Lord Ashcroft KCMG PC has had his latest “hero of the month” article published in Britain at War, the country’s best-selling military history monthly magazine.
The October issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Private William Boynton Butler, who was awarded the Victoria Cross (VC) for outstanding bravery during the Great War.
Butler was born in Armley, Leeds, and he grew up in the Yorkshire city. After spending seven years “down the pit” as a pony driver, he joined one of the new “Bantam Battalions” – for men of less than 5 foot 3 inches in height – in January 1915.
Serving with the 17th (2nd Leeds Pals), West Yorkshire Regiment, he was attached to a Trench Mortar Battery, and was trained at Ilkley, Leeds. By June 1916, he was serving on the Western Front attached to the 106th Trench Mortar Battery.
He earned his VC for an astonishing act of bravery while in charge of a mortar on the British line east of L’Empire on August 6 1917. During fighting, one of the fly-off levers of a Stokes shell came off and fired the shell into the battery’s own emplacement.
Private Butler, aged 22, picked up the shell and jumped to the entrance of the emplacement, held it for several seconds while a party of infantry were passing and then hurled it to a safe area, moments before it exploded. His VC was announced on October 17 1917 and he received his award from George V.
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past five years have been largely based on excerpts from his six books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes, Heroes of the Skies, Special Ops Heroes and Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II.
For the foreseeable future, Lord Ashcroft’s “hero of the month” articles will concentrate on men who were awarded the VC during the First World War. Lord Ashcroft is a military historian who has lectured extensively on courage and his various medal collections.
- Lord Ashcroft’s latest article appears in the October issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.