William Leslie Coutts Rathbone MC AM

b. 1882 Edmonton, Middlesex. d. 18/02/1929 London.

DATE OF AM ACTION: 06/05/1916 Villers-au-Bois, France.

William L C Rathbone

William was born in February 1882, the son of William and Elizabeth Rathbone (nee Paige) and he was baptised on 10th March 1882 in New Southgate. He had an older brother Francis. By the end of 1891, the family had moved to South Molton, Devon. He became a sorter with the General Post Office. He enlisted into the 4th Volunteer Battalion, Devonshire Regiment on 13 February 1898 under the name of Leslie Rathbone, and served with them in South Africa during the Boer War. He transferred to the 24th Middlesex Volunteer Rifle Corps on 5 December 1902, before enlisting into the 8th City of London Regiment (Territorial Force) on 1 April 1908. He transferred to the 15th Battalion, London Regiment on 2 April 1910, and having changing his name by deed poll to William Leslie Coutts Rathbone (hence the naming on his QSA and TFEM), he served with the 15th Battalion, London Regiment during the Great War on the Western Front from 17 March 1915. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant on 5 June 1915, and appointed temporary Lieutenant on 30 March 1916. For his gallantry at Villers-au-Bois on 6 May 1916, he was awarded the Albert Medal.

Rathbone was promoted temporary Captain on 16 September 1916, and two days later performed the act of gallantry at High Wood for which he was awarded the Military Cross. The Battalion War Diary states: ‘6th, 8th, and 15th London Regiments attacked Flers Line between Drop Alley and Goose Alley (left of New Zealand Division). At same time 15th London Regiment occupied Drop Alley and established block at its junction with Flers Line. Zero hour 5:30 a.m. Attack successful but owing to loss of direction, troops in Flers Line and Drop Alley did not quite join up. Several unsuccessful attempts made during the day to link up.’

Rathbone was was wounded in the face by a splinter of shell on 7 October 1916, but made a full recovery. He was presented with his Albert Medal by H.M. King George V at Buckingham Palace on 3 August 1917. He relinquished his commission on 12 March 1921, and was granted the honorary rank of Captain. He died on 18 February 1929.



On the night of the 6th May, 1916, as a working party under Lieutenant Rathbone was proceeding down a communication trench, they were fired upon from close quarters. On enquiry Lieutenant Rathbone ascertained that the shots came -from a soldier who had run amok, and had posted himself with loaded rifle and fixed bayonet further down the trench. Lieutenant Rathbone borrowed a rifle and accompanied by Corporal Feldwick, advanced along the trench until in view of the mentally deranged man. They then advanced with rifles at the.ready; the officer calling upon the man to surrender. Receiving no reply they then dropped their rifles and rushed him, and after disarming him took him to the nearest dressing station. Corporal Feldwick, who is a prisoner of war, has also been awarded the Albert Medal of the Second Class.



LOCATION OF MEDAL: PRIVATELY HELD. (SOLD AT DNW on 18/06/2020 for £16,000)


Dix Noonan Webb – Images of William Rathbone MC AM and his medal group.