A Discussion about Medals and Awards

A Discussion on Medals and Awards.

One of my pet subjects, is medals and awards, Specially those earned in action. My interest in this subject was started many years ago, back in 1944, when I experienced first hand the bravery and devotion to duty, that was in many cases, far and away above what could be expected while in action.

Sappers of all ranks, will am sure, take heart that during the 1944/5 war in North West Europe, the Three Divisional Field Companies RE, with a total strength of about 600, all ranks, earned more medals and awards that any other regiment or Corps.(43 to be exact).

That was something to be proud of, when one considers the strength of the three RE Companies being 600 and a Battalion of infantry 800?

Despite this, I always felt that the efforts of the Sappers was never fully recognised. As an example; Lt Arthur Heals deeds in opening up the "Hillman" defence post. I respectfully suggest was worthy of a VC. For in my estimation, there is not doubt that his was the greatest act of Bravery on the whole of the Normandy Invasion coast. And his two accompanying Sappers were worthy of better than a MM.

During my time I saw, and experienced, many acts of outstanding bravery, and indeed of some cases of devotion to duty that really merited recognition. That applied to all ranks of Sappers.
As many of you will already know, I suffered by never receiving the award that I had been promised, The Commander in Chiefs commendation. Known colloquially amongst the Sappers as “Monty’s Certificates”
Shortly after I was wounded And flown back to England. Waiting each day for my “Award” It never came. I tried mant times to trace it. But it was something that Monty had brought out as a reward for devotion to duty. So there are no official records kept, and Indeed, the Officer that took me to one side, and informed me that I had been awarded this “Certificate” I met him in later years, at a memorial service for an old RE Colonel. But sadly he was a very sick man. I am still waiting….

So, having witnessed these acts of devotion to duty and to acts of bravery. With respect, I suggest that the British army does not always reward those deserving of recognition.

Finally, none of us want medals strewn about like confetti. Certainly not in the American style, That in my opinion devalues awards.

So what do the serving, and ex Sappers think about this? Agree, or disagree?
it can be face fits when awarding medals, in my opinion.

if most OC's of 33 antrim did not leave with a MBE then there was normally something wrong & they certainly were MY BLOKES EFFORTS awards.

credit where credit is due though & glad to see more juniors being awarded medals at last for their actions.

is it just me, :? :? :? :?

Why don't you copy and paste all of your posts in some kind of cronological order and get it out to a Military publishing specialist such as Dan Collins, you have at least 3 books worth of memories in your threads, I for one have followed a lot of your posts but have found when I've been away from a computer for a month or more I lose track, if it were all in a book it would be a bloody good read, one of those you can't put down until read...

Dan is an avid ARRSER so hopefully he will see what you have done, it would be a best Seller! and would stop us having to search for all your posts we have missed...
Nice of you to say that. I have a publisher that sends me e mails on a regular basis asking when I am going to publish.

One day I will get around to it. Though I must admit it is difficult task to tackle when you are disabled and get exhausted quickly.

This is not a moan! I know just how to deal with my injuries, and know where the bounds of what is possible are. (If that makes any sense at all)

Thank you for the kind words about the story. What does amaze me, is that there have been some 54,000 hits on the story, But I put that down to the story being told on a sappers site, where there would be a some interest in a WW2 sapper of over 60 years previously.

I am not convinced that the general public would find the story as interesting.
Cheers and best wishes from Brian (Swordman)

You can post as good as if not better! than most able bodied people here on ARRSE, all you would need do is go back through eevrything you've posted and just rearrange into order, it's been a bloody good read! I am sure it won't just be Sappers from ARRSE who would think so either!

Always good to see your continued Story...
As you have an interest in the subject, Swordman, you many be interested to know that during the campaigns in Iraq and Afghanistan, members of the Corps have won 1 Conspicuous Gallantry Cross, 5 Military Crosses (which can now be award to all ranks, not just officers), 1 George Medal, 3 Queen's Gallantry Medals and more MiDs than you can shake a sh1tty stick at!
Gundulph said:

You can post as good as if not better! than most able bodied people here on ARRSE, all you would need do is go back through eevrything you've posted and just rearrange into order, it's been a bloody good read! I am sure it won't just be Sappers from ARRSE who would think so either!

