Collingwood-born Bill ‘Rusty’ Ruthven was at the forefront when Australian 2nd Division troops successfully attacked German strongpoints near the Somme village of Ville-sur-Ancre on 19 May 1918.
After the 22nd Battalion’s D Company suffered many casualties, including its commanding officer, Sergeant Ruthven assumed control in leading part of the assault–single-handedly attacking enemy posts, capturing a machine gun and 38 German soldiers.
Ruthven’s Victoria Cross citation read: “Throughout the whole operation he showed the most magnificent courage and determination, inspiring everyone by his fine fighting spirit, his remarkable courage, and his dashing action.”
Australian citations for bravery often referred to a soldier’s inspiration of a wider group, according to historian Peter Burness.
He wrote: “Inspirational soldiers were always held in high esteem within their units for these men gave the leadership that others were seeking.”
Bill Ruthven survived the war and became the Mayor of Collingwood, a Member of the Victorian Parliament from 1945-61 and Collingwood Football Club’s official timekeeper for 30 years.