Flight-Sergeant Tom Mottershead joined the RFC on 10 August 1914 as an air mechanic. He was promoted to Sergeant in April 1916 and then qualified as a pilot in June. He joined 25 Squadron in July 1916.
He won the Military Cross following an action on 22 September when he bombed the railway station at Samain with 2nd Lt Cyril Street as his observer. Following their bomb run they were attacked by a German Fokker scout. Mottershead managed to out-manoeuvre the enemy aircraft and Street shot him down. Mottershead then transferred to 25 Squadron.
Today, he was on patrol in his FE2d (A39) with his observer Lieutenant William Edward Gower on a contact patrol. Leutnant Walter Göttsch from Jasta 8 attacked them in his Albatros, puncturing the fuel tank which burst into flames. Mottershead was quickly engulfed in flames despite the efforts of Gower to put them out with a fire extinguisher. Despite all this, Mottershead was able to get the aircraft back over the lines and crash land.
However, the undercarriage had been damaged and collapsed on landing. The aeroplane flipped over, throwing Gower clear and trapping Mottershead underneath. Nearby British troops were able to drag the unconscious Gower clear and eventually were able to get Mottershead clear as well – who was amazingly still conscious. .
Mottershead was badly burned, however, and died of his injuries on 12th January. He was later awarded the Victoria Cross, the only non-commissioned member of the RFC to receive it. Gower was awarded the Military Cross.