Beesley – Private William

5 October 1895 – 23 September 1966:-

William was born in Church Gresley, near Burton upon Trent, moving to Nuneaton at the age of five. After leaving school he worked as a miner at Haunchwood and Tunnel Collieries. Towards the end of 1914 he enlisted in the Kings Royal Rifle Corps (KRRC), accompanying the 9th KRRC to France in May 1915. He was soon in action near Ypres and was wounded twice during the year. On recovery he was posted to a machine gun section in the 13th Rifle Brigade.

On 8th May 1918 at Bucquoy, France, when Private Beesley’s platoon sergeant and all the section commanders were killed he took command. Single-handed he rushed a post, shot four of the enemy, took six prisoners and sent them back to his lines. He and a comrade then brought his Lewis gun into action, inflicting many casualties and holding their position for four hours until the second private was wounded. Private Beesley, by himself, maintained his position until nightfall, when he returned to the original line with the wounded man and the Lewis gun which he kept in action until things had quietened down.

Fellow miner William Gregg would also be awarded the Victoria Cross in the same action. On 15 July 1919 he was awarded the French Médaille Militaire for an earlier undocumented action during the war. He was demobilised in the same year and returned to work in the mines. During the Second World War he joined the Royal Artillery but was discharged in 1941 due to his age. He then went on to work as a commissioner at a manufacturing company in Coventry.

Sadly, William fell ill and died suddenly whilst on holiday in Abergavenny, Wales. His medals are held at the Royal Green Jackets (Rifles) Museum, Winchester.

Filed under: WW1