amey (1881-1940) was born on the 5th March 1881 at Duddeston, in the Aston area of Birmingham, the last-but-one of the eight children of Charles & Elizabeth Amey. When he left school he worked as a chandelier maker for Verity’s Ltd, electrical manufacturers, so presumably had some skill with his hands.
William served with the 1/8th Battalion, Royal Warwickshire Regiment. It was a first line Territorial Battalion raised at Aston Manor, Birmingham, on the 4th August 1914 – the day war was declared.
The Battalion was initially stationed at Chelmsford in Essex before landing at Le Havre in March 1915. The unit fought in France, then went to Italy in November 1917, before returning to the fast moving campaigns in France in September 1918. No service record survives for William, so we do not know exactly when he joined the Battalion. As he has no 1914-15 Star, it was probably after 1916, when he was already aged 35. He was almost certainly a conscript, but it is November 1918 that William Amey is famous for.
All hostilities ended on 11th November 1918 and Landrécies turned out to be the Battalion’s last action of the War. Everyone knew the end was coming. The Allies had broken free from trench warfare and were advancing across open country in fire and manoeuvre. With the end so close, would you be tempted to hold back, to be a bit more cautious? It would be perfectly understandable. But Amey did not hold back.
75th Brigade was tasked to seize Landrécies in order to secure the bridgehead to cross the River Sambre. The 1/8th Battalion was on the left flank opposite the small hamlet of Faubourg Sayer. At 6.15am on the 4th November 1918, the battalion attacked – and promptly met stiff opposition. After a very severe firefight, they broke through and secured their objective, the lock on the River Sambre at Landrecies. It was during this battle, that newly promoted Corporal William Amey was awarded his VC.
Lance-Corporal Amey led his section against a machine-gun nest under heavy fire and drove the garrison into a neighbouring farm, finally capturing 50 prisoners and several machine-guns. Later, single-handed and under heavy fire he attacked a machine-gun post in a farmhouse, killed two of the garrison and drove the remainder into a cellar until assistance arrived. Subsequently he rushed a strongly held post, capturing 20 more prisoners.
Amey’s gallantry enabled Faubourg Sayer to be captured, the Battalion to reach their objective, the lock on the Canal, and thus save many British lives. They then continued the advance.
Within a week, before the guns fell silent on 11 November, William was awarded the MM (Military Medal). This was the OR equivalent to today’s MC, awarded now to all ranks. And once No 4 in order of precedence. In WW1 awards of the MM did not attract a citation, so we do not know the circumstances. But the MM was only awarded for “exemplary gallantry during active operations against the enemy on land.” So, within a week, Corporal Amey displayed two acts of tremendous courage.
After the end of the War the Battalion was billeted at Le Cateau with training, parades and fatigue duties, before being employed on salvage work in Cambrai. You can feel the tedium and boredom and the men’s wanting to get home. During February 1919, 1/8 Battalion was disbanded and finally demobilised at Birmingham on the 1st August 1919, almost 5 years to the day that it was formed.
After the war, we don’t know much about his employment. William was a prominent member of the British Legion. He attended the VC Garden Party of 1920 at Buckingham Palace and the 1929 VC Dinner at the House of Lords. He received the George VI Coronation Medal of 1937.
Almost 20 years after the war, in the autumn of 1938, William Amey married Evelyn “Eve” Haines in Edmonton, Essex. They came to Leamington and lived at 13 Willes Road, naming the house ‘Landrécies’ after the place where he won his VC. Can you imagine the quiet pride as William screwed the nameplate to the door? Can you imagine local people asking what it meant?
Sadly, only 18 months later, at the age of 59, William died on the 28th May 1940 at Warneford Hospital. His funeral was attended by two other VC holders. He was buried with full Military Honours in All Saints Cemetery, Brunswick Street Leamington Spa. His medals can be seen at St Johns House Museum, Warwick.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: ROYAL REGIMENT OF FUSILIERS MUSEUM, WARWICK.
BURIAL PLACE: LEAMINGTON SPA CEMETERY, WARWICKSHIRE.
Amey's medals on display at the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, Warwick (July 2015)
Amey's gun used in his VC action (Royal Regiment of Fusiliers)
Hall of Memory, Birmingham (Feb 2016)