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 February issue of the magazine has a two-page write-up on the life and bravery of Acting Flight Sergeant Thomas Mottershead, who was awarded the VC for outstanding bravery during the Great War.
Mottershead, who was born in Widnes, Lancashire, enlisted in the Royal Flying Corps in August 1914 and soon proved himself an excellent and courageous pilot.
He was awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM) in November 1916 after a daring bombing raid on an enemy railway line and he then, having been attacked in the air, outfought and shot down an enemy aircraft.
His VC action came on January 7 1917 when he and his observer got into an aerial fight with two enemy Albatros Scouts over Belgium. The second enemy aircraft attacked at point blank range and ruptured the petrol tank of Mottershead’s aircraft so that it burst into flames.
Mottershead made for safe, Allied ground but rather than make an immediate landing, which would have endangered his observer’s life, he circled with his FE2d aircraft and landed into the wind in the hope it would be safer.
His observer was thrown clear when the aircraft hit the ground, its undercarriage collapsed and its nose dug into the mud.. However, Mottershead was trapped in his cockpit and suffered terrible burns. He was eventually rescued but died five days later on January 12. His posthumous VC was announced a month later, on February 12.
Lord Ashcroft’s articles for Britain at War over the past four years have been largely based on excerpts from four of his books on gallantry: Victoria Cross Heroes, Special Forces Heroes, George Cross Heroes and Heroes of the Skies. His sixth bravery book, Victoria Cross Heroes Volume II, was published on November 8.
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 February issue of Britain at War which is on sale now.