Frederick William Owen Potts, VC
(18 December 1892 – 2 November 1943)
More commonly known as Trooper Fred Potts, was an English recipient of the Victoria Cross, he highest and most prestigious award for gallantry in the face of the enemy that can be awarded British and Commonwealth forces.
Fred Potts association with Aldermaston was through being a Mason and through knowing Charles Keyser, Lord of the Manor. Fred became Master of Aldermaston Masonic Lodge, that met at Aldermaston Court.
Life and career
Potts was born on 18 December 1892, and first came to public notice in 1913, when he saved a five-year-old boy named Charles Rex from drowning in the River Thames. By 1915, he was 22 years old, and a private in the 1/1st Berkshire Yeomanry of the British Army. During the Gallipoli Campaign of the First World War the following deed took place for which he was awarded the VC.
On 21 August 1915 in the attack on Hill 70, Potts (although wounded in the thigh) remained for over 48 hours under the Turkish trenches with another private from his regiment who was severely wounded, and unable to move. He finally fixed a shovel to the equipment of his wounded comrade and using this as a sledge, dragged the man back over 600 yards to safety, being under fire all the way.
He became known as The Hero with the Shovel. He was feted his return from Gallipoli, the press articles of the time can be seen on the Potts Trust website.
The Berkshire Yeomanry Museum website explains the story.
Potts was born and raised on Edgehill Street in the Katesgrove area of Reading. After the war, during which he eventually achieved the rank of lance-corporal, he kept a tailor’s shop on the parallel Alpine Street. He was a Mason and in 1934 was Master of the Aldermaston Lodge1. More about his later life can be found at reference. Potts died on 2 November 1943 at the age of 50. His grave is at Reading Crematorium, whilst his medals are held by the Imperial War Museum.
The man he saved at Gallipoli was a fellow Trooper of the Berkshire Yeomanry called Arthur Andrews who also came from Reading. Andrews lived until 1980, when he died at the age of 89. Charles Rex also survived until he was 87. In 2009, as the result of the production of a BBC Radio Berkshire documentary on Potts, a reunion occurred between the relatives of the two men at the Imperial War Museum.
1 The masonic Aldermaston Lodge was founded by Charles Keyser, Lord of the Manor, and met at the Aldermaston Court during Mr Keyser’s lifetime.
Photography from http://www.vconline.org.uk ;
Information from Wikipedia