b. 29/12/1881 Glasgow, Scotland. d. 25/03/1918 Bois Favieres, France
William Herbert Anderson (1881-1918) was born in Glasgow, Scotland on 29th December 1881. His father, who was awarded the MBE, worked as a chartered accountant with Messrs Kerr, Anderson and Macleod. His mother was Eleanor Kay, daughter of Alexander Kay of Cornhill, Biggar, Lanarkshire. William was a native of Glasgow and was educated at Glasgow Academy. He went to Fettes College, Edinburgh and studied French Language and Literature at Tours.
In 1900 he joined the 1st Lanark Rifle Volunteers (“Gallant Greys”) which became the 5th Scottish Rifles (Cameronians). Eight years later, when the Territorial Army replaced the Volunteers, he retired with the rank of Lieutenant, and became a partner in his father’s firm. He also took a keen interest in politics.
On 4th July 1909 he married Miss Gertrude Campbell Gilmour of Woodback, Dumbartonshire and they had two sons, born in 1911 and 1913 respectively. A month after the war began William joined the 17th Highland Light Infantry (the Chamber of Commerce Battalion) with the rank of Captain, and was deeply involved with the unit’s training in Scotland and England. Before his battalion left Codford, however, Anderson was instructed to carry out a similar training job from November 1915 while serving as second-in-command to Colonel William Auld of 19th Highland Light Infantry.
On reaching France in September 1916 William was attached to the 9th East Surrey’s as their second in command in October. In March 1917 Anderson was invalided home but returned to France in June of that year. He became Second-in-Command of the 12th Highland Light Infantry. He was promoted to Commanding Officer in February 1918, just prior to his VC action.
On 25th March 1918, at Bois Favieres, near Maricourt, France, the enemy attacked on the right of the battalion frontage and succeeded in penetrating the wood held by our men. Owing to successive lines of the enemy following on closely there was the greatest danger that the flank of the whole position would be turned. Grasping the seriousness of the situation, Colonel Anderson made his way across the open in full view of the enemy now holding the wood on the right, and after much effort succeeded in gathering the remainder of the two right companies. He personally led the counter-attack and drove the enemy from the wood, capturing twelve machine guns and seventy prisoners, and restoring the original line. His conduct in leading the charge was quite fearless and his most splendid example was the means of rallying and inspiring the men during the most critical hour. Later on the same day, in another position, the enemy had penetrated to within three hundred yards of the village and were holding a timber yard in force. Colonel Anderson reorganised his men after they had been driven in and brought them forward to a position of readiness for a counterattack. He led the attack in person and throughout showed the utmost disregard for his own safety. The counter-attack drove the enemy from his position, but resulted in this very gallant officer losing his life.
Tragically, William was one of four brothers, who were all killed in the Great War. He was buried in Peronne Road Cemetery, Maricourt, France. The medal was presented to his widow at the Orthopaedic Hospital, Becketts Park, Leeds, West Yorkshire on 31st May 1918. One of their sons, Patrick, served with the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders in World War II. William’s medals were placed on loan to the Imperial War Museum, until in November 2016, they were purchased in a private sale by Michael Ashcroft, and became part of the Ashcroft Collection and remain on display in the Ashcroft Gallery at the IWM.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: LORD ASHCROFT GALLERY, IMPERIAL WAR MUSEUM, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: PERONNE ROAD CEMETERY, MARICOURT, FRANCE.
William Herbert Anderson's medal group including VC on display in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London (Aug 2014)
Cemetery Plan courtesy of Kevin Brazier
PLOT II, ROW G, GRAVE 36
Fettes School War Memorial, Edinburgh
RMA Chapel, Sandhurst
Cardross War Memorial, Scotland
St Mungo's, Glasgow Family Memorial
Upper Largo Memorial
People's Palace, Glasgow (Thomas Stewart)