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, 🙂

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Question…..

Whilst listening to the radio on the way home from work yesterday, I turned to Radio 4 and was enjoying the “Moral Maze”, and they were debating the differences between public and private life and if public figures should live with total transparency and that someone who has made bad decisions in their personal life could not lead effectively in their public life.  I got thinking that if this were true, then we should have undoubtedly lost at Trafalgar and that someones poor decisions in their personal life did not necessarily mean they were not a great leader.  If this were true, then Nelson, who had an affair and a bastard child with Emma Hamilton, would today have been lynched and vilified in the press and would therefore never have lead us at Trafalgar, and in that case we would have lost the Napoleonic wars…… We can look at Alexander III king of Macedon, conquered untold lands and his military tactics are still taught today, he had his name applied to over twenty cities, and his influence in the Hellenic society was felt into the 15th century; yet today his private life, and sexual orientation would have been bigger news…. after all he was married twice and had a close relationship with Hephaestion, no different to the insinuation about some cabinet ministers who have left office in disgrace in the past.

 

We could perhaps conclude from this that the media, and their ideology of exposition and public do-goodery is more of a hindrance than a help.   After all, can one say with complete honesty that the fact a man is unfaithful to his wife means he will not be some great military leader, or hold the key to curing the NHS of it’s ills?  Albeit we may well draw some inference from the fact that if he is not honest to the ones they love, can he be honest to the public at large?  Well would we not rather a sinner who has confessed his sins than one whose sins are as yet not found?

 

It is of course a severe moral point, rather than an historical one, but a point I thought that as historians we can perhaps shed some light on, for they discuss whether or not a true leader can lead or rule without total transparency.  All I could think of this was that all the leaders who have lead the longest over the largest empires have been ones who have ruled with total opacity, rather than transparency.  They all had a cult of personality, and covered much up, which I believe helped cement them as rulers, and leaders.  Those who failed at this opacity were the ones who failed to last long, for instance take the fact that King James VII attempted to sell the United Kingdom out to the French and the Catholic church, when this was discovered he was deposed in the Glorious revolution of 1688, and William and Mary took his place, this “transparency” (it need not be a voluntary transparency), caused his downfall.  So perhaps we can conclude that whilst transparency can be a good thing, that perhaps it needs to be tempered with civility from the press and to resist whipping up a storm in a teacup over things that really mean little to public life?

Exemplary Bravery, in a forgotten theatre………

Recently I found out about these two men, and as the theatre is a rather forgotten one by many, I thought my readers would find them interesting.

Both men were from the 6 Rajputana Rifles;

 

The citation for the immediate award of the Military Medal, states:

“During operations on the Toungoo-Wawchi Road, on the 1st July 1945 on the “Nevis” feature, No.22638 Lance Naik Karam Ellahi’s Company Position was heavily attacked by approximately 40 Japanese supported by a Motor Machine Gun and Light Machine Guns. The enemy’s attack was concentrated on the forward edge of the perimeter, which was covered by a section of Motor Machine Guns. The guns had only been put into position, and trenches had been dug, when the enemy attacked. These guns were in a completely exposed position and the enemy attempted to encircle one of the Motor Machine Guns and the Gun Crews were killed. On seeing this Lance Naik Karam Ellahi picked up a Bren gun, doubled forward under intense fire disregarding a grenade wound on his head, took up a position between the Motor Machine Guns and gave effective covering fire whilst reserves took over the Motor Machine Guns. When the Motor Machine Guns had almost run out of ammunition this non commissioned officer returned under heavy enemy fire and brought up reserve ammunition. Through the initiative and personal disregard for danger he prevented the gun from falling into enemy hands. The outstanding example set by this non commissioned officer was of the highest order and an inspiration to all ranks.”

and

Khuda Dad, a Punjabi Musalman from the village of Havelian, in the district of Hazara, on the North West Frontier of India, served during the Second World War, as a Rifleman (No.28826) with the 3rd Battalion, the 6th Rajputana Rifles. After service on garrison duty in India, this unit arrived in Burma in September 1944, and it was during the action at Sadwingyi on 30th December 1944, that Rifleman Khuda Dad performed the act of bravery which led to the award of his Military Medal. 

