A unique tribute has been unveiled this week to a First World War soldier from Hunslet who was awarded a Victoria Cross (VC) for his outstanding courage under fire.
As part of a special service, family members of Private William Boynton Butler were joined by city representatives including the Lord Mayor Councillor Jane Dowson and members of the public, to see a paving stone bearing his name revealed at Hunslet War Memorial. Poignantly, Hunslet War Memorial is 10 metres away from where Private Butler is buried in Hunslet Cemetery.
Private Butler received his VC for ‘conspicuous bravery’ in the east of Lempire in France whilst serving in the 17th Battalion of the West Yorkshire Regiment.
The citation below provides more details of his deeds:
“For most conspicuous bravery (East of Lempire, France) when 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 the trench. The shell exploded almost on leaving his hand, greatly damaging the trench. By extreme good luck Private Butler was contused only.
“Undoubtedly his great presence of mind and disregard of his own life saved the lives of the officer men in the emplacement and the party which was passing at the time.”
Private Butler survived the First World War and died in Leeds in 1972.
The establishment of a commemorative paving stone to honour Victoria Cross (VC) recipients in England from the First World War was introduced by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in 2013. Working with local councils, these paving stones are placed in appropriate locations linked to the recipient’s birth place.
The Lord Mayor of Leeds Councillor Jane Dowson said:
“It was an extremely proud moment for me as Lord Mayor to be present at the unveiling of a paving stone at Hunslet War Memorial in honour of Private Butler and the Victoria Cross which he received for his unbelievable bravery during the First World War.
“To see family members of Private Butler in attendance at the service was extremely moving, and it is very poignant and fitting that the paving stone is in place just yards from where he is buried in Hunslet Cemetery.”