Early life

Frederick William Owen Potts was born 18th December 1892 at Edgehill St in the Katesgrove area of Reading, Berkshire. As a boy he attended Katesgrove School where there is a small plaque in his memory. After he left school he worked as a fitter at the local Pulsometer Engineering Works which made electric pumps. In the evenings he studied machine construction, mathematics and mechanics at University College Reading. He joined the Reading Squadron of the Berkshire Yeomanry in 1907 and in 1913 he became a local celebrity when he rescued a man from drowning:

Sunday, 8 June 1913.
The young man, dressed in his ‘Sunday best’ out for a summer stroll along the towpath of the River Thames in Reading, didn’t hesitate. Alerted by frantic screams for help he ran to towards the panic stricken boy gesticulating wildly on the river bank. Glancing at the murky water he saw a smaller boy thrashing around helplessly; bobbing up and down below the surface. Fully clothed, the young man jumped in; reached the boy just as he sank again, then hauled him back to the river bank and began to resuscitate him. By now a concerned group had gathered and the boy began to recover as the youth tended him.

Someone suggested the boy be taken to a nearby house until his parents could be contacted, while another offered the dripping wet youth dry clothes but he refused and, according to the local press of the day, ‘modestly left the spot as quickly as possible.’

When war broke out in August 1914, Potts was mobilised with his unit and sailed for Egypt in early April 1915. To read about how he won the Victoria Cross click HERE

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