Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 May 2016)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th May 2016

Sold for £8,000

Estimate: £5,000 - £6,000

A rare Second World War M.M. and Bar group of seven awarded to Company Sergeant-Major H. A. Baker, 7th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment: having been first decorated for his gallantry in rescuing a wounded officer in France in May 1940, he added an immediate Bar to his award for his subsequent bravery at Villers Bocage in Normandy on 14 June 1944, when his company became embroiled in a closely fought action with “Tigers” of the much vaunted 2 Panzer Division - six weeks later he was commissioned in the Field but on being wounded in October 1944, he was evacuated to the U.K.

Military Medal, G.VI.R., with Second Award Bar (13570 L.-Sjt. H. A. Baker, The Queen’s R.); 1939-45 Star; Africa Star, clasp, 8th Army; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, together with Dunkirk Commemorative Medal and award certificate, the first with single edge bruise, otherwise generally good very fine and better (8)
£5000-6000

Footnote

One of only two M.M. & Bars issued to the regiment during the 1939-45 War.

M.M.
London Gazette 22 October 1940. The original recommendation states:

‘At Nimove on 19 May 1940, when his company was relieving a company of 2nd Grenadier Guards, the enemy opened fire with automatics on one of our extremely exposed section posts on the river bank wounding an Ensign of the Grenadier Guards and killing an officer of his own company.

In spite of the fact that it was daylight and that the post in question was under fire, Lance-Sergeant Baker went out and brought the wounded Guards officer to safety.

Throughout the whole operation this N.C.O. showed himself entirely fearless and by his example of personal disregard for safety set a fine example to the men of his company.’

Bar to M.M.
London Gazette 31 August 1944. The original recommendation - for an immediate award - states:

‘At Villers Bocage on 14 June 1944, C.S.M. Baker’s company established contact with the enemy south of the village. The Bren gunner of the forward section was pinned down on the edge of the road by very heavy fire and the Sergeant-Major with complete disregard for his own life went forward to move him to a better position.

The soldier got back without his gun and C.S.M. Baker thereupon engaged the enemy at thirty yards range with his Sten gun, effectively silencing the opposition from this point.

In spite of continuous machine-gun fire down the road, he crawled on to the verge and retrieved the Bren gun, an action which greatly encouraged the remainder of the forward platoon, who immediately continued to engage the enemy to good effect.

At this stage several of our tanks opened fire with machine-guns causing casualties to our own troops and C.S.M. Baker went back through our own fire to stop it and returned leading a tank to support our infantry.

Throughout this action the conduct of this Warrant Officer was superb and his coolness and cheerfulness were an example to the remainder of his company.’

Horace Ambrose Baker was born in Hastings, Sussex in March 1915 and originally enlisted as a boy recruit in the Royal Artillery (Territorials) in June 1931.

In January 1934, he transferred to the Regular Army with an appointment in the Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment, in which capacity he served in India until being evacuated home in February 1939 and admitted to Netley Hospital; his service record confirms that he was not entitled to any campaign awards.

Posted to the 1/7th Battalion in February 1940, he was advanced to Lance-Sergeant and embarked for France where, as cited above, he won his M.M. for rescuing a wounded officer of the 2nd Grenadier Guards at Nimove on 19 May 1940. Ten days later, he reached the U.K.

Next embarked for the Middle East - in late May 1942 - he was advanced to Company Sergeant-Major and saw action in North Africa and Italy prior to returning to U.K. in December 1943.

The 1/7th Battalion, Queen’s (Royal West Surrey) Regiment next went into action in Normandy, where it landed on D-Day plus 2. Of subsequent events at Villers Bocage on 14 June 1944, the regimental history states:

‘The Battalion debussed at St. Germain (just beyond Amaye) and pushed forward on foot, clearing snipers and patrols from the houses and fields ... The leading Company ‘D’ (Major P. C. Freeman), pushed on and made contact in the town with the reserve squadron of the County of London Yeomanry. As they did so a Tiger tank appeared from a side street and blew down a corner in the main square where the troops were assembled. Lieutenant R. Snaith, the leading platoon commander was badly wounded and there were a number of other casualties. Several more German tanks, Mark IV and VI, appeared in the main street and the troops were ordered to disperse into the houses and attack them with P.I.A.Ts and sticky bombs while the road exits were covered by the Anti-Tank Platoon and ‘B’ Squadron, 4th County of London Yeomanry ... This anti-tank hunting lasted for two hours, by which time at least one Tiger and one Mark IV had been knocked out in the High Street and the remainder firmly bottled up there. ‘C’ and ‘D’ Companies were then ordered to get out on their original objectives covering the approaches to the town, while ‘A’ Company was directed on to the railway station. Here they encountered enemy infantry and more Tiger tanks. Four of the latter were knocked out by the battalion anti-tank guns, and by the afternoon the enemy tank attack had been smashed. During this action the Bren gun of the leading section of ‘A’ Company became pinned down in a very exposed position by severe enemy fire. C.S.M. Baker went forward and ordered it back and engaged and effectively silenced the local enemy with fire from his Tommy gun at thirty yards range. He then crawled forward in full view of the enemy and retrieved the Bren gun. The rest of ‘A’ Company attempted to work round the flank, but were mistaken for the enemy by our own tanks who heavily fired on them. C.S.M. Baker went back through this fire to the tanks, stopped their firing and brought one back to support the Company.’

As recounted by Major-General D. S. Gordon, C.B., C.B.E., D.S.O., who commanded the Queen’s at Villers Bocage on 13-14 June 1944, his men - and those of the 4th County of London Yeomanry - had knocked out six “Tigers” and damaged two others: ‘The myth that the Tiger was invincible had now been exploded ... our casualties in the two days fighting were eight officers and 120 other ranks, sufficient indication that the fighting was hard.’

Six weeks following the action at Villers Bocage, Baker was commissioned in the Field but, as verified by his service record, he was wounded in action and evacuated to the U.K. in October.

On recovering from his wounds, he served at H.Q. 47 Division and in India on attachment to S.E.A. Command in early 1946. He was granted the honorary rank of Captain on relinquishing his commission in January 1947.

He later became a Custodian in the Department of Environment and died in Whitstable, Kent in July 1996; sold with his original Buckingham Palace M.M. forwarding letter, and extensive copied service records.