Lieutenant William Steele

Lieutenant William Steele

William Steele, was the son of Mrs and Mrs William Steele of Rowandean, Bridge Street, Fauldhouse. Mr Steele owned a well-known joinery firm in the village and was also county councillor for the Fauldhouse ward, and one of the most prominent men in the area. His wife was among the leading local fundraisers and served on various war charity committees.

Their son William was just coming up to his 18th birthday when war broke out. He enlisted in the 1/6th Highland Light Infantry (Glasgow Highlanders) and saw service in Gallipoli, being severely wounded in the left hand in June 1915. 

On 6 December 1918, the West Lothian Courier reported:

After going through the campaign, he was sent along with his company to Egypt, and was engaged in the first battle in Palestine. Lt. Steele so distinguished himself that his superiors sent him back to the training college at Cairo to train for his commission... He elected to go into the RFC, later to become the RAF, and got his wings in June 1917. His daring and proficiency shown by him warranted his superiors in appointing him an Instructor of Flying. After doing six months at that he found it boring, especially after being in the trenches. He requested to be sent up to the front line, and was posted to a bombing squadron in Palestine [144th Squadron]. He was wounded on the 14th of September 1917, and reported missing on the 29th Sept.

Between those two dates, on 27 September 1918, he was awarded the DFC ‘for conspicuous bravery’:

On 6 December 1918 the West Lothian Courier reported:

Lieut. Steele and Lieut. Westen [or Wesson] were flying over Turkish territory when they noticed two British airmen in trouble, and they landed and picked them up, at great risk, and brought them into safety.  

Family tradition has it that the plane being too small for the downed British airmen, they clung to the wing struts of his plane as Lieutenant Steele took off and flew them to safety.

When his plane came down over enemy lines, he was taken prisoner by the Turks. He was spared a long captivity by the surrender of the Turkish forces to the Allies. He was released and returned home safely to Fauldhouse in January 1919.

In the Second World War, he again served in the Royal Air Force, as a flying instructor.

William Steele’s uncle, Robert Steele, was not so fortunate. He emigrated to Australia before the war, but ‘when war broke out he joined the Australian Forces, and after a sojourn in Egypt, was sent to France with his regiment. He was severely wounded in the Great Push (1918), and in hospital succumbed to his injuries’. 

©1914-18: Fauldhouse Remembers Group

For more information on any aspect of West Lothian and the First World War, contact localhistory@westlothian.gov.uk.

http://www.westlothian.gov.uk/article/2055/Local-History-Library

The boyish William ‘Curly’ Steele in his HLI uniform early in the War (Courtesy of Mrs Renee Adamson)
WW1 aeroplane
Lieutenant William Steele RAF (right) beside his plane, 1918 (courtesy of Mrs Renee Adamson)
RFC pilot
The dashing William Steele in his RFC uniform 1917/18 (Courtesy of Mrs Renee Adamson)