In World War One, Lance Corporal William Coltman was the most highly decorated British Soldier.
He won The Military Medal. Twice.
He won The Distinguished Conduct Medal. Twice.
And he won the almost impossible to win Victoria Cross.
William Coltman was the bravest man in a war full of brave men.
But that isn’t the most remarkable thing about him.
One fact is truly amazing.
He never carried a gun.
William Coltman was a Conscientious Objector.
He was a devout Christian and his beliefs wouldn’t allow him to take another human’s life.
But he couldn’t sit by while others suffered.
So he went to work where the suffering was greatest.
William Coltman was a stretcher-bearer.
He went where the fighting was worst and took care of the wounded and dying.
He made it his job never to leave anyone behind.
So, in the mud and gaping shell-craters between the trenches, he’d crawl out time and again.
He would carry men back on his shoulders.
Again and again.
Within yards of the enemy trenches, under enemy artillery and machine gun fire.
It took him hours, sometimes it would take him days.
But he wouldn’t rest until all the wounded were safely back.
In Britain the term ‘Conscientious Objector’ meant a coward. Someone who was too scared to fight.
But no one at the front said that about William Coltman.
Again and again he went out where no one else would go, and carried wounded men back.
On his medals, the citations said he had a great affect on the troops’ morale.
They knew whatever happened William Coltman wouldn’t leave them behind.
And so a man who wouldn’t fight, a Conscientious Objector, became the most highly decorated British soldier of the First World War.
I think that’s a lesson about the difference between talking about something and actually doing something.
Auberon Waugh coined the term “Chattering Classes” to describe those who are full of opinions, but never actually do anything.
I think we have a lot of that in advertising.
Nowadays we call it ‘virtue signalling’.
People who are full of opinions about the rights and wrongs of everything, but never do anything other than talk.
David Abbott wasn’t like that.
He refused to work on cigarette advertising.
Nothing unusual in that, lots of people do that.
The difference was that David Abbott worked until he got the HEC anti-cigarette account.
Then his agency did some of the UK’s best advertising for it.
David Abbott didn’t just talk about it, he did something about it.
We could all do that if we wanted.