Always good to see your continued Story...
Seconded Swordman - have emailed dozens of links to your threads over the last six months to friends - all responses have been really good - few more members here as well. Publish your story - please. :D

I haven't read your story, but will add my tup'ney worth. If you'll indulge me.

I am sorry that you haven't had the recognition which I am sure you deserve, and which I am sure your unit's records would confirm.

One of my old school Masters is now over 90, and a New Zealander at that. Of course this means that he was in North Africa, and then Italy. As I am sure you know, the Aussies "pulled out" but the Kiwis remained. He was taken prisoner in the Cassino action (the London Irish were also there).

This, according to regimental records that I can see, was after he had rescued one of his platoon, when they were still fighting in the area, under withering fire. No citation, no mention in despatches, or anywhere else for that matter, no gallantry medal.

Subsequent to being taken prisoner, he suffered under the ungentle hands of the SD. He wouldn't take no for an answer, which is one phrase I suppose, and certainly wouldn't say "yes" either, if he was told to.

As boys, before we really understood, we used to snigger about his lack of finger-nails and general kack-handedness.

No citation, no medal.

Another example is that of my own Father. Jumping forward in time, six years, since the end of WW2, the army, in a bit of a "tricky/sticky" situation, in April '51 in Korea.

I feel sure that you will know the circumstances of the battle. It is now called the Battle of the Imjin River. Two and a half batalions of infantry, and sundry others.

As it became more and more obvious that they were going to have to withdraw, the top man, Major Shaw (the Colonel was dead), started planning their withdrawal. He spotted a gap in the line, and sent my Father, down the hill, to stash essential supplies, food and ammo, for the exfiltration.

Major Shaw was shot, as the remnants of the Ulster Rifles withdrew.

My Father had been "picked" because, as the perimiter shrank, my Father had been busy re-plenning the fire trenches, running around, above ground, sorting the chaps out with 5 or 10 rounds.

I've heard this from several people, including a young Officer called Potts ( now old and dead, and another young officer Alex Shuter, less old, just the other night), who was on attachment from the Royal Irish Fusilleers, who made a point of telling me that he thought that my Father should have recieved a gallantry award.

I asked Potts why this award had not been forthcoming.

His reply was "the fog of war". He's dead now.

However ironically he might have used this phrase, I can see his point, (and your point too), he went on to explain that he had tried to make a reccomendation, but transfers, re-building the battalion/brigade etc, got in the way.

At least he took the trouble to tell me.

In any event, it would seem that some of the things you did should have resulted in a chest-full of medals.

I suppose, that with typical British understatement, you, and the people of whom I have written above, have been left out.

The fact is that, somehow, the nation is now recognising this stuff again, but its all about numbers. Back then, there were loads of chaps, doing brave, even essential things. Not many bravery awards.

Today, there are far far fewer men, with the ensuing political guilt, and their actions, tend to get noticed more, rightly or wrongly. This results in many more "campaign" medals and a few more bravery awards, "per head".

This is a good thing, from the Nation's point of view, but a bad thing from an old soldier's point of view, since it seems to suggest that you chaps were useless.

Nothing could be further from the truth. You, and your generation, won us a whole load of freedoms which we didn't even know we had, and we fully recognise the joint and several acts of bravery that went before us.

All power to your elbow.

All that you posted here, is exactly how I feel about the British Services lack of awards. As to the Monty's Certificate that never arrived for me. That Ci n Cs award was Monty's own idea, and as a such, was unofficial. It was well known that Monty thought that there was a gap, where good service was not recognised.

This award was given for service above what could be expected. It was not a bravery award.
As to publishing. My new laptop has gone back to Dell for repair. The damned thing died. So I await to see when they will get it done.
The reason why I posted this thread was the memory of a very gallant Sapper Corporal. He, bless him, took on all the most dangerous tasks. And although I tried desperately to keep out of the way, I eventually finished up as part of his team...Every damned time!

Sadly while in Hospital through the RE network lines. I Learned of his death at the end of the war.
What did he get? Nothing, and that was disgraceful.

My best regards to you and all Sappers everywhere.

Swordman Brian

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