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Forces War Records Blog

COMMEMORATING THE BRAVERY AND DEVOTION OF WWI PRIVATE FRED POTTS

Blogger: GemSen Advancing on the Turkish line during the First World War Gallipoli campaign in 1915, British Private Fred Potts of the 1/1st The Berkshire Yeomanry was caught up in the Battle of Scimitar Hill. Under the baking sun and heat of conflict, relentless machine gun fire from the front and flanks tore through the ranks — Private Potts got hit in the thigh and went down. Fortunately though, when he fell he landed in a patch of scrub, which provided cover from the Turkish machine guns. What he did over the following 48 hours earned him a Victoria Cross…

Crawling towards Potts was a badly wounded and bleeding comrade – Arthur Andrews, a fellow townsman and trooper of the Berkshires. With the battle still raging around them, the suffering men had no other choice but to lay low. They hid below the Turkish trenches for two days in the heat — hungry, thirsty and wounded. The Berkshire Yeomanry had apparently suffered almost 50 per cent casualties in the Battle of Scimitar Hill, which was the last offensive mounted by the British at Suvla during the Battle of Gallipoli in World War I. Also, it was the largest single-day attack ever mounted by the Allies at Gallipoli, involving three divisions. After two days in the trenches the men decided to make a move, or else die of thirst and starvation. They crawled very slowly downhill on hands and knees, getting torn by thorns and every movement causing pain. They briefly managed to quench their thirst by recovering water bottles from the dead but they were getting weaker by the hour and Andrews was almost finished. Absolute hero Then Potts spotted an entrenching shovel – he put Andrews on it and using the tool as a sledge dragged his comrade towards the safety of the British lines. Andrews in great pain fell off a few times pleading with Potts to just save himself, but Potts refused to leave him or give up and he carried on for several hours under fire until they eventually reached safety. It had taken them over 48 hours to travel just 600 yards. Potts and Andrews were spotted and helped in by soldiers of the 6th Royal Iniskilling Fusiliers, 31st Infantry Brigade. They were given food and drink and sent home for medical treatment. Hearing the full story the officers of the Iniskillings were determined that Potts’ act of devotion and bravery was worthy of the Victoria Cross and a recommendation was written. Potts received his award while in hospital, and much to his bemusement when he was released from hospital he returned to a heroes welcome in his hometown of Reading. Fred Potts is Reading’s only Victoria Cross holder yet his story is not that well known, mainly due to his own modesty. Many feel that a statue to commemorate Fred’s modest bravery is long overdue, and broadcaster Chris Tarrant, who was born in the town, has backed a recent bid to raise £165,000 for the statue. Tarrant, who lives in Berkshire, told the BBC: "My dad was a war hero, he was awarded the Military Cross, but I knew very little about what he did until we did a film about him a couple of years ago. "He was my closest friend but he never talked about the war. "I'm a Reading boy and the Potts story is amazing, he's an absolute hero.” The Citation The recommendation was accepted and on the 1st October 1915 The London Gazette (page 9641) published the following:-  War Office, 1st October, 1915. His Majesty the KING has been graciously pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned Man: —No. 1300 Private Alfred Potts, I/1st Berkshire Yeomanry, Territorial Force.  For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to a wounded comrade in the Gallipoli Peninsula Although himself severely wounded in the thigh in the attack on "Hill .70 " on 21st August, 1915, he remained out over 48 hours under the Turkish trenches with a private of his Regiment who was severely wounded and unable to move, although he could himself have returned to safety. Finally he fixed a shovel to the equipment of his wounded comrade, and, using this as a sledge, he dragged him back over 600 yards to our lines, though fired at by the Turks on the way. He reached our trenches at about 9.30 p.m. on 23rd August. For more information on how to donate visit the The Trooper Potts Memorial Site. Sources: The Trooper Potts Memorial Site, Wikipedia and BBC. Looking for more interesting wartime stories? Why not delve into our ‘historic documents’ library and read some of the interesting war diaries that we get sent – there’s nothing quite like reading a personal account of war as history unfolds itself through the eyes of somebody who was actually there. Forces War Records are fortunate to receive such amazing real life war stories involving lashings of courage, and now you can read some of them – completely free of charge. Why not log on to Forces War Records and search our vast collection of records to find out more about your own ancestors  – there could be a war hero in your family just waiting to be discovered and remembered…

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