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Date of Auction: 25th March 2014

Sold for £24,000

Estimate: £15,000 - £20,000

The outstanding Second World War Middle East operations C.B.E., Great War D.S.O. and M.C., and Norway 1940 operations Bar to D.S.O. group of fourteen awarded to Brigadier E. E. E. “Copper” Cass, King’s Own Yorkshire Light Infantry: wounded in both World Wars, he was also the holder of the Army Best Shot Medal, and commanded 11 Infantry (Assault) Brigade at the North Africa and Sicily landings and 8 British (Assault) Brigade on D-Day in June 1944 - thereby adding the American Silver Star to his many accolades

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, C.B.E. (Military) Commander’s 2nd type neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, in its Garrard & Co. case of issue; Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., with Second Award Bar, the reverse of the suspension bar privately inscribed, ‘Capt. E. E. E. Cass’, and the reverse of the Bar officially dated ‘1940’; Military Cross, G.V.R., the reverse privately inscribed, ‘Capt. E. E. E. Cass’; British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Capt. E. E. E. Cass); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 1st Army; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, M.I.D. oak leaf; General Service 1918-62, 1 clasp, Palestine 1945-48 (Brig. E. E. E. Cass, C.B.E., D.S.O., M.C., Staff); Army Best Shot Medal, G.V.R., robed bust, 1 clasp, 1936 (Captain E. E. E. Cass, D.S.O., M.C., K.O.Y.L.I.); United States of America, Silver Star, the lower left arm officially numbered, ‘21452’, slightly chipped enamel on D.S.O. wreaths and the Great War pair with contact marks, otherwise generally very fine or better (14) £15000-20000


C.B.E. London Gazette 23 March 1944. The original recommendation states:

'This Officer has commanded his Brigade throughout the North Africa and Sicilian Campaign with distinction. With determination, drive and initiative he has led his Brigade in many successful actions. His personal example in battle has been an inspiration to his Brigade’.

D.S.O. London Gazette 8 March 1919:

‘For conspicuous gallantry, initiative and general leadership of his company in the operations of 29 September 1918 and the following day. Observing the enemy battery withdrawing their guns he directed the concentrated fire of his company at the teams, seizing and working a Lewis gun himself under direct fire of another hostile battery. After which he led forward two platoons of his company and seized the hostile battery, consisting of H.V. and 18-inch howitzers. Later, he led his company right through the village of Livergies, capturing 30 prisoners. He did fine work’.

Bar to D.S.O. London Gazette 6 August 1940. The original recommendation states:

‘Throughout the action at Kvam on 25-26 April 1940 and again at Dombas on 30 April, this officer showed great coolness and ability in handling his battalion under very difficult circumstances. His confident bearing and disregard for his own safety had a very steadying effect. He controlled two very difficult withdrawals in the face of the enemy with utmost skill.’

M.C. London Gazette 11 January 1919:

‘For conspicuous gallantry and leadership. This officer led his company in the attack straight to its objective, rushing and capturing many machine-guns and prisoners. On arrival he reorganised his company, and with another on his right secured a further 400 yards of ground, which he skillfully held and consolidated, repulsing repeated bombing attacks. He set a personal example of the highest order to his Company’.

Edward Earnshaw Eden "Copper" Cass was commissioned into the K.O.Y.L.I. from Sandhurst in October 1916 and joined the 2nd Battalion in France in mid-May 1917. He was wounded five weeks later on 23 April, and returned to the Battalion in April 1918. In September 1918 he won both the M.C. and D.S.O., the former for ‘skill and leadership’ at the capture of Herleville which was carried out as part of a general advance, and the latter in the assault on the Hindenburg Line.

Between the Wars Cass was an Assistant Instructor at the Small Arms School, Pachamri, India, and was himself a crack rifle shot, being the winner of the British Army Championship in India in 1935, a member of the Army VIII and in the King's Hundred for ten years. He also led the 1st Battalion, K.O. Y.L.I. to victory in the Rhine Army Rugby Cup and played for the Army for several years. From 1935 to 1939, he was Chief Instructor at the Indian Small Arms School, and on the outbreak of hostilities was Second-in-Command of the 1st Battalion, K.O.Y.L.I., in the 15th Brigade.

In early 1940 the 15th Brigade was withdrawn from France for the Norwegian Campaign, and Cass unexpectedly succeeded to the command of the Battalion on the then C.O. being appointed to the Brigade. Under Cass’s command the Battalion landed at Aandalsnes on the night of 23 April 1940 and next morning moved inland by rail, despite earlier high level talk of withdrawing all British forces due to insufficient air support. Having been subjected to the first of many air attacks, the Battalion reached Kvam late on the 24th and here with only their Infantry weapons they dug in to meet the German advance. Cass hoped for 24 hours to prepare but by 8.30 a.m. on the 25th the only friendly troops in the area, the Norwegian Navelsakers Battalion, had withdrawn through the K.O.Y.L.I. position. It was a glorious spring morning and in Cass's words ‘Just the day for a battle’, when at 11.30 he picked up his binoculars and ‘away down the road saw the Germans appear’. First came three tanks and about 50 lightly equipped Infantry. Behind came more infantry on foot, motor cyclists, machine-guns mounted in sidecars and towed guns. Behind came more infantry on foot, motor vehicle after motor vehicle - lorries full of infantry, wireless trucks, tanks, tracked carriers, guns, and many others’. A battery of 25-pounders might have blown the lot off the road but all that Cass could do was sit tight until they came into rifle range. Finally when the German point units were just 150 yards off, Cass's forward companies opened fire killing numbers of the leading Infantry, and causing the rest of the enemy to pull off the road and deploy their armour and heavy weapons.

