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Hero sons of our city honoured 100 years after receiving Victoria Cross

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

archant 2017

They were the hero sons of our city.

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLYCommemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

And a century after being awarded the country’s highest honour Cpl Sidney day and Maj Wilfred Edwards have been given a permanent place in Norwich at the war memorial outside City Hall.

They are two of only three Norwich-born recipients of the Victoria Cross, awarded for heroism in August 2017.

Unveiling plaques in their memory on Saturday morning, Bishop Graham James said the pair were “exceptional in courage and self sacrifice”.

Sidney Day was born on July 3, 1891 in St Ann’s Lane as the youngest of nine children.

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLYCommemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

On August 26, 1917, east of Hargicourt, France, Cpl Day was in command of a bombing section detailed to clear a maze of trenches still held by the enemy. This he did, killing two machine gunners and taking four prisoners.

On reaching a point where the trench had been levelled, he went alone and bombed his way through to the left in order to gain touch with the neighbouring troops.

Immediately on his return to his section, a stick bomb fell into the trench occupied by two officers and three other ranks. Corporal Day seized the bomb and threw it over the trench, where it immediately exploded. This prompt action saved the lives of those in the trench.

He afterwards completed the clearing of the trench and established himself in an advanced position, remaining for 66 hours at his post, which came under intense hostile shell, grenade and rifle fire.

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Lord Dannatt and Michael Day, son of Sidney, unveil his stone. Picture : ANTONY KELLYCommemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Lord Dannatt and Michael Day, son of Sidney, unveil his stone. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

Michael Day, Sidney’s son, said he had been a “very caring father”.

“It was at the Battle of Loos where he performed his first act of heroism when he rescued his wounded officer from the battlefield under fire,” he said. “He did not survive as he was hit by a sniper’s bullet while being carried off by my father.

“At Mons he was badly wounded having been shot five times, he lay in a shell hole and dragged himself three miles to a dressing station.”

Cpl Day retired in the 1950s due to ill health as a result of the war and died on July 17, 1959 after contracting tuberculosis.

Unassuming: Sidney Day VC, Norwich’s ‘quiet’ hero displaying his Victoria Cross shortly before he was wounded and captured.Unassuming: Sidney Day VC, Norwich’s ‘quiet’ hero displaying his Victoria Cross shortly before he was wounded and captured.

There will be a further stone laid in 2018 for Ernest Seaman of the 2nd Batallion, The Royal Inniskilling Fusiliers in commemoration of the Victoria Cross he was awarded in 1918.

True heroes

Young hero: Wilfred Edwards VC.Young hero: Wilfred Edwards VC.

Wilfred Edwards was born in Norwich on 16 February 1893 and was awarded the VC for his actions on 16 August 1917 at Langemarck, Belgium.

When all the company officers were lost, Private Edwards, without hesitation and under heavy machine-gun and rifle fire from a strong concrete fort, dashed forward, bombed through the loopholes, surmounted the fort and waved to his company to advance.

Three officers and 30 other ranks were taken prisoner by him in the fort. Later he was a runner and eventually guided most of the battalion out through very difficult ground.

He re-enlisted in the army when World War II broke out and rose to the rank of Major.

Commemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLYCommemorative stones laid, at Norwich War Memorial, in honour of Sidney Day and Wilfred Edwards, two local WWI soldiers who were awarded the Victoria Cross. Picture : ANTONY KELLY

A statement read by Brian Clayton on behalf of Wilfred Edwards’ grandson, David Craven, said he was an “extremely kind and gentle man”.

“Wilfred was shy and quiet and didn’t want any fuss. He found it hard to talk about his war experiences but on the very rare occasions he did he would always play down his role and say his actions were out of necessity.

“His actions, coupled with other brave soldiers, contributed to the successful outcome of the war. To our family he was a true hero.”

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