Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria to include a Fine Collection of Napoleonic Medals (25 March 2015)

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Date of Auction: 25th March 2015

Sold for £17,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £7,000

Sold by Order of a Direct Descendant

A particularly fine Great War Italy operations D.S.O., France & Flanders M.C. and 2 Bars, inter-war O.B.E. group of ten awarded to Brevet Lieutenant-Colonel R. W. Oldfield, Royal Artillery: ‘a soldier by birth, by instinct and by profession,’ he was twice wounded and four times decorated in the Great War, in addition to being five times mentioned in despatches and awarded the Italian Al Valore Militare: subsequently gaining appointment to the Russian Order of St. Anne for services as a Liaison Officer in North Russia in 1919, and employed as an Intelligence Officer in Germany and Czechoslovakia, it was said by his Times obituarist that but for his sudden death in 1933, ‘the mere recital of the distinctions crowded into his comparatively short career suggest the eminence to which he might have attained’

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel; The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, O.B.E. (Military) Officer’s 1st type breast badge, silver-gilt, hallmarks for London 1929; Military Cross, G.V.R., with Second Award and copy Third Award Bars, the reverse privately inscribed, ‘Lt. Richard Oldfield, R.H.A.’; 1914 Star (2 Lieut. R. W. Oldfield, R.A.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Major R. W. Oldfield); Coronation 1911, this privately named, ‘2nd Lt. Richard Oldfield, C.U. O.T.C.’; Russia, Order of St. Anne, 2nd Class badge with swords, by Eduard, St. Petersberg, 44 x 44mm., gold and enamel, with manufacturer’s name on reverse, ‘56’ gold mark on eyelet and faint ‘kokoshnik’ marks on eyelet and sword hilts; Italy, Al Valore, bronze, the reverse engraved, ‘Maj. R. W. Oldfield, XIV C.A., Brit.’ and ‘Salettuol, Oct. 27-Nov. 4 1918’ around; Italy, War Cross, the D.S.O. with loose obverse centre-piece and minor enamel damage to wreaths, the O.B.E. with neatly repaired suspension, otherwise generally very fine and better (10)
£5000-7000

Footnote

D.S.O. London Gazette 3 June 1918:

‘For valuable services rendered in connection with military operations in Italy.’

O.B.E.
London Gazette 1930.

M.C.
London Gazette 18 February 1915.

Bar to M.C.
London Gazette 14 November 1916:

‘He carried out several daring reconnaissances and handled his battery with great courage and initiative. He has previously done very fine work.’

Second Bar to M.C.
London Gazette 17 April 1917:

‘He displayed great courage and initiative in organising parties of men to clear away tarpaulins which had caught fire on various ammunition dumps. He undoubtedly saved a large quantity of heavy ammunition from destruction.’

Richard William Oldfield was born in September 1891, the son of Major-General Richard Oldfield, Colonel Commandant, R.A., and was educated at Monckton Combe School and Pembroke College, Cambridge. Originally gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant to the 5th (Volunteer) Battalion, Gloucestershire Regiment in May 1910, he transferred to Cambridge University’s O.T.C. in March 1911 and to the University’s Royal Field Artillery section in July 1912.

To France and Flanders - wounded - M.C. - “Christmas Truce”

Embarked for France and Flanders in early October 1914, Oldfield served in 58th Battery, 35th Brigade, R.F.A and was wounded in action at Ypres on 20 November 1914, but quickly rejoined his unit. Of events on Christmas Day 1914, he wrote in a letter to his wife:

