City unveils commemorative slab in honour of First World War hero
The first of four commemorative paving slabs dedicated to Plymouth-born soldiers who received the Victoria Cross for their bravery during World War I has been unveiled on the Hoe.
The slab is located near the Plymouth War Memorial, at the junction of Citadel Road and Lockyer Street, and is in memory of Alfred Joseph Richards VC (21 June 1879 – 21 May 1953) – a Plymouth-born soldier who served in the Lancashire Fusiliers.
Sergeant Richards was one of six members of the Fusiliers awarded the Victoria Cross. He and his colleagues received their medals for the extreme courage they displayed during a hard-won beach landing that took place in the early hours of the morning on 25 April 1915 west of Cape Helles, Turkey. The landing was part of the Allied Forces’ Gallipoli Campaign.
The soldiers were supporting an attack on enemy machine gun positions and became known as ‘the six VCs before breakfast’.
The attack turned into a brutal battle as hundreds of the Allied soldiers either became trapped in barbed wire or were shot at by the defending Turkish force. A few survivors were able to overcome the wires and machine guns to secure the beach for further landings.
As a result of a wound sustained in the action, Sergeant Richards had to have his right leg amputated above the knee and was discharged from the army. He married one of the nurses who had been treating him and settled in London where he served in the Home Guard as a Provost Sergeant during World War II.
Deputy Council Leader Peter Smith said: “The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded to members of our armed forces for valour ‘in the face of the enemy’, and Alfred and his colleagues showed great bravery in their actions. This slab and the three that will follow will provide a lasting legacy for these local heroes and enable residents and visitors to gain a greater understanding of how Plymouth and Devonport fit into the story of the First World War.”
The slabs are part of a national initiative from the Department for Communities and Local Government to honour Victoria Cross recipients from the First World War. Between now and late 2018 commemorative paving stones will be laid in the birth places of all those awarded the Victoria Cross during the conflict.
Plymouth will unveil three more slabs in memory of John James Crowe (April 2018), Brigadier General George Grogan (May 2018) and Sir Arnold Horace Santo Waters (November 2018).
Communities Minister Baroness Williams of Trafford said: “One hundred years ago Sergeant Alfred Richards was rightly awarded Britain’s highest military honour for acts of exceptional courage at Gallipoli. This fitting tribute to his bravery is a permanent reminder to us all of his astonishing act of valour in service of our country.”