In spite of the overwhelming weight of opposing numbers and metal, Cass held out against repeated attacks for the next 31 hours, winning in the process the battle honour ‘KVAM’ for the Battalion and reputedly at one point ‘personally leading a bayonet charge through the village’. At about 6 p.m. on the 26th he was eventually forced to order the withdrawal when the Germans set fire to the surrounding woods, but nevertheless managed to bring away large numbers of his wounded. Passing through the York & Lancasters at Sjoa, the Battalion rested briefly and next took up a rearguard position astride the frozen River Laagen which duly melted on the 30th and threatened to cut off four platoons on the far bank. Cass extricated them and, fighting another successful rearguard action, slipped out of the enemy's grasp by entraining the Battalion at Dombaas Station, and undertaking a night rail journey to Aandalsnes under German fire from the snow clad hills.

Shortly after midnight the train was derailed by bomb damage to the track with fatal consequences for eight men in the first coach. The K.O.Y.L.I. clambered out and marched over frozen pot-holed roads for the sanctuary of the Verma Tunnel 18 miles distant, for daylight would put enemy bombers and fighters overhead. May Day 1940 found Cass with his officers and men in the 800 yard long tunnel together with the Green Howards, Brigade Headquarters, and very fortunately a train, on which depended the possibility of reaching Aandalsnes in time to embark. During the daylight hours German aircraft attempted but failed to block the tunnel entrance and exit by bombing, and at about 6 p.m. the appearance of enemy ground forces necessitated the deployment of both the K.O.Y.L.I. and Green Howards, who though exhausted reacted swiftly and checked the enemy with a surprisingly vigorous uphill advance whilst the train was being prepared. The troops then came quickly down the slopes and entrained, being spurred on by the drone of a bomber overhead which luckily decided to deposit its load elsewhere. Aandalsnes was reached without further ado, and at 11 p.m. Cass went aboard H.M.S. Calcutta to report to the Captain, who lost no time in taking the soldiers aboard and shaping a course for Scapa Flow.

Awarded an immediate Bar to his D.S.O. for his handling of the Battalion in Norway, Cass continued to command it until February 1942, when he was appointed to the command of the 11th Infantry (Assault) Brigade, in the 78th Division, for the landing in North Africa in November of that year. He subsequently commanded the 78th Brigade in the Sicily and Italy landings - and was awarded the C.B.E. - before being brought back to the U.K. to take command of the 8th (Assault) Brigade, which, as part of the 3rd ‘Iron’ Division, was to form part of the first wave on D-Day.

Recalling his own landing on Queen Beach Cass wrote:

‘As we neared the shore we were able to pick out the large pillbox on the seafront that was to be our first H.Q., and we drove straight for it. The beaches were alive with men and vehicles, and at the water's edge craft were unloading whilst the burning wrecks of others rolled in the surf. Fire was still falling on the beaches and many obstacles remained uncleared, but we made a safe landing and I stepped ashore dryshod. Our passage across the beach was hastened by a long burst of machine-gun fire that ripped up the sand across our front, and we were glad to reach shelter. We found that the pillbox was just being cleared of its former occupants, who were in no condition to argue, a shell having entered the gun slit and exploded inside’.

Chester Wilmot, in his 1954 book The Battle of Normandy, criticised Cass for not maintaining the pace of his Brigade’s advance when coming up against several strongpoints near the appropriately named village of Hermanville, by saying, ‘The Brigade Commander (Brigadier E. E. E. Cass) was stolid to the point of being ponderous, and his troops tended to take their cue from his own measured gait’. Informed opinion, however, has this to say:

‘As regard's Wilmot's comments on Cass - I remember talking to "Copper" Cass some years later. His feeling was that, as Montgomery was getting stick for not progressing more speedily, he passed the buck down the line by sacking all and sundry. According to "Copper" Cass he had achieved all his objectives and was waiting further instructions. "Copper" was probably the oldest Brigadier in the assault. From what I know of "Copper" and from what his contemporaries have said he could certainly not be described as ponderous’.

In fact modern authorities conclude, ‘Criticism of Cass’s ability to maintain momentum should be kept in perspective. Despite the 8th Infantry Brigade’s apparent inertia at times under his command, Cass should not be blamed for the static role which after the first few days, enveloped the 3rd Infantry Division, which Cass commanded temporarily between 13 and 23 June. This situation had begun to develop before his temporary command, due to more than just his Brigade’s inertia, and by then the opportunities to break out of this role were restricted. Cass showed later in the year that he was able to command in chaotic and fluid situations’.

Cass, who was decorated by Omar Bradley with the Silver Star for his services in France, continued to command the 8th Infantry Brigade until wounded by a mine on 26 October 1944, when he was evacuated to the U.K. Post-war, he served in Palestine before retiring from the Army in 1948 to become Secretary of the National Rifle Association at Bisley.