The recommendation reads as follows: “At Sadwingyi, on 30th December 1944, Rifleman Khuda Dad was a member of the leading section of a platoon due to launch an attack on the enemy position. At ‘H’ hour, as the leading section rose to the attack a mortar bomb landed in the midst of them killing one man and wounding five others. Rifleman Khuda Dad, realising that his wounded comrades were lying in the open, under enemy fire, seized his section’s Bren gun, the Bren No.1 being amongst those wounded and alone charged the enemy position. He eventually took up his position within twenty yards of the enemy and covered the evacuation of his wounded comrades with his Bren gun and by throwing hand grenades into the enemy position. His complete disregard for his own safety and his selfless devotion to duty was of the highest order.”

 

So there you go, two stories of exceptional bravery, in a very nearly forgotten theatre (at least often overlooked theatre in comparison to the European theatre).

We Shall Remember Them…….

Today I shall be laying the wreath on behalf of the British Red Cross Society at the remembrance parade in our local town. I was asked to write something for the note in the wreath, and whilst researching what to write, I found out that during the Great War, 56 of my fellow British Red Cross volunteers gave their lives;

 

BALDWIN, J

BARKER, MAURICE THOMPSON

BEAN, ARTHUR ROBERT

BLATCH, H

BOOTH, W F

BORLAND, G

BOYS, HERBERT

BRADBURY, FREDERICK GEORGE

BRITTAIN, FRANK MORRIS

BROWN, CHARLES SEPTIMUS

BULLIMORE, JOHN THOMAS

BURNETT, ARTHUR (CHICK)

BURT, ECEMETERY

CLARK, ARTHUR RUSSELL SAMUEL

COATES, WINIFRED STANLEY

CONNOR, JAMES

CRIGAN, ERIC CLAUDIUS DAVISON

CURNOW, CLIFFORD

DAVIS, CHARLES FREDERICK

DEAN-PITT, DOUGLAS C.

ELLEN, BERNARD LIONEL

ELLIS, J E

FIELDING, JOSHUA

FLEMING, M B

FRAME, WILLIAM McCLYMONT

GOODYEAR, ROLAND THORNTON

GRAYSON, LEWIS

GRINDLAY, JAMES

HARDIE, SAMUEL WHITE

HARMAN, ALBERT VICTOR

HARTRUP, HENRY

HEAD, FREDERICK JOHN

HILDER, W

HURST, GEORGE E.

INNES, JOHN ALFRED

JARVIS, L G

KING, WILLIAM

KITCHING, FREDERICK OVEREND

LEE, H S

LODGE, FREDERICK WILLIAM

LYTTELTON-ROGERS, CAMERON WATERS

MELROSE, J

MEREDITH, EDMUND RICHARD

PACE, FREDERICK

PEAPLE, WILLIAM LEONARD

PIERPOINT, JOHN ARCHIBALD

PROCTER, CHARLES LEWIS

REES, JOSEPH

ROBERTS, E

RUSS, C

SMITH, ROLAND HADFIELD

TAYLOR, ERNEST

TOSH, J

TRAVERS, A

WALLIS, W

WELLS, RICHARD LESLIE

 

These men and women, were serving with the British Red Cross Society overseas; http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead.aspx?cpage=1&sort=name&order=asc The majority were serving in France, others were serving in Iraq, and India. Of these there were 3 Croix De Guerre (France), a Medal for Military Valour (Italy), and numerous other awards, with many of the volunteers having formerly been regular army or holding medical qualifications in civilian life, that they felt could be of use.

