Orders, Decorations and Medals (22 June 1999)

Date of Auction: 22nd June 1999

Sold for £6,800

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

The exceptional Great War M.C. and Two Bar group of five awarded to Lieutenant-Commander R. F. E. Blackmore, R.N.V.R., Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division

Military Cross, G.V.R., with Second and Third Award Bars, the reverse of the cross neatly inscribed ‘Lieutenant-Commander Reginald Francis Edsall Blackmore, R.N.V.R., Hawke Battalion, 63rd (Royal Naval) Division. M.C., Ancre 3 Feby. 1917, Gazetted 26 March 1917 - 1st Bar, Bapaume25-29 Aug. 1918, Gazetted 11 Jany. 1919 - 2nd Bar, Cambrai 27 Sept.-1st Oct. 1918, Gazetted 10 Dec. 1919’; 1914-15 Star (Ty. Sub-Lt., R.N.V.R.); British War and Victory Medals (Lt-Commr., R.N.V.R.); Defence Medal, good very fine (5) £5000-6000

Footnote

See colour illustration on front cover.

M.C. London Gazette 26 March 1917: ‘Temp. Sub-Lt., R.N.V.R. For conspicuous gallantry in action. He led a very gallant attack against an enemy strong point. Later, although wounded, he maintained his position and rendered a clear report of the situation.’

1st Bar to M.C. London Gazette 11 January 1919: ‘Temp. Sub-Lt. (A/Lt.), R.N.V.R. For conspicuous gallantry and devotion to duty. This officer carried out the duties of Adjutant through a week’s heavy fighting. On the C.O. becoming a casualty he took command of the battalion, and, by his unceasing vigilance, inspired all with confidence. When the battalion had become very weak through casualties he reorganised it and carried on. He personally made several reconnaissances under heavy machine-gun fire, and set a high standard to all.’

2nd Bar to M.C. London Gazette 10 December 1919: ‘Temp. Lt., R.N.V.R. For conspicuous gallantry and good leadership during the operations near Cambrai, 27th September to 1st October, 1918. On the commanding officer being severely wounded he took over command and gallantly led them forward to the attack on Graincourt, which resulted in the capture of field guns and a large number of machine guns. Later, he made a daring reconnaissance, which resulted in his being able to take two companies across the canal and River L’Escault, which materially assisted in eventually making good the passages.’

Reginald Francis Edsall Blackmore volunteered for the R.N.V.R. at the outbreak of war and was posted to the newly formed fourth company of the Hawke Battalion, Royal Naval Division. He served in the ranks in Gallipoli as Company Sergeant Major of “D” Company, until commissioned on 3 October 1915, remaining with his company until the end of the Gallipoli campaign. He subsequently went to France with the Hawke Battalion which, in 1917, on the Ancre, at Gavrelle, at Passchendaele, and at Welsh Ridge, took part in active fighting almost continuously. He won his first Military Cross during the fighting on the Ancre in February 1917, when he was wounded.

A vivid and lengthy account of the German Offensive of March and April, 1918, is given by Lieutenant-Commander Blackmore in The Hawke Battalion by Douglas Jerrold: ‘The retreat,’ he wrote ‘was for many of us a period of new experiences, most of them unpleasant, but some not lacking in humour. We had frequently been short of food in Gallipoli, but it remained for this lively week in France to teach us the reality of hunger, and not till then had we been compelled to slake a very real thirst with green water, as we did with that from the shell holes from the desolate Somme battlefield, without thought of discipline or consequences. And I find it impossible to express what I felt on that last desperate day, when I looked across the shattered area and saw the trees beyond the valley of the Ancre. That seemingly simple sight heartened me and must surely have heartened those others...When we voluntarily gave up our position on the evening of March 22nd, my thoughts reverted to our march through Sedd-el-Bahr, and I experienced again an extreme melancholy at the evacuation of ground won at such tragic cost.’

The Hawke Battalion returned to the Hamel sector on May 8th, and Blackmore was formally appointed Adjutant. The months of May, June and July, were spent in the trenches opposite Hamel and on the Auchonvillers Ridge. By the end of July the Germans were on the retreat and by early August the way was clear for the Second Battles of the Somme. On the 24th August, the Hawke Battalion advanced from its position in reserve to the neighbourhood of Logeast Wood and Loupart Wood, and by the evening of the 25th, after strong resistance, the battalion occupied an important position at the “Yellow Cut” near Bapaume. Blackmore had taken over command of the Hawke on the death of Lieutenant-Commander Wainwright and the remarkable success of the 189th Brigade in these operations was largely due to the resolute leading of Commander Beak and Lieutenant-Commander Blackmore. Beak was recommended for and received the Victoria Cross, while Blackmore gained a bar to his Military Cross.

On the 27th September, Commander Lockwood was wounded and Blackmore once again took command of the Hawke Battalion, leading them forward in the attack on Graincourt, which resulted in the capture of a large number of field and machine guns. The next day, General Curling, commanding 189th Brigade, sent Captain Wright and Lieutenant-Commander Blackmore to reconnoitre a crossing of the Escaut river and canal, which subsequently resulted in a successful crossing by two companies and the establishment of a new line overlooking the environs of Cambrai. For his part in these operations, Blackmore received a well-merited second bar to his Military Cross. Only one other R.N.V.R. officer won the Military Cross with two bars during the Great War.