Richard Wallace Annand VC

b. 05/11/1914 South Shields. d. 24/12/2004 Durham.

Richard Wallace Annand (1914-2004) was born in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, England on 5th November 1914, the son of Lieutenant-Commander Wallace Moir Annand, who was killed with the Collingwood Battalion of the Royal Naval Division at Gallipoli in June 1915. His mother was Dora Elizabeth (nee Chapman). He was their only child.

Richard W Annand VC

On leaving Pocklington School, East Yorkshire, Annand worked in a bank, and in 1933 joined the Royal Naval Volunteer Reserve. In 1937 he applied for a Royal Navy commission, but because of his age, was only offered an administrative post. As he had only ever wanted to be a seaman officer, he declined. Annand’s age was acceptable to the army so, in 1938, he was gazetted to the Durham Light Infantry’s supplementary reserve. Then came the war.

He then became a Second Lieutenant in the 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry when he was involved in the action which led to the Victoria Cross. On May 12th, 1940,  2nd DLI had set up its headquarters at La Tombe, above the river. Three companies moved down into the valley with A on the right, B in the centre and D defending the road bridge on the left. C Company, meanwhile, was sent across the Dyle to watch for any movement. On May 14th the first refugees and retreating Belgian and French troops began crossing D Company’s bridge.

At about 11pm, amid rumours that the Germans were in the woods, C Company withdrew to the river and the bridge was blown. During the afternoon of May 14th, C Company halted the German advance long enough to withdraw across the river. The next morning, with the enemy right on the opposite bank, the assault began with heavy mortar fire hitting D Company’s position beside the ruined bridge. With the main German attack falling on 16 Platoon, Annand led two counter-attacks, in the second of which he was wounded.

The Germans then crossed the river, overrunning a platoon of B Company. After desperate fighting this attack was halted, but the DLI was unable to push the enemy back across the river. During the afternoon of May 15th, the DLI’s position was raked with fire. A further attack was inevitable and, shortly after dark, under cover of intense fire the enemy again struck D Company’s position. Annand, armed with grenades, again went forward, inflicting further significant casualties.

Against the odds, the DLI held on, but elsewhere the Germans broke through, so, just before midnight, the withdrawal was ordered. Leading his platoon away early on May 16th, Annand realised his batman, Private Joseph Hunter, was missing so he went back and, having found Hunter wounded, wheelbarrowed him off. Annand had been making good progress when he found his path blocked by a fallen tree. Weak from loss of blood, he was unable to lift Hunter over. Reluctantly, Annand left Hunter and set off for help. Eventually he collapsed but was later taken to safety and evacuated. For his rescue attempt and courageous actions, Annand was awarded the VC on August 20th 1940.

He was presented with his VC on 3rd September 1940 at Buckingham Palace by King George VI. Shortly afterwards, on 9th November 1940 in Westminster, London, he married Shirley Sefton Brittain Osborne. This was fortunate because their married life together did not get off to an auspicious start. The bridegroom had to admit to his new wife that he had forgotten to book a room, so they spent the first night of their marriage sitting on a freezing station platform.

As a result of permanent damage to his hearing, Annand served in Britain for the rest of the conflict. Much of his service involved training young soldiers, members of the Home Guard and commandos, and also included a spell at the War Office. He was invalided out in 1948 with the rank of captain.

Annand went to work at Finchale Abbey training centre for disabled people, near Durham in 1948, and for the next 30 years devoted his life to helping disabled people, especially those who, like him, had hearing difficulties. He was president of the North East League of the Hard of Hearing and a founder member of the British Association of the Hard of Hearing and of the County Durham Association for the Disabled. In addition, he maintained close links with his regiment, and was president of the Durham Branch of the Light Infantry Association until 1998. In February 1979, at the age of 64, Annand rescued Shirley from drowning after she had fallen into the River Tyne during an evening aboard the Bacchante.

Appointed a deputy lieutenant for the County of Durham in 1956, that same year he attended the Centenary VC celebrations. A founder member of the Victoria Cross & George Cross Association, he invariably attended their reunions. In May 2003 he was present in Westminster Abbey when the Queen unveiled the Victoria Cross and George Cross Memorial.

Dickie Annand passed away on Christmas Eve 2004, and was cremated at Durham City Crematorium, and his ashes were scattered. His medals including the VC, 1939-45 Star, Defence Medal 1939-45, War Medal 1939-45, Queen Elizabeth II Coronation Medal 1953, Queen Elizabeth II Silver Jubilee Medal 1977, Queen Elizabeth II Golden Jubilee Medal 2002 and Army Emergency Reserve Decoration and Bar were originally held on loan by the Durham Light Infantry, before in 2010 they were purchased privately by Michael Ashcroft and are now displayed in the Ashcroft Gallery, Imperial War Museum, London.





Terry Hissey – Statue at Durham Town Hall.