Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry

Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Derry, Newark-On-Trent most decorated war hero, holder of the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order

By Laurence Goff

Buried in Newark on 10th April 1914 the Town's local hero needs to be remembered. He was an exceptionally brave and courageous soldier, greatly admired in Newark. His memory will be deservedly preserved. Lest we forget Newark’s most decorated war hero, holder of the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order for his work in Rome. Jumped from a moving train to escape the Germans during the 2nd world war. He must have departed this life, let’s remember him in years to come. Time to speak out about his heroism, bravery, valour and determination for our freedom. The town has now honoured our war hero who helped save 5000 lives in Rome during the 2nd world war. Lieutenant-Colonel Sam Derry, Newark-On-Trent most decorated war hero, holder of the Military Cross and Distinguished Service Order. A fitting tribute to one of our Newark hero’s

 

Samuel Ironmonger Derry – Former Newark Borough Council JPHe also served on many committees in the town — for example with the St John Ambulance serving as President. He was a governor of the Magnus School, was on the board of Newark Hospital, active with St Leonard’s Trust, and served as a local magistrate. A portrait of Newark’s most decorated soldier can be found hanging in the Newark Town Hall Council chamber that marks the 100th anniversary of his birth. Newark Town Council has agreed that a painting of Lieutenant-colonel Sam Derry should be placed in the council chamber, among portraits of past mayors. Colonel Derry is commemorated by a plaque in Newark Parish Church, and Sam Derry Close is named after him. One of his sons, Mr James Derry, said: “It’s a very fitting tribute.“He was born and bred in Newark and would be delighted to get the recognition.“He was a member of the town council for many years and was very much Newark through and through.“We are delighted that the portrait will be hung in the Town Hall.”Town councillor Mr Laurence Goff said: “This has been long overdue.”Colonel Derry was born in Newark on April 10, 1914, and educated at the Magnus Grammar School. He served in the Royal Artillery in the second world war and was one of the thousands evacuated from Dunkirk in 1940. In 1941 he was posted to the Middle East and served in Iraq. He was transferred to North Africa where, as a major in the 1st Field Regiment, he was awarded the Military Cross when his gun battery fought off an assault by 28 German tanks. Colonel Derry also held the Distinguished Service Order and Territorial Decoration and was awarded the Gold Cross of the Royal Order of George I by King George of the Hellenes. He was captured in June 1942 and imprisoned in Chieti, Italy, but he organised the construction of four tunnels through which he and many fellow prisoners escaped. Together with an Irish priest, Monsignor Hugh O’Flaherty, he ensured the passage to freedom of around 5,000 British and American soldiers who were stranded in the Italian countryside after escaping from German captivity. Operating from the Vatican, his Rome Escape Line became famous for defying German efforts to locate its source and destroy the organisation. On a train journey through Northern Italy, Derry managed to throw himself from the train and escape. Derry headed to Rome and was eventually assisted by The Monsignor, who promptly asked him to join the ‘Council of Three‘ taking charge of organisational details. He commented of The Monsignor: “Tramping around Rome with him, I marvelled at how his organisation had so far concealed more than a thousand ex-POWs in convents, crowded flats, on outlying farms” Derry managed the discipline amongst the prisoners of war ensuring that no unnecessary risks were taken while moving from location to location or through overindulgence of alcohol. Derry maintained careful financial records of all the monies used by the organisation in providing food, provisions and shelter for POW and civilians.  Sam Derry’s book ‘The Rome Escape Line’ was published in 1960 and in this, he commented of The Monsignor: “he is one of the finest men it has been my privilege to meet. Had it not been for this gallant gentleman, there would have been no Rome Escape Organisation“

 

The story inspired a film starring Gregory Peck as the priest. After the war Colonel Derry was appointed a magistrate on the Newark bench, serving as chairman in 1971, and as a councillor on the old Newark Borough Council from 1954 to 1973. He held many other public positions including membership of the Newark Hospital Management Committee; president of Newark British Legion; serving on the Nottinghamshire Police Authority; president of Newark and Nottinghamshire Agricultural Show; chairman of housing charity St Leonard’s Trust, and he was a Deputy Lieutenant of Nottinghamshire. Sam was the subject of the BBC’s This Is Your Life programme in 1963. Colonel Derry died on  3rd December 1996 and is buried in his home town at Newark Cemetery. Plot number West Right Side Q71 against the wall across from the main Arch and Chapel. Lest We Forget Had A Street Named - Sam Derry Close Newark NG24 1FY

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Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page
Photo: Illustrative image for the 'Newark 2nd World War Hero Sam Derry' page

This page was added by Laurence Goff on 23/03/2021.

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