b. 23/07/1921 Kensington, London. d. 27/08/1972 Leatherhead, Surrey.
Richard Wakeford (1921-1972) was born in Kensington, London on 23rd July 1921, the son of Dr Victor David Collins Wakeford and Mary (nee Kee), and was educated at Westminster School. In 1939, he began a course in medicine at Oxford University, intending to become a surgeon and follow in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, World War II curtailed his medical studies, and ultimately his choice of career.
On the outbreak of World War II, he was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the 2/4th Battalion, The Hampshire Regiment on 22nd February 1941. In 1943 he was Mentioned in Despatches, and was wounded three times. He had risen to the rank of Temporary Captain by the time of his VC action during the Battle of Monte Cassino in May 1944.
On 13th May, 1944, Captain Wakeford commanded the leading Company on the right flank of an attack on two hills near Cassino, and accompanied by his orderly and armed only with a revolver, he killed a number of the enemy and handed over 2O prisoners when the Company came forward. On the final objective a German officer and 5 other ranks were holding a house. After being twice driven back by grenades. Captain Wakeford, with a final dash, reached the window and hurled in his grenades. Those of the enemy, who were not killed or wounded, surrendered. Attacking another feature on the following day, a tank became bogged on the start line, surprise was lost and the leading infantry were caught in the enemy’s fire, so that the resulting casualties endangered the whole operation.
Captain Wakeford, keeping his Company under perfect control, crossed the start line and although wounded in the face and in both arms, led his men up the hill. Half way up the hill his Company came under heavy Spandau fire; in spite of his wounds, he organized and led a force to deal with this opposition so that his company could get on. By now the Company was being heavily mortared and Captain Wakeford was again wounded, in both legs, but he still went on and reaching his objective, he organized and consolidated the remainder of his Company and reported to his Commanding Officer before submitting to any personal attention. During the seven hour interval before stretcher-bearers could reach him his unwavering high spirits encouraged the wounded men around him.
He was wounded in the face and in both arms and legs, and was evacuated to Britain for further hospital treatment.
He was gazetted for the Victoria Cross on 13th July 1944, and was presented with his medal by King George VI on his visit to Italy and the front later that year. He was later promoted to Major. In 1945, he returned to Oxford University but due to the severity of his wounds to his hands, had to abandon a career in medicine and switched to law. In 1946, he was invalided out of the Army with the rank of Honorary Major. He began a solicitor’s practice in London.
On 31st March 1951 he married Denise Elizabeth Corlson at St Saviour’s Church, Westcliff on Sea, Essex. In 1964, he was appointed a Master of the Chancery Division of the Supreme Court. Affected by his war wounds throughout his life, he died suddenly aged just 51 on 27th August 1972 in Leatherhead, Surrey. He was cremated at Randall’s Park Crematorium in Leatherhead. His medal group including his VC, 1939-45 Star, Africa Star with 1st Army clasp, Italy Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45 with Mentioned in Despatches oakleaf, and Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953 are held by the Worshipful Company of Haberdashers.
LOCATION OF MEDAL: COMPANY OF HABERDASHERS, LONDON.
BURIAL PLACE: RANDALLS PARK CREMATORIUM, LEATHERHEAD, SURREY.
Alan Sharkey – Image of the Wakeford VC Medal Group at Haberdasher’s Hall, London.