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Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Special plaque to commemorate Ormskirk soldier who was awarded the Victoria Cross

A commemorative plaque is to be erected to pay tribute to the bravery of an Ormskirk solider who was awarded a Victoria Cross in the Boer War.

William Heaton was given the highest military award for gallantry for his bravery in action which helped save the lives of many of his fellow soldiers.

In the Boer War Private Heaton served with the 1st Battalion Kings Liverpool Regiment. His battalion took part in operations leading to the relief of Ladysmith, and in the advance north through eastern Transvaal.

On 23 August 1900 his company was in danger of being overrun near Geluk Farm when Private Heaton volunteered to take a message explaining their desperate situation at considerable risk to his own life. Had it not been for Private Heaton’s courage, the remainder of his company would most likely have been killed.

West Lancashire Borough Council received a request from a local historian to consider commemorating Private Heaton’s bravery.

After much consideration the Council has decided to install a carved stone plaque bearing his name and achievement on a path leading up to the existing Boer War Memorial in Victoria Park, St Helens Road, Ormskirk.

Councillor John Hodson, portfolio holder for Planning, said: “It is a very rare honour for a member of service personnel to be awarded the Victoria Cross.

“Research by the Council carried out so far shows that William Heaton is the only person with connections to West Lancashire who has been awarded a VC. He was obviously a very brave man and the Council is proud to be able to commemorate his courage in this way.”

Private Heaton was later promoted to Corporal and received his Victoria Cross Medal from the Duke of York (who was later crowned King George V) at Pietermaritzburg in South Africa on 14 August 1901.

On returning home he was met by a reception at Ormskirk Train Station a service was held at the Drill Hall (now Ormskirk Civic Hall), on Southport Road. When he left the army Mr Heaton worked as a caretaker in a bank. By this time he was married with a daughter.

When World War One began Mr Heaton enlisted with the Kings Liverpool Regiment, 7th Battalion, and saw action on the Western front near Ypres.

When his wife passed away Mr Heaton moved to Southport. He died on 5 June 1941 and was buried with full military honours. His medals, including the Victoria Cross, are on display at the Liverpool Museum.

When work is carried out to erect the plaque the Council would like to invite members of Mr Heaton’s family to the official unveiling. If there are any members living locally, or if anyone has any information regarding relatives of Mr Heaton, could they please contact Ian Bond on 01695 585167 or email ian.bond@westlancs.gov.uk.

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