On this day……. 100 years ago; 04/08/1914

Remembered today:
CH.8671 Private G. Davies Royal Marine Light Infantry
A Chatham Division Royal Marine, he is buried in Middlesex at St.Pancras cemetery.

1914 star; a first.

Tonight I got to hold something that I will always remember, a 1914 star trio, now, not unusual, or rare you might say, this man had no gallantry awards or particularly unusual service, in no far off places, to all intents and purposes it is a normal, run of the mill (not to denigrate his service in any way….) ww1; 1914 star trio…. However, this group had one distinguishing characteristic, not that you’d know it, unless you were told.

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The interesting, and 100% unique piece about this medal group is that, this 1914 star, was the very first star to be awarded…… yes the very first to be awarded!  To hold in your hand the first of anything is amazing, and this was no different.

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Trooper Reeves, shown here, just shortly after receiving his medal, and the caption states this was the very first award of the 1914 star.  Now, Trooper Reeves, your immortality is assured.  Maybe at some point I can find out some more about him, but for now I am content in the knowledge that I have held something, so rare and unusual that very few others will ever have the chance to.  I have also had the chance to share something so rare with my followers.

With thanks to the London Medal Company; for supplying the information on this fabulously rare trio…… http://www.london-medals.co.uk/

Home Guard…. Not always a cushy number….

I have been rather busy lately with work and other commitments, however I still try to keep up with my hobby and while nosing through some interesting paperwork on Home Guard (HG) awards, I was struck by the thought that people often mistake the HG for a “cushy little number” of old men guarding Britain from a non-existent invasion; However this is completely untrue and these men served a valuable purpose and often put themselves into harms way in order to save others from injury.

Here are just a few examples:

British Empire Medal:

Sergeant W. DAVIES and Private G. E. REES; 15th GLAMORGANSHIRE (GOWER) BATTALION

“On 11th December 1942 a report was received indicating that Royal Air Force personnel were in danger off Burry Holmes. Sergeant Davies instructed Private Rees to accompany him and they went to the point indicated where they saw five men clinging to the rocks in the sea some distance from the mainland. These five men had been there for three days in a rubber dinghy without food and were totally exhausted.  “In extremely dangerous conditions, at high spring tide, and in a raging storm Sergeant Davies and Private Rees plunged into the open sea to render assistance. Sergeant Davies and Private Rees reached the five men, rendered them first aid and remained with them for two hours until the tide had receded sufficiently for them to be helped to the mainland. But for such assistance all five men would unquestionably have lost their lives as they were in imminent danger of being washed away in the storm.
“The actions of these two men called for the greatest bravery and determination and resulted in the saving of the lives of the five Royal Air Force personnel.”

Sergeant W. R. GREEN; 1st HAMPSHIRE (ANDOVER) BATTALION

“On 3rd October 1943 Sergeant Green and an officer were conveying a projectile, which was thought to be defective, for demolition. A short distance from their destination the projectile exploded. The truck in which they were travelling continued on its course until it hit a hedge. Sergeant Green, though badly wounded, bleeding heavily and in great pain and unable to walk, succeeded in getting the officer out of the truck as he was too seriously wounded to move himself. Sergeant Green then crawled about one and a quarter miles to a farm for assistance. It is considered that unless Sergeant Green, by. his fortitude and presence of mind under circumstances in which he might have thought the condition of the officer to be hopeless, had striven to crawl that long distance to secure help the officer would not have survived to receive medical attention.”

Volunteer S. W. ANTHONY; 1st BATTALION ‘P’ ZONE, LONDON [later 51st KENT BATTALION]

“In October 1940 at Bromley a house received a direct bit from a bomb. When Anthony was told that people bad been trapped he went through a ground floor window, although the house was collapsing, and found an injured man trying to rescue his child. He helped the man out and then, with the aid of another helper, began the work of rescuing the child.”

Lance-Corporal E. T. MONK and Corporal E. C. SARGENT; 7th SURREY (DORKING) BATTALION

“In April 1944 an aircraft flew over Home Guard personnel training near Lowfield Heath, Surrey and was seen to crash; a terrific explosion followed. The aircraft had come to rest on its back and caught fire. Second Lieutenant Walker and Corporals Monk and Sargent rushed to the scene and, regardless of the burning wreckage and the possibility of exploding bombs and petrol tanks, Second Lieutenant Walker crawled under the wing and, assisted by the two n.c.o.’s, succeeded in releasing the pilot from his harness and dragging him clear of the flames. Had it not been for the prompt and courageous action of these three men the pilot would undoubtedly have been burned to death.”

