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Major Herbert James

Major Herbert James

The modest hero

The Victoria Cross won in the First World War by a Worcestershire soldier has been sold for more than £200,000. Find out the story behind the medal won by Lieutenant Herbert James - school teacher, soldier and modest hero.

Herbert James, who won his Victoria Cross in the fighting at Gallipoli in 1915, was a modest man, and would probably have been embarrassed to know that his medal sold for £211,725 at auction, the second highest figure ever paid.

Major Herbert James in action

Drawing of Herbert James winning the VC

This was a man who took an earlier train to Birmingham (his home town) to avoid the large reception organised in his honour.

He was a schoolteacher turned soldier, teaching at two Birmingham schools before joining the army in 1909.

At the outbreak of WW1 he became an officer in the 4th Worcestershire Regiment, and was sent to Turkey as part of the ill-fated plan to seize the Gallipoli peninsula.

He won the Victoria Cross for two acts of outstanding bravery: leading two counter attacks, and then, two days later, holding a trench single handed in the face of a Turkish attack.

Not one to rest on his laurels, he later won the Military Cross, and was wounded at the Battle of The Somme.

A silver plate had to be inserted into his head as a result of further wounds.

Herbert James' medals

Herbert James' medals

He stayed in the army after the war ended, until failing health caused him to be placed on the retired list in March 1930.

Sadly his life ended tragically - after two failed marriages, he ended up living alone in a small flat in London, and was found by his landlord lying unconscious, having suffered a seizure six days earlier.

None of his neighbours knew he was a VC holder, as he lived a reclusive life, receiving no visitors or phone calls.

The sale of the VC, and his other medals was held by Dix Noonan Webb (DNW), an auction house who specialise in the sale of coins and military medals.


Herbert James - won his VC at Krithia, Gallipoli on the 3 July 1915.

Victoria Cross

The Victoria Cross is the highest military decoration awarded for valour in the face of the enemy.

It was introduced by Queen Victoria in 1856 to reward acts of valour during the Crimean War.

The medal are struck using metal from Russian cannon captured at the siege of Sevastopol.

The first person to be awarded the VC was Charles Davis Lucas.

Nine soldiers from the Worcestershire Regiment have won the VC.

Edgar Kinghorn Myles - won his VC at Sannaiyat, Mesopotamia on the 9 April 1916.

Thomas George Turrall - VC at La Boisselle at the battle of the Somme on the 3 July 1916.

William Leefe Robinson - his VC at Cuffley, destruction of the first Zeppelin on the 2nd/3rd Sept. 1916.

Eugene Paul Bennet - won his VC at Transloy Ridges at the Battle of the Somme on the 5 November 1916.

Frederick George Dancox - won his VC at Poelcappelle at the battle of the Ypres on the 9 October 1917.

Frank Crowther Roberts - won his VC at Pargny at the battle of the Somme on the 23 March 1918.

John James Crowe - won his VC at Neuve Eglise at the battle of the Lys on the 14 April 1918.

George W. St. George Grogan - won his VC at Aisne on the 29 May 1918.

last updated: 27/06/2008 at 11:27
created: 27/06/2008

You are in: Hereford and Worcester > People > Stories about people > The modest hero

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