This Day In History

1918 Battle of the Selle. In a carefully-planned attack, rehearsed over 5 days, 5th East Lancashires mount a remarkably successful night assault near Briastre. They move off at 2 a.m., in a heavy downpour which lasted throughout the engagement, to the sound of the Regimental March being played by the battalion band. Met by heavy machine-gun fire and an artillery barrage which causes 50 casualties, they charge through with a yell and are on their final objective well before the 7 a.m. deadline set, taking 300 prisoners in the process. Casualties are 2 officers and 13 men dead, and 6 officers and 109 men wounded. Some 22 German dead were counted on the battalion front. Study of the ground the next day shows that the battalion had gone through no fewer than 6 defensive belts, including a very strongly-held railway embankment, before reaching its final objective. The 300 prisoners were ‘of far better physique and appearance’ than any of the enemy previously encountered, and turn out to be picked troops. They said that they were members of Kaiser Wilhelm’ bodyguard; that they had never before known defeat; and that they had been sent to hold the line at all costs.
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Reverend William Robert Fountaine Addison VC

 

Reverend William Robert Fountaine Addison VC

Reverend William Robert Fountaine Addison VC

William Addison was born on 16 September 1883 in North Warnborough, Hampshire. He was educated at Robert Mays School, Odiham, Hants, and as a young man worked as a lumberjack in Canada. After studying at Salisbury Theological College, he was ordained at the age of 30 in 1913 and, upon the outbreak of World War I, volunteered for the Army Chaplain’s Department.

He was posted to the 13th (Western) Division, a New Army formation which included the 6th (Service) Battalions of the East Lancashire, South Lancashire and Loyal North Lancashire Regiments, brigaded as part of the 38th (Lancashire) Infantry Brigade. He was with them when they landed at Basra, Mesopotamia (modern Iraq) in March 1916.

In April the Division was thrown into a disastrously muddled and failed attempt to relieve a besieged British garrison at Kut, contributing over 700 casualties in five days of unsuccessful fighting to the relief force’s 22,000 – man butcher’s bill

Chaplain Addison appears to have been ministering to two battalions of the 38th (Lancashire) Brigade – 6th Kings Own and 6th Loyals – when, in the words of the citation to his Victoria Cross, on 9 April 1916 at Sanna-i-Yat:

“He carried a wounded man to the cover of a trench, and assisted several others to the same cover, after binding up their wounds under heavy rifle and machine gun fire.
In addition to these unaided efforts, by his splendid example and utter disregard of personal danger, he encouraged the stretcher-bearers to go forward under heavy fire and collect the wounded. 

He was invested with the VC by King George V at Buckingham Palace on 3 August 1917.

After the war William Addison continued as an army chaplain, serving in Malta, Khartoum and Shanghai, and at army bases in England. He was Senior Chaplain to the Forces from 1934 to 1938 when he left the army and became a parish priest. He was Rector of Coltishall with Great Hautbois, in Norfolk, from 1938 to 1958. However, on the outbreak of World War II he returned to the army and again served as Senior Chaplain to the Forces, and was Deputy Assistant Chaplain-General in South Wales.

He died in January 1962, aged 78, in St Leonards-on-Sea, East Sussex, and is buried in Brookwood Cemetery, Woking.

His Victoria Cross is held by the National Army Museum, London.