Today we remember: Private Richard George Masters VC
Born in Birkdale in 1877, Richard was a keen cyclist, winning many championships, even the tandem work record with his partner W. Birtwistle. Before the war, he worked as a chauffeur, a job that would stand him in good stead for his role as an ambulance driver for the 141st Ambulance Corps.
On 9th April 1918, in Bethune, France, Richard was 41 years old and carrying out his duties – taking casualties from the battlefield and transporting them for medical treatment. A sudden enemy attack took out all the communications, leaving the wounded stranded.
The roads around Bethune were blocked by the attack, but Richard volunteered to try and get through.
Richard single-handedly cleared the road of debris, allowing himself to get through to the wounded, the only car to get through. That afternoon, he made many journeys along the road under shelling and gunfire. At one point, Richard narrowly avoided being blown up by an enemy aircraft.
In that one afternoon, it is estimated that Richard rescued around 200 men, getting them through the road blockages and safely to hospital. For ‘most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty’ he was awarded the Victoria Cross and is believed to be the only ambulance person to have won the VC.
Richard survived the war and returned to his hometown. He died at the age of 86, in April 1963 and is buried at St Cuthbert’s Church in Churchtown, Southport, where an annual service is held in his memory. A Territorial Army Training Centre in his native Bootle has also been named after him.