Discussion in 'Military History and Militaria' started by Rumrunner, Mar 24, 2006.

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    Prior to retireing and moving to Wales, I spent my last couple of working months living in The Victory Services Club and travelling backward and forwards to Wales and London. During my time in the Club, there was always a varied clientele staying with many reunions taking in place all over London. I to got know the Manager very well. Indeed, I spent many the hour in his company bellying up to the bar. He introduced me to lots of interesting people. I met pilots who had flown in the blockade of Berlin (I was there as a kid) who were in London for the 50th Anniversary. I had lunch with both the outgoing/incoming Queens Ghurkha Officers who are stationed at Buckingham Palace. This time the shoe was on the other foot though, they were kids when I served in 48 Bde Hong Kong! Indeed, I spent many an interesting night at the bar, meeting many different and interesting people, including a few ex Corps members. It was a bit like the Rheindahlen NAAFI, its said that if you stand in the queue long enough, you are bound to meet someone you know, the Victory Services Club was much about the same!

    The Elder Brother

    One night, Steve the Manager, introduced me to an elderly gentleman who was a retired member of the Palestine Police. He told some interesting tales of those days (the force being disbanded in 1948 I mentioned the fact that my father had served with the Colonial Police and that several members of that force were ex Palestine Police! He recognised several names that I could remember, including the last Inspector General. During our conversation, I told him that I knew of a member of the force who had been killed in action in Palestine. He was intrigued, and took details of what I knew. I told him that I had understood that the person had been killed by a Jewish Terrorist gang! Anyway, he told me he would check it out and let me know.

    Some weeks later, I received a very nice letter from him. He confirmed that the person I had referred to had indeed been killed in action on 20th November 1935 and was buried in the Mount Zion cemetery Jerusalem. He went on to say, “he must have been one hell of a man as he was awarded the Kings Police Medal and the British Empire Medal and was British Constable 1208.” He said, “I enclose for your interest a Photostat copy of these details from the register of those who lost their lives, and the two actions in which he was awarded his decorations. I am only too pleased to have been of some assistance in looking up a few facts concerning a most distinguished and brave member of my old force.”

    It would appear, that The BEM was awarded when the British Constable was accompanied by a Palestinian Constable when they faced down a crowd of some 700 Arabs in the Street of the Chains inside the old city of Jerusalem. Having ordered the crowd to disperse both constables were attacked. The crowd attempted to get the rifle from the Palestinian Constable. The British Constable fired into the crowd at the same time encouraging his Arab comrade to do the same. He (the British Constable) then, from the kneeling position in front of the crowd fired two more shots into the angry Arab crowd bent on killing them. His comrade managed to do the same. Their coolness saved the day, and the crowd melted away.

    The KPM was awarded posthumously some two years later. From what I can gather, A police patrol managed to corner a well know gang of Arab outlaws (the term Terrorist was not in use at that time, they were just criminals) led by Sheikh Izzadin. The Arabs were holding the high ground and were not short of ammunition. The police attacking up hill, found cover very sparse, only amounting to rocks and cactus. The police advanced in short rushes giving each other covering fire, attracting a hail of fire. It was during one of these rushes that he was hit and mortally wounded. Being miles from any hospital or indeed any worthwhile medical treatment, he died within the hour. The patrol pressed on with their attack eventually taking the position. In doing so killing four (the Sheikh being one of them) and capturing five. Sheikh Izzadin went onto become something of a martyr (it would appear that nothing has changed over the passing years in that respect!)

    The Younger Brother

    The younger brother joined the army just prior to the outbreak of WW11, enlisting in the Royal West Kents. He was part of the BEF and was among the lucky ones who managed to fight their way out. He saw service in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. It was in Italy aged 23 and by then a CSM that he was awarded the Military Medal. It would appear, that the 5th Battalion D Coy were holding positions around Cassino Railway Station. They were the only company in close contact with the enemy. Another company was one mile further back and the remainder of the battalion further back still. The railway embankment was covered by the fixed lines of fire by the enemy. Because of this, rations were only taken every third night. The rations were placed in sandbags - one bag for each two-man weapon pit and the sandbags were slung round tanks which drove along the embankment and around the station positions dropping them off as required.

    Except for spasmodic shelling and mortaring by the enemy, usually in the afternoons and evenings, the situation was quiet and there were no casualties for eight days. Then on April 24 a post of D Company (which was at the station ) was hit by a shell seven men were killed and fourteen wounded. The evacuation of casualties was organised by the CSM, who went to the post under fire and arranged a dressing station there. Within the hour, all of the wounded had been carried back under the Red Cross Flag.

    Some three weeks later, the 5th Battalion were called out from their rest period to support the Poles who were meeting strong enemy resistance in the area of Piedimonte to the west of Cassino. Because of a lack of an interpreter there was no proper liaison between the Poles and the battalion. The operation began at 12,30 p.m. The advance was across open corn fields swept by enemy fire from the hillside to the right, The companies went forward by platoons in short controlled rushes. Major Wollaston and Lieutenant Sainsbury of D Coy were both wounded. The Coy attack continued under the command of the CSM. Casualties were numerous. Nevertheless, the battalion swept the objective capturing thirty one prisoners. For his part in the action, the CSM was awarded an immediate Battle Field Commission! He finished his war as a Capt. Some years later whilst serving with the Colonial Police in Africa he was awarded the MBE for his work with Special Branch during a civil war.

