Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (10 & 11 May 2017)

Date of Auction: 10th & 11th May 2017

Sold for £3,000

Estimate: £3,000 - £4,000

A rare Second War 1945 ‘North-West Europe operations’ M.M. group of seven awarded to Marine W. Rennie, 46 (R.M.) Commando, who was decorated for his gallantry in Operation Enterprise - the crossing of the Elbe - in April 1945: charged with laying white-tape to guide his comrades to their objective, his two comrades fell wounded as they came under fire on reaching the far bank, as a consequence of which he had to manhandle the two-man tape-laying device on his own - up a cliff and over two miles of enemy occupied territory, in the face of ongoing mortar and gun fire - One of only six M.M’s awarded to members of No. 46 Commando in the 1939-45 War

Military Medal, G.VI.R. (PO.X. 105943 Mne. W. Rennie, R.M.) suspension loose; 1939-45 Star; Africa Star; Italy Star; France and Germany Star; Defence and War Medals 1939-45, the first with one or two edge bruises, otherwise good very fine (7) £3000-4000

Footnote

M.M. London Gazette 7 August 1945. The recommendation - for an immediate award - states:

‘In the initial assault over the River Elbe on 29 April [1945], Marine Rennie was a member of the leading group whose duty was to mark the route to the objective with white tape. As the craft approached the far bank, the enemy opened fire with light anti-tank guns, mortars and grenades on the landing point and craft. Immediately off the beach was a steep cliff, 100 foot high, down which the enemy, who were strongly entrenched at the top, were throwing grenades. Although the N.C.O. in charge of the taping party and the other Marine who was sharing an awkward ‘two man’ load of tape with Marine Rennie were both wounded, Marine Rennie, without further orders carried on on his own. Despite the fierce enemy fire he managed to find and mark a passable route to the top of the cliff carrying the ‘two man’ load himself. This was a considerable feat of endurance even had he not been under fire and had it been daylight. Having reached the top he then continued to lay the tape for some two miles to the final objective in Lauenberg with great speed and coolness despite concentrations of enemy mortar and gun fire. Marine Rennie’s gallant action in finding and taping a passable route up the cliff, whilst carrying his companions load was beyond all praise. But for his courage and perseverance a considerable delay would have occurred and many casualties inflicted on the succeeding flights of troops on the beach. His action materially assisted in the success of the operation.’

William Rennie may have been among 46 (R.M.) Commando’s ranks when, as part of 1st Special Service Brigade, it came ashore at Nan White Beach at Bernieres, Normandy on D-Day + 1; alternatively, he may have been a reinforcement who joined the unit on its return to the U.K. in September 1944, after it had been re-assigned to 4th Special Service Brigade and suffered heavy casualties. Either way, his subsequent part in Operation Enterprise was a crucial one, enabling as it did the swift ‘white tape’ advance of his comrades to Lauenberg, following their crossing of the Elbe by ‘Buffalo’, at night and under fire: the enemy lined the top of the steep cliffs facing the crossing and pelted the narrow landing beach with grenades. In fact given the confusion that reigned in the early hours of the action - when British and German troops found themselves digging-in side by side - Rennie’s two-mile journey with a two-man load appears heroic in the extreme.

Sold with an original photograph of the cliff scaled by the recipient, the reverse captioned in ink: ‘The house at the top of a 200 ft. cliff of a gradient of 1 in 2, though in the photo it doesn’t look as steep as that. We had to scramble up the b------ in the dark.’