b. 11/1885 Dallas, Moray, Scotland. d. 13/03/1915 Neuve Chapelle, France
William Anderson (1885-1915) was born at Dallas, Elgin, Morayshire, Scotland on 28th December 1882. His father was Alexander Anderson, a general labourer and his mother was Isabella nee Anderson. His parents married on 26th November 1880 at Dallas and they lived at 23rd House there. Despite having the same surname, they were not previously related. Before she married, Isabella had six illegitimate children, two sons and four daughters. William also had one full younger brother.
Having been educated at Forres Academy, Moray, William was employed by Glasgow Tramways Depot as a conductor. He moved to Newcastle upon Tyne, where his half brother James Watt Anderson was serving with the Yorkshire Regiment. William enlisted in 1905 and served in India, Egypt and South Africa before being discharged to the Reserve in 1912. He was then employed at Elder Hospital in Govan, Glasgow.
When war broke out he was recalled on 4th August 1914 and instead of joining a battalion straight away, he was sent to Middlesbrough to help with recruitment. He met Lucy Dudley there, a St John’s Ambulance British Red Cross Society nurse from Port Clarence, near Middlesbrough. She is reported to have asked him jokingly if he would have her as a recruit and when he said he would they got talking, had tea and went for a motor ride to West Hartlepool. A few days later later he proposed and she accepted. Lucy called him Jock.
William was sent to France on 14th November to join the 2nd Battalion. Within four months, he would be involved in action at Neuve Chapelle which would lead to both the Victoria Cross and sadly also his death. At Neuve-Chapelle on 12th March, 1915, Anderson led three men with bombs against a large party of the enemy who had entered our trenches, and by his prompt and determined action saved, what might otherwise have become, a serious situation. Cpl. Anderson first threw his own bombs, then those in possession of his three men (who had been wounded) amongst the Germans, after which he opened rapid rifle fire upon them with great effect, notwithstanding that he was at the time quite alone.
Anderson was wounded soon after his VC action and is believed to have died on 13th March 1915. Although his pay book was found and returned to his unit, his body was not recovered and he is commemorated on the Le Touret Memorial. In August 1915 a reporter for the Forres Gazette interviewed Lucy Dudley and she said “I can’t believe he is dead. He is either a prisoner of war or wounded and won’t tell me for fear of upsetting me….When he went away on 11th November he said to me..look here kiddie. Never mind me. I’ll do all right. I am going to come back with a commission.” She was convinced that he would return at the end of the war.
The VC was presented to his brother Alexander by Lieutenant General Sir Francis Davies, GOC Scottish Command, in the banqueting hall of Edinburgh Castle on 19th May 1920. Alexander had been unable to attend a Buckingham Palace investiture because of his own war service as a Lance Corporal in the Highland Light Infantry and an acute attack of malaria. Alexander donated the medals to the Green Howards in March 1969 at a small ceremony at his home in Iverlochy, Fort William, Inverness-shire. The VC is now displayed in the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: GREEN HOWARDS MUSEUM, RICHMOND, YORKSHIRE.
BURIAL PLACE: BODY NEVER FOUND. NAME ON LE TOURET MEMORIAL.
William Anderson VC's name on the Le Touret Memorial, Richeboutg, France.
William Anderson's medals on display at the Green Howards Museum, Richmond, Yorkshire
(Picture - Andrew Swan).
Anderson's medal card