William (Bill) Speakman, V.C. (1927–2018)

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William (Bill) Speakman, V.C. (1927–2018)


William ‘Bill’ Speakman was born on 21st September 1927 at 17 Moss Lane, Altrincham. He attended Oakfield Road School, Altrincham and Wellington Road Secondary School, Timperley. Bill left school at the age of 14. He joined the 1st Cadet Battalion (Altrincham and Hale) Cheshire Regiment as a drummer boy.  In 1945, Bill joined the army and was part of the General Service Corps until the age of 18. After basic training, he joined the 1st Battalion, The Black Watch (Royal Highland Regiment) and was transferred to the 10th Battalion in January 1946.  During this time, Bill also served with the Gordon Highlanders and the London Scottish Regiment. 

When the Korean War began in June 1950, Bill volunteered to transfer to Korea. He was attached to the 1st Battalion, King’s Own Scottish Borderers and left England in May 1951. It was in defence of ‘United’ Hilltop, one of the strategic hills on the Jamestown Line, that Bill showed extraordinary gallantry in the face of the enemy. On the morning of 4th November 1951, there was heavy bombardment by Chinese troops and the 1st KOSB were vastly outnumbered and under artillery fire. Enemy shelling continued into the afternoon and there were many KOSB fatalities as Chinese troops continued to advance. The situation was becoming desperate.

 Part of the citation in the London Gazette of the 27th February 1952 reads:

 ‘Private Speakman decided on his own initiative to drive the enemy off the position and keep them off it. To effect this he collected quickly a large pile of grenades and a party of six men. Then displaying complete disregard for his own personal safety he led his party in a series of grenade charges against the enemy and continued doing so as each successive wave of enemy reached the crest of the hill. The force and determination of his charges broke up each successive enemy onslaught and resulted in an ever mounting pile of enemy dead. Private Speakman’s heroism under intense fire throughout the operation and when painfully wounded, was beyond praise and is deserving of supreme recognition’

Bill returned to Altrincham a hero and on 27th February 1952, Queen Elizabeth II awarded him the Victoria Cross, the first investiture of her reign.

Bill continued to serve in the army until 1968. He died on 20th June 2018 at the Royal Hospital Chelsea and in accordance with his wishes, was laid to rest alongside his fallen comrades at the United Nations Memorial Cemetery, Busan, South Korea.

Bill died on 20th June 2018 at the Royal Hospital, Chelsea.

Blue Plaque was unveiled to the people of Trafford on 20th June 2019.


Trafford Local Studies Centre


Blue plaque.jpg


Trafford Local Studies Centre, “William (Bill) Speakman, V.C. (1927–2018),” Exploring Trafford's Heritage , accessed April 19, 2024, https://exploringtraffordsheritage.omeka.net/items/show/2585.