William Ernest Rhoades GC (AM non-exchanger)

b. 06/02/1888 Brighton, Sussex. d. 04/03/1972 Eastbourne, Sussex.

DATE AND PLACE OF GC ACTION: 14/10/1916 Droglandt, France.

William Ernest Rhoades (1888-1972) was born on the 6th February 1888 in Steyning, near Brighton, Sussex. He was the son of William and Mary Rhoades. His father was a Foreman working for a firm of Carriage Cleaners. The family lived at Ferndale, Dudley Road in Eastbourne. William studied at Holy Trinity School in Eastbourne, from where he became an apprentice motor mechanic and driver with the Eastbourne Motor Company until 1909 when he found employment as a chauffeur.

William E Rhoades GC

On 6th July 1912, he married Nellie Marion Flint whilst living at Sussex House, West Road, Eastbourne, and they went on to have a daughter Pamela Joan (born in 1927). He enlisted on 5th October 1914 for “duration of war” as No 1744. Airman 2nd Class, Royal Flying Corps. William embarked for France on 24th November 1914, but was soon taken ill and was hospitalised for a time in January 1915. He was promoted to Corporal in February 1916, and Sergeant in July 1916.

On 14th October 1916, at Droglandt, France, a bomb accidently exploded in the mouth of a bomb store dug out. Two men were killed by the explosion and another man, who was severely injured, was thrown down into the store, which was full of bombs packed in wooden cases. Dense volumes of smoke issued from the dug-out and there was a risk of further explosions. Lieutenant Frederick Stuart Smith and Sergeant William Ernest Rhoades immediately entered the dug out and succeeded in rescuing the wounded man.

Rhoades returned to the UK in January 1917, but returned to the Front two months later. He was promoted to Flight Sergeant in July 1917, and Temporary Sergeant Major in December that year. On 1st January 1918, the London Gazette published the announcement and citation awarding the Albert Medal 2nd Class to both William Ernest Rhoades and Frederick Stuart Smith. In July 1918, he transferred to the Royal Air Force, and by 1st January 1919 he had become Chief Air Mechanic and returned home in March 1919. He was discharged from the RAF on 30th April 1920.

He was also awarded the RAF Meritorious Service Medal, the 1914 Star, British War Medal 1914-19 and Victory Medal 1914-20. Following his war service he returned to working as a chauffeur and mechanic until he finally retired in 1951. During World War II, he re-enlisted and served as a Lieutenant in the Home Guard.

In 1971, following a change in the Royal Warrant, recipients of the Albert and Edward Medals were given the chance to exchange their medals for a George Cross. William, who was a founder member of the Albert Medal Association in 1966, declined to exchange his medal. Sadly, Frederick Smith had passed away and was not able to exchange. William was badly affected for the majority of his life by the acrid smoke he inhaled during the AM action with breathing difficulties.

William passed away peacefully on 4th March 1972 in Eastbourne, and was cremated at Eastbourne Crematorium. His medals including his Albert Medal are privately held.