Case study

WW1 South African VC recipient William Frederick Faulds

The story of South African First World War Victoria Cross recipient William Frederick Faulds.

William Frederick Faulds

Credit: © IWM (detail of Q 81043)

14 men from South Africa received the Victoria Cross, Britain’s highest award for gallantry, during the First World War. As part of the Centenary Commemorations the people of the United Kingdom marked their gratitude to those courageous men by presenting a bronze memorial plaque to their home country engraved with their names. The plaque is now displayed at the Castle of Good Hope, Capetown. This archive tells their stories.

Name: William Frederick Faulds

DOB: 19 February 1895

Place of Birth: Craddock, South Africa

Date of Action: 18 to 20 July 1916

Place of Action: Delville Wood, France

Rank: Private

Regiment: 1st Battalion, South African Infantry Brigade

William Frederick Faulds was the first South African-born man serving with South African forces to be awarded the Victoria Cross in the First World War. He was born on 19 February 1895 in the Eastern Cape and served in the 1st Battalion (Cape) of the South African Infantry Brigade.

Private Faulds was awarded the Victoria Cross for most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty on 18 to 20 July 1916 at Delville Wood, where South African troops suffered appalling casualties during the Battle of the Somme. His citation reads:

A bombing party under Lieut Craig attempted to rush over 40 yards (37 m) of ground which lay between the British and enemy trenches. Coming under very heavy rifle and machine gun fire the officer and the majority of the party were killed and wounded. Unable to move, Lieut Craig lay midway between the 2 lines of trench, the ground being quite open. In full daylight, Pte Faulds, accompanied by 2 other men, climbed over the parapet, ran out, picked up the officer, and carried him back. Two days later Private Faulds again showed most conspicuous bravery in going out alone to bring in a wounded man, and carried him nearly half a mile to a dressing-station. The artillery fire was at the time so intense that stretcher-bearers and others considered that any attempt to bring in the wounded man meant certain death. This risk Private Faulds faced unflinchingly, and his bravery was crowned with success.

He later achieved the rank of Captain and served in the Second World War. During his military career, Faulds was awarded 11 medals including the Military Cross in 1918. He died in 1950 and is buried in Harare, Zimbabwe.

Published 20 June 2016