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Lieutenant Richard Douglas Sandford

Richard Sandford was born on 11th May 1891 and he was the son of the Venerable Ernest Grey Sandford, Archdeacon of Exeter and Ethel Maria Ruscombe Sandford of 15, The Beacon, Exmouth, Devon. At the time of the 1901 Census which was conducted on Sunday 31st March 1901 he was lodging with his sister at the home of his Uncle and Aunt – Mr. & Mrs. Hugh Poole at The Old House, West Street, South Petherton, Somerset.

Richard Sandford was educated at Clifton College and then joined the Royal Navy as a Cadet at HMS Britannia on 15th January 1904. He was promoted Midshipman on 15th September 1908 and was appointed to the 16,350 ton Twin Screw Battle Ship HMS Hibernia on the same date.

At the time of the 1911 Census which was conducted on Sunday 2nd April 1911 Richard Sandford was listed as a Midshipman living at home with his mother and sister at 5, Hartley Road, Exmouth, Devon.

He was promoted to Sub Lieutenant on 30th October 1911 and he was appointed to the 765 ton Torpedo Boat Destroyer HMS Mohawk (4th Destroyer Flotilla) on 6th December 1911. On 21st February 1912 he was appointed to the 7,700 Twin Screw Protected Cruiser HMS St. George 'for Torpedo Boat Destroyers' and, on 5th Feb 1913 he was appointed to the 13,550 ton Cruiser HMS Duke Of Edinburgh (Captain Cecil J Prowse, Royal Navy) where he completed his 'Engine Room Training' between 4th April and 6th August 1913 being awarded his Engine Room Certificate on 8th August 1914.

In September 1913 he volunteered for service in submarines and from 24th November 1913 to 31st December 1914 he served in the Battle Cruiser HMS Invincible. Richard Sandford was appointed to HMS Dolphin 'for Submarine Training' in Jan 1914 and then to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Forth (2nd Submarine Flotilla) at Devonport 'for Submarines' on 4th May 1914.

In September 1914 Lieutenant Richard Sandford (Seniority 30th Oct 1913) was serving in the Submarine Tender HMS Onyx at Devonport 'for Submarines' to date 4th May 1914. On 13th Nov 1914 he was appointed to HMS Dolphin 'for Submarine W1 – standing by whilst completing' and 'on Commissioning'.

On 10th May 1915 Submarine W1 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Forth (10th Submarine Flotilla). After Submarine W1 was 'Paid Off' and transferred to the Italian Navy Richard Sandford was appointed to HMS Dolphin (5th Submarine Flotilla) 'for Submarine G6 as First Lieutenant' on 16th Feb 1916 and, later Submarine G6 was transferred to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Titania (11th Submarine Flotilla) at Blyth.

Richard Douglas Sandford, VC His first Command appointment was to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Arrogant at Dover 'for Submarine C34 in Command' to date 29th Aug 1916.

Next came an appointment to the Submarine Flotilla Leader HMS Fearless (12th Submarine Flotilla) 'for Submarine K6 as First Lieutenant' on 14th Dec 1916. On the night of 31st January/1st February 1918 he was the Officer of the Watch on the bridge of Submarine K6 during the so called Battle of May Island. K6 collided with Submarine K4 which was sunk with all hands. There is a notation on his Service Record as follows:

Feb 1918. Collision between K6 and K4. Lieutenant Sandford OOW of K6 informed by Ad. Beatty that blame attributable to him for not at once appreciating the necessity of getting clear and for not taking action to do so on hearing Ds on the syrens ahead of him.

His next appointment was to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Maidstone (9th Submarine Flotilla) at Harwich 'for Submarine C3 in Command' on 23rd Mar 1918. On 23rd Apr 1918 he was the Commanding Officer of Submarine C3 with a specially selected skeleton crew during the raid on Zeebrugge during which the viaduct to the Mole was destroyed when Submarine C3 (which had been specially prepared and packed with explosives) was blown up underneath it. Richard Sandford was seriously wounded during the Action and was turned in to the Royal Naval Hospital at Deal suffering from severe wounds to his left thigh and his right hand.

He was awarded the Victoria Cross - London Gazette of 23rd July 1918.

The citation read:

On 22/23 April 1918 at Zeebrugge, Belgium, Lieutenant Sandford commanding HM Submarine C3, skilfully placed the vessel between the piles of the viaduct which connected the Mole with the shore, before laying his fuse and abandoning her. He disdained to use the gyro steering which would have enabled him and his crew to abandon the submarine at a safe distance, but preferred to make sure that his mission would be successful.

He was also appointed a 'Chevalier of the French Legion of Honour' – see London Gazette dated 28th Aug 1918.

After recovering from his wounds (he was declared fit on 12th August 1918) he was appointed to HMS Dolphin for 'the Periscope School' on 13th August 1918 and then to HMS Dolphin 'for Submarine C30 in Command' on 25th Aug 1918.

He returned to HMS Dolphin for 'the Periscope School' on 8th October 1918 before being appointed to the Submarine Depot Ship HMS Lucia (10th Submarine Flotilla) at South Bank, Middlesborough 'for Submarine G11 in Command' on 12th October 1918. Shortly afterwards he was relieved 'in Command' after he was taken ill with typhoid fever.

Twenty seven year old Sandford died at Eston Hospital, North Yorkshire on 23rd November 1918 - 12 days after the signing of the Armistice. He is buried in the Eston Cemetery in Yorkshire in Grave No. J.U.709.

Richard Douglas Sandford's Victoria Cross and other medals are on display at the Britannia Royal Naval College at Dartmouth.


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Petty Officer Thomas William GouldLieutenant Commander Malcolm David Wanklyn