b. 14/10/1892 Wigston, Leicestershire. d. 01/06/1955 London.
William Ewart Boulter (1892-1955) was born at 51 Bull Head Street, Wigston Magna, Leicestershire on 14th October 1892. His father was Frederick Boulter, who worked his whole life in the hosiery trade, and helped form the Wigston Hosiery Society in 1897. He was also a keen support of the Liberal Party and named his son after the Liberal Prime Minister, William Ewart Gladstone. William’s mother was Mary Ann nee Dore, a domestic servant. His parents had married at the Independent Chapel in Wigston Magna on 4th August 1890. William was one of their six children.
William was educated at Bell Street Infants’s School in Wigston Magna and Great Wigston Board School, where he was noted for his sporting abilities. William then became a grocer’s assistant at Wigston Cooperative Stores from 1904, before sometime in late 1911, he became a draper’s assistant in the Leicester Cooperative Society store on Leicester High Street. In 1912 he moved to the Kettering Industrial Cooperative Society as a draper’s assistant at the Newland Street store. William became engaged to Florence May Lusher before the outbreak of the Great War, and appeared with him at a number of receptions after the award of the VC. The relationship did not continue after the war.
William enlisted in the 6th Northamptonshire on 4th September 1914 which trained at Shorncliffe before moving to Colchester. He was promoted to Lance Corporal and then Corporal by the middle of November 1914. After having been charged twice for being absent without leave, he was promoted to Lance Sergeant on 13th April 1915. On 26th July, the Battalion sailed for Boulogne, and William was promoted to Sergeant the same day.
On 14th July 1916 at Trones Wood, France, when one company and part of another was held up in the attack on a wood by a hostile machine-gun which was causing heavy casualties, Sergeant Boulter, with utter contempt of danger, and in spite of being wounded in the shoulder, advanced alone over open ground under heavy fire, in front of the gun and bombed the gun team from their position. This act not only saved many casualties, but materially helped the operation of clearing the enemy out of the wood.
He was recommended for the VC by his Commanding Officer, Lieutenant Colonel George Ripley, a man much respected by William. Ripley died of his wounds received at Thiepval on 26th September 1916, never knowing his recommendation had succeeded. William had been evacuated to Southampton on 18th July, and was treated at Lichfield Military Hospital, Staffordshire. He was then moved to the 5th Northern General Hospital, Leicester until 21st October 1916. When the wound had virtually healed, X-rays revealed a piece of decayed bone, which needed further surgery to remove it. He convalesced at the British Red Cross VAD Hospital at Green Hill, Belper, Derbyshire followed by sick leave at home. While having dinner with his family on 26th October, a telegram arrived announcing his VC.
He received a civic reception in Kettering on 28th October, and Wigston Magna on 30th October. On 2nd November the Kettering Industrial Cooperative Society hosted a tea party in his honour, and on 4th November an estimated 20,000 greeted him in Northampton.
William was then posted to the Bedfordshire Command Depot at Ampthill on 10th November. While there he applied for a commission on 18th January 1917, and commenced officer training. He was given special leave to go to London for his investiture at Buckingham Palace by King George V on 17th March 1917. He was commissioned into the Northamptonshire Regiment on 27th June and joined the 7th Battalion in France in late August. He contracted trench fever and bronchitis and by December was in the South of France convalescing. The bronchitis would flare up again and he was evacuated to England in February 1918.
His last medical board on 11th November 1918 found him unfit for General Service. Despite this he continued to serve, assuming duty with the Ministry of Labour’s No 3 District, Manchester. He was promoted to Lieutenant and stayed with the Ministry of Labour until August 1919 and relinquished his commission. In 1920, he joined the Northampton Chamber of Commerce journal and allied publications at their offices at Barclays Bank Chambers in St Giles’ Square. He ran a Leicester hosiery business from 1921. In 1922, he was joined by Leslie William Hurren to form Boulter & Hurren Ltd on Market Street, Leicester.
On 14th April 1927, William married Alice Irene “Rene” nee Toone at the Registry Office, St Giles, London. There did not have any children. In July 1933, William joined the John Lewis & Co Ltd on a one month trial, resulting in him being appointed Superintendent of Shoes and Trunks at the East House Store in Oxford Street. He was soon promoted to Sales Manager for several departments. He moved to the West House Store as Sales Manager of the Furnishing Department. In 1936, he joined Knight & Co, auctioneers, surveyors and estate agents, in South Kensington.
William was commissioned as an acting pilot officer in the RAFVR Training Branch on 1st February 1941. He was given the rank Pilot Officer on 1st February 1942 and later promoted to Flight Lieutenant. He commanded an Air Training Corps Squadron in Wimbledon. He resigned his commission in 1944 due to ill health. After World War Two, he began to acquire furniture and was also a company director for several prominent firms.
William was a heavy smoker and developed lung cancer. He became seriously ill in April 1955 and was admitted to Wimbledon Hospital, where he died on 1st June 1955. He was cremated at Putney Vale Crematorium on 6th June and his ashes were scattered in the Garden of Remembrance. In addition to his VC, he was awarded the 1914-15 Star, British War Medal 1914-20, Victory Medal 1914-19, George VI Coronation Medal 1937 and Elizabeth II Coronation Medal. His widow Rene left the medals to the Regiment, except for the Elizabeth II Coronation Medal, which was retained by the family. The medals are displayed by the Northamptonshire Regimental Museum, Abington Park, Northampton.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: NORTHAMPTONSHIRE RGT, ABINGTON PARK, NORTHAMPTON.
BURIAL PLACE: PUTNEY VALE CREMATORIUM, LONDON.
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
ASHES SCATTERED ON FIRST LAWN , UPPER TERRACE
War Illustrated, 11th November 1916
Please note the memorial stone and plaque to Boulter VC in Wigston, Leicestershire is courtesy of Nigel Atter
Courtesy of Martin Sargeant