3178648 Company Sergeant-Major E. SMITH, K.O.S.B. 1st DUMFRIESSHIRE BATTALION

“On 3rd June 1942 C.S.M. Smith was supervising live grenade practice by members of the 1st Dumfries Battalion, Home Guard, to which he was attached. During the practice a grenade hit the top of the parapet and fell back into the priming bay. He closed the lids of the fuse and grenade boxes and kicked the grenade round a corner into the passage. The grenade exploded almost immediately, severely wounding C.S.M. Smith, whose action undoubtedly averted very serious consequences and probably saved the life of the soldier who was present in the bay. Had C.S.M. Smith not contrived to kick the grenade round the corner there would have been a grave chance of it coming to rest and exploding with very serious consequences at the entrance to the shelter, which contained forty men. His courageous conduct is enhanced by the fact that he was aware that the grenade was fitted with a four second fuse. He is now making a good recovery from his wounds.”

George Medal:

Platoon Commander R. HAIGH; 9th BIRMINGHAM (PUBLIC UTILITIES) BATTALION [later 29th WARWICKSHIRE (BIRMINGHAM) BATTALION]

“At about eight p.m. on 22nd November 1940 a number of incendiary bombs fell on the Wagon Repair Shops and on Washwood Heath Gas Works. Haigh was P 19 Company Duty Officer and after one or two small fires in P 19 area had received attention, he proceeded, with Volunteer S. A. Tyler, to the Gas Works. They found two fires in the coal stack and extinguished them. Two smoke screen containers had been ignited and were burning with considerable flame. These, in the absence of equipment for dealing with oil fires, were extinguished with some difficulty. There was a plume of flame in the crown of one gasholder; at the time the crown on the gasholder was some 200 feet high. Haigh, taking the initiative and with three other men, ascended to the crown of the holder carrying sacks, and after considerable effort extinguished the fire and partially stopped the escape of gas with bags and clay. Another aperture in the crown of the holder, through which gas was escaping but not burning, was dealt with in the same way. No protective equipment was carried. The raid was still in progress, with bombs dropping in the vicinity, and the flame from the holder must have provided a continuous beacon. The action taken by Haigh and the other three men not only promptly removed the beacon, but also saved a considerable quantity of gas from escaping.”

George Cross:

Lieutenant W. FOSTER, M.C., D.C.M.; 7th WILTSHIRE (SALISBURY) BATTALION

“When Lieutenant Foster was instructing a class in throwing live grenades a Mills bomb rebounded to the firing position. Without hesitation Lieutenant Foster threw himself on the bomb one second before it exploded, thus saving the lives of his comrades nearby. This officer’s gallant action was not carried out in the heat of battle, but deliberately in cold blood, and with full knowledge of the consequences. As a result of this action Lieutenant Foster lost his life.”

 

Military Medal:

Volunteer G. JONES; 3rd MONMOUTHSHIRE (NEWPORT) BATTALION

“On 12th/13th July 1940 Volunteer Jones was a member of a guard posted in defence of a vital point. The post was bombed, one man being killed and another seriously wounded.
“Volunteer Jones, who was himself in a place of safety, heard the groans of the wounded man and at once left shelter and carried him on his back under cover. During this time bombs, debris, large pieces of steelwork and heavy glass were still falling and Volunteer Jones carried out his task with complete disregard for his own safety. His courageous behaviour set a fine example to all those present.”

 

All very gallant men, and there are many more than this, around 1000 awards in total; If you want to read more: http://www.home-guard.org.uk/hg/med.html please check out this website, 🙂

Dunbar 1650; THE LORD OF HOSTS!

I have always been interested in the war of the Three Kingdoms (or the Civil War as we always called it at school….), I am undoubtedly a royalist, but in this instance I found myself captivated by Oliver Cromwell. As a numismatist, I found myself especially interested in the Dunbar Medal, issued firstly in the latter part of 1650, and in two types, large and small; http://www.britnumsoc.org/publications/Digital%20BNJ/pdfs/1981_BNJ_51_8.pdf

Well while looking through a dealers list in a London sale I found this beautiful example and managed to secure myself a fantastic piece of history.  To hold something that is a tangible link to someone who fought for Cromwell’s “New Model Army”, someone who conceivably could have seen action at Naseby and Marston Moor, and who may have even uttered the battle cry “The Lord of Hosts!”, is to me at least, something almost magical, so often we hear of these battles and actions, signal events of our history, and yet rarely do we ever get to touch something with a physical link to our past.

