William Anderson

William Anderson

Dallas, Morayshire, which gives its name to its American counterpart lies in the valley of the River Lossie, some 7 miles south east of Forres. It’s a small rural hamlet, with a single street. Here on 28th December 1882 William Anderson was born to Alexander Anderson and his wife Isabella, or Bella, nee Anderson. The family soon moved to Forres, living at 79 North Street, with William being educated at Forres Academy.

After leaving school, William worked as a Conductor at Glasgow Tramways Depot then moved to London before enlisting for a seven years engagement in the 2nd Battalion Yorkshire Regiment, the Green Howards, on 20th September 1905. This was the regiment in which his brother James was already serving. William is recorded as height 5ft 9 7/8ths, chest 36 inches, weight 144 lbs, with grey eyes and brown hair.

He was to serve in India’s North West Frontier, Egypt and South Africa, before being discharged to the Reserve in 1912. South Africa was where he wanted to settle with his fiancée and to raise the necessary funds he worked at Elder Hospital, Govan.

But just as his arrangements for emigrating were finalised and his trunk packed, war was declared and as an army reservist he was recalled to serve in his old Battalion. Inevitably as a Scot in an English Regiment he was known as “Jock” and indeed some of his deeds in the Company Diary refer to him as Corporal J Anderson.

On 5th October 1914 the four Companies of the 2nd Battalion embarked for Flanders. Two weeks later they were taking part in the First Battle of Ypres and involved in some of the fiercest fighting. The regiment was being supplied with 96,000 rounds of ammunition each night.

By the end of this engagement Corporal Anderson was in charge of a bombing unit. The aim of a bombing unit was to gain access to an enemy trench, from which they would  throw grenades round a corner, immediately following up the explosion with an attack with bayoneting, bludgeoning, shooting, bombing or taking prisoners. These were clearly high risk operations with high mortality rates and hence requiring men of steel.

On 10th March 1915 the allies bombarded the German defences at Neuve Chapelle, initial success in taking some of the enemy trenches soon turning to bloody stalemate, with fierce infantry attacks by each side. The Yorkshires were, in places, only 30 yards apart from the Germans, hence the situation was ripe for William Anderson’s skills.

Early on the morning of 12th March there was a German counter attack on the captured trenches. Although the main attack was beaten off  two companies of a sister regiment were overpowered.

Anderson mustered his team of bombers and set about the invaders. He was seen on the trench parapet, totally fearless of bursting shells and firing down on the enemy below and throwing bombs. Having used up his own supply, as well as returning German stick bombs which he threw back before the five second time fuse operated, he saw that the Germans had started to give way. Anderson, unstoppable, returned to his wounded companions and took their bombs, which he also used to good effect.

Explosions, shouts and screams were heard for some time. The next time the wounded bombers saw the Corporal was when he herded 60 German prisoners back to D Company position. He had virtually cleared the enemy strong point single handed.

Heavy fighting continued and later that day Anderson led yet another bombing attack. From this he did not return, was never seen again and has no known grave.

For his actions Corporal William Anderson from Dallas, Morayshire, was awarded a posthumous Victoria Cross. The citation in the London Gazette of 22nd May 1915 reads:

For most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty at Neuve Chapelle on March 12, 1915, when he led three men with bombs against a large party of the enemy who had entered our trenches, and by his prompt and determined action saved what might otherwise have become a serious situation. Corporal Anderson first threw his own bombs, then those in possession of his three men (who had been wounded) amongst the Germans; after which he opened rapid fire upon them with great effect, notwithstanding that he was at the time quite alone.

William’s younger brother, Alexander, was also to appear in the London Gazette, when in 1917 his gallantry as a Lance Corporal in Mesopotamia saw him mentioned in Dispatches.

And it was Alexander who was presented with his late brother’s Victoria Cross on 19th May 1920 in the banqueting hall of Edinburgh Castle by Lieutenant General Sir Francis Davies. In 1969 Alexander Anderson donated William’s VC and other medals to the Green Howards Museum in Richmond, Yorkshire.

William Anderson’s name appears on Le Touret 'Memorial to the Missing' at Pas-de-Calais, some four miles to the north east of Bethune in France. It was also inscribed on the Forres War Memorial but was not included on the Dallas War Memorial.

On 12th March 2015, 100 years to the day following his bravest of actions, William Anderson was commemorated in Dallas.

A plaque with his name was added to the war memorial while a commemorative Portland paving stone, was incorporated within the path leading to the village hall. It reads:

Corporal William Anderson

Alexandra, Princess of Wales’s Own Regiment of Yorkshire

12 March 1915

Above those words is inscribed a Victoria Cross.

Corporal William Anderson, whilst on tour in India before the Great War.
Captain W K Rollo, (left) the Company Commander of 'D' Company, 2nd Battalion, and Cpl. William Anderson, (right) resting from a period in the trenches at Fleurbaix during the winter of 1914.
William Anderson's name on Le Touret War Memorial.
William Anderson's medal card.