In 2014 the Daily Mail ran a story about the forthcoming sale at auction of a set of medals which were awarded to Liverpool-born Duggie Pomford. Expected to sell for about £50,000 they realised £90,000 for Pomford’s family, their value reflecting the extraordinary story of his heroic exploits in the Second World War.
Douglas Pomford was born on 29th March 1920, the son of carter John James Pomford and his wife Mary (née Lonsdale). Before the war he established himself as a very successful amateur boxer, winning the Lancashire and Cheshire middleweight title. He reached the final of the Northern Counties light-heavyweight competition, narrowly losing on points to Yorkshireman Bruce Woodcock who would go on to be professional European champion and to fight for the world title.
When the war began in 1939 the Pomford family were living at 19 Hatherley Street L8, Douglas working as a porter. Joining the South Lancashire Regiment in 1940 he continued to enjoy boxing success and his prowess in the ring made him a natural candidate for the Commandos. He served with No.11 Commando group in Syria under Lt. Col. Geoffrey Keyes who won a posthumous V.C. for his leadership of Operation “Flipper” the abortive attempt to capture Rommel. Pomford should have been involved in the operation but the submarine on which he was transported had to withdraw because of bad weather. Fortune had smiled on him as all but 3 of the 34 men involved in the raid were killed or captured.
He then became a founding member of No,1 Special Boat Section, eastern Mediterranean Command. During 1942, after missing a submarine pick up, he spent seven months in a mountain hideout with Greek partisans. Fortune again had smiled upon Duggie Pomford, as the submarine on which he should have sailed was sunk.
His wartime exploits across the Greek islands saw him awarded two Military Medals, in one incident he disturbed two German officers as they were putting on their pyjamas and ‘despatched’ them both. His commanding officer’s recommendations for his medals referred to his leadership and “coolness with complete disregard for danger”. Later on in the war he qualified as a paratrooper and took part in further operations in the Balkans.
Demobilised in 1946 he took up employment as a foreman with the Port of Liverpool Stevedoring Company and was living at 1 Eversley Street L8 (now demolished). In 1945 he married Mary Cavanagh. Continuing his interest in boxing he was a key figure in the founding of the Golden Gloves Amateur Boxing Club in Dingle, involved as a trainer and secretary from its inception until his untimely death aged 49 in 1969. Peacetime would still see him perform heroics as in 1954 he was awarded a medal by the Liverpool Humane Society for jumping into a Liverpool dock to save a drowning man.
I suspect few Liverpudlians know the name of Duggie Pomford but if ever there was a case for a blue plaque he surely merits one.
The Pomford home at the outbreak of war in 1939
Duggie Pomford the amateur boxing champion.
Douglas Pomford's grave in Anfield Cemetery
© Liverpool Footprints