I have been very busy on my Royal Signals gallantry awards project and have not written as much for this blog as I should have. Here are my last two offerings from the Royal Signals project:
The first is a commemoration about the end of the Palestine Mandate, some of the gallantry awards earned and the loss of Royal Signals soldiers to terrorism there in the post-war years. PALESTINE 1920-1948: IN MEMORIAM
Captain Alexander David Mackintosh, Palestine Command Signal Regiment – shot and mortally wounded by the terrorists who planted the bomb at the King David Hotel on 22 July 1946; he died the next day.
The second is about NCOs and the Military Cross. The medal became available to all ranks after the 1993 review of gallantry decorations and medals. This blog post looks at two NCOs who wore the ribbon of the Military Cross long before that. NON-COMMISSIONED OFFICERS AND THE MILITARY CROSS
The grave of Lance Sergeant Dennis Edwin Ward MC, Royal Signals, who died in a traffic accident near Kohat in India on 1 February 1936.
Following the Civilian Gallantry Awards List published in the London Gazette in July 2018, I have updated the addendum to For Exemplary Bravery—it records all of the 29 Queen’s Gallantry Medals awarded since December 2013, new information about a number of previous recipients and new photographs. The addendum is a pdf in the same format as the book and it can be downloaded (free) from the book’s website.
The medals of former Warrant Officer Class 1 John Wilkinson McNair QGM, who earned his award during and in the aftermath of an attack by artillery and tanks on civilians at Konjević Polje in Bosnia and Herzegovina in 1993.
Robert Dodds served during the First World War in France and Flanders with the Royal Engineers Signal Service, earning a Distinguished Conduct medal and Military Medal. Commissioned in 1918, he then added an Military Cross to his list of decorations in North Russia in 1919. He served with Royal Signals during the Second World War, earning an MBE for his conduct during the withdrawal from Tobruk to El Alamein.
Read his story on the website of my Royal Signals gallantry awards project:
Major R N Dodds MBE, MC, DCM, MM
The medals of Sergeant James Hughes DCM, MM
In March 1918, for the third time in 21 months, the 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers in 108th Brigade, 36th (Ulster) Division was all but destroyed. Blacker’s Boys devotes a whole chapter to the actions fought in the week following the German attack south of the River Somme and the subsequent action against the German second phase attack south of Ypres.
In these actions, 36th (Ulster) Division suffered over 7,200 casualties, of which over 5,600 were missing, most of whom had been captured. This was the highest casualty rate of any division facing the German attack. The 9th Royal Irish Fusiliers lost 46 killed or died of wounds, 142 wounded and an estimated 334 captured. By this stage of the war the Battalion was nothing like that which had landed in France in October 1915. The majority of its men were those who had joined from 2nd North Irish Horse, there was also a fair number of Englishmen—from Yorkshire, Derbyshire and London—and Irish soldiers from all over Ireland, both Catholic and Protestant.
Many of the men killed in the actions fought in March 1918 were later described as falling in the period 21-29 March or on 29 March but neither of these descriptions is wholly accurate. Continue reading
One hundred years ago, on 21 March 1918 on the first day of the German offensive that swept back the British Fifth Army, my great-uncle Robbie was captured in the ‘Line of Resistance’ at the very front of the defensive positions held by 15th Royal Irish Rifles in 107th Brigade in 36th (Ulster) Division. His story is here.
107th Brigade Forward Zone
‘Twice they got out on top and walked along it, clearing enemy out of it with rifle and rifle grenades.’
Farther back, ‘D’ Company held out in Racecourse Redoubt until that evening. During the attacks there in the morning, one of ‘D’ Company’s platoon commanders, Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind, defended his position most gallantly and, assisted by Corporal Samuel Getgood and Lance Corporal Hubert Walker MM, repeatedly cleared the enemy from a trench at the west of the redoubt. Around midday De Wind was killed; Getgood and Walker were captured when the redoubt was surrendered that evening. For their gallantry De Wind was posthumously awarded the Victoria Cross and Getgood and Walker were awarded the Distinguished Conduct Medal.
