William John English VC

b. 06/10/1882 Cork, Ireland. d. 04/07/1941 at sea off Egypt.

William John English (1882-1941) was born on 6th October 1882 in Cork, was the son of Major William English OBE; educated at Harvey Grammar School in Folkstone, Kent from 1894-98; and Campbell College, Belfast from 1898-99.

William J English VC

After a short spell in the Merchant Navy, he left it in South Africa and in November 1900 joined the the Scottish Horse. The Scottish Horse is unique in that it was originally raised, not in Scotland, but in South Africa. In 1900, the Caledonian Society of Johannesburg offered to form a corps under the name of the “Scottish Horse” to be recruited from Scotsmen in South Africa. In 1901 a regiment of four squadrons was raised under the command of the Marquis of Tullibardine, afterwards the Duke of Atholl. Later Lord Tullibardine, with the assistance of the Caledonian Society of Melbourne, Australia, and the Royal Highland Society of London, raised a second regiment, consisting of Scotsmen from home and Australians of Scottish descent. In March, 1901, he received his commission as Lieutenant in the 2nd Scottish Horse.

William English with five men was holding the right of a position at Vlakfontein on the 3rd July, 1901, during an attack by the Boers. Two of his men were killed and two wounded, but the position was still held, largely owing to Lieutenant English’s personal pluck. When the ammunition ran short he went over to the next party and obtained more; to do this he had to cross some 15 yards of open ground under a heavy fire at a range of from 20 to 30 yards.

Following his gazetting for the VC on 4th October 1901, he was presented with his medal on 1st July 1902 by the future King George V at Horse Guards Parade, London. After the conclusion of the 2nd Boer War William English transferred to the Army Service Corps with whom he served throughout the First World War.

After his retirement in 1930 he lived at Kings Road, Knock, in Belfast where he was the Northern Ireland organiser for the National Association for Employment of Regular Soldiers, Sailors and Airmen.

In August, 1939, he formed in Northern Ireland a Group of the National Defence Corps which in November of that year, became the 6th Battalion, The Royal Ulster Rifles. was serving with this regiment when he died on board a ship at sea off Egypt of a cerebral haemorrhage on the 4th July 1941. Lieutenant Colonel William English was buried in the Maala Christian Cemetery in Aden, now the People’s Democratic Republic of Yemen, his grave being marked by a Commonwealth War Graves Commission headstone. His medals were donated to his old school, Campbell College in Belfast. In 2010, the Ashcroft Trust acquired the medals on a 10 year loan and they are now displayed in the Imperial War Museum.






Thomas Stewart – Image of his VC medal group at the Imperial War Museum, London.

Des Gordon – Images of the two memorials at Campbell College, Belfast.