Who's Who - Thomas Mottershead

Thomas Mottershead Sergeant Thomas Mottershead (1892-1917) served as a British fighter pilot during the First World War, earning the Victoria Cross (VC) for the action in which he lost his life.

Mottershead enlisted with the Royal Flying Corps (RFC) in August 1914 as a mechanic, bringing to bear his civilian experience repairing cars.  It was thus in this role that Mottershead served for nearly two years until, in June 1916, he successfully qualified as an RFC pilot and found himself assigned first to 25 Squadron and thereafter with 20 Squadron.

Mottershead won the Victoria Cross on 7 January 1917 for an action which led to the loss of his own life.  Out on patrol over Ploegsteert Wood in Belgium along with his assigned observer, W. E. Gower, Mottershead's aircraft came under German attack at 9,000 feet and burst into flames.  Suffering the serious burns which ultimately killed him Mottershead nevertheless succeeded in safely landing the aircraft back among Allied lines, thereby saving Gower's life.

Gower may have survived but Mottershead died on 11 January.  His V.C. was the first - and only - awarded to a non-commissioned officer during the First World War.  He was further awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal (DCM).

"Plugstreet" was British slang to describe the Belgian village of Ploegsteert.

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