Legion of Frontiersmen, Independent Overseas Command
Gazetted 23 August 1940
On 15 May 1940 near the River Dyle in Belgium 2Lt Annand (age 25) inflicted heavy casualties on the enemy
with hand grenades. He was wounded, but after having his wounds dressed,he made another attack on the enemy
position the same evening. Later, when the position became hopeless and when Lieutenant Annand's platoon was
ordered to withdraw, Lieutenant Annand discovered that his batman was wounded and missing. He returned at once to
the former position and brought him back in a wheelbarrow before collapsing from loss of blood. He later achieved the
rank of Captain
War Medal 1939-45
Coronation Medal 1953
Jubilee Medal 1977
Golden Jubilee Medal 2003
Efficiency Decoration and bar
Born 5 November 1914 South Shields, Co Durham, Ireland
Died 24 December 2004
On May 15 1940 during the Wehrmacht's lightning advance in Belgium on the River Dyle, Dick Annand, who has died aged 90, won the British army's first second world war Victoria Cross while a second lieutenant with 2nd Battalion, Durham Light Infantry.
On May 12, 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 14 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 14, 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 15, 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 16, 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 20 1940.
Annand was born in South Shields, the son of a naval lieutenant commander killed in action in 1915. 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 DLI's supplementary reserve. Then came the war.
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.
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.
Dick Annand was a delightful man and even in great old age retained his boyish charm. His main leisure interest was golf. In everything he did he was supported by his wife Shirley, a former JP who, for many years, was deputy president of the County of Durham Branch of the British Red Cross, whom he had married in 1940. 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.
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. Never happy to be talking about himself, he was always full of praise for his wife, who survives him.
Held rank of Brigadier with European Command, now called the Independent Overseas Command.of the Legion of Frontiersmen.
Behobeho East Africa 1915 - 1917 Nyangao Kilimanjaro Great War 1917 Belgium 1914 -18