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http://bcw-project.org/military/third-civil-war/dunbar

How to find a name from nothing….. logical deduction for amateur historians

Sometimes you’ll pick up a medal group, or even a photo or uniform, and it has medals but no name…. no doubt family historians have this probably on a more regular basis than one would think. I had this same problem a few years back, and I thought people might find it useful to see the logical sequence of how to discover who the person is.

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I bought a frame, and in it was a picture and a set of miniature medals (above – which are left to right);

 

1. Order of the Bath – Companion (CB)
2. Distinguished Service Order (DSO) (w. bar)
3. Queen’s South Africa Medal, 1899-1902
4. 1914-1915 Star
5. British War Medal, 1914-20
6. Victory Medal, 1914-18 (w. MID X5)
7. Army & RAF General Service Medal, 1918-1962
8. 1939-1945 Star
9. Defence Medal
10. British War Medal, 1939-1945
11. George V Coronation Medal, 1911
12. George V Silver Jubilee Medal, 1935
13. George VI Coronation Medal, 1937
14. Order of the Légion d’Honneur – Chevalier (France)

 

Now ordinarily five of these medals would contain a name, rank, number and regiment, however, with miniatures, ribbon bars and photographs you don’t always have this luxury. The process is fairly easy and deathly logical, however it does take some serious commitment, luck, and occasionally an intuitive jump.

So, I started by isolating all Distinguished Service Order’s before 1945 with a single additional bar (in the DSO awards book) – this came to roughly 800-900 awards, I was so glad it was only a few……

I then looked at this list and discounted all those who had not served in the Boer war, I then checked the regiments they were with and their regimental bar entitlement for the Queens South Africa medal.


Then I isolated all those awarded further bars (WW1, WW2) or other gallantry awards, discounting those who didn’t fit the medal list, and including those who did… my list was by this time about 60 people, getting closer all the time 😀

As it had come down to roughly 60 names; I had to go through these manually looking for similarities, I.e discounting any killed in WW1, those who had served abroad in WW2 anywhere that would have given him a WW2 star medal indicating service in Italy, France and Germany etc.

This left just 1 man who matched the gallantry awards, Order of the Bath and foreign awards etc. – (all in all roughly only 25 hours of research all tolled, one of my shorter searches 😀 ).

 

The man in the picture and who the medals belonged too…. is Lieutenant General Sir Michael Henry Barker.

 

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http://www.unithistories.com/officers/Army_officers_B01.html: [this website is an invaluable source for higher ranking officers.]

 

Education: Malvern College (1897.2-1902); Staff College (psc),

 

Military Service:

1902 served in Militia (4th Battalion The East Surrey Regiment), South African War (Queen’s Medal, two clasps 14 & 26) (embodied militia for 210 days)

04.07.1903 Commissioned, Lincolnshire Regiment

04.05.1910 – 03.11.1913 Adjutant, …

18.12.1913 – 05.1915 Adjutant, Special Reserve

1914 – 1919 served World War I (despatches, DSO and Bar, Legion of Honour, Brevet Maj., Brevet Lt.Col.): France & Belgium 12.05.1915-02.11.1917 & 26.04.1918-11.11.1918, Italy 02.11.1917-19.04.1918

26.04.1918 – 01.04.1919 Brigade Commander, 53rd Infantry Brigade, France

18.03.1920 – 31.01.1921 General Staff Officer, 2nd grade (GSO2), … (India)

04.02.1921 – 12.02.1924 Instructor, Senior Officers’ School, Belgum, India

22.03.1927 – 22.03.1931 transferred as Commanding Officer, 2nd Battalion York and Lancaster Regiment

02.04.1931 – 30.03.1933 Assistant Adjutant & Quartermaster-General (AA&QMG), 4th Division (Eastern Command) (Colchester)

31.03.1933 – 30.09.1935 Brigadier General Staff, Horse Guards (Eastern Command) (UK)

01.12.1936 – 13.07.1939 Director of Recruiting and Organization, War Office (CB)

14.07.1939 – 04.03.1940 General Officer Commanding, British Forces in Palestine and Transjordan (temporary) (despatches)

07.03.1940 – 21.04.1940 General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Aldershot Command

22.04.1940 – 07.06.1940 specially employed as Corps Commander, I Corps (France) [handed over command 31.05.1940 to Maj.Gen. H.R.L.G. Alexander]

07.08.1940 – 15.02.1941 specially employed as General Officer Commanding-in-Chief, Aldershot Command

15.08.1941 – 15.10.1946 Regular Army Reserve of Officers [attained age limit]

Deputy Regional Commander for Civil Defence, London 1941-1942.

