Online Editions

26th Jun, 2022

Redditch remembers: a brave hero

Ross Crawford 15th Oct, 2017

A REDDITCH soldier died single handedly taking on a German pillbox which had machine gunned his comrades 100 years ago this week during the First World War.

William Chesterton was just an ordinary Redditch bloke and little is known about him.

Even his extraordinary act of bravery only warrants four lines in the history of his regiment, the Worcestershires.

He was born in 1883 in Redditch and in 1910 married Ada Elizabeth and the couple at 26 Archer Road.

William worked as a warehouse clerk and on being called up served with the 1/8th Worcs.

On October 9, 1917, the British launched the Battle of Poelcappelle, part of the Passchendaele campaign.

The attack was to prove a disaster; the battlefield was waterlogged, mud clogged their weapons and slowed the attack so much they lost their artillery cover.

William’s battalion had been in reserve but as the attack stalled it was called up. By 5pm, with its officers dead and wounded, two platoons decimated, his unit was pinned down by murderous fire from a German pillbox.

Runners were sent back for help, but they too were killed. Pte Chesterton, on his own initiative and armed only with a grenade, attacked the strongpoint.

He got within a few yards and was on the point of throwing his bomb when he was seen and shot dead.

However his bravery so spooked the Germans they evacuated the blockhouse and ran back to safety.

Pte Chesterton is remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial in Belgium and on the St Stephen’s War Memorial.

One of the officers leading Pte Chesteron’s unit and killed on that day was 2nd Lieutenant Cecil James Beacham of Mount Street, Redditch.

Born in Moseley in 1883, he was one of Arthur and Mary Beacham’s four children.

By 1891 the family were living on Prospect Hill and running a boot factory, which Cecil was managing when he reached 18.

However life at the boot factory didn’t hold him for long and he became a globetrotter, travelling the world, especially to the United States and Canada.

He returned to Britain in 1915 and was commissioned into the 1/8th Worcs.

In his will he left £4,121, worth about £320,000 at today’s prices.

Lt Beacham is also remembered today on the Tyne Cot Memorial and on the St George’s War Memorial in Redditch.

Buy Photos

Buy photos online from the Redditch Standard newspaper.

Subscribe

Receive a weekly update to your inbox by signing up to our weekly newsletter.

YouTube

Check out the latest videos on our YouTube channel.

Online Editions

Catch up on your local news by reading our e-editions on the Redditch Standard.