Recently I was able to help a descendent of De Wind put together some of his story, in preparation for a commemorative event in Comber, Northern Ireland, De Wind’s home town prior to his emigration to Canada. It is with his permission that I can show these fabulous photographs of his Victoria Cross.
The Victoria Cross of Second Lieutenant Edmund De Wind
De Wind Victoria Cross, Obverse
De Wind Victoria Cross, Reverse
The Royal Signals Gallantry awards centennial project now has a Facebook page:
The project website is here.
2097365 Leading Aircraftwoman Marie Tarrant Neill
Leading Aircraftwoman Miriam Neill
Miriam, as she was known all her life, was the third of the five daughters of my great-grandfather William Neill; she had an older brother who died in infancy whom she never met, and the family later adopted a son. Marie Tarrant Neill was born on 16 August 1910 in the family home at James Street in Lurgan, to which they had recently moved.
The Women’s Auxiliary Air Force was created on 28 June 1939 from the 48 companies of the Auxiliary Territorial Service supporting the Royal Air Force. Conscription of women began in 1941 and Miriam Neill was enrolled into the WAAF that year on 24 July. Having reported for training on 11 September 1941, she completed her basic training and was posted as a tailoress to RAF Box (later renamed RAF Rudloe Manor) in Wiltshire, the site of the Operations Centre of No. 10 Group RAF. She was billeted at Hartham Park, a Georgian manor house just north of Corsham. Continue reading
On 1 October 1942, the SS Lisbon Maru, a Japanese freighter transporting prisoners of war from Hong Kong to Japan, was sunk by the submarine USS Grouper.
Fifty Royal Signals soldiers died. This is their story and that of the most gallant Signalman Arnold Topliff.
SS Lisbon Maru
We Shall Suffer There by Tony Banham
I must acknowledge the help given by Tony Banham in the preparation of this story. His three books on the Battle for Hong Kong, the sinking of the SS Lisbon Maru, and the fate of the prisoners of war are masterly and highly recommended.
See Hong Kong War Diary.
Discovering the North-West Passage: The Four-Year Arctic Odyssey of H.M.S. Investigator and the McClure Expedition by Glenn M. Stein
My rating: 5 of 5 stars
This is an outstanding piece of work. Ignoring for one moment the incredible story of the crew of HMS Investigator, this 19th Century tale of exploration is superbly researched and documented; as a reference work for the serious student of the history of exploration in the Arctic and Antarctic it is a ‘must read’. The bibliography is extensive, the notes on the primary sources lend much weight to the author’s conclusions and the tale itself is well told, without hyperbole or flights of imagination. I ordered this from a library in order to study Stein’s history of the Polar Medal. Before beginning the book I read the notes on the sources and I’m glad that I did so first.
Although there is room for a lighter telling of this tale (which I think would please some of the reviewers of this book elsewhere) some events in history require a serious and scholarly study to be worthy of the efforts of those whom it describes and to sit as the definitive historical record. This is such a work and I highly recommend it.
View all my reviews
As I work on my book about Royal Signals gallantry awards, the news is dominated by accounts of Hurricanes Harvey, Irma, Jose and Katia and the massive earthquake in Mexico. By coincidence, the section that I am writing is about the East Coast Floods of 1953.
Canvey Island, 1953
On 31 January 1953, an extremely heavy storm coupled with a high spring tide led to a devastating natural disaster in the low-lying areas around the North Sea. Sea defences were breached, coastal areas were flooded and ships were lost. Over 2,500 people were killed—1,836 in the Netherlands, 307 in England, 19 in Scotland and 28 in Belgium; 361 people were killed at sea, including 133 on the Larne-Stranraer ferry m.v. Princess Victoria. This was one of the worst natural disasters to hit the region; the rescue work took many days and recovery took many months.
There were numerous acts of gallantry recorded over the period and British awards were made to civilians and military personal, including honorary awards to men of the United States Air Force stationed in East Anglia. These and the meritorious service awards that followed the rescue effort were spread over several editions of the London Gazette, including the Coronation Honours list; the honorary awards were not published. There were more British awards made in the aftermath of this disaster than for any other single, non-warlike event in British history. Continue reading