Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (22 July 2016)

Date of Auction: 22nd July 2016


Estimate: £2,200 - £2,600

An interesting inter-war C.B.E., Great War Italy operations M.C. group of eight awarded to Colonel E. H. M. Clifford, Royal Engineers, who was Senior Commissioner on the British Somaliland-Ethiopia Boundary Commission 1931-36 and directly involved in the Walwal crisis that ‘set the chancelleries of Europe alight’: subsequently appointed Chief Engineer China, he was taken P.O.W. at Hong Kong in 1941 and weighed just nine stone on being liberated by the Russians in Manchuria in August 1945

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, C.B.E. (Military Division), Commander’s 1st type neck badge, silver-gilt and enamel, contained in its Garrard & Co. case of issue; Military Cross, G.V.R., unnamed as issued; 1914-15 Star (2 Lieut. E. H. M. Clifford, R.E.); British War and Victory Medals, M.I.D. oak leaf (Major E. H. M. Clifford); 1939-45 Star; Pacific Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45; Coronation 1953, mounted as worn, the C.B.E. added for display purposes since this group was last offered at auction, generally good very fine (8) £2200-2600


C.B.E. London Gazette 1 January 1936.

London Gazette 2 April 1919:

‘During the bridging operations of 26-28 October 1918, at Salettuol, he rendered extremely valuable services and showed great devotion to duty under difficult and dangerous circumstances. He personally took part in the preliminary reconnaissance of the river-bed which the strength of the current rendered extremely dangerous. Later in the day, in spite of heavy enemy shelling, his company, inspired by his personal coolness and utter disregard of danger, completed the footbridge, by which the infantry crossed that night. Throughout the two succeeding days he set the same fine example to his men, though subjected to heavy shell fire and bombing.’

Esmond Humphrey Miller Clifford was born in March 1895 and was educated at Clifton College and the R.M.A. Woolwich.

Gazetted as a 2nd Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers on the outbreak of hostilities in August 1914, he went out to France with 54th Field Company in April 1915, but was wounded in his back and thighs in the Ypres salient in the following month and evacuated to the U.K. Returning to France on his recovery that August, he remained actively engaged in that theatre of war until transferring to the Italian front in November 1917, where he remained employed until the end of the War and and added the M.C. to his two “mentions” for services in 95th Field Company (
London Gazettes 18 May 1917 and 6 January 1919 refer).

Employed by the Colonial Office as Assistant British Commissioner on the Anglo-Italian Jubaland Boundary Commission from July 1925 to June 1928, he was awarded the O.B.E. in the latter year and advanced to substantive Major in July 1929. Next employed by M.I. 4 at the War Office, Clifford returned to Foreign Office employ as Senior British Commissioner on the Somaliland-Ethiopia Boundary Commission in November 1931, in which capacity, in November 1934, he and the Ethiopian commissioners were subjected to Italian aggression, an episode summarised in his R.E. Journal obituary:

‘During the study on the ground of the trans-frontier grazing rights of the nomadic British and Ethiopian Somalis the Commission were confronted at Walwal by armed Italian native levies. Clifford’s calm and sound advice were instrumental in getting the Ethiopian Section to agree to withdraw along with the British Section from the immediate area. Later when the Italians attacked the Ethiopian escort with armoured cars and light aircraft, he ordered all the transport resources and medical facilities of the British Section to evacuate the Ethiopian wounded and stragglers across the waterless region to the nearest waterhole, where an emergency hospital was set up.’

No less than 107 Ethiopians were killed and a further 45 wounded - see Lion by the Tail, by Thomas M. Coffey, for a full account of the incident and frequent mention of Clifford (copy included). Awarded the C.B.E., Clifford returned to the U.K. at the end of 1936 and took up appointment as C.R.E. of Welsh Area, Western Command. Similarly employed at the renewal of hostilities in 1939, he was advanced to Colonel and sent out to the Far East as Chief Engineer China in 1940, but was taken P.O.W. by the Japanese at the fall of Hong Kong in the following year. Interned variously at Kowloon, Formosa, Shen Shim Tung on the edge of the Gobi Desert, and finally Mukden, he weighed just nine stone on being liberated by the Russians in August 1945. Having then served as C.R.E. Salisbury Plain District, Clifford was placed on the Retired List in 1948.

The Liddell Hart Centre for Military Archives, Kings College, London, has 7 boxes of papers appertaining to Colonel Clifford’s fascinating service history. The content of the boxes includes: narrative of operations of 7 Division, 1918 by the Revd E. C. Crosse, including reference to Clifford's service as Officer Commanding 95 Field Company, Royal Engineers; papers relating to Anglo-Italian Jubaland Boundary Commission, 1925-1928, including maps, and the British Somaliland-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, 1931-1936, including intelligence reports on French Somaliland, air survey operations, Walwal incident between Italian and Ethiopian troops, and printed reports on the work of the Commission; Chief Engineer, China Command, including report on Royal Engineers in Hong Kong, 1941-1942; Kenya-Ethiopia Boundary Commission, 1950-1957, including diaries, 1951-1955, printed reports, and maps of the boundary, 1946-1949; published articles by Clifford, 1928-1947, mainly on boundary commissions; technical manuals, 1924-1932, including surveying; and publications and printed works, 1892-1952, including boundary commissions.

Finally, before retiring to Chichester in Sussex, Clifford served as British Commissioner of the Kenya-Ethiopia Boundary Commission 1950-57, where he earned the respect of his own staff and that of his Ethiopian counterpart as well as that of the local chiefs and headmen with whom he had to deal. He died in November 1970; sold with copied research.