    So, there we have it. Two brothers who earned four decorations. One survived to tell the tale and one didn’t!

    Oh, and by the way. The older brother was my uncle . The younger brother was my father.

    Now for my question. Do the readers agree with the awards policy as now adopted i.e. no distinction between ranks when awarding medals, and does this in any way, demean those who earned their awards prior to this change in policy?

    For my part, I fully agree with there being no distinction in gallantry awards. My father always said that after the war, it was more of a hindrance to be seen to have an MM. It marked you out as having been an other rank! I’m sure the Army has moved on since those days, at least I would like to think so!

    P.S. I hope that is alright to post in this forum. If not, please would the MOD delete or move it for me.
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  2. Rumrunner, an excellent post that made for a good read.

    In answer to your question, its the act that receives the award - the rank of the individual doesnt matter. An officer carrying out an act of extreme bravery and gallentry is no more entitled than an OR. And on the flip side of the coin, when seeing a bravery award on the chest of an individual, its the first thing you see. The rank doesnt matter.

    I raise a glass to your dad and your uncle.
  3. Brave people can hold any rank! The new system is good but I do miss the likes of the MM (I collect medals) and like with all new things it is hard to accept change!
  4. Excellent post Rumrunner! Thank you for sharing!
  5. From the outside

    It seems that there was a distinction between the MM and the MC, the MC required leadership as well as bravery.

    Maybe a better reform would have been to keep the MM but open the MC to all ranks?

    But, hey - I'm a fat civvie
  6. I knew an ex member of the Palestinian Police Force Umberto Pernetta,he was born in south tirol of a scottish father and Italian mother,joined the merchant navy at age eighteen,and later served with a Scottish Regt(HLI ?) before the outbreak of war for 51/2 years.

    He immedietely volunteered,but because of his parentage and place of birth was rejected for active service.He then went to Palestine learned perfect arabic,to add to his german,italian and english,he later ran a Youth Hostel in the Lake District,then left and settled down with his familly in Oberammergau,he ran the Laberberg Restaurant where many `Snowqueen`students were plied with his adventures.

    His family still live there,Umberto died in March 2000 and I miss the guy badly, we often sat in a cafe ´swinging sandbags´he still enjoyed his grappa in his 80´s.

    I know the question was about medals,but maybe some ex-Palestine Police members might be interested to know about him.
  7. Bravery knows no race, creed, religeon or colour. We all know that. I think Queen Victoria recognised the fact when she made a few "slight" changes to the eligability of the VC.

    I know I am among thousands when I say that Johnson Beharry is not black - he is green. And I am so glad that times have changed and poeple like him are given due recognition for their acts rather than a promotion or extra rum ration.
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  8. Rum runner,excellent post if I may say,thanks for sharing it.
  9. I for one always viewed the GC/GM & MC/MM as being equal, and was glad when the GM & MM were abolished.
    I now view all as being Crosses regradless of class.

    The one point I would like to make is that the war in Iraq & Afganistain are far from over, and the VC should still be available for the likes of Capt Peter Norton RLC

    Referance -

    In the case of Explosive Ordnance Disposal, the enemy is still there - Its the bomb, placed to do what it was designed to do. To kill & maim as many people as possible.......
  10. ugly

    ugly LE Moderator

    A couple of years ago I attended my first remembrance parade snce leaving, my son was parading with the ATC. An old and bold mate pointed out a well decorated gent probably in his eighties. He had an MM and another award not for valour but that only an Officer could get, OBE as opposed to MBE, I think. Barry for it was he (the old and bold) said that this marked him out as an exranker. We also had one in my Bn. HQ Coy oc when I left was an MM recipient from the early days in South Armagh. I say recipient as I was not there and knew of enough rumours that he was senior man on the ground so was awarded from the CO's shopping list! Didnt slow his QM type commish down to my knowledge. Didnt earn him any extra respect either!
    As for eod work, a late relative of mine was awarded something for the East India Dock incident clearing an arial mine from the war. No Valour mentioned despite what I believe to be the considerable nerve required to tackle these things when you could have retired with grace at the end of hostilities.
  11. just a small point spotter mode on the GC is a level 1 gallentry award open to all ranks and the GM is a leval 2 award open to all ranks and is still awarded i belive the last one awarded was to a Colonel in the RMR 8 people have been awarded the GC and GM 7 of those were commisioned officers in HM Forces and 2 of those 7 were awarded the GM twice spotter mode off
  12. Rumrunner you must be extremely proud of your father and uncle, what a wonderful account of their exploits.

