Orders, Decorations, Medals and Militaria (17 & 18 July 2019)

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Date of Auction: 17th & 18th July 2019

Sold for £7,500

Estimate: £6,000 - £8,000

A fine post-War 1955 ‘Malaya’ C.B.E. [and pre-War 1937 ‘Palestine’ M.B.E.], 1938 ‘Waziristan’ M.C. and 1940 ‘Retreat to Dunkirk’ Second Award Bar group of eight awarded to Brigadier W. F. Anderson, Royal Engineers, who as part of the rear-guard of the British Expeditionary Force was taken Prisoner of War on 29 May 1940 and held for the remainder of the War at Colditz Castle, where he served as head of the Forgery Department under the Escape Committee, manufacturing both metal insignia and forged documents, built a working camera, and, as a lighter aside, helped keep the artificial legs of his room-mate, Douglas Bader, ‘up to scratch’

The Most Excellent Order of the British Empire, C.B.E. (Military) Commander’s 2nd type neck badge silver-gilt and enamel, with full neck riband, in Garrard, London, case of issue; Military Cross, G.VI.R. reverse officially dated 1938 in small impressed digits as issued in India, with Second Award Bar, this undated; India General Service 1908-35, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1930-31 (Lieut. W. F. Anderson. R.E.); General Service 1918-62, 2 clasps, Palestine, Malaya (Capt. W. F. Anderson. R.E.); India General Service 1936-39, 1 clasp, North West Frontier 1936-37, with M.I.D. oak leaf (Capt. W. F. Anderson. M.B.E. R.E.) officially re-impressed naming; 1939-45 Star; War Medal 1939-45, with M.I.D. oak leaf; Coronation 1953, mounted as worn, light contact marks, good very fine and better (8) £6,000-£8,000


Provenance: Glendining’s, November 1986 (sold by order of the recipient).

C.B.E. London Gazette 25 October 1955:
‘In recognition of distinguished services in Malaya during the period 1 January to 30 June 1955.’

M.B.E. London Gazette 11 May 1937:
‘For valuable services rendered in the field in connection with the operations in Palestine during the period April to October 1936.’

M.C. London Gazette 16 August 1938:
‘For distinguished services rendered on the field in connection with the operations in Waziristan during the period 16 September to 15 December 1937.’

The recommendation states: ‘For conspicuous devotion to duty. As Field Engineer he was responsible for the initial reconnaissance, organisation of labour, and completion of the work of construction of 15 miles of road, from Sararogha to Barari, through an actively hostile area.
For political reasons 126 local tribal contractors, mostly without previous experience, were employed and it was only due to Captain Anderson’s resource and drive that the road was successfully completed.
The difficulties of handling large numbers of local labour of uncertain temper were enhanced by the fact that Captain Anderson and his staff were continuously subject to enemy action and on a number of occasions had to carry out their work under hostile fire.’

M.C. Second Award Bar London Gazette 22 October 1940:
‘In recognition of gallant conduct in action with the enemy.’

The recommendation states: ‘In the initial instance, this Officer’s Company was holding the perimeter of Arras in conjunction with the 1st Battalion Welsh Guards. On the arrival of further battalions, it was withdrawn for Royal Engineers work. Major Anderson’s energy and gallantry were outstanding and the amount of work he and his men were able to accomplish under difficult circumstances was astonishing. He was always cheerful and willing.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 18 February 1938:
‘For distinguished services rendered in connection with the operations in Waziristan, North West Frontier of India, 17 January to 15 September 1937.’

M.I.D. London Gazette 20 December 1945:
‘In recognition of gallant and distinguished services in the field.’

William Faithfull Anderson was born in Ramsgate, Kent, on 17 June 1905, and was educated at Rugby and the Royal Military Academy, Woolwich. He was commissioned Second Lieutenant in the Royal Engineers in 1925, before graduating with first class honours in Mechanical Sciences from Cambridge in 1927. He elected to serve in India for 7 years, ‘as I felt that the conditions there were more interesting, especially as in the North West Frontier Province you had responsibility for all roads, bridges, and installations. There were periodical operations against one or other of the Pathan tribes, who usually took it in turns so as to give each generation of young men a chance to show their metal. These operations usually resulted in more roads being built in the trans-frontier regions, as they were considered to be a civilising influence in the long term.’ (letter from the recipient refers).

