Son tells the story of brave Ely man Robert Day

09:35 24 January 2014

Annie and Robert Day

Annie and Robert Day

Archant

Ely man Robert Day came home from the Great War with an unusual souvenir, an Iron Cross ripped straight from the uniform of a German solider.

The solider had made the mistake of peering into the trench occupied by Private Day and he had no hesitation in shooting him before grabbing the medal.

Now, the story of Pte Day’s service during the 1914-18 conflict is being shared by his son Frank Day, who saw an appeal for stories in the Ely Standard and felt compelled to get in touch.

Frank is the second youngest of nine children born to Robert and Annie Day, but some of the Day children may not even have been born if not for the good fortune of their father Robert, who joined the Suffolk regiment in 1914.

Robert was involved in one of first battles of the war at Le Cateau, France, in which, of the 40,000 Allied men who fought, almost 8,000 were killed as they withstood terrible artillery fire from the Germans.

Pte Day was awarded the 1914 Star for his actions in the battle, one of few serviceman who did because of the sheer numbers of men who died in the early stages of the conflict.

He also went on to claim the Military Medal after single-handedly taking out two German machine gun posts using only hand grenades.

Robert returned from the conflict in 1918 but Frank said he never spoke to him about what had happened in France. He learned the few details he knows today from his eldest sister.

During the Second World War, Robert joined the Wilburton Home Guard, and proudly wore some of the same uniform that had seen service in the Great War.

Sadly, the effects of being gassed by the Germans in the conflict finally caught up with Robert and he died in 1948 aged just 52 but he left behind a story of courage and selflessness that he is family remain proud of today.

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