A prestigious medal won by a Hartlepool tearaway-turned-hero has sold for almost £900.
Private William Peat, of 12th Battalion Durham Light Infantry, was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during the Battle of Pozieres on July 18. 1916.
Tragically, the former dock labourer was killed in action just two months later at the Battle of the Somme – leaving behind a sick mother.
“Like so many lads, he joined the army in response to Kitchener’s recruiting poster Your Country Needs You,” said Alan Thomas, director of Medals of England.
“He lied about his age, claiming to be 19 when he was 17. He was clearly a bit of a character – which is generally the way with men who win gallantry awards.”
William was born to road labourer John and his wife Mary Jane in 1897. He was one of nine children and spent his early years at 6 Keen’s Yard, Hartlepool.
Like so many lads, he joined the army in response to Kitchener’s recruiting poster Your Country Needs You. He lied about his age, claiming to be 19 when he was 17. He was clearly a character - which is generally the way with men who win gallantry awards.Alan Thomas, director of Medals of England.
By the time of the 1911 census, however, 14-year-old William was sharing a room at 11 Cleveland Road, Hartlepool, with his docker brother Thomas, then 24.
Three years later, when Britain went to war, the brothers joined up straight away – William to 12th DLI and Thomas with the Royal Garrison Artillery.
But, while both Peats had trouble adapting to army discipline, their lives followed dramatically different paths. Thomas was discharged for “disconduct”, while William died a hero.
“William had only been in the army eight weeks when he was charged with being “drunk and causing a disturbance” and confined to camp for four days,” said Alan.
Seven weeks later, on January 1, 1915, he faced more charges – this time for “grossly improper conduct in the streets when on pass”.
“Clearly, the incident happened on New Year’s Eve and it looks as if Private Peat was again intent on having a good time before he got much older,” said Alan.
“For this breach of he received ten days confined to barracks and four days deprivation of pay – which was a grand total of four shillings for a private.
“Finally, on February 15, 1915, he was again in hot water – this time for not complying with an order, for which he received six days confined to camp.
“Clearly, he then got the message to behave himself, as he is not seen on the charge sheets again before his unit landed at Bolougne on August 26, 1915.”
William fought on the front line at the Battle of Loos that year, as well as the Battle of Albert – the first Anglo-French offensive of the Battle of the Somme.
On July 18, 1916, he was awarded the Military Medal for gallantry during an attack, and on August 4, 1916, he won promotion to (Unpaid) Lance Corporal.
But he was demoted back to Private at his own request within a month, then killed in action during a bombing raid on September 24, 1916, at “Martin Puish”.
Today the 19-year-old is remembered on the Thiepval Memorial to the Missing. “He was obviously a fine man,” added Alan.