‘Think I ought to start this ‘It was Christmas Day in the Trenches’, however I will tell you a fairy story which I hope you will believe. This morning was very misty, so we went up on top to mend my wire. Saw German head over its trench. Did therefore shout ‘Frohliche Weinachten’ to which they replied and waved arms. I therefore walked out across the trenches towards the Germans. Some of them did the same and the whole line followed suit. The funniest turn [?] I ever put up, so weird I can’t think much of what to say about it. Anyway in my most fluent German told a German Major we wouldn’t shoot on the feast day if they didn’t. So we haven’t shot all day and I have walked about above instead of below ground and I have smoked several German cigars and drunk a certain amount of beer. It passes all comprehension. Also I know of one particular sweet spot inhabited by the observing party of 68th German Artillery which will have as much lyddite [?] it can carry next time I am up here. We called the ditch in the middle the Dividing Line, neither side crossed it, but by much chat I got quite a lot out of some of them. Also I met friend Siegfried, quite a cheerful lad from Munchen. All this is not discussible in the abstract. It doesn’t fit in with the dramatic sense of anything, still I hope I have got interesting information for the General Staff ... ’

Old
field returned home in the new year and was awarded the M.C. and mentioned in despatches (London Gazette 17 February 1915, refers).

Back to France - wounded - second and third M.Cs - thence to Italy - D.S.O.

Back in France with command of ‘B’ Battery, 122nd Brigade, R.F.A., 38th (Welsh) Division, by December 1915, Oldfield remained actively employed in that capacity until wounded on the Somme in July 1916. He was awarded a Bar to his M.C.

Subsequently employed on the R.A. Staff of 1st Army, he saw further action in the Ypres Salient and won his third M.C. and two further “mentions” (
London Gazettes 15 May and 11 December 1917, refer).

Embarked for Italy in November 1917, Oldfield was present in operations in Mantua, Montello and Asiago and Pordenone, in addition to Salettuoul, for which he received his Al Valore and War Cross (
London Gazette 7 October 1919, refers). Latterly D.A.A.G., XIV Corps, he added the D.S.O. and two further “mentions” to his accolades in the same period (London Gazettes 30 May 1918 and 5 June 1919, refer).

After the Great War - North Russia - Intelligence Officer - M.I. 3 - India - O.B.E.

Of his subsequent career, an accompanying printed obituary notice states:

‘After the war he was given an administrative appointment at Aldershot, during which period he had a couple of months in North Russia as Liaison Officer between the Navy and Army during the evacuation in 1919.

A fine linguist in addition to other qualities, Oldfield went for six months to the Interallied Commission of Control in Austria (16.7.20-6.1.21). He was then given a nomination for the Staff College and was there in 1921 and 1922. After a year in the intelligence branch of the War Office [where he worked for M.I. 3 in Room 331], he was Military Attaché at Prague from 1924-27. Then followed a short tour of regimental soldiering as Captain of the 82nd Field Battery at Edinburgh. In 1928 he went to the Rhine Army as G.S.O. 2, Intelligence [for which work he was awarded the O.B.E.].

In February 1930, he assumed command of the 68th Field Battery at Shorncliffe and took it to Allahabad in December of that year. He was with the battery until January 1932 when he went to Poona as G.S.O. 2, Southern Command, India. These three years as a regimental officer in command of a battery he regarded as the happiest period of his life.’

The Colonel died of complications following a routine operation at Cambridge in July 1933, his
Times obituarist stating that he was ‘a soldier by birth, by instinct and by profession ... the mere recital of the distinctions crowded into his comparatively short career suggest the eminence to which he might have attained.’ In common with Oldfield’s regimental obituary, the same source also credits him with a sixth “mention”.

Sold with the aforementioned printed obituary, in blue card covers, together with a booklet containing newspaper cuttings relevant to the recipient’s career and many distinctions, an H.Q. 14 Corps printed message in respect of his third M.C., and a copied portrait photograph; together with a copy of an extensive biographical article by Howard Chamberlain, published in the
O.M.R.S. Journal (December, 2010).

N.B.
The recipient’s Honours & Awards were stolen in London in 1978 and not recovered until 1980, However, in the interim, the D.S.O. and Russian Order of St. Anne had been split-off, and the family had to replace them; likewise, the two Bars on the M.C.