    I fully agree with the commonality of awards and I also believe all NCOs and officers should be eligible for the DSO (your father as a CSM commanding a company in the attack for example). In the period following WW2 when Britain was a lot more class driven than it appears (from a distance) to be now, officers commissioned from the ranks with DCMs/MMs were instantly recognised as such and occasionally stigmatised. It would seem, from reading certain posts in the thread regarding LE Officers on the Officers forum, that sorry mind set still exists in certain quarters.

    I don't think recipients of the DCM (previously Britains' second highest award for bravery - for an OR- now CGC) and MM (OR equivalent of the MC) are demeaned by the changes to the system or their awards in any way diluted, though as time wears on people will not recognise them. Maybe their post nominal letters should have their new equivalent in parenthesis?
  13. Not sure if the MM and MC are both "on offer" but if now there is no rank criteria, why do we have both medals? What is the difference?
  14. Busterdog and other site members, thank you for your comments. I add the following for your interest:-

    I was doing a search on the internet some time ago on the battle for Piedimonte, when I found this. I hope that members will forgive me if I publish part of it here. It came as a huge shock to me see my fathers name and his part in the battle in print. I have taken the liberty of printing his part in the battle.

    “The Tiger Triumphs, The Story of three Great Divisions in Italy”

    "One company lost both its senior officers; whereupon the subalterns in charge of platoons nominated Company Sergeant-Major Mott as company commander. At last light the Royal West Kents closed on their objective and swept over it, to dig in along a sunken road only 200 yards below the enemy's main battle position on the slopes of Piedimonte Hill. Thirty-three prisoners were captured from the Forty-fourth German Division, which had been rushed into action from a reserve area to the north of Monte Cairo."

    Following on from this search, I contacted the official site of the Queen's Own Buffs Regimental Association and mentioned that I had some photos of HQ D Coy QORWK taken in Italy. I said that although I was unable to put names to faces it was a clear photo and maybe some readers would be able to. The editor mailed me to say he was very interested and I duly sent him same. That was the last I heard from him. Some days ago I mailed him again to ask if he had found a use for them. I mentioned very briefly my fathers two actions, and wondered if he could use the auspices of the Journal to see if any of his readers had any memories of my father. He replied very quickly saying that he had checked out what I had written and said that he would do as I asked and that I must be very proud of my father. He also said that there had recently been a Regimental Officers Reunion for the RWK and that he had contacted an officer who had been a member of D Coy, who remembered my father well and would be pleased to receive a phone call from me.

    I contacted him by phone and spent some considerable time in conversation with him. He is now 87 (the same age my father would have been). His memory of those days was very sharp. He told me that although he had joined up in 39 at the same time as my father, his first memory of him was in North Africa shortly after the Battle of Alam Halfa where the battalion had suffered serious casualties. (I took the time to re-read about this action which had involved both the 4th and the 5th battalions of the RWK. I read, “The losses in both Battalions had been grievous, more than half of the troops engaged becoming casualties. Two hundred and fifty of the 4th Battalion were killed, wounded or missing, and of the 5th only eight officers and 225 other ranks remained“. In the dim distant past, I remember my father saying that it was a bad time and that even among survivors most had received battle damage to their equipment, such was the intensity of the battle.) He told me he next remembered seeing my father at Cassino station. He had had just returned from an all night patrol and that my father had questioned him thoroughly about the patrol. He said he remembered my father as a man who was strict but fair, never slow to give praise. He never heard anyone speak ill of him. He also said he knew his “stuff”.

    He recalled my father organising the evacuation of the wounded at the station. He said “I really don’t know how he managed to do it, he was observed by the Germans the whole time. How he organised the truce under the Red Cross flag is beyond me” He also remembered him being commissioned after the action at Piedimonte. He told me about other Battalion personalities whose names I was familiar with. He spoke of a good friend of my father Tom Sainsbury. He said that Tom had been wounded three times, either in the lower back or buttocks. It was a standing joke in the Coy, that whilst he might have been able to find cover, it was never deep enough to protect his backside! I commented on the fact that at that time my father was only 23. “Yes he said, the same age as me”. “How did you cope” I asked? “I really can’t answer that, we were all much of the same age, you just got on and did it”. He told me that as the chase after the Germans progressed through Italy, villages were occupied and the battalion was forced to leave men behind to run the administration until some sort of local government could be organised. He said, “I became the Town Mayor in one place at the age of 23” I could have talked to him for ages as it was all so very interesting. I didn’t ask if he was in the same Coy as my father during the action at Piedimonte. But he was there and remembered it.

    The editor of the Journal said to me, “these chaps are a bit thin on the ground now”! How many times have I heard those words during commentaries on Remembrance Day, always though in relation to veterans of the First World War! My father was incredibly lucky to have survived. There were a lot of battles fought after Piedimonte and it was during one of those that my father was wounded for the second time.` In the history of the RWK, it states that the 5th Battalion Commander went to a Reinforcement Depot to get reinforcements as the Battalion was so under strength. He selected 140 men, mainly from artillery units that had been disbanded!

    My father appeared to suffer no ill effects from those five terrible years. Hard to comprehend in this day and age!