21 July 2005

( select to enlarge )

Medal entitlement of Sergeant Alfred Richards,
1st Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers

  • Victoria Cross
  • 1914-15 Star
  • British War Medal ( 1914-20 )
  • Victory Medal ( 1914-19 )
  • Defence Medal ( 1939-45 )
  • King George VI Coronation Medal ( 1937 )
  • Army Long Service & Good Conduct Medal ( LSGC )

The Victoria Cross and campaign medals awarded to Sergeant Alfred Richards, 1st Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers, has been sold at auction by Spink of London for a hammer price of £110,000. The VC was bought on behalf of the Michael Ashcroft Trust, the holding institution for Lord Ashcroft's VC Collection.

On the 15th May 1915 Major General Sir Aylmer Hunter-Weston wrote to GHQ: "The landing is a deed of heroism that has seldom been equalled and I strongly recommend that the gallantry of the deed may be recognized by the bestowal of six VCs on the two most distinguished officers and the four most distinguished NCOs and men", namely captains C. Bromley and R.R. Willis, sergeants A. Richards and E.E. Stubbs, Corporal J. Grimshaw and Private W. Keneally. The six had been nominated by the battalion's commanding officer, Major Bishop, after consulting 'the officers who happened to be with him at the time and who did not include either of the officers awarded the Cross'.

The recommendation was endorsed by the GOC, Sir Ian Hamilton, but foundered amid War Office bureaucracy and rules governing the award of the Victoria Cross. Not until August 1915 was the matter resolved, when a second recommendation was dispatched under Article 13 of the Victoria Cross warrant which allowed for the balloting of units for the award of up to four VCs. According to Hunter-Weston, a vote had been held among the surviving members of the battalion which resulted in Richard Willis being selected by the officers, Alfred Richards by the NCOs and William Keneally by the other ranks. On 24 August 1915 the 'London Gazette' announced: The King has been pleased to award the Victoria Cross to the undermentioned officers, non-commissioned officers, and men in recognition of their most conspicuous bravery and devotion to duty in the field.

For the award of the Victoria Cross

[ London Gazette, 24 August 1915 ], W Beach, Cape Helles, Gallipoli, Turkey, 25 April 1915, 1293 Sergeant Alfred Richards, 1st Bn, Lancashire Fusiliers.

With Major Richard Willis and Private William Keneally. On the 25th April 1915, three Companies and the Headquarters of the 1st Battalion, Lancashire Fusiliers, in effecting a landing on the Gallipoli Peninsula to the West of Cape Helles, were met by a very deadly fire from hidden machine guns which caused a great number of casualties. The survivors, however, rushed up to and cut the wire entanglements, notwithstanding the terrific fire from the enemy, and after overcoming extreme difficulties, the cliffs were gained and the position maintained.

Amongst the many very gallant officers and men engaged in this most hazardous undertaking, Captain Willis, Serjeant Richards and Private Keneally have been selected by their comrades as having performed the most signal acts of bravery and devotion to duty.

Alfred Richards was invested with his Victoria Cross by King George V at Buckingham Palace on the 26th September 1915.

However, matters did not rest there. Troubled by what he considered to be an injustice done to Bromley, Stubbs and Grimshaw, Brigadier Owen Wolley-Dod, himself a Lancashire Fusilier who as Hunter-Weston's general staff officer had landed at W Beach shortly after noon on 25th April, continued to press for the case to be re-examined.

His efforts were eventually successful. On the 15th March 1917 the 'London Gazette' announced the award of VCs to all three men. The citation accompanying their awards was the same as that published for Willis, Richards and Keneally. By this time Bromley had died, Stubbs had been killed on W Beach and Grimshaw, by then a sergeant, received notification that his Distinguished Conduct Medal ( DCM ) had been cancelled and replaced by a Victoria Cross.

Alfred Richards died at his home, 69 Astonville Street, Southfields, London, on 21st May 1953, after a short illness, and is buried in Putney Vale Cemetery.


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Iain Stewart, 21 July 2005