Butler – Private William Boynton

20 November 1894 – 25 March 1972:-

William was born in Armley, Leeds. He was employed as a coal miner at No 2 Middleton Pit, near Leeds. He enlisted as a bantam in 17th West Yorkshire Regiment (Prince of Wales’s Own) in January 1915, having previously been rejected due to his height. He was described as just over 5ft 2in tall and weighed just 110llbs. 

On 6th August 1917, east of Lempire, France, he was in charge of a Stokes gun in trenches which were being heavily shelled. Suddenly one of the fly-off levers of a Stokes shell came off and fired the shell in the emplacement. Private Butler picked up the shell and jumped to the entrance of the emplacement, which at that moment a party of infantry were passing. He shouted to them to hurry past as the shell was going off, and turning round, placed himself between the party of men and the live shell and so held it till they were out of danger. He then threw the shell on to the parados, and took cover in the bottom of the trench. The shell exploded almost on leaving his hand, greatly damaging the trench. By extreme good luck Private Butler was confused only. Undoubtedly his great presence of mind and disregard of his own life saved the lives of the officer and men in the emplacement and the party which was passing at the time.

In June 1919 he was gazetted for the French Croix de Guerre for his gallantry as a despatch rider. He was discharged from the Army on 31 March 1920.

Following the war, he was employed as a spray painter by the Leeds Corporation/North Eastern Gas Board. His medals are displayed in the Lord Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum London.

Filed under: WW1