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

Image 1

Click Image to Zoom

Date of Auction: 17th & 18th July 2019

Sold for £4,200

Estimate: £4,000 - £5,000

A fine Great War D.S.O. group of six awarded to Major E. G. Clerk, 4th South African Infantry (S.A. Scottish), who served with the Queensland Imperial Bushmen in the Boer War and was severely wounded in the Zulu rebellion of 1906; he assisted Brigadier-General Royston to raise the Natal Light Horse in August 1914 and, after service in German S.W. Africa, landed with the South African Brigade for service in France where he was twice gassed and three times wounded

Distinguished Service Order, G.V.R., silver-gilt and enamel, with integral top riband bar; Queen’s South Africa 1899-1902, 5 clasps, Cape Colony, Orange Free State, Transvaal, South Africa 1901, South Africa 1902 (Lieut: E. G. Clerk, Q’land I.B.); Natal 1906, 1 clasp, 1906 (Capt. E. G. Clerk, Royston’s Horse); 1914-15 Star (Capt. E. G. Clerk 5th M.R.); British War and Bilingual Victory Medals (Mjr. E. G. Clerk.) mounted as worn, contact marks to the earlier medals, otherwise nearly very fine or better (6) £4,000-£5,000


M.I.D. for Distinguished Conduct in the Field Natal Gazette 26 June 1906: ‘In the action at Nkandhla Forest, on the 3rd June, 1906, when in an isolated position with a small number of men, was rigourously attacked by overwhelming odds, and although severely wounded in both arms, continued to fight and rally his men, until such time as assistance arrived.’

D.S.O. London Gazette 12 December 1919: Major, 4th Battn., South African Infantry.

The following recommendation for an award was submitted by Lieutenant-Colonel D. M. Macleod, [D.S.O., M.C., D.C.M.], commanding 4th S.A. Infantry, on 29 June 1917:

‘During the operations at FAMPOUX on 12th April, 1917, this officer led his Company out of the village and formed his men up, being all the time under heavy shell fire, and showed great gallantry in advancing at the head of his men to the attack although under severe machine gun and shell fire. He remained with his Company until wounded. Whist with his Company this officer showed conspicuous gallantry under heavy shell and machine gun fire; he made repeated personal reconnaissances.’

A marginal note suggests the award of ‘Chevalier de L’Ordre de Leopold’ but as no such award was ever gazetted it seems likely that this recommendation formed the basis of the award of his D.S.O.

The action at the village of Fampoux on 11/12 April, 1917, during the battle of Arras, was a minor disaster for the South African Brigade. ‘So accurate was the German machine-gun fire [wrote Cpl. George Warwick, 4th SAI] that all the wounds were waist-high. Major Clerk was wounded in the hand. His other hand had been put out of action years ago by a Zulu assegai during the Zulu Rebellion. Now that both his hands were out of action he passed it off with a joke.’

‘Taken as a whole, casualties were heavy. The 1st SAI on the left had suffered least with two officers and 163 other ranks wounded and 19 missing with 21 other ranks killed. The 2nd SAI, living up to its reputation as the ‘suicide regiment’ had one officer and 29 other ranks killed, two officers and 49 other ranks missing, 13 officers and 207 other ranks wounded, after going into action 400 strong. The 3rd SAI, in reserve, had sustained one officer and two other ranks killed and five wounded. The 4th SAI had two officers and 22 other ranks killed, four officers and 172 other ranks wounded with six missing. In general, except for the few men of the 4th SAI, the advance had not reached more than 150 to 200 yards from the starting point on the outskirts of Fampoux.’ (Pyramids and Poppies. The 1st SA Infantry Brigade in Libya, France and Flanders 1915-1919, by Peter K. A. Digby, refers).

Edward George Clerk was born on 30 May 1874, at Wanganui, New Zealand, and served in the Boer as a Lieutenant in the 5th contingent of the Queensland Imperial Bushmen, which departed Australia in March 1901. ‘The 5th saw plenty of fighting. They were constantly in touch with the enemy, and besides innumerable small skirmishes, mention may be made of operations of 24th and 25th May at Klipfontein and Mooifontein; and Mokari Drift, Caledon River, 27th September.’ Lieutenant Clerk was one of the officers captured at the disastrous affair at Onverwacht on 4 January 1902, when the 5th had 19 killed and 39 wounded, besides Major Toll and four Lieutenants captured. The contingent arrived back in Australia in April 1902 and was disbanded on 5th May (Queen’s Medal with 5 clasps).

Clerk served during the Natal rebellion of 1906 as a Captain in Royston’s Horse and was severely wounded in the action at Nkandhla Forest, on the 3rd June, 1906, when ‘Captain Clerk and eight men of "C" squadron, Royston's Horse, had found themselves considerably in advance of the rest of the squadron and were crossing a dry donga in the bush, when they were attacked by the enemy who came at them from the opposite bank. Clerk's position was a perilous one as he was too far out of touch with the rest of his squadron. To retreat would have meant certain death. He and his men faced the enemy from their position in the donga as the rebels came down the steep, wooded hill. Captain Clerk was shot in his left arm and received an assegai wound in his right. When he was no longer able to shoulder his rifle he emptied his revolver, until Colonel Royston and Major Fraser came to his assistance. Four of his men were killed and three wounded. A dozen or more of the enemy lay dead round the donga. The timely arrival of reinforcements forced the enemy to retreat down the valley but not before several of the men who followed Colonel Royston were wounded. This fight, though short and fierce, was the first which took place in the heart of the forest, and the rebels, who had vainly been labouring under the delusion that they were invulnerable in the bush, received a rude awakening. It was also the first fight in which Royston's Horse had engaged and they had every reason to be proud of Captain Clerk and his little band.’ (Medal with clasp; despatches).

Despite losing the use of his left arm, Clerk’s military career was far from over. He assisted Brigadier-General Royston to raise the Natal Light Horse in August 1914, and became a Captain in the South African Scottish on 1 September 1914. He commanded “A” Squadron during the operations on Orange River, and raised a special service squadron for services with the 4th Mounted Rifles in German S.W. Africa, taking part part in the actions of Keimos, Katrama, Keis Drift and Gibeon during 1914-15. On conclusion of the campaign he formed a Natal Company for the South African Scottish, and landed in England with the South African Brigade in October 1915. He was wounded at Bernagay Wood on 11 July 1916; at Fampoux, Scarpe River, on 12 April 1917; was slightly gassed at Quentin Redoubt on 14 March 1918; was severely gassed at Revlon Farm on 21 March 1918; and was severely wounded at Le Cateau on 17 October 1918. He was awarded the D.S.O. in 1919 for his services in France during the war.

Major Clerk’s peacetime activities appear to have been no less adventurous, as evidenced by an Australian news cutting from The Examiner, dated 2 November 1934:

Major E. G. Clerk, D.S.O., will leave for Brisbane on the Strathnaver on November 2, and will shortly be followed by a small team of pilots, and engineers with aircraft with which he will conduct his own joy riding organisation in Australia. Major Clerk is a member of a Queensland family of pastoralists. He was crippled in a motor accident in London a few years ago, and now manages two flying organisations in Wales. He is understood to be a wealthy supporter of aviation as a hobby. His accident does not deter him from conducting flying operations from an Invalid carriage.’

The intrepid Major Clerk died on 9 October 1941, at Randwick Military Hospital, New South Wales.