b. 12/09/1871 Midsomer Norton, Somerset. d. 20/06/1938 Coalville, Leics.
William Dolman Bees (1871-1938) was born in Midsomer Norton, Somerset on 12th September 1871, the son of William and Jane Bees. He was educated at the Board School, and joined the Derbyshire Regiment (1st Battalion) on 7th March 1890, aged 18. He served on the Indian Frontier in 1897-1898, taking part in the Tirah Campaign (receiving the campaign medal). Shortly after completion of service there, he found himself heading for southern Africa and the outbreak of the Boer War.
He served throughout the War, receiving the Queen’s South Africa Medal with three clasps, and the King’s South Africa Medal with two clasps, and was instantly promoted to Corporal on the field of battle following the action which also saw him recommended for the Victoria Cross. He was gazetted on the 17th December 1901 for his actions at Moedwil on 30th September that year.
Private Bees was one of the Maxim-gun detachment, which at Moedwil, on the 30th September, 1901, had six men hit out of nine. Hearing his wounded comrades asking for water, he went forward, under a heavy fire, to a spruit held by Boers about 500 yards ahead of the gun, and brought back a kettle full of water. In going and returning he had to pass within 100 yards of some rocks also held by Boers, and the kettle which he was carrying was hit by several bullets.
He was presented with his VC on 30th July 1902 in Pretoria by the Commander in Chief, South Africa, Lord Kitchener. Shortly afterwards, on 18th September 1902, he was discharged from service. On 25th April 1903, he married Sarah Freeman and they went on to have two children, Charles William (born 25th March 1904) and Lilian Elizabeth (born 28th June 1907).
In October 1914, he joined Kitchener’s Army, but was discharged due to illness. He rejoined again after recovering, on 6th April 1915, in the Sherwood Foresters, and was based at Whitburn, near Sunderland, until transferred into the Durham Light Infantry at Blythe and South Shields.
He was then transferred to Class W for mining after serving a year with the colours. He enlisted again in the Royal Army Service Corps on 30th January 1918, and was transferred to the Army Reserve following demobilization on 6th February 1919.
He lived the majority of the rest of his life in Leicestershire, where on 20th June 1938, aged 66, he died at his home in Margaret Street in Coalville. He was buried in London Road Cemetery, Coalville, and the headstone was restored in 2005. His medals are held and displayed by the Sherwood Foresters Museum, Nottingham Castle.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: SHERWOOD FORESTERS MUSEUM, NOTTINGHAM.
BURIAL PLACE: LONDON ROAD CEMETERY, COALVILLE, LEICESTERSHIRE. GRAVE 3040
William Bees' medal group including VC on display at the Sherwood Foresters Regimental Museum, Nottingham (Feb 2014)
Updated medal display September 2016 (Brian Drummond)