On Sunday 4th October, Gary Smith and Graham Denton, Joint Managing Directors of Country Estates Group attended an event to dedicate and bless a memorial to Trooper Fred Potts VC and Trooper Arthur Andrews, who were both wounded in Gallipoli in August 1915. The memorial in Reading is also dedicated to the 426 men of The Berkshire Yeomanry who gave their lives in the wars of the 20thCentury.
The life-sized statue made by sculptor Tom Murphy in Liverpool was officially unveiled by the Lord Lieutenant of Berkshire and TV host Chris Tarrant, a Patron of The Trooper Potts VC Memorial Trust. A total of 350 people were invited to attend the unveiling outside Forbury Gardens, including MPs and other local dignitaries.
Graham Denton commented, “Country Estates was honoured to be a donor for this long-awaited memorial. As a local business, helping to give local people the chance to reflect and honour a local hero has been very special and we are delighted to have played our part in making this memorial a reality.”
Frederick Owen Potts was awarded the Victoria Cross for outstanding bravery during the First World War. He was hit by machine gun fire at the Battle of Scimitar and fell into a patch of scrub where he recognised another injured soldier – Trooper Arthur Andrews. Ironically Potts and Andrews had lived all their lives just a mile or so apart. The two men waited for three days suffering dehydration, hunger and intense pain before Potts decided to drag Andrews to safety. Potts sat Andrews on the blade of a discarded shovel and using it as a sledge, he dragged him for more than 48 hours until they were safe. Potts was recommended for the Victoria Cross and in December 1915 he received his VC from King George V at Buckingham Palace with the national press dubbing him ‘The hero with the shovel’. Potts himself spent two years in hospital before being discharged from the army for being medically unfit. Instead he set himself up as a master tailor in Reading and ran a successful business on Alpine Street. When the Unknown Warrior was buried at Westminster Abbey in 1920, Potts, along with other Victoria Cross holders, formed the Honour Guard.
The Project to create a memorial began in October 2010 when the BBC produced a programme about the Gallipoli campaign, highlighting the exploits of Fred Potts, Reading’s only born and bred VC. This was picked up by the then MP for Reading West, Martin Salter, who organised a visit to the Imperial War Museum to see Potts’ VC for the families of Potts and Andrews (the man he saved) and for a few other invited guests. All agreed that something more should be done to commemorate his brave deeds and The Trooper Potts VC Memorial Trust was formed. To date it has raised more than £150,000 for the project.