Ipswich/Alderton: War medals tell story of young man’s courage

IPSWICH: War medals from a brave Suffolk soldier who signed up to serve his country despite being under age have gone under the hammer.

The auction was all the more poignant as it came just a week after Remembrance Sunday.

Henry Victor Riches was originally from Alderton, near Woodbridge, but used the name of Fred Smith to sign up in Ipswich for First World War when he was aged between 15 and 18.

The teenager fought for his country in that conflict, as well as going on to serve in the Second World War, earning him a host of medals for long service and exceptional conduct.

He was released from service in August 1947 with the honorary rank of captain, and is thought to have served with the Dutch Resistance during the Second World War.

His medals were previously held in a private collection but came up for auction during a specialist military memorabilia sale organised by auctioneers Lockdales at the Holiday Inn in Ransomes Europark yesterday.

Cataloguer Chris Elmy, said: “The man they belong to was from Suffolk, and he signed up for the First World War in Ipswich when he was under age.

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“It’s a myth that there were lots of people doing this. He was probably one of a few hundred people who actually managed to sign up without being detected. My research shows it was hundreds rather than thousands.

“It was often boys who worked in factories where their colleagues were old enough to join up, and they felt cowardly for not joining their workmates.”

The collection of medals included the British War Medal, Victory Medal, the 1939-45 Star, the Regular Army Long Service and Good Conduct Medal, and fetched �440.

Several other Suffolk Regiment badges also went under the hammer yesterday. A Foreign Service helmet plate went for �65, the officers’ helmet plate for �270, and a silver gilt Glengarry badge for �70.

The Suffolk Regiment operated from 1685 until 1959, when it was combined with the Norfolk Regiment into the Royal Anglian Regiment.

n Did you know Mr Riches? Write to Your Letters, Evening Star, 30 Lower Brook Street, Ipswich, IP4 1AN, or e-mail eveningstarletters@eveningstar.co.uk.