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VC to be sold at auction

Sandwell | News | Published:

A Victoria Cross awarded to a heroic former Smethwick teacher for his bravery during the Gallipoli campaign more than 90 years ago will be going under the hammer.

wd2853442.jpgA Victoria Cross awarded to a heroic former Smethwick teacher for his bravery during the Gallipoli campaign more than 90 years ago will be going under the hammer.

Lieutenant Herbert James was given the accolade for his courage 93 years ago. And his bravery back in 1915 when he led counter attacks will now be under the spotlight once again when the medal is auctioned off to be admired by future generations – for an estimated £180,000.

Born in Ladywood, Birmingham in 1887 and educated at Smethwick Central School, Lt James was a teacher at Bearwood Road School and Brasshouse Lane School, both in Smethwick.

He joined the army in 1909 with the 21st Lancers and at the outbreak of World War One, he was promoted and commissioned into the 4th Battalion the Worcestershire Regiment.

His outstanding acts of bravery at Gallipoli in 1915, which included him leading two successful counter attacks with next to no cover, after the failure of a major assault led to him being awarded the Victoria Cross.

A few days later in the midst of a shower of bombs he saved a wounded colleague found lying among a heap of dead soldiers.

He also secured the trench with a temporary defence of sand bags and dead bodies, to hold off the attacking Turks.

He was welcomed back to Birmingham in a special ceremony hosted by the city's Lord Mayor and subsequent Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain.

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Lt James was wounded again on the Somme and, returning to France, in May 1917, he added to his accolades by winning a Military Cross near Amiens.

He continued with his army service after the end of World War One until failing health caused him to be placed on the retired list in March 1930.

Despite his heroic background his life ended tragically in the 1950s when he was found by his landlord lying in his flat unconscious – having suffered a seizure six days earlier.

His courage was a surprise to his neighbours who did not know he had a VC.

The medal will be auctioned by Dix Noonan Webb on June 25 or 26 at the Washington Mayfair Hotel, in Curzon Street, London.

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