Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (26 March 2009)

Date of Auction: 26th March 2009

Sold for £250

Estimate: £140 - £160

The original Distinguished Service Order warrant appertaining to Lieutenant-Colonel R. T. H. “Dickie” Lonsdale, D.S.O. & Bar, M.C., The Leicestershire Regiment and Parachute Regiment, and famously commander of “Lonsdale’s Force” at Arnhem in September 1944, in the name of ‘Richard Thomas Henry Lonsdale, Esquire, on whom has been conferred the Decoration of the Military Cross, Captain (Temporary Major) in our Army’, upper right hand corner bearing the King’s signature, dated at St. James’s on 23 December 1943, front page of warrant only, pasted down on card mount, framed and glazed, a little faded but otherwise in good condition £140-160

Footnote

Richard Thomas Henry “Dickie” Lonsdale was commissioned into the Leicestershire Regiment direct from the R.M.C., Sandhurst in August 1936, and won his M.C. with the 1st Battalion in the Waziristan operations of 1939. Brave and boisterous by nature, he was an ideal candidate for the Airborne, and added the D.S.O. to his accolades for his gallantry as a Company Commander in 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, at the capture of Primosole Bridge in Sicily. The original recommendation states:

‘For most conspicuous gallantry and leadership in action. On the night of 13 July 1943, this officer was in command of a company of the 2nd Battalion, The Parachute Regiment, which was dropped on the Catania Plain in Sicily to secure the high ground South of the River Simeso. On reaching the objective this officer took over command of the Battalion as the C.O. was injured, and at dawn on 14 July 1943, German Parachute troops launched a heavy counter-attack on the Battalion positions. This officer by his example, leadership and complete contempt for danger when under very heavy enemy fire, so skilfully directed the defence of the objective gained, and in spite of sustaining heavy casualties, that the position was held and heavy casualties were inflicted on the enemy, including the taking and retention of 450 enemy prisoners, until relieved by our troops.’

Returning to the U.K., Lonsdale joined the 11th Battalion, as Second-in-Command, and accordingly went with 1st Airborne Division to Arnhem on 18 September 1944, when his Dakota was hit by flak. Badly wounded in the hand, he was compelled to seek medical attention on landing, and therefore missed his Battalion’s departure for Arnhem. Instead, he found himself commanding the survivors of three Parachute Battalions at Oosterbeek (a.k.a. “Lonsdale Force”). Indeed it was in this capacity that he delivered his famous rallying speech from the pulpit of the local church:

“You know as well as I do there are a lot of bloody Germans coming at us. Well, all we can do is to stay here and hang on in the hope somebody catches us up. We must fight for our lives and stick together. We’ve fought the Germans before - in North Africa, Sicily and Italy. They weren’t good enough for us then, and they’re bloody well not good enough for us now. They’re up against the finest soldiers in the world. An hour from now you will take up defensive positions north of the road outside. Make certain you dig in well and that your weapons and ammo. are in good order. We are getting short of ammo., so when you shoot you shoot to kill. Good luck to you all.’

Lonsdale was awarded a Bar to his D.S.O., the original recommendation stating:

‘At Arnhem on 20 September 1944, this officer, although wounded in the hand and arm, was given command of the remnants of three Parachute Battalions who had withdrawn from the town. This detachment, about 400 strong, was allotted the task of holding part of the Divisional perimeter. Major Lonsdale so organised and inspired those under him that in spite of repeated attacks by enemy infantry, tanks and self-propelled guns, the positions taken up were subsequently held until the remains of the Division withdrew over the River Lek. Throughout this period of six days, the positions were continually mortared and shelled. Major Lonsdale, although again wounded, organised several counter-attacks to regain ground temporarily lost and his personal example and supreme contempt of danger was an inspiration to all those whom he came in contact.’