b. 02/01/1875 Ormskirk, Lancashire. d. 05/06/1941 Southport, Lancashire.
William Edward Heaton (1875-1941) was born on January 2nd 1875, and baptised at Ormskirk Parish Church. He grew up in Bickerstaffe and later lived on Aughton Street in Ormskirk. He is the only West Lancashire resident to have been awarded a Victoria Cross. He was the son of Robert and Alice Heaton, and he was the eldest of three children, with a brother Arthur and sister Mary.
Shortly before the outbreak of the Second Boer War in 1899, William had enlisted into the 1st Battalion of the King’s (Liverpool) Regiment, and was soon sailing for Southern Africa. Within a year, he was performing the action which would lead to the recommendation for, and award of the Victoria Cross (London Gazette, 18th January 1901).
On the 23rd August, 1900, at Galuk, the Company to which Private Heaton belonged, advancing in front of the general line held by the troops, became surrounded by the enemy and was suffering severely. At the request of the Officer Commanding, Private Heaton volunteered to take a message back to explain the position of the Company. He was successful, though at the imminent risk of his own life. Had it not been for Private Heaton’s courage there can be little doubt that the remainder of the Company, which suffered very severely, would have had to surrender.
Private Heaton was later promoted to Corporal, and the Duke of York (later crowned King George V) awarded him the Victoria Cross at Pietermaritzburg on the 14th August 1901. His Victoria Cross was one of only 78 awarded during the second Boer War campaign, which ran from October 1899 to May 1902. He was also awarded the Queen’s South Africa Medal with three clasps, and King’s South Africa Medal with two bars.
William later served with the 6th ‘Rifles’ The Kings Regiment and with the rank of Lance Sergeant, he was deployed on 24th February 1915, arriving in France the day after. He saw actions in the early battles in northern France and Flanders.
Following the end of the War, he returned to his native Ormskirk, and died in Southport Hospital on 5th June 1941 aged 65. He was buried in Ormskirk Parish Churchyard in Plot III. His medals were donated to the King’s Regimental Museum, Liverpool.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: KING’S REGIMENT MUSEUM, LIVERPOOL.
BURIAL PLACE: ORMSKIRK PARISH CHURCHYARD, ORMSKIRK, LANCASHIRE. PLOT 111
Kevin Brazier – Image of Heaton VC’s grave in Ormskirk, Lancashire.
Mark Sanders – Heaton VC’s Medal Card.