Colonel, York and Lancaster Regiment, 01.04.1936-20.03.1946.

Deputy Lieutenant (DL), Essex, 03.06.1946.

 

So there you go with a bit of perseverance, you can find out who someone is in a photograph, or who the medals you have were awarded too….. 🙂

The Battle of Saragarhi………..

One of my favourite anecdotes of battlefield bravery, and devotion to duty growing up was the stories of The Battle of Saragarhi which was fought during the Tirah Campaign on 12 September 1897 between twenty-one Sikhs of the 36th Sikh Regiment, defending Fort Lockhart, and 10,000 Afghan and Orakzai tribesmen.

In the battle, all 21 Sikh soldiers chose to fight to the death instead of surrendering thus proving their loyalty and devotion to their sovereign, the Queen Empress of India, and gloriously maintaining the reputation of the Sikhs for unflinching courage on the field of battle. When the gallantry of Saragarhi was recounted to the Parliament of the United Kingdom, the recitation drew a standing ovation from the members. All the 21 Sikhs received the Indian Order of Merit (IOM) posthumously, and their next of kin, received 50 acres and 500 rupees for their unbelievably gallant selfless act.  This gallant battle is still celebrated by one of the most peculiarly Anglo-Indian past times, a Polo match.

These brave men were:

165 Havildar Ishar Singh
332 Naik Lal Singh
834 Sepoy Narayan Singh
546 Lance Naik Chanda Singh
814 Sepoy Gurmukh Singh
1321 Sepoy Sundar Singh
871 Sepoy Jivan Singh
287 Sepoy Ram Singh
1733 Sepoy Gurmukh Singh
492 Sepoy Uttar Singh
163 Sepoy Ram Singh
182 Sepoy Sahib Singh
1257 Sepoy Bhagwan Singh
359 Sepoy Hira Singh
1265 Sepoy Bhagwan Singh
687 Sepoy Daya Singh
1556 Sepoy Buta Singh
760 Sepoy Jivan Singh
1651 Sepoy Jivan Singh
791 Sepoy Bhola Singh
1221 Sepoy Nand Singh

Details of the Battle of Saragarhi are considered fairly accurate, due to Gurmukh Singh signalling events to Fort Lockhart as they occurred, in itself an amazing act of courage.

  • Around 9:00am, around 10,000 Afghans reach the signaling post at Saragarhi.
  • Sardar Gurmukh Singh signals to Col. Haughton, situated in Fort Lockhart, that they are under attack.
  • Colonel Haughton states he cannot send immediate help to Saragarhi.
  • The soldiers decide to fight to the last to prevent the enemy from reaching the forts.
  • Bhagwan Singh becomes the first injured and Lal Singh is seriously wounded.
  • Soldiers Lal Singh and Jiwa Singh reportedly carry the dead body of Bhagwan Singh back to the inner layer of the post.
  • The enemy breaks a portion of the wall of the picket.
  • Colonel Haughton signals that he has estimated between 10,000 and 14,000 Pashtuns attacking Saragarhi.
  • The leaders of the Afghan forces reportedly make promises to the soldiers to entice them to surrender.
  • Reportedly two determined attempts are made to rush open the gate, but are unsuccessful.
  • Later, the wall is breached.
  • Thereafter, some of the fiercest hand-to-hand fighting occurs.
  • In an act of outstanding bravery, Ishar Singh orders his men to fall back into the inner layer, whilst he remains to fight. However, this is breached and all but one of the defending soldiers are killed, along with many of the Pashtuns.
  • Gurmukh Singh, who communicated the battle with Col. Haughton, was the last Sikh defender. He is stated to have killed 20 Afghans, the Pashtuns having to set fire to the post to kill him. As he was dying he was said to have yelled repeatedly the Sikh battle-cry “Bole So Nihal, Sat Sri Akal” (Victory belongs to those who recite the name of God with a true heart).

Having destroyed Saragarhi, the Afghans turned their attention to Fort Gulistan, but they had been delayed too long, and reinforcements arrived there in the night of 13–14 September, before the fort could be conquered. The Pashtuns later admitted that they had lost about 180 killed and many more wounded during the engagement against the 21 Sikh soldiers, but some 600 bodies are said to have been seen around the ruined post when the relief party arrived (however, the fort had been retaken, on 14 September, by the use of intensive artillery fire, which may have caused many casualties). The total casualties in the entire campaign, including the Battle of Saragarhi, numbered at around 4,800. [Not as is erroneously credited in many cases, the death toll just for Saragarhi, although 600+ enemy casualties for 21 men is astounding].