Video: Honoured after 99 year wait

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A memorial has been unveiled close to the 99th anniversary of an act of heroism by a Mexborough war hero.

Sapper William Hackett was posthumously awarded the VC – the British Army’s highest decoration for valour – for giving his life to help an injured comrade on the battlefields of the Western Front in 1916.

Victoria Cross Trust volunteers Ben and David McCabe, pictured by the memorial with Bill Lawrence, of Mexborough & District Heritage Society and Jonathan Pickering, of Mexborough. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP VC Memorial MC 1

Victoria Cross Trust volunteers Ben and David McCabe, pictured by the memorial with Bill Lawrence, of Mexborough & District Heritage Society and Jonathan Pickering, of Mexborough. Picture: Marie Caley NDFP VC Memorial MC 1

The former coalminer is still buried below what was No Man’s Land and now he and others who won the medal but have no known grave have been honoured.

Guests including Bill Lawrence, of Mexborough and District Heritage Society, and Jonathan Pickering, of Mexborough, attended a ceremony to unveil a memorial to VC winners who have no known grave, including Sapper Hackett.

It was unveiled by Andrew Coombe, Lord Lieutenant of South Yorkshire.

The memorial is in the grounds of the Victoria Cross Museum in Doncaster.

Gary Stapleton, chairman of the Victoria Cross Trust, which set up the museum on Cedar Road, Balby, said the trust was aware the date of the unveiling of the memorial also marked the 99th anniversary of Sapper Hackett when it was set.

He said: “The ceremony coincides with the 99th anniversary of Sapper Hackett’s VC Action, and he is among the soldiers who is remembered by this new memorial.”

Historical records show William Hackett, a former miner at Denaby Main, was originally rejected three times by the York and Lancaster Regiment for being too old at 42.

He finally managed to join up when he enlisted in the Royal Engineers tunnelling companies in 1915.

His moment of supreme bravery was on the Western Front at Givenchy, France.

Sapper Hackett and four other men were digging a tunnel towards enemy lines when a mine exploded on top of them.

The men were entombed underground but managed to make a hole through the fallen earth and broken timber after 20 hours of digging.

They finally made contact with their comrades on the ground and Sapper Hackett helped three of the men out of the hole.

He could have followed them but refused to leave the fourth man, who had been seriously injured, saying: “I am a tunneller and must look after the others first.”

The hole was getting smaller, yet he still refused to leave his injured comrade and the earth finally collapsed on top of them.

A rescue party worked desperately for four days but they could not reach the two men who still remain buried there to this day.

A memorial to Sapper Hackett currently stands at Castle Hills in Mexborough.