The archive of Private William J Richards of the North Staffs Regiment went under the hammer with Richard Winterton (22% buyer’s premium) on January 4 in a Collectors Sale, selling for £1400 (estimate £1000-1200).
It included Pte Richards’ Distinguished Conduct Medal, 1914-15 trio of medals and the Princess Mary Christmas tin given to Richards while serving.
The DCM is the oldest British award for gallantry and was a second level military decoration, ranked only below the Victoria Cross. The oldest British award for gallantry, it was established in 1854 by Queen Victoria for gallantry in the field by other ranks of the British Army.
The DCM was discontinued in 1993 when it was replaced by the Conspicuous Gallantry Cross.
However, First World War DCMs are not rare: around 25,000 were awarded.
Richards was born at a house in Aldergate, Tamworth, at the end of the 19th century and the property still stands today.
The 1911 census logs him as living at 11 Ludgate and working as a printer’s errand lad.
Winterton’s saleroom in the town – The Tamworth Auction Rooms in Church Street, opened in 2021 – is a stone’s throw away.
Devotion to duty
Richards landed in France on March 4, 1915. The following extract relating to his DCM award appeared in the London Gazette on April 17, 1918: “For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty during an enemy attack. He brought up stores and rations to the captured trenches, utterly regardless of personal danger.”
He survived the trenches and returned from the war to live a simple life as a carpenter.
Richards married at St Editha’s Church and stayed in Tamworth, dying in his early 50s from lung complications – probably caused by being gassed in the war.
His brother Francis also served in the First World War but died at home in February 1917 and is buried in Tamworth.