 

As I lay the wreath at 11.00 today, I shall be thinking, not only of these 56, but of all the volunteers; my fellow volunteers, who have served with quiet courage, going out into danger completely unarmed, and tended to those in need.

When the Tigers Broke Free……..

Dramatic dispatches detailing the final 24 hours of Pink Floyd star’s soldier father in World War II reveal his heroic last stand

 

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2452473/Pink-Floyd-star-Roger-Waters-soldier-fathers-final-hours-WW2-revealed-dramatic-dispatches.html

 

Dramatic dispatches describing the final hours of Pink Floyd star Roger Waters’s soldier father have been uncovered by a fellow soldier.

Eric Fletcher Waters died in 1944 while serving as a second lieutenant with the Royal Fusiliers as they advanced through Italy as World War Two was reaching its closing stages.

War Diary documents unearthed at the National Archives in Kew by former veteran Harry Shindler, paint a clear picture of the final 24 hours of Lt Waters and the brave men of Z company (coy) who were with him at Anzio in February 1944.

The first line dated February 17 records how at 11am ‘intensive shelling and mortaring’ took place in the area where Lt Waters, commanding officer John Oliver-Bellasis and the rest of Z company as they tried to advance on a heavily defended German position.

Later in the day, an entry timed 1745, describes colourfully how the Germans called on Lt Waters and his comrades to give up: ‘Z coy reported an attack on the left forward platoon. The bosche called on them to surrender but were answered with all available SA (semi automatic) fire. Casualties were inflicted.’

Just over an hour later, the entry adds: ‘Situation well in hand, enemy decided to withdraw. ‘Prisoners from Z coy said they had recently marched from Rome and were told they would not be used in an attack. Had also been told that b’head was almost finished.’

The report goes on to record a quiet night but then in the early hours of the morning at 1.45am, the day Lt Waters was killed, describes an ‘enemy concentration reported on the rt of 7th Oxf & Bucks, which is followed by an entry at 0630 of how the Oxf and Bucks troops are being attacked ‘and sounds of tracked vehilces heard to their front.’

At 7.15am ‘Z coy reported attack by approx 50 Bosches. Successfully dealt with.’ More than two hours later at 0945am it adds: ‘5 enemy killed and several spandaus captured as result of above.’ Then 30 minutes later the battle which will claim Lt Waters life begins.

It reads: ‘Further attack on Z coy. This time in greater strength than previous attack. Enemy in close contact with forward positions. Unable to send assistance as Z coy having trouble on their rt.’

An hour later the Diary records: ‘Z coy reported enemy all round their positions, very stiff fighting going on.’ Then at 1130am the final report reads: ‘Lt Waters killed and Lt Hill wounded, situation now critical. Message received over air that assistance would now be too late.’

Lt Waters was killed in the first wave of fighting as the Allies attempted to secure the beach head at Anzio, south of Rome and his son was just five months old when he died.

Lt Waters name is on a memorial at the nearby Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery at Cassino but his remains were never found.

Eric Waters’ death provided the inspiration for several songs and it is commemorated in particular with When The Tigers Broke Free, which also appeared in the film The Wall.

In the song, Waters describes how he feels that his 31-year-old father died because of foolhardy generals.

The last verse has the lyrics ‘It was dark all around. There was frost in the ground When the tigers broke free. And no one survived  From the Royal Fusiliers Company Z. They were all left behind, Most of them dead.

 
 
And to see the details of Eric Fletcher Waters CWGC entry: http://www.cwgc.org/find-war-dead/casualty/2099066/WATERS,%20ERIC%20FLETCHER

 

 

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.

 untitled2

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.

 

barker2 

 

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….. 🙂

WW2 Memorial Tank; and the Soldier who served in it…..

Just a quick bit of news, I have just seen pictures of this;

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A former WW2 Russian tank soldier has found his tank being used as a memorial to the “Great Patriotic War”, he was apparently with this tank for his entire service, and was incredibly emotional when he was re-united with it.

 

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