Returning home in 1935, Anderson was stationed at Catterick, He described his time there, under increasing threat from Germany, as ‘playing soldiers with horses and flags representing Lewis machine guns’ (recipient’s obituary refers). Proceeding to Egypt in 1936, as part of the force sent to man the Western Desert against the Italians in case the British wanting to call Mussolini’s bluff over Abyssinia, from there his Division was moved to Palestine to prevent the Arabs from sabotaging the oil pipeline. For his services in Palestine he was created a Member of the Order of the British Empire.

Returning to India in 1937, he recalled: ‘I found myself embroiled in another small war and quite a bit of earth-road building.’ (ibid). For his distinguished services in Waziristan, where he had to contend with not only the climate but also the uncertain tempers of the local labourers, all the while subjected to hostile enemy action, he was awarded a well-merited Military Cross, as well as being Mentioned in Despatches.

Following a further period of service at home, he proceeded to France following the outbreak of the Second World War, and served with 61 Chemical Warfare Company, Royal Engineers. Operating under the Welsh Guards, his was involved in the intense fighting for the defence of Arras. His company were extremely active demolishing bridges and laying mines to slow down the advancing Germans and allow the evacuation of the British Expeditionary Force. His unit was then ordered to defend Mont des Cats near the French-Belgian border, and from there to make their own way to Dunkirk on foot. The majority of his company made it to the beach, and safety, but Anderson’s rearguard party had a wounded man with them and progress was slower. They were eventually surrounded and forced to surrender on 29 May 1940, just 10 miles from Dunkirk. For his services during the retreat to Dunkirk he was awarded a Second Award Bar to his Military Cross.

Following capture, Anderson was initially held in Oflag VIIC, but being fluent in German, and suspected of organising several escape attempts, he was moved on orders from the German High Command to the seemingly escape-proof Colditz Castle, where for part of the time he shared a room with Wing Commander Douglas Bader. Skilled in metalwork and leather, Anderson helped keep the pilot’s artificial legs ‘up to scratch’. During his time at Colditz he was involved in several escape attempts, and was part of the team that served under the main Escape Committee, with Anderson responsible for the manufacture of German uniforms, in particular the metal work for the manufacture of fake buttons, buckles, and insignia: this was done by pouring molten tin-foil, obtained from lead paper taken from cheese, cigarette packets &c., into casts made with plaster-of-Paris obtained from the Sick Quarters. He was also head of the Forgery Department, and as well as producing forged documents was responsible for taking individuals’ photographs- after their original camera had been discovered and confiscated, Anderson manufactured another one in camp from a pair of field glasses and cigar boxes, which was reputed to work better than the original one. In order to enhance the forged documents rubber stamps were also manufactured, cut out of the linoleum flooring by Anderson with a razor.

Although a total of 34 escape attempts were made from Colditz, only 7 British personnel succeeded in reaching neutral territory. Anderson himself remained incarcerated in Colditz until its capture by U.S. forces on 15 April 1945. For his services during the Second World War Anderson was again Mentioned in Despatches.

After the cessation of hostilities Anderson returned to India as planning officer at Army H.Q. He was then seconded as Deputy Chief Engineer to the Overseas Food Corporation in Kongwa, Tanganyika, before returning to the Staff and seeing further service in Malaya, for which he was advanced Brigadier and appointed a Commander of the Order of the British Empire. He retired from the Army as Chief Engineer (Northern Command) in 1959.

Throughout his life Anderson was a keen painter, and indeed his chief solace throughout his five years in captivity was his painting. A permanent exhibition of his works is on display in the guardhouse at Colditz. After leaving the Army he served as manager and chief engineer of Ground Surveys Ltd., and later with the engineering firm Richard Costain Ltd. He retired in 1971, and died in London on 27 August 1999.

Sold with three Central Chancery enclosures; a photograph of the recipient; various original and copied research, including a hand-written letter from the recipient; and a scrapbook of copied research relating to the recipient’s time at Colditz.