Sunday, December 30, 2012

L/Cpl Richard Piper: "A V.C. that never was"

Lance Corporal Richard Piper, D.C.M.
Lance Corporal Richard Piper, D.C.M. 
From Cleator Moor, Cumberland (now Cumbria).
Awarded the D.C.M. for a blazing tank drama.
[Photograph: Courtesy of 'The Whitehaven News'] 
For additional information click on 'Comments' below.


Blogger ritsonvaljos said...

Additional information

Some biographical information

Lance Corporal Richard Piper, Royal Armoured Corps (Service No 3715768) from Cleator Moor, Cumberland (now Cumbria) was a "V.C. that never was" during WW2. Originally recommended for a Victoria Cross, Richard Piper was instead awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal for gallantry while under enemy fire. The gallantry award was for an action that took place at Nieuwhoer, Netherlands on 21 October 1944. The D.C.M. was gazetted in the 'London Gazette' of 22 March 1945.

In the photograph, Lance Corporal Piper wears the 'Lion of England' cap badge of the King's Own (Royal Lancaster Regiment). In 1939 Richard Piper married Miss Ethel M. Graffin and they had three children: Edward (born 1940), Alan (born 1944) and Brenda (born 1947). Their wartime family home was at Birks Road, Cleator Moor.

Before enlisting to the Army in 1940, L/Cpl Piper was employed by the Moresby Coal Company. He took part in the Normandy Landings, arriving in France in July 1944. At the time of being awarded the D.C.M., Lance Corporal Piper was 30 years old.

"Gallant and unselfish conduct"

On 21 October 1944 L/Cpl Richard Piper, then with the rank of Trooper, was co-driver of the lead tank in a British attack on the German-held village of Nieuwhoer. An hidden enemy self-propelled gun in the village hit the lead tank with its first round causing the engine to take fire. Two further shots from the German gun hit the tank severely wounding the troop leader, driver and gunner. The tank was also set on fire.

Despite the great danger of the fire spreading to the ammunition and disregarding the continuing small arms fire from the enemy, the uninjured Richard Piper proceeded to lift his troop leader from the burning tank and drag him to safety. Richard Piper returned to the burning tank a second time, lifted the severely wounded gunner from the turret and dragged this man to safety. For a third time, Richard Piper returned to the burning tank under heavy enemy fire to pull the driver out of the tank and drag him to safety.

At this point, Richard Piper went on to give emergency first aid to his severely wounded comrades. The troop leader was in danger of bleeding to death from a shattered leg. Richard Piper applied a tourniquet to stem the flow of blood, which ultimately saved the troop leader's life. Next, Richard Piper gave first aid to the wounded driver. Then Richard Piper attempted to administer first aid to the gunner but unfortunately found that this soldier had already succumbed to his wounds.

Even though he was still under enemy fire, Richard Piper still remained with the two surviving wounded soldiers until the enemy was driven back by the attack. The wounded men could then be evacuated, received further treatment and survived. With complete disregard for his own personal safety, Richard Piper had saved the lives of two of his fellow tank crew and attempted to save the live of a third.

In March 1945, Lance Corporal Piper's Commanding Officer wrote to Mrs Piper at her Cleator Moor home about her husband being awarded the D.C.M. According to the C.O., the award was "... very great honour to the regiment".

"Lance Corporal Piper, by his complete disregard for his own personal safety in returning repeatedly to his blazing tank, while under accurate enemy fire, undoubtedly saved the lives of his tank commander and driver. His gallant and unselfish conduct under most adverse circumstances is beyond praise".

Sunday, 30 December, 2012  
Blogger ritsonvaljos said...


This article is dedicated to Lance Corporal Richard Piper, D.C.M. of Cleator Moor, Cumberland. In slightly different circumstances, or on another day in a different location, perhaps he may well have been awarded the Victoria Cross. Nevertheless, this was a courageous and gallant individual.


Cumbria County Archives & Local Studies Centre
(Whitehaven Records Office)

'The Whitehaven News'

'The London Gazette'

Sunday, 30 December, 2012  

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