Distinguished Conduct Medal group of 4 to 2290 Sergeant W. H. Barrett, 2nd Battalion London Rifles. Includes cap badge, paperwork & letter from son explaining his father's account of how he came by the award of DCM for 'disobeying orders'.
Includes cap badge, paperwork & letter from son explaining his father's account of how he came by the award of DCM for 'disobeying orders';
'Dear Cliff, thank you for your letter of 13 May and for kindly sending me the excellent photograph.
I’m afraid my memory of my fathers account of how he came by the award of the DCM for 'disobeying orders' may seem a bit sketchy but from what I can recall of the conversation some 67 years or so ago, when I was about nine or 10 years old, he did not go into very much detail. Dad was a very modest man and talked very little about his experiences in the 1914/ 1918 war. However from what I can remember he told me that he had been in France for almost 2 years, mostly in the trenches.
Apparently, he had done well as a soldier and had also been very lucky not to have been injured or killed, as so many of his comrades had suffered. He had been promoted to the position of Brigade Bombing Sergeant from his battalion in the Royal Fusiliers (Second City of London Regiment).
It happened in the early part of the summer in 1916 (citation of the award was dated early June 19 16). Apparently, he was moving from one position to another in the course of his duties. but found it very difficult to proceed along the front line trenches as quickly as he would have wished. Rather foolishly. he got out of a trench and made much better progress walking along the top in no-mans-land. It’s being quite dark at the time, he thought he would be relatively safe. In fact, he was.
In the quiet of the night, (presumably, there was little action taking place at the time) he heard a strange noise coming from the German lines. He said it sounded like a small train puffing away. He crept forward to where he could vaguely see what was happening and discovered that the Germans had indeed built a simple railway track and a small train was being used to bring up ammunition and supplies right up to a part of their forward position.
Apparently, he carefully withdrew, and on returning to the British trenches he went straight to his Brigade HQ to report what he had seen. From memory, he reported to a captain Arthorpe who promptly gave him a dressing down for straying into no-mans-land, but dad got on well with Captain Arthorpe which was why he sort him out in the first place.
At first light, Dad was asked to try to find the exact position, which he did and trailed behind him field telephone line. On this, he was able to act as the spotter for Royal Artillery Battery which promptly disposed of the line and train as well.
It was not until August 1918 that he was finally winded and spent a night in the shell hole, with a large piece of shrapnel where the calf of his leg should have been. The leg was amputated below the knee in a field service dressing station. However, gangrene had set in and it was amputated above the knee in a base hospital. On his return to England, a third amputation was carried out at Roehampton hospital where he was to lie for three months before anyone was allowed to see him and even then he was still very very ill. However, by then the war was over both for him and everyone else as well.
I think that’s about it really. I hope you find it